New exhibit on children's books at New York Public Library

June 27, 2013 3:00:34 PM PDT
Ferdinand the Bull. The Cat In The Hat. Goodnight Moon.

Those are all children's books titles you may have grown up with. And now there's a new children's book exhibit that will take you down memory lane.

Whether it's bedtime stories, fairy tales, or your first reader in school, a good story gets kids excited about reading and literature, and this new exhibition celebrates that.

"Everybody has a few favorite children's books of their own, and in this show we show probably those books but many others from all around the world going back as much as 300 years," said exhibit curator Leonard Marcus.

And even then those books were illustrated.

At the abc of it, you'll learn why children's books matter.

The show at the New York Public Library's main branch has plenty for both adults and kids, who can sit in a car from the phantom toll booth, walk through the rabbit hole or even read a book.

But there was a time that kids and libraries didn't mix.

"Before 1900, many libraries had signs in front saying no children or dogs allowed," said Marcus.

But Marcus explains how that changed in the 1920s, in part because of Pura Belpre, a storyteller from Puerto Rico.

"She was a legendary storyteller," said Marcus. "And she made her own hand puppets which we have in the case here, and she also knows there were no picture books for children written in Spanish so she decided to write them herself."

Nowadays baby and toddler programs book up at the library, where kids learn the basics such as:

"How to open a book, what direction do you turn the pages, in what direction do the words appear on the page," said librarian Louise Lareau. "So that when children get to school, they know that the words on the page, you read them from left to right, and these are all very important for young children."

Amazingly, some countries are just starting to see children's books.

"Africa is a place where children's books are just starting to be published, and we found one of the most beautiful picture books from French West Africa," said Marcus.

Beauty and art are part of what inspires kids to dive in, and some of that art is larger than life at this exhibit, encouraging you to stroll through where the wild things are.

"W.H. Auden the poet said there are no good books which are only for children." said Marcus. " I think people who question that will be pleasantly surprised."

The exhibition is free and runs through next March, so there's plenty of time to see it.