100 Best Books for Children

100 Best Books for Children

by Anita Silvey


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100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey

By selecting only 100 “best books” Anita Silvey distinguishes her guide from all the others and makes it possible to give young readers their literary heritage in the childhood years.
The books we hear or read when we are children stay with us all our lives. If we miss them when we are young, we’ll miss them forever: no Hungry Caterpillar, no Winn-Dixie, no Roll of Thunder. As adults we remember a few familiar favorites, but no one but an expert like Anita Silvey, with her thirty-five years at the heart of children’s book publishing, could put together an authoritative list like this one. Parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and bookstore clerks will feel completely comfortable recommending these books for any child, from infancy to almost-teens. Silvey includes, in addition to the 100 best, extensive lists of books to meet special needs and interests as well as classics, selected by age, to round out this extraordinarily useful work.
In addition to giving an age range and the plot of each book, Silvey relates the fascinating, often hilarious story behind the story, something only an insider in the field of children’s publishing could tell. 100 Best Books for Children is as much fun to read as it is helpful.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780618278893
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 04/09/2004
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Anita Silvey has spent more than thirty years in the children's book field, including eleven years as editor-in-chief at the Horn Book Magazine. She is the editor of Children’s Books and Their Creators and the author of 100 Best Books for Children and The Book-a-Day Almanac.

Read an Excerpt

Board Books Birth to Age 2

Goodnight Moon

Written by Margaret Wise Brown (1910–1952) Illustrated by Clement Hurd (1908–1988) Published in 1947 by Harper & Row Birth to age 2 32 pages

Upon awakening early one morning in 1945, Margaret Wise Brown wrote down the entire text of Goodnight Moon in almost final form, and called it “Goodnight Room.” That morning Brown, or “Brownie” as she was known, telephoned her editor, the legendary Ursula Nordstrom, to read her the text, which Nordstrom accepted immediately for publication. In those days, editorial taste rather than publishing committees determined the fate of geniuses.

Margaret Wise Brown, who would write more than a hundred books for children in her short career, claimed that she dreamt her stories, and Goodnight Moon appears to be a case in point. However, Brown’s creative dreaming followed years of intense training.
A student at Bank Street College’s School of Education, Brown began to explore writing books that incorporated the revolutionary ideas of Lucy Sprague Mitchell, the visionary founder of Bank Street. Both Brown and Mitchell believed that books should expose young children to the “here and now” world of their own home surroundings.
Children need to hear about and see all the things that they feel comfortable with in their own world. So in Goodnight Moon, the mother and child say good night to all the familiar objects around them. Everything present in the great green room is part of a child’s real world and reflects Brown’s “here and now” philosophy.
After the telephone call, Nordstrom began searching for an appropriate artist for the text, but Brown insisted she wanted no one other than Clement Hurd. Goodnight Moon demonstrates how great books are made, and almost unmade, by seconds and inches.
For his original sketches for the book, Hurd drew his protagonists as a human grandmother and a young boy. This version went through several proof stages, but eventually Margaret Wise Brown and Ursula Nordstrom insisted that the characters be bunnies.
Hurd relented; as the illustrator of The Runaway Bunny (also by Brown), he could draw rabbits like an angel. In fact, those close to him often said he looked like a rabbit. Hence, the resulting book, rather than being tied to a human environment, achieved an otherworldly, timeless dimension.

Hurd also accepted Brown’s and Nordstrom’s criticism of the cow in his original picture. He altered it anatomically so that no one would object to the udders. And on Nordstrom’s suggestion, he replaced a map with a bookcase because she wanted to promote the idea of children having books in their rooms. However, Hurd worked out many innovative concepts that remained in the final art. Half-page black-and-white illustrations display all the objects in the room; but Hurd used only one piece of color art for the main scene of the book. That art was simply darkened, by degrees, by the printer. As the story moves forward — “Goodnight bears / Goodnight chairs / . . . Goodnight mush / And goodnight to the old lady whispering ‘hush’” — the child and parent keep going back to exactly the same room, but each time a little more light has been removed.
Goodnight Moon met immediately with the kind of criticism that all too frequently welcomes our great books. A Harper sales representative wrote, “Frankly I’m having a tough time with [Goodnight Moon]. . . . As soon as [most buyers] see the size of it for $2.00 they throw it at me. They like the color, story, and idea, but will not touch it at that price. . . . I don’t think we’ll even sniff the quota. At $1.00 it would really move.” But the book was not reduced to $1.00, and it did not really move for another twenty years or so.
Goodnight Moon remained a quiet book; not until the 1970s did it gain a significant audience.

Although some critics dismissed the book as overly sentimental when it appeared, future generations have grown to appreciate the crisp language, clear geometric forms, and bright, bold colors.
Children as young as eight months can appreciate the appearance of familiar objects in the art — such as the moon, the fire, and the mouse. A timeless book, almost like a child’s evening prayers, Goodnight Moon has lulled millions of children around the world to sleep.

Mr.Gumpy’s Outing ..........................................................................
By John Burningham (b. 1936) Published in 1971 by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Birth to age 2 32 pages

After graduating from Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, John Burningham began searching for work as an artist. Because no one would hire him, he tried developing a children’s book. Fortunnately for both Burningham and for children, that first book, Borka: The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers, won Britain’s prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal, given too the best picture book of tttthe year.

Seven years later, Burningham produced another book that won the Greenaway Medal. In Mr. Gumpy’s Outing, the hero, who lives on a river, first appears wearing a hat and huge boots. Mr. Gumpy travels along in a boat, picking up animals and children who promise to make no trouble. But, of course, they cannot avoid breaking their promises, and the whole crew ends up in the river before going to a sumptuous high tea.

Wonderful to read aloud, the book can be, and often is, acted out by a group of children. The predictability of the story sequence — “‘Will you take me with you?’ said the dog. ‘Yes,’ said Mr. Gumpy.
‘But don’t tease the cat.’ / ‘May I come please, Mr. Gumpy?’ said the pig. ‘Very well, but don’t muck about.’” — encourages children to join in; it also gives them confidence as they begin to read for themselves. Burningham deftly balances brown pen sketches, quite free and expressive, with brilliant full-color art. He deliberately gives the drawings an unfinished look — so the child can have maximum freedom to imagine events.

Although Burningham had an opportunity to extend Mr.
Gumpy’s adventures further, which he did in Mr. Gumpy’s Motor Car, he deliberately avoided creating a series. Fond of his characters, he is still more interested in a new project than in repeating something he knows.

John Burningham believes that really great children’s books “contain as much for adults as for children.” Certainly, parents and teachers have enjoyed this watery outing every bit as much as children.
And at the end, when Mr. Gumpy says, “Come for a ride another day,” the child and adult reader will probably do so — many, many times. Mr. Gumpy’s Outing reminds us that readers of all ages can be charmed by simple things.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar ..........................................................................
By Eric Carle (b. 1929) Published in 1969 by World Publishing Company Birth to age 2 24 pages

A young graphic designer, Eric Carle had been tinkering with the germ of an idea for a book called A Week with Willi Worm.
He wanted to use a unique book design, with holes cut into the pages, to show the progress of a very hungry worm working his way through all kinds of foods until it grows fat. But his editor Ann Beneduce was less than enthusiastic about a green worm as a protagonist and believed that Carle should use a more sympathetic character. When she suggested a caterpillar, Carle answered simply, “Butterfly.” With these new elements, Eric Carle completed The Very Hungry Caterpillar, a book that has become popular all over the world.

In the story a winsome caterpillar eats a variety of foods until he finally turns into a butterfly. While showing a simple story of transformation, the book presents very young children with such concepts as counting, days of the week, and the life cycle of a butterfly, in bold, graphic art.

Carle made his debut as a children’s book illustrator in a school textbook story, written by Bill Martin, called Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Later reissued for bookstores, the title has enchanted millions of children with its simple rhythm, rhymes, and brilliant art. For The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Carle played with the form of the book and developed pages of different shapes and widths — an experiment influenced by the books he read as a child in Germany. Although no printer in the United States could be found to manufacture economically a book with so many die cuts, Beneduce located a printer in Japan who was able to produce the book. Since that time, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold a copy a minute somewhere in the world, more than 20 million altogether.
Over the years Carle has gone back to reillustrate many of his popular volumes, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, aiming to get a wider variety of colors and a cleaner design. In his studio, he spatters colored tissue papers with paint to create special textures and effects. After cutting the papers into the desired shapes, he then pastes them in layers on cardboard. Sometimes he uses crayons or ink to make the final touches. Carle works and reworks each piece, aiming both for scientific accuracy and for visual excitement.
In November 2002, Eric Carle, his wife, Barbara, friends, and colleagues opened the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.
Tucked in the hills of western Massachusetts, at Amherst, the museum has quickly become a travel destination for families and school groups who want to look at Carle’s original collages as well as rotating exhibits of other artists’ work. After presenting children with one popular book after another, Eric Carle gave all of the children of the United States and the world another unique gift — our first permanent American museum to house original picturebook art.

Copyright © 2004 by Anita Silvey. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Table of Contents

Contents acknowledgments ix introduction xi Board Books - Birth to Age 2 Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown 3 Mr. Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham 5 The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 6 Freight Train by Donald Crews 8 The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss 9 Picture Books - Ages 2 to 8 Miss Nelson Is Missing! by Harry Allard 13 Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans 14 The Snowman by Raymond Briggs 16 Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton 17 Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág 18 Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes 19 Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs 20 The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats 22 Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus 23 The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf 24 John Henry by Julius Lester 25 Swimmy by Leo Lionni 26 Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr., and John Archambault 28 Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin 29 Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey 30 The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter 32 Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann 33 Curious George by H. A. Rey 34 The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka 36 Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 37 Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina 39 Doctor De Soto by William Steig 40 The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg 42 Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst 43 Tuesday by David Wiesner 44 A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams 46 Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young 47 Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion 48 Books for Beginning Readers - Ages 5 to 7 Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel 53 Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik 54 Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant 55 The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss 56 Books for Young Readers - Ages 7 to 9 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary 61 Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr 62 Morning Girl by Michael Dorris 63 The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes 64 My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett 66 Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner 67 Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm 68 Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry 69 Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith 71 Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace 72 Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan 74 The New Kid on the Block by Jack Prelutsky 75 Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say 76 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder 77 Books for Middle Readers - Ages 8 to 11 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 83 The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford 84 The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper 85 The BFG by Roald Dahl 86 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo 88 Half Magic by Edward Eager 89 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh 90 Humbug Mountain by Sid Fleischman 92 Lincoln: A Photobiography by Russell Freedman 93 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George 94 The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame 95 The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton 97 Redwall by Brian Jacques 98 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster 100 From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg 101 Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson 102 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle 103 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis 104 Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren 106 In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord 107 The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay 108 Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne 1 10 Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery 111 The Great Fire by Jim Murphy 113 Rascal by Sterling North 114 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien 115 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell 116 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson 118 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 119 Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce 120 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin 121 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling 122 Holes by Louis Sachar 125 The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden 126 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare 127 Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers 128 Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White 130 Books for Older Readers - Ages 11 to 12 The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi 135 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt 136 Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy 137 Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman 138 Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes 139 Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank 141 Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse 143 A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin 144 The Giver by Lois Lowry 146 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor 148 The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 149 Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt 151 beyond the 100 best 155 bibliography 166 reading journal 172 index 187

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100 Best Books for Children 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book missed out big time. Where are the popular/modern authors like Robert Stanek?