Collection Celebrating Classic Children’s Books Published More Than 100 Years is Now Online
The 100th anniversary of ‘Children’s Book Week’ took place last week, and in celebration, the Library of Congress launched a unique online collection of 67 historically significant children’s books published over 100 years ago.
Included in the selection are children’s books drawn from the General and Rare Book Collections at the Library of Congress. These books are digital versions of both classic works and stories still read by children today. There are also some lesser-known treasures in this collection. You can browse the collection here.
From Humpty Dumpty to Little Red Riding Hood, all of the books in this collection were published in the United States and England before 1924, and are no longer under copyright. So people are encouraged to read, share and reuse the works of the collection however they would like.
“It is remarkable that when the first Children’s Book Week was celebrated, all of the books in the online collection we will be reading today already existed,” said Lee Ann Potter, director of the Learning and Innovation Office at the Library of Congress. “There is something powerful to me about how voices of the past and voices of today will be converging — because careful stewards insured that these books have survived, they all live together in the nation’s Library and new technologies are making them more widely available than ever.”
While some of the books included in the collection might seem old-fashioned, in some cases, that’s all part of the charm and beauty. The desire for the project is for children, their parents, and teachers to enjoy these unique and sometimes ornate stories and to be delighted by them. just as previous generations were.
The specific titles in the collection span many generations and topics, but they all fall under three central themes: ‘Learning to Read’, ‘Reading to Learn’, and ‘Reading for Fun’.
If you are interested in browsing the collection you can visit: https://www.loc.gov/collections/childrens-book-selections/about-this-collection/
Highlights of the collection include examples from Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane, and Kate Greenaway, all of whom created books in England during the golden age of book illustration for children at the end of the 19th century.
The Little Pretty Pocket Book, printed by Isaiah Thomas in 1787, includes tiny illustrations of children’s games and moral instructions. You will also find a lovely New York edition of The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle by Beatrix Potter from 1905. The Cats’ Party, published by McLoughlin Brothers in 1871, is an engaging animal story of a surreptitious celebration gone wrong. Mother Goose also makes an appearance in this collection, as Mother Goose in Hieroglyphics, from 1855, containing a selection of her nursery rhymes in rebus form, challenging the young reader to read pictures as well as words. W.W. Denslow, famous for his illustrations of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, writes and illustrates his fresh twist on a familiar story in Denslow’s Humpty Dumpty, from 1903. Peter Newell’s hilarious Rocket Book, from 1912, tells a story about a rocket that pierces each floor of an apartment building, creating havoc all along the way.
Speaking of American artist/illustrator Peter Newell, Newell also wrote and illustrated two other popular children’s books, delighting a generation of children and their parents, with tales told in rhyme long before Richard Scarry or Dr. Seuss. One of the books, ‘The Slant Book’, tells the story of how a go cart, and the force of gravity make for a most excellent adventure.
Uniquely the physical book is printed and bound so that alternating pages (and the text on those pages) are at a 15 degree incline or decline.
Hopefully, reading a quick excerpt from ‘The Slant Book’, it will pique your interest and encourage you to check out the collection.
THE SLANT BOOK
By PETER NEWELL
This uphill work is slow, indeed, But down the slant—ah! note the speed!
Where Bobby lives there is a hill—
A hill so steep and high,
‘Twould fill the bill for Jack and Jill
Their famous act to try
Once Bobby’s Go-cart broke away
And down this hill it kited.
The careless Nurse screamed in dismay
But Bobby was delighted
He clapped his hands, in manner rude,
And laughed in high elation—
While, close behind, the Nurse pursued
In hopeless consternation
An Officer slid off the lid
As Bobby hove in sight,
And bellowed out, “You’re scorchin’, kid—
I’ll run you in all right!”
But down the Go-cart swiftly sped
And smashed that Cop completely,
And as he sailed o’er Bobby’s head
Bob snipped a button neatly!
A funny Son of sunny Greece
Was standing near the curb,
Beside his push-cart, wrapped in peace,
That naught could well disturb
But all at once he got a shock—
The Go-cart speeding down,
Collided with his fancy stock
And littered up the town!
The runaway then swerved a bit
And snapped a Hydrant, short;
Which accident proved quite a hit
Of rather novel sort
The Water spouted in a jet
As much as ten feet high,
And all were soaked and nearly choked
Who chanced to be nearby!
A farmer’s wife, Miss’ Angy Moore,
Was trudging up the grade.
A basketful of eggs she bore
To barter with in trade
The Go-cart and the Lady met
(Informally, no doubt)
And made a sort of omelette
And spread it round about!
To find out what happens to Bobby, his go-cart and everyone else along the way, we encourage you to check out this book and other titles in the Library of Congress’ new digital Classic Children’s Book Collection!