Our first books stir and shape us as few books ever again can. Goodnight Moon! Alice in Wonderland! A Wrinkle in Time! For three centuries and more, books made especially with the young in mind have served as indispensible gateways to literature, art, and knowledge of the world. And if, as adults, we find that our own childhood favorites remain as thrilling or funny or heart-stoppingly beautiful as ever, we should not be surprised. As W. H. Auden wisely observed: “There are no good books which are only for children.” - From the introductory text to the exhibition The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter at the New York Public Library
It's really a lovely exhibition. Very thought provoking about childhood through the ages and how books reflect and refract it. It provoked some of the following thoughts in me:
Librarians. Boy wow. So vitally important in the lives of children, in the shaping and celebrating of culture, and in the striving for diverse representation in literature, so all children can see themselves on the page.
Ursula Nordtsrom. What an editor. What a woman.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau. What a killjoy.
Shaun Tan. The only Aussie to get a guernsey.* Go Shaun!
Childrens books matter because we love them. We love them because they matter. Go forth! Write and illustrate and edit and design and print books for children that are bold and brave and beautiful and push boundaries. Go forth!
*Unless we claim PL Travers, which, actually, we totally should.