Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Press Release Fun – The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter

Friday, June 21, 2013 through Sunday, March 23, 2014
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Gottesman Exhibition Hall (Map and directions)
New York Public Library

The ABC of It is an examination of why children’s books are important: what and how do they teach children, and what do they reveal about the societies that produced them? Through a dynamic array of objects and activities, the exhibition celebrates the extraordinary richness, artistry, and diversity of children’s literature across cultures and time.

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. Viewed historically and across cultures, the sheer number and variety of such volumes is apt to amaze. If, however, 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.”

Today’s brightly packaged, increasingly globalized books for young people have complex roots in world folklore, Enlightenment philosophy, nationalist fervor, and the pictorial narrative traditions of Asian and Western art, among other sources. Collectively, they form a vivid record of literate society’s changing hopes and dreams, and of the never-ending challenge of communicating with young readers in the most compelling possible way.

The ABC of It draws on collections across the Library to present the literature for children and teens against a sweeping backdrop of history, the arts, popular culture, and technological change. The books and related objects on view reveal hidden historical contexts and connections and invite second looks and fresh discoveries. They suggest that books for young people have stories to tell us about ourselves, and are rarely as simple as they seem.

Support for The New York Public Library’s Exhibitions Program has been provided by Celeste Bartos, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos Exhibitions Fund, and Jonathan Altman. Additional support for this exhibition has been provided by the Bertha and Isaac Liberman Foundation, Inc., in memory of Ruth and Seymour Klein.

About the curator: Leonard S. Marcus has curated exhibitions on children’s books and their illustration at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, where he is also a founding trustee; New School for Social Research; Vassar College Library; the Boston Athenaeum; Enoch Pratt Free Library; Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha); Katonah Museum of Art; and the Meridian International Center (Washington, DC). His books about children’s literature and the authors and artists who create them include: Show Me a Story!; The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth; Funny Business; Golden Legacy: How Golden Books Won Children’s Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, and Became an American Icon Along the Way; Minders of Make-Believe; Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; A Caldecott Celebration; Side by Side; Pass It Down; Storied City; and The Wand in the Word. His incisive book reviews appeared in every issue of Parenting magazine for 21 years.
About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I bet that would have been a wonderful exhibit to see. The things we tell our children really do say a lot about who we are. I couldn’t find any info for the ABCs of It online. I was hoping to pass this info on to the library in Little Rock and in to the smaller libraries in the Ozarks. They may be interested in having smaller displays resonating on similar themes.


  2. I will hie myself there henceforth.

  3. I will be there! Probably more than once.

  4. I was privileged, along with fellow members of the Bank St. Writers Lab, to take a personal tour on July 18 with Leonard Marcus of his marvelous exhibit at the library. We wanted to buy the catalog in the library’s shop afterwards, but were astonished to find that this show may end with no permanent record.

    Since this is already a book-length exhibit by our greatest historian of children’s literature, I am hoping the library will make a permanent record of the event, print or digital. Leonard’s wall posts were so lively, poetic, and fun to read, there’s no need to edit them. I remember the one on the sales of the Harry Potter series being of “forest rattling proportions”. Time to start a campaign to make this happen?