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Book history encapsulates a world of childhood happiness

 


Book history encapsulates a world of childhood happiness

THE title is slightly deceptive, as this attractive book is much more than just a discussion of 100 children’s books. Drawing on their own experience, the authors paint a broad picture of the illustrated books that children have loved over the centuries. Moreover, the work does not limit itself to English language material but ventures back to Sumerian tablets, medieval romances and Wu Cheng’en’s Xiyouji. Modern European and Commonwealth literature receives perceptive treatment touching on the familiar favourites such as Pippi Longstocking as well as Russian books from the 1920s, Japanese fairy tales and books from Nigeria and the Caribbean. Its survey of the milestones in English language children’s books is masterly and perceptive. What is particularly impressive is its broad coverage of the major titles and genres from Britain, America and the Commonwealth. All those favourites sit alongside less ­familiar titles from Australia and New Zealand. Different genres such as children’s ­magazines are included. No review of 20th century British books could ignore Enid Blyton and the authors take a sanguine view of her popularity. Reader be warned. This is not a book to be taken lightly. It is a wonderful evocation of childhood and the pleasure of reading. Long forgotten titles from my childhood are there such as Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand. Of course, there are some omissions: all those school stories, pony and ballet stories that have not stood the test of time. Its great strength is its extensive coverage and sympathetic treatment of such a broad canvas. This distinguishes it from so many other discourses on children’s literature. The book is beautifully illustrated and well indexed with a helpful bibliography and useful glossary. This is seriously addictive reading which encapsulates a world of childhood happiness.

Cave, R & Ayad, S. A History of Children’s Books in 100 books. London: British Library, 2017. 272 pp. ISBN: 978 0 7123 5698 5. £25.

 

Contributor: Diana Dixon, Hon. Book Reviews Editor
 
Published:25 July 2018

 

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