Why Children’s Books Matter

November 26, 2013 |  Category:   art + design life nyc outings






A few weekends ago, the girls and I stumbled upon this exhibit, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” at the New York Public Library. We were in the neighborhood and on a whim decided to take a look inside since they had never been. Although the exhibit has been open since summer, it was a fantastic, unexpected find. Well curated and beautifully designed, the rooms brought some of the most beloved children’s books to life including a life-size replica of the green room in “Goodnight Moon”.


As we made our way from room to room, we spotted well-loved characters around every corner like Alice, Harold and his Purple Crayon, Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”, and one of Max’s monsters recreated as a cutout entryway covered with fur on one side of the wall and gilded with gold around the edges. When you step back and look at the entire wall, you discover that the monster is a cutout from a wall that is in the shape of Max’s crown.
Books to pull out and read can be found throughout the exhibit and if your kids are like mine, they’ll take every opportunity to sit down and read. One of my favorite little details was an ivy covered wall from The Secret Garden which had a carved out ledge for sitting. On either side, almost hidden by the ivy, were 2 slots in the wall wide enough to hold a single book.
Leonard S. Marcus, a children’s book historian who is the curator of the exhibit, draws together 250 artifacts from the library’s archives including original artwork, manuscripts and letters. On display is a rare illustrated edition of Aesop’s Fables, the original stuffed bear and tiger that inspired the characters in “Winnie-the-Pooh”, and original watercolors from “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”.

The exhibit runs through March 23 and is free to the public. Make sure you visit the library gift shop too. Can’t remember the last time I bought a book for myself (the kids buy books all the time), but the gift shop is stocked with some great books and we walked out with a few.

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  • sky November 26, 2013 at 3:34 am

    hi jenna,

    my children are like yours, they love to sit down and read (or be read to). do you have any recommendations for books? my children are 2 and 4 and i feel that for this age group, they are constantly growing and i sometimes have a hard time keeping up. thanks.

  • MCC November 26, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Wow. this looks amazing! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  • Myla November 26, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Lovely photos, Jenna! Thanks for sharing. I might take my daughters to this lovely exhibit as well.

  • Dee November 26, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I visited the exhibit this summer with my kids and we all loved it. It had been years since I’d been to this branch and the gift shop was great. While there, I picked up a map of Brooklyn from the 40s which lists the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel as “under construction”.

  • Tara November 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! My little boy will love going to this… as will I!

  • Ce November 26, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    I’m so glad you posted this, Jenna! The reason why I moved to New York was because of children’s books (I’m a children’s book editor), so this exhibit had a lot of special meaning for me. Glad to hear you and the kids loved it, too! Never lose the wonder of reading. :)

  • Louise November 26, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    This looks amazing – I wish I could go experience it in person

  • lena November 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    a friend visiting from out of town with her daughter just asked if i could meet her uptown on sunday and i thought, where are we going to meet?? this is PERFECT!

  • Allison November 28, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Loved seeing these photos. I’m a children’s librarian from Richmond, Virginia and read about this exhibit in the NY Times when it first opened. Made the pilgrimage by train a few weeks ago and was thrilled to see it in person. It is amazing to me how few of the people I talked to that weekend had even heard of it. Keep spreading the word!

  • Ellen November 29, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Looking forward to taking our 5 year old in a couple of weeks when we stay in Brooklyn for a few days! Looking forward to some fun indoor activities. Based on your suggestion, we went to the Botanical Gardens train show last year – it was a huge hit! Thanks, again!

  • JeanneW November 30, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    What an amazing display. I love childrens’ books for their ability to transform and take you to amazing places in the mind. I wish we lived close enough to see it. Thank you so much for sharing.