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.