Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Celebratory Wednesday Writing AND Reading Workout!



It’s not only Children’s Book Week, our country’s longest-running literacy initiative which celebrates every child a reader.
It’s this singular event’s 100th Anniversary!

Of course, all of us were once children, likely children who read,
and Readers are Writers,
and today is Wednesday, as in Wednesday Writing Workout.
So, what better way to celebrate this all-important week than with a writer’s AND reader’s invigorating “walk” through distinguished children’s literature historian Leonard S. MarcusTHE ABC OF IT (Kerlan Collection at the University of Minnesota, 2019)!

FYI:
THE ABC OF IT double-duties as the catalogue that accompanies the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection’s current exhibit in the Elmer L. Andersen Library - THE ABC OF IT: WHY CHILDREN’S BOOKS MATTER.  The exhibit was adapted from Marcus’ earlier curated exhibit THE ABC OF IT: WHY CHILDREN’S BOOKS MATTER at The New York Public Library, an exhibit that proved to be the NYPL’s most highly attended exhibit, running from June, 2013 to September, 2014.

The current University of Minnesota exhibit combines Marcus’ original curatorial plan and the NYPL gallery text with items from the university’s distinguished and fabled Kerlan Collection. Think: more than 200 books, pieces of original artwork and correspondence, plus other materials from the University’s Archives and Special Collections. 2019 also marks the 70th anniversary of Kerlan Collection founder Dr. Irvin Kerlan’s first gift to the University of Minnesota.

As the exhibit’s Curator Lisa Von Drasek notes in the book’s FOREWARD, THE ABC OF IT isn’t a history of four centuries of children’s literature. Rather, it’s Leonard Marcus’ “thesis on ‘how books for young people have stories to tell us about ourselves’ and that ‘behind every children’s book is a vision of childhood: a shared understanding of what growing up is all about.’”
That thesis offers a veritable paradise for children’s book creators as well as former children.  It overflows with beloved illustrations and delicious insights into children’s book favorites, game-changers and award-winners.
“These books have so much to say,” Marcus shares in his introduction.  As either an exhibit visitor or reader of the catalogue, “…you may well catch yourself being unaccountably drawn back to pictures and words you thought you had outgrown long ago.” The resulting take-away shines.  Children’s literature is for both children and grown-ups.

One more FYI:  The exhibit has undergone a few changes since its February opening that address the issue of racist content in the representative books, art and correspondence initially included.

Before you begin your vicarious journey through the university’s exhibit via this eye-opening catalogue, pace yourself over lots of days and nights.  Each page, or at least each chapter, demands savoring.

And be sure to figuratively stretch, envisioning the books you think might be included in four centuries of American children’s literature.
Think about your favorite books. Those read to you by parents and/or teachers.  Those you read to children and/or students.  Those you studied.  Those you treasure. Those you hold high as a measure of storytelling excellence.  In other words, those children’s books that matter, especially to you.

To warm up, try identifying, if possible, the images on the book’s cover.  Ogle the book’s gorgeous end papers, courtesy of Gustaf Tenngren’s RED FAIRY BOOK.

Finally, let your fingers do the walking, your eyes the beholding, your mind - and heart - the remembering, as you turn the pages and see why children’s books do indeed matter.

You’ll be in terrific company.  The Pokey Little Puppy.  Alice. Max.  Millions of cats.  That very hungry caterpillar.  Not to mention Beatrix Potter and Kate Greenaway, Kate DiCamillo, Judy Blume and a hole host of luminaries.

Be open to wonderment.  Smile.  Sigh.  Shake your head.  Giggle.  Even blink away a tear.
I promise you one amazing Wednesday Workout!  Or rather, LOTS of amazing Wednesday Workouts.


And, if you’re still rarin’ to go once you reach the end of THE ABC OF IT, or even if you’re not, I highly recommend you take a visual tour of the notable illustrations that marked the importance of Children’s Book Week, courtesy of Leonard Marcus’ 100 YEARS OF CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK POSTERS (Knopf, 2019).

Check here to learn lots of fun ways to celebrate Children’s Book Week.

And don’t forget! We’re celebrating our TeachingAuthors 10th Blogiversary this month!  Be sure to enter our give-away of a signed copy of Cheryl Klein’s THE MAGIC WORDS.  You can read all about it here.

Happy Wednesday Workout(s)! Happy Children’s Book Week!

Esther Hershenhorn
p.s.
While waiting for your copy of THE ABC OF IT to arrive, click here to experience the Feb. 27 opening of the exhibit.

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