Guest Post: NYPL’s exhibition “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter”

Hi, bookworms! This is Carolyn’s buddy, Molly, popping in to tell you dear readers about a fantastic exhibit at the New York Public Library that is actually about to close!

The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” is on display through September 7th at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 42nd St (ya know, the one with the lions).

New York Public Library

Photo by Flickr User Bard College at Simon’s Rock licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

I personally did not know until recently that NYPL had exhibitions, but being such an important cultural institution, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The ABC of It was my first NYPL exhibition, and it was quite the introduction. For one, their exhibits are totally free, so you’re just spending money to get there (and perhaps, like me, also spending it willy-nilly in the book lover’s dream of a gift shop). But if I had had to spend some money to see all the rare books, clever installations, and iconic artifacts in this exhibit, I absolutely would have.

From a replica of the room from Goodnight Moon to original drawings by Beatrix Potter to rare foreign language books to THE ACTUAL MANUSCRIPT OF THE SECRET GARDEN, GIANT CROSS OUTS AND ALL (yeah, I get emotional about Frances Hodgson Burnett), “the ABC of It” represented juvenile literature’s greatest hits in a diverse, thoughtful, and whimsically-displayed collection.

I have a special interest in children’s and young adult literature because (1) I think books for young people are totally underrated and adults should read something aimed at kids at least once a year, and (2) I work in a children’s library four to five days a week and hope to one day become a children’s librarian.

So this exhibition was extra special for me, but honestly, if you ever were a kid, it will be special for you too. What you see in this collection will make you feel both nostalgic and validated. The wonder and awe you felt looking at the beautiful, vibrant drawings of Eric Carle or reading about the clever adventures of Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth was not due to just being an impressionable, wide-eyed kid but to the artistry, heart, and deceptive simplicity of juvenile literature. I don’t know how you’ll feel, but after about 2.5 seconds milling around the gallery, I did not need to be persuaded that children’s books matter.

I wish the end date of this exhibition wasn’t coming up, but y’all still have a whole week or so, so if you can, go! It’s free, it’s awesome (maybe bring some tissues if, like me, you are usually almost crying most of the time), and you will definitely get some ideas for what to read (or reread!) next.

Thanks for hearing me out, and happy reading/exhibit viewing!

Molly Hone is a children’s library assistant living in Northern New Jersey. She is an expert at shushing people, writing plaintive folk songs, and eating dessert for breakfast. You can find her at mollyhone.wordpress.com, where her only post so far is, unsurprisingly, a reblogged That Worn Book Smell post.

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