Parents, grandparents, and teachers in search of help selecting books to share with the children in their lives may want to consult The Barnes & Noble Guide to Children’s Books by Kaylee N. Davis, released last month by Sterling. Organized by age levels, genres, and subject matter, the book offers succinct evaluations of 1,000-plus titles, guidelines for choosing books in different categories, and brief essays by 20 acclaimed children’s authors and illustrators.
Davis – a children’s book industry veteran who began her career as a bookseller, has held marketing positions at various publishing houses, and is now a children’s publishing consultant – conceived of the book project over dinner with a longtime friend, Patty Sullivan, a former colleague at Golden Books. “There had been a 1999 guide of the same title, by the late Michael Cavanaugh,” Davis said, “but that was out of print and had never been updated. So Patty and I began talking about doing a new guide. It was always a dream of mine to do this sort of thing, since I have so many great books in my head that I can recite from memory.” Sullivan’s company, p.s. ink publishing solutions, packaged the guide, which is designed by Sharon Streger.
Rather than use the earlier guide as a model, Davis started from scratch, and decided to sort the books by age and category. The new volume encompasses some innovative formats that didn’t exist when the 1992 guide was published, including sophisticated paper engineering, books with toy components, and picture book-and-CD packages.
In selecting the books to include, Davis drew from a number of sources, among them a list of Barnes & Noble’s top sellers in various categories, PW’s most recent annual list of bestselling books, and rosters of award winners over the years. For the most part, she opted not to include titles featuring licensed characters, noting that “many of those books, which rise to the top of bestseller lists, are trend-driven and don’t tend to stand the test of time in terms of staying in print.”
Whittling down the list of books to mention was not a simple task. “I could have easily included so many more than 1,000 books,” Davis said. “Saying ‘stop!’ in many categories was pure hell. The hardest areas to limit were middle-grade readers and picture and board books. There is so much great stuff out there!”
Throughout the guide are lively authors’ commentaries, including Robert Sabuda sharing the discovery of his first pop-up book (in a dentist’s office), Eoin Colfer revealing how Mark Twain inspired him to become a writer, Dav Pilkey discussing how he encourages kids to be creative without worrying about drawing or spelling perfectly, and Mo Willems writing about starting his career at age seven.
The Barnes & Noble Guide to Children’s Books is sold through Barnes & Noble retail and online channels and is available to other bookstores and retailers interested in ordering it. “This is an invaluable resource for schools, libraries, and parents,” said Shimul Tolia, editorial director of Sandy Creek, a Sterling imprint. “As a children’s book specialist, Kaylee has carefully vetted all the titles in this book and has made it easy to browse by organizing the book by age, subject, and reading level. The book is the ultimate gift for parents and teachers and makes shopping for children’s books simple and fun.”
After spending more than a year compiling the guide’s entries and writing evaluations of the books, Davis was gratified to see finished copies. “I’m a bookseller at heart,” she said. “The best jobs I’ve every had are the ones where I was putting books in the hands of children and families. Obviously the goal of this book is to do exactly that.”