cover image The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature: The Traditions in English

The Norton Anthology of Children's Literature: The Traditions in English

, et al. . Norton, $65 (2471pp) ISBN 978-0-393-32776-2

To give an idea of the breadth of this sampling from children's literature through the ages, consider that the volume's "timeline" begins in the Eighth Century—B.C. The bulk of the material in this slipcased paperback, however (and bulk is used here in the most complimentary way possible), spans the past four centuries. The delights are abundant. A facsimile image of a 1777 version of The New-England Primer , America's original schoolbook, is reprinted in its entirety (sample vocabulary words: humiliation, mortification, purification). John Newbery, who "excelled at collecting materials that could be assembled cheaply and attractively to be marketed" (and for whom the Newbery Medal is named), is represented by an excerpt from his book on "Epistolary Writing." In addition to instructing children on how to correspond with church and government officials, he includes Anne Boleyn's last missive to Henry VIII as an example of an "important" letter. Zipes and his collaborators cull from fables, nursery rhymes, comics, poetry, plays, science fiction and fantasy, providing a lens through which the evolution of childhood itself can be viewed. The scope is expansive—the fairy tales hail from Grimm and Perrault, but also from Francesca Lia Block and Julius Lester. Headnotes introduce authors and illustrators, often tracing the lineage between them: Lear's Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo as grandfather to Seuss's Sneetches, for instance. The volume contains dozens of complete works and hundreds of illustrations, including a 32-page color inset of seminal artwork from the likes of Greenaway, Brunhoff and Sendak. A mile wide and very deep, this is an invaluable resource for professionals, but fun for casual perusing, too. All ages. (Oct.)