Curious George, Lyle the Crocodile, Martha the Dog, Tacky the Penguin, and Mike Mulligan are among the iconic children’s book characters that make return appearances in The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter, Curiosity, and Fun, which HMH Books is publishing on October 24. The anthology contains eight backlist picture books and eight poems excerpted from collections previously released by the publisher, and features a CD of readings of each story.

"We’ve seen treasuries move in and out of favor, "says Mary Wilcox, v-p and editorial director of Houghton Mifflin Books for Children and HMH Books, of the decision to release the collection. "Yet perhaps because of the economy, we’ve seen surging sales of our A Treasury of Curious George and we realized that customers are again being drawn to great books at a great price. So we matched that moment in the market with our backlist and The Family Storybook Treasury was born."

The most difficult step of the book project, the editor notes, was deciding which titles to include. "The selection was driven by books that both parents and kids love to see come off the shelf, books that are a joy to share because they have that magic alchemy of wonderful art, humor, and perfect pacing,” she says. “But our backlist is so deep that it was really hard to choose."

Yet Wilcox explains that "we turned our disappointment at not being able to include all the books we wanted to into an opportunity to create a second treasury." A companion volume, The Family Bedtime Treasury, is due in fall 2012, with a CD featuring classic bedtime music.

The books compiled in The Family Storybook Treasury are Curious George and the Firefighters, Lyle Walks the Dogs, Martha Speaks, The Great Doughnut Parade, Sheep in a Jeep, Tacky the Penguin, and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. To accommodate the treasury’s 10' x 10' design, the original picture books required some reformatting, though in each case the art is reproduced in its full size and the text of the story is unabridged.

"Given the wealth of poetry on our backlist, it demanded to be included, "says Wilcox of the addition of illustrated poems to the treasury. Selections include verses by such acclaimed poets as Nikki Grimes, Calef Brown, and Douglas Florian."I hope reading these poems will inspire parents and children to seek out more work by these poets and illustrators," she comments.

Creating The Family Storybook Treasury was clearly a labor of love for Wilcox. "A part of my job, and one of the joys of working at Houghton Mifflin, is taking care of our backlist, "she observes. "We want our authors and illustrators to know that we are always thinking of them and their work. And the fact that we have such a rich backlist creates great opportunities for us."

The Family Storybook Treasury: Tales of Laughter, Curiosity, and Fun. HMH Books, $18.99 Oct. ISBN 978-0-547-61221-8