Recently, fifty-one classic and rare children’s books from the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division in the Children’s Literature Center were digitized in full and made available in PDF and HTML formats. The collection as a whole includes over 500,000 titles and periodicals, and the digitized items are unique, beautifully illustrated, and easy to browse and read together with children on a tablet or computer. Included below are a few suggested books, plus some follow-up activities or questions to discuss with children:
- The Rocket Book by Peter Newell, published in 1912, charts the progress of a rocket launched in the basement of an apartment building up through twenty-one floors, surprising the tenants of the apartments in their daily activities on its way. Written in verse, with a pair of stanzas devoted to each floor or “flat,” some of the word choices are antiquated and will require explanation. But flat two, eight, nine, eleven, thirteen, and fifteen are especially fun and accessible. Once you’ve read the book, ask your kids to imagine what comes next in the story. What if there were a twenty-second floor of the apartment. What would the rocket go through? Or, rewrite it using your own home. If a rocket started at the bottom of the place you live and went through every floor, what would it hit?
- For younger children, Baseball ABC, also by Peter Newell and published in 1885, offers a look at baseball past that can start a conversation about what has changed and what has stayed the same in the game. For example, ask your kids and baseball fans, what do you notice that’s the same as the game we play today, and what’s different? They may notice face masks but no gloves! If they are intrigued by the history of baseball, explore our extensive early baseball card collection or view the exhibition “Baseball Americana.”
- The Children’s Object Book is another opportunity to look at life past and present. Some of the objects children learned about, such as a hen, rake, boat, and beehive, are familiar to kids today, while others–for example, the salt box—were much more common in the 1880s, when the book was published. You might ask your kids to identify which items they recognize and which ones they don’t and match items in the book to similar modern objects found in your home.
- A Apple Pie, written by Kate Greenaway and published in 1886, tells the story of a fight over an apple pie, and how it was divided, shared, and earned by a group of children. Read the book together, then have young kids suggest other actions for the apple pie at each letter and stage of the story.
To learn more about the Library’s Children’s Literature Center, visit the website.