Review of The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators
(Anita Silvey, editor)
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The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators (2002) is a handy one-volume reference for anyone working in the field, and also both fun and informative to browse. If, like me, you didn't have a children's literature course at your college, you'll want this on your desk to use to fill in the holes in what you know about your chosen field. For a guide organized by the child reader's age, consider instead A Family of Readers.
Contents of The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators: Set up like an encyclopedia, the Guide includes more than 475 entries and an index in 500 pages. It opens with a great "Basic Reading List" and then goes to the A-Z listing, which mostly consists of entries about specific authors and illustrators of children's books. Most are American, most are 20th century, but there are people from the 19th century and other countries (for example, George MacDonald, Carlo Collodi, Astrid Lindgren, Margaret Mahy). Some entries on living writers and illustrators are followed by a first-person statement, "Voices of the Creators." Most entries are about a page long.
I count 31 feature articles on other subjects, mostly types or genres of books. Examples: "African-American Children's Books," "Alphabet Books," "Series Books," "Middle Grade Fiction," and "Information Books." There are also essays on "Awards and Review Sources" and "Design and Typography." There are no articles on editors, art directors, or publishing companies.
There are small black and white illustrations scattered throughout.
Comments: This book is derived from the longer and more expensive Children's Books and Their Creators (1995), which Anita Silvey edited while she was still editor-in-chief of the Horn Book magazine. This edition includes a selection of entries from that book, plus 100 new entries to bring it up to date. Anyone familiar with the Horn Book may already be familiar with many of the authors and illustrators that appear here. Like that magazine, this guide focuses on hardcover children's books, and on those whose work in that area is considered to be the very best.
I think few readers will quibble with the selections: the authors and illustrators who appear here belong here. Here are my quibbles, though they are very minor ones. Of course, I did find some personal favorites missing, as may just about anyone who has read many children's books. I was disappointed that important publishing figures, as noted above, were not included. And coverage of more popular or mass-market figures is uneven: I found entries for Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, and Ann Martin, but not for Robert Munsch or R.L. Stine.
On the whole, though, this is an excellent and compact reference. You'll find well-written and informative essays on the artists and writers you look up, and random browsing is amply rewarded. If you aren't familiar with American children's literature, this is a good place to start to learn. If you already know the field, you'll still find things you don't know.
Who Needs The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators: Teachers and librarians and others professionally involved with children's books will find this a useful reference when more detailed information isn't needed. Writers and illustrators can learn more about the history and important figures in their field.
More recommended books, magazines, and web sites (The complete Resources section from my Complete Idiot's Guide)
Where and How to Purchase The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators (online):
- Buy The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators at Amazon, a major online retailer, which usually sells the book at 20-30% discount, though this can change.
- Buy The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators through IndieBound, a program of the American Booksellers Association. You can have it delivered or pick it up at your local independent bookstore.
- Buy The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators at Amazon Canada, if you live in Canada.
Used copies of Children's Books and Their Creators (the longer book on which this is based):
- Search for Children's Books and Their Creators at Alibris, a network of used book dealers.
You can, of course, also purchase The Essential Guide at any bookstore. If they don't have it, they can order it for you.
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