Yesterday, I wrote about books I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert isle. There were so many books I left off the list I created for my cousin. And although I truly love the books I picked, my choices were influenced by what I know of her reading tastes. For a different reader, I’d make different choices.
Something I didn’t to consider for my cousin, but that would definitely be high on my list, is Clifton Fadiman‘s Treasury of Children’s Literature (Little, Brown, 1984).
When my children were small, we didn’t have lots of money, so we made frequent trips to the library. But I did indulge my passion for books by belonging to the Book-of-the-Month Club. Every month a little newsletter came in the mail, tempting me with the latest titles. I usually returned the card indicating I didn’t want that month’s selection on time, but sometimes I forgot. That is how the gift of Clifton Fadiman’s treasury arrived at my door.
Serendipity. I love this word. Wikipedia defines it as “a happy accident” and “the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically looking for it.” Merriam-Webster’s Word Central defines serendipity as “the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not looked for.”
What a gift this two-volume treasury was! For the first time, my eyes were really opened to the breadth of children’s literature. Picture books from my childhood were Little Golden and Wonder Books: The Pokey Little Puppy, The Surprise Doll, and books based on Walt Disney movies. But here was Amos & Boris by William Steig, a chapter from Mr. Popper’s Penguins (had I really never read this as a child?), Millions of Cats, And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street, the list goes on. My kids and I spent countless hours reading this two-volume treasure trove. As we worked our way through the stories and poems, favorites emerged, and were read over and over again. My dedication to sharing the richness of this world with children began when I first read this book.
This collection is a must-have for anyone who is serious about children’s literature. Although it’s out of print, many copies are available online. A third volume was published in 1985, which I have never seen, but I’m sure it’s worth a look.
In his introduction, Fadiman quotes Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy: “How I love to read…The whole world gets bigger.” Thank you, Clifton Fadiman, for making my world a much bigger place.