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Children`s Books
by Mary Kovack

As the new millennium approaches, it is both timely and inevitable that specialists in the fields of the literary and performing arts have set their sights on the daunting task of compiling "best of" anthologies. With The 20th Century Children's Book Treasury, Janet Schulman, whose career as an author and editor of children's books has spanned more than forty years, has put together an ambitious collection of children's stories intended to delight both parent and child. With an emphasis on illustrated stories that can be read aloud, Schulman is quick to point out that she does not claim to have selected the "best", but instead has chosen to include her personal favourites, many of them bona fide classics, such as selections from Winnie-the-Pooh, Curious George, Dr. Seuss, and forty-one others which she believes will stand the test of time.

Although the lion's share of the stories are by American authors with only a smattering of work by foreign authors, such as Jean De Brunhoff's The Story of Babar and Helen Oxenbury's, I Hear, I See, I Touch, Schulman demonstrates that she possesses a true affection for and an acute understanding of children's literature. This anthology is for the traditionalist who appreciates simplicity, whimsy, and pure imagination. For instance, she has opted to include a story depicting the original illustrations of Winnie-the-Pooh rather than the more modern and commercially popular rendition which is so pervasive today.

Alas, those readers who are looking for some Disney or Sesame Street will be sorely disappointed. And although you will find some basic ABCs and 123s, these stories are not meant to teach. The one notable exception is the beautifully rendered Stellaluna by Janell Cannon, a fascinating story about a bat which is sure to allay your child's fear of this much misunderstood creature. Among the more contemporary works, you will find samples of Stan and Jan Berenstain's The Berenstain Bears and The Spooky Old Tree and Marc Brown's D.W., The Picky Eater from the Arthur series. True aficionados of children's literature will love the sheer imaginativeness of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and the musicality of Peggy Parish's Amelia Bedelia and Joan Aiken's The Elves in the Shelves.

To assist parents with their selections, the stories have been divided into three categories-toddlers, pre-school, and over five years of age-and are accompanied by a colour-coded symbol indicating the suggested age level.

No doubt, you will find many of your own favourites not included and many Canadian readers will be disappointed that not a single work by a Canadian author-a conspicuous omission being Robert Munsch's Love You Forever-made it into this collection. Still, this book represents a significant achievement for Schulman. Beautifully illustrated and bound, this volume is certain to hold a cherished place in your home library. 

Mary Kovack is a book lover, career woman, and devoted mom to her cherished three-year-old son, Jonathan.


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