A mashup of Wild Things, Stinky Cheese, Charlotte and Pooh too

NYPL, the importance of reading, children’s books, what’s happening in New York, New York Public Library, NY exhibitions, My love of the New York Public Library (NYPL), as the curious g readers have heard before, is big. With its expansive collection, frequent exhibits and various programs, the NYPL offers possibilities to everyone. I’ve blogged often about aspects of the NYPL from the resources and the architecture to the previous exhibits.

So it comes as no surprise that the latest exhibit on view at the Main Library, “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter,” is an excellent environment for visitors of all ages.

They’re all here: The Wild Things, Charlotte’s Web, Mary Poppins, the Stinky Cheese Man, the Brothers Grimm, and Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, too. It’s a mashup of all the wonderful characters and creatures of childhood. Samplings from the library’s collection ranging from the early 18th century up to the Harry Potter series and onward are on view.

The ABC’s exhibition begins:

“Our first books stir and shape us as few can ever do again.”

How true is that! Can you ever feel the way you did when you, yourself, selected and read your first book, and you loved it?

NYPL, the importance of reading, children’s books, what’s happening in New York, New York Public Library, NY exhibitions, Half Magic by Edgar Eager

I’ll never forget going into my school library and picking up Edward Eager’s Half Magic from the shelves. I was seven or eight. There was a sense of ownership and independence attached to the choosing. And who could resist being transported by a less-than-perfect talisman into the Sahara Desert, and beyond? Half Magic was full of adventure and completely immersive. I was transported into another world – one that was created not just for me – but by me. The words were there, but my imagination brought the words to life.

The NYPL exhibition displays a rich array of books and environments to delight not only kids, but I was thrilled as were many other adults. The exhibit is both educational and entertaining, and very powerful. Because children’s books are that rare thing, as the intro points out: gateways. To youth, to adulthood, to life.

And perhaps, only as children can we read so purely and curiously, before we are imprinted with life experiences?

The exhibit explores the importance and endurance of children’s titles: What and how they teach children, and what they reveal about the times when they were written. There are books, installations, and artwork representing a great diversity of eras and cultures that form their own story, and spawn new stories when viewed as a whole.

NYPL, the importance of reading, children’s books, what’s happening in New York, New York Public Library, NY exhibitions, Half Magic by Edward Eager

Before the Internet and ebooks, we curled up with a good hard-copy book. But the exhibit wisely includes digital storytelling, with iPads prominently featured for interactive immersion. Whether digital storytelling fully replaces the wonderful artworks displayed remains to be seen. I certainly hope both forms can co-exist, because there is much to be gained from each delivery system.

Treat yourself, make a special trip to the NYPL @ 42 Street (exhibit on view through Sunday / 23 march 2014). I guarantee you, it will be a great adventure.

Is there a first book that your remember from childhood that influenced your life as a reader?

All images: © 2013 Janet Giampietro. For more images, check out The New York Times slideshow

2 Responses to “A mashup of Wild Things, Stinky Cheese, Charlotte and Pooh too”

  1. XandraRoos Says:

    This is a lovely post, and I’ll be in New York City in the fall, so I’ll make sure to see this exhibit.

    Well done.

    Cheers,
    Xan

    PS My transformative book was Strangers to the Marsh.

  2. lg Says:

    So true. I can still remember the excitement I felt when I went to apply for my first library card and the even greater thrill when I took out my first two books (and, yes, I still remember the titles: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Magic Ball From Mars). I felt so grown-up, so much a part of what the older kids had been doing. The first books we read are important and do shape us in ways that other experiences do not. There is a line in the film, You’ve Got Mail, where the character played by Meg Ryan who owns an old-fashioned children’s book shop states this so emotionally. To me, curling up with a good book is still a treat.

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