While it would not be possible to name all of the many excellent books published for children over the course of the last one hundred years, we thought it would be interesting to check the shelves at the New York Public Library and report on titles which have withstood the test of time and are still making that journey from library shelf to home and back again. We could not decide on any one “best” book published in the last 100 years, as the interaction between story and reader is such a personal one. However, while compiling these titles, we found echoes of all the great stories, myths, epics and storytellers that have preceded our start date of 1913. Stories from Aesop; Homer; Mahabharata; Gilgamesh; Shakespeare; the Grimm brothers; Andersen; Twain; Dickens; Pyle, Potter, Baum, Courlander and more.
The titles chosen for this list had to have been published in the last 100 years and had to meet two other criteria: titles had to be in print (which excluded some wonderful titles that are momentarily out of print), and books had to be favorites of the Library’s young patrons. The richness of the stories being published for children during the past hundred years is astonishing, as the medium reflects the technological, social and political changes wrought throughout the last century. In 1913 children were anxiously awaiting L. Frank Baum’s next Oz book, The Patchwork Girl of Oz, N.C. Wyeth’s newly illustrated rendition of the classic Kidnapped was widely acclaimed, Bud Fisher’s The Mutt and Jeff Cartoons went in to a second printing during its first month of publication, and series such as The Motor Girls and The Racer Boys were all the rage.
2013 promises to be another year of exceptional storytelling and bookmaking for children. The thirst for tales of family, friendship, bravery and finding one’s place in the world has not changed. Given the limitation of 100, these selections provide a snapshot, rather than an exhaustive overview, with highlights from the 20th c , along with titles published after 1990 – titles which may find their place on the library’s shelves for generations to come. The list is organized alphabetically by title.