My husband likes looking at cars, especially the old ones. “Not antique,” he says. “Classics!” So on his birthday we took a short trip to Staunton, IL to Family Classic Cars where there are five pole barns filled with old cars—oops, I mean classic cars! We saw a 1967 Grand Prix, the model that he had when we first met, though not the same color. And mine, a 1968 Chevy Nova. It was a good day for reminiscing.
My husband’s comment made me stop to wonder what makes a children’s book a classic, instead of just an old book. According to an article from 2009 Horn Book magazine, “The real test of a classic is the individual child’s delight in reading, sharing, and rereading a book again, again, and again.” The books that become classics in children’s literature have “qualities that allow them to endure for generations.”
According to Pauline Dewan, creator of the website Children’s Literature Classics, Discover the Wonder and Magic, “…great children’s stories are powerful, imaginative, and memorable; they resonate with readers of all ages and have a lasting and profound impact.” On her website she lists key themes and concerns in children’s literature, patterns in children’s literature, examples of characteristic patterns, and talks about changes in children’s literature.
Back to the 2009 Horn Book list, it starts with Books for the Very Young, and includes books like Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown 1947 and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 1970. It goes next to Picture Books, from The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter 1902 to The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg 1985. Next comes For Beginning Readers (Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel 1970) and Stories (Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor).
Echoes of Times Past: Part One, includes a selection based on works from Ancient Days through the 18th Centuries (Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe 1990), and Part Two, classics from the 19th and 20th centuries through 1920 (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain 1876, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 1911).
Next comes Myths, Legends, and Folklore with books like The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle 1968. And finally Non-Fiction, which includes Anne Frank by Anne Frank 1967 and And Then What Happened, Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz 1973.
Take a memory trip back and find the books that you loved as a child. Are they on the list of classics in Children’s Literature? Check out the books on the lists above to find what makes a children’s book a classic, and not just an antique.