Stories Worth Sharing
Dover reprints award-winning kids books for a new generation of young readers.
Good books with great pictures feed and nurture a child’s imagination, and ultimately teach them that their own imaginations can take them places. Those words and pictures tell stories that stay a part of us long into adulthood.
Dover is republishing award-winning books that have stood the test of time for both the stories and the visuals. These books might be familiar to you already, either from your own childhood or from reading them to the children in your life.
The Jumping-Off Place by Marian Hurd McNeely with illustrations by William Siegel is one of those classic tales of kids-without-grownups. Orphans finding their way in the world is one of those great tropes that kids love: meddling grownups are out of the way and the children can really shine. McNeely’s story of homesteading in South Dakota is based on her life. It won a Newbery Honor Award in 1930. Siegal’s black and white illustrations have an Art Deco sensibility.
The House that Jack Built is a bilingual book, written in English as well as French. It’s also full of amazing illustrations. Artist Antonio Frasconi created energetic wood-block illustrations that play with a simple color palette to create a forward momentum and energy that also enhances the repetition the text. It was a Caldecott Honor winner in 1958.
Tell Me a Mitzi was published in 1970, written by Lore Segal and illustrated by Harriet Pincus, and received awards and praise from multiple organizations and publications. It is also a deliciously weird book from a wide-ranging and courageous writer. The children in the story, Mitzi and her little brother Jacob, are far from conventionally attractive. In one picture, Jacob sits on the floor and clutches a stuffed animal, looking like a grumpy and peevish middle-aged man rather than a toddler.
Mitzi and Jacob have adventures in a splendidly imagined New York City and as with any good kids’ book, the lines between reality and fantasy are cheerfully erased. Hopefully, this reprint will fulfill Lore Segal’s wish to see her work, and the work of the late Harriet Pincus, back into wider circulation.
1950 Newbery Honor winner The Blue Cat of Castle Town is the story of an unlikely animal, a blue cat that sings. Catherine Kate Coblentz is not an author who springs to mind when considering books for children. Hopefully this volume will introduce her and bring back the story of a mystical blue animal that wants pretty much what all cats want: appreciation, comfort, and the chance to satve the world. The simple black and white illustrations of Janice Holland show a sinuous feline ingratiating itself into homes and hearts.
My Father’s Dragon has been kicking around since the 1940s and shows no chance of slowing down or going away — not unlike the author Ruth Stiles Gannett Kahn who, as of this writing, is 94 years old. The book was illustrated by her stepmother, Ruth Chrisman Gannett. This great book employs an interesting imaginative leap: the childhood of the writer’s father. Kids often do not understand that their own parents are only grownup children who also wanted adventure and magic. This poignant tale of a hero child, illustrated with almost geometric figures softened at the edges, as if by an air-brush, stands the test of time.