`GIANTS’ MAKES THE CHILDREN’S BOOK LIST
By Erica Noonan
A Newton author is among those featured this month in Yankee magazine’s first list of 100 Classic New England Children’s Books.
Diana Appelbaum’s “Giants in the Land,” about New England’s once-great giant white pine forests, is also on the magazine’s abridged “Top 40” list that booksellers are hoping becomes an indispensable guide to quality children’s picture books. The two lists, featured in the December edition of Yankee, are the result of nearly a year of consultation with more than two dozen regional booksellers, librarians, and teachers, said Yankee editor Jim Collins.
Collins said his own 2-year-old daughter, Ursula, was an inspiration for the list.
“My wife and I were looking for books to teach her about New England, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great for parents to have a list?,” he said.
After soliciting 405 book suggestions from the experts, Collins and his wife, Kristen, winnowed the list down to 100 by kid-testing some of the books at a local toddler story hour. The Top 40 list was developed as a shorter, easier-to-use version of the longer tally, he said.
There are dozens of reading lists for adults, but aside from a list about children’s books set in Maine, Collins said he hadn’t seen anything comparable to his top 100 and top 40.
Aside from the most famous children’s books, such as Robert McCloskey’s “Make Way for Ducklings,” “One Morning in Maine,” and “Blueberries for Sal,” adults are sometimes at a loss over what to give to children, he said.
Both of McCloskey’s classics are on the list, but so are lesser-known books like “Ruby,” by Michael Emberly, an urban Little Red Riding Hood tale set in a fictional Boston, and “She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head!” by Kathryn Lasky, about how the Massachusetts Audubon Society began.
Appelbaum, whose book centers on the giant white pines of New England that were harvested to make masts for British warships, said she was thrilled that her book was on the list.
Although “Giants” has sold steadily since its publication in 1993, Appelbaum said spreading the word about quality children’s books will help parents, teachers, and anyone else interested in helping children learn to read and develop a love for literature.
“Kids that age are voracious and want to be read to a lot, and there are many wonderful picture books, but this [list] might make it a little easier for people,” said Appelbaum. “Librarians know all those books, but aunts and grandparents going to buy a book for a child don’t always know where to go after [they’ve bought] `Make Way for Ducklings.’ ”
Collins said he tried to fill the list with books that can be found at most bookstores. A handful of titles are out of print, he said, but those should be available at local libraries.
The list can help parents and teachers unfamiliar with the breadth of children’s literature expand their repertoire with classics like “A Child’s Calendar” by John Updike, “Mary Had a Little Lamb” by Sarah Josepha Hale, “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
The New England Booksellers Association has joined Yankee in publicizing the list through its members, who are largely independent booksellers.
The list is brand-new, but it already seems to be making an impact, said Tim Huggins, owner of Newtonville Books, who said he’d had about a dozen customers come in to ask about books on the list.
“I think it’ll have a lot of impact. People need guidance, and the best thing that booksellers do is add some wisdom to the process, so people aren’t wandering through the piles and piles of books out there.”
The list also helps independent booksellers who, like Huggins, sell children’s books but don’t specialize in them.
“It helps me see if I’ve overlooked any books,” he said.
Time will tell how much of an impact the list will have on sales for independent booksellers this holiday season.
“We’ve had a very good response,” said Rusty Drugen, director of the New England Booksellers Association. “There are a lot of lists out there, but nothing really comprehensive for children like this.”
These children’s books make up the Yankee Top 40:
- Make Way for Ducklings, Robert McCloskey, Viking, 1941
- Sing a Song of People, Lois Lenski, illustrated by Giles Laroche, Little Brown, 1987
- Sea Swan, Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Catherine Stock, Macmillan, 1988
- Ruby Michael Emberley, Little Brown, 1990
- Zachary’s Ball, Matt Tavares, Candlewick, 2000
- Old Home Day, Donald Hall, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, Harcourt Brace, 1996
- Thunder from the Clear Sky, Marcia Sewall, Simon & Schuster, 1995
- Gluskabe and the Four Wishes, Retold by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Christine Nyburg Shrader, Dutton, 1995
- Giants in the Land, Diana Applebaum, illustrated by Michael McCurdy, Houghton Mifflin, 1993
- Paul Revere’s Ride, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand, Dutton, 1990
- Yankee Doodle, Dr. Richard Shackburg, illustrations by Ed Emberley, Simon & Schuster, 1994
- Old Ironsides: Americans Build a Fighting Ship, David Weitzman, Houghton Mifflin, 1997
- The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night, an old song, illustrated by Peter Spier, Doubleday, 1961. Caldecott Honor Book.
- Ox-Cart Man, Donald Hall, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, Viking, 1979
- Barn, Debby Atwell, Houghton Mifflin, 1996
- Mill, David Macaulay, Houghton Mifflin, 1983
- Whaling Days, Carol Carrick, illustrated by David Frampton, Houghton Mifflin, 1993
- Amistad Rising: A Story of Freedom, Veronica Chambers, illustrated by Paul Lee, Harcourt Brace, 1998
- The Milkman’s Boy, Donald Hall, illustrated by Greg Shed, Walker and Company, 1997
- The Bobbin Girl, Emily Arnold McCully, Dial Books, 1996
- Shaker Boy, Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Harcourt Brace, 1994
- Island Boy, Barbara Cooney, Viking Penguin, 1988
- Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney, Viking, 1982
- Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey, Viking, 1948. Caldecott Honor.
- One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey, Viking, 1952. Caldecott Honor.
- The Little Island, Golden MacDonald, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, Doubleday, 1946
- The Disappearing Island, Corinne Demas, illustrated by Ted Lewin, Simon & Schuster, 2000
- Sally Goes to the Beach, Stephen Huneck, Harry N. Abrams, 1999
- Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, D. B. Johnson, Houghton Mifflin, 2000
- A Penny for a Hundred, Ethel Pochocki, illustrated by Mary Beth Owens, Down East, 1996
- The Two Brothers, William Jaspersohn, illustrated by Michael A. Donato, Vermont Folklife Center, 2000
- The Five-Dog Night, Eileen Christelow, Houghton Mifflin, 1993
- Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Houghton Mifflin, 1998
- She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head! Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by David Catrow, Hyperion, 1995
- Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Virginia Lee Burton, Houghton Mifflin, 1939
- The Brass Ring, Nancy Tafuri, Greenwillow, 1996
- Mary Had a Little Lamb, Sara Josepha Hale, illustrated by Tomie de Paola, Holiday House, 1984
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Dutton, 1978
- Rachel Field’s Hitty: Her First Hundred Years, Rosemary Wells, illustrated by Susan Jeffers, Simon & Schuster, 1999
- A Child’s Calendar, John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, Holiday House, 1999. Caldecott Honor.
Erica Noonan, Globe Staff Correspondent Date: December 3, 2000 Page: 1 Section: Globe West