General Editor, Julia Eccleshare. Over 70 contributors, plus special reviews by more than 30 well-known authors
This amazing volume is a compilation of 1001 half-page (some whole-page) summaries of great children's books, from the earliest picture books through the middle grades and up. It has been the source of a number of books I've read and reviewed this winter, as I've been perusing the suggestions for the 8 and up age ranges. Whatever I can among the books I missed in my own youth, I order from the library.
Because the book was first published in England (and the authors/editors/compilers are English), the selection of books is more international than it might be if produced in the U.S. Though all books are available (with some hunting) in English, many were first written in other languages, and more come from Australia and New Zealand than I was ever aware existed (why did I never think about people in other countries writing books for kids? Probably because you didn't find many of them in our libraries and bookstores). If nothing else, this book showed up my typical American upbringing. Though I read a great many British children's books (Famous Five, anyone? not to mention Narnia and Tolkien), and have known for decades what a torch, jumper, and rug are, and where you will find them if they are in the back of a lorry, I have read almost none of the recommended books from anywhere but the U.S and the British Isles. Not all can be easily found, but I suspect nearly all would be worth the search.
Many of the mini-reviews (just a little more than summaries) are accompanied by the original cover art, and some by illustrations from the book interiors. Some of the art is stunning, some is fascinating just for being so dated, and some is still in use even after many decades while other covers have been redesigned and updated many times.
The book is divided into five sections, for kids from ages 0-3, 3+, 5+, 8+ and 12+. I spent less time in the first three sections, as these were primarily picture books, baby books, and easy readers, though of course my well-beloved Dr. Seuss shows up in all three, and some where books I would say would belong more accurately in the 8+ category. A quick look showed many favorites as well as many that I never saw (and some that I discovered only when my own kids were little and hadn't realized had been around since I wasn't much older than 5!). Some of the books in the 8+ and 12+ sections I would definitely say are for the older end of those age ranges--the final section goes right on up to Young Adult novels, but some in the 8+ section are difficult to read due to either style or content. Some parental judgement may be needed when selecting books for children; fortunately, the story summaries and reviews give you most of what you need to know.
Are all the books listed truly must-reads? Frankly, no. I don't think I'll suffer in the least if I grow up (or grow old and die) without having read Twilight. Others are just not that interesting to me. But most of these books will amply repay the time spent finding--and reading them, and many are books we'd never know about without this great resource.
Don't forget to grab your copy of Love Middle Grade, Actually, while it's free and enter for your chance to win a Kindle, a gift card, or a free e-book!