Children's Book Week & the Free Library

By Chris B. RSS Tue, May 3, 2022

From May 2nd to May 8th, the country will be celebrating Children's Book Week, an annual celebration that promotes the joy of reading to children and young people. The event began a little over 100 years ago when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America began a mission to promote higher standards in children's literature. This initially began as a lecture tour across America in 1913, but changed after Matthiews recruited Publisher's Weekly editor Frederic G. Melcher and Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library, Anne Carroll Moore. The three successfully petitioned the American Library Association and the American Booksellers Association to cosponsor "Good Book Week" alongside the Boy Scouts of America in 1916. Beginning formally in 1919, Children's Book Week remains the longest-running national literacy initiative in the United States. In 1944, the Children's Book Council formed to assume responsibility for the event. 

Promotional posters have been created annually for the celebration, which links Children's Book Week to the Free Library of Philadelphia through the Children's Literature Research Collection (CLRC), one of the Library's Special Collections. CLRC houses the original artwork used to make three of these posters:

1944: Nedda Walker (dates unknown)

Nedda Walker is not well known today, which is somewhat surprising given the amount of work she produced. Between 1943 and 1960, Walker illustrated nineteen works, the majority of which ran for multiple editions. Walker was never profiled in Something About the Author or Contemporary Authors, but has a brief entry in Illustrators of Children's Books: 1946-1956. The entry notes that she studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts School of Art and painted portraits as well as illustrations. The Children's Book Week poster in the Children's Literature Research Collection attests to her skills at portraiture, as she captured the faces of twelve children engrossed in a book. A small collection of her correspondence survives in the Helen Adams Masten Papers at the University of Southern Mississippi's de Grummond Collection of Children's Literature.

To see the original artwork online, click here.

1948: Marguerite de Angeli (1889-1987)

Marguerite de Angeli was a leading author and illustrator of her day, and the Children's Literature Research Collection houses a sizable collection of her art and papers. Born in Germantown, de Angeli, is remembered for Bright April, a book about a young black girl from Philadelphia that is the first mainstream children's book to address racial prejudice in the United States as well as the Newbery-winning book The Door in the Wall, a story of a boy overcoming the stigma of a physical disability set in England in the the Middle Ages. Those interested in de Angeli can learn more by reading her entries in Something About the Author and her finding aid. Contact the Children's Literature Research Collection if you would like to see any of de Angeli's artwork in person!

To see the original artwork online, click here.

1957: Leonard Weisgard (1916-2000)

Leonard Weisgard was a prolific illustrator who produced the artwork for over 200 Children Books, including the 1948 Caldecott winner, The Little Island written by Margaret Wise Brown. Besides illustration, Weisgard also worked in costume design with his wife Phyllis Monnot, notably for the San Francisco Ballet. In the late 1960s, Weisgard and his family emigrated to Denmark. You can learn more about Weisgard and his work by visiting Something About the Author or visiting his official website, which is maintained by his children.

To see the original artwork online, click here.

Reproductions of the Children's Book Week poster are available for sale through Zazzle, giving readers the option to purchase a favorite design.  We hope you have a wonderful Children’s Book Week! Take the time to discover a new treasure or reread one of your favorites.

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