From 1940 through 1999, the Notable Children’s Books Committee of the Association for Library Service to Children has affixed the label “notable” to more than 6,000 books. The purpose of this volume is to take an appreciative look backward at a selection of those 6,000 notable children’s books. Why a selection? Space demands it, for starters. In addition, our goal has been to isolate those books that have most successfully stood the test of time and can still be enjoyed by young readers today. We hope, as well, that this volume will be of help to youth services librarians involved in both collection development and weeding. In order to include as many notable authors and illustrators as possible in our selections, we have not always listed all the notable works of well-known writers, but among the 1,504 titles, there are multiple listings for many revered figures in the history of children’s literature (Arnold Lobel, Virginia Hamilton, and Maurice Sendak, among them).
The text is organized chronologically, with chapters sorted by decade, from the 1940s through the 1990s. Entries within each chapter are listed alphabetically. Bibliographic information for each title includes author or editor, title, illustrator (when different from the author), original publication date, and in-print hardcover and paper editions (when available), with publisher, price, and ISBN listed for each. Out-of-print titles are listed as [o.p.], and the original hardcover publisher is included.
A note about those dreaded words out of print: the relationship between a book’s in-print status and its availability has undergone a transformation in recent years. Print-on-demand technology threatens eventually to make an anachronism of the very idea of a book being out of print, and in the meantime, the relative ease with which out-of-print titles can be purchased from Internet book dealers means that both libraries and individuals should be able to acquire many of the o.p. titles listed here with very little effort and at reasonable expense. Even in the pre-electronic era, out-of-print status was an always-fluctuating phenomenon, with titles constantly moving from one designation to the other. That continues to be the case today, of course, and it should be remembered that the bibliographic information included here reflects in-print status as of fall 2003.
In the 1970s, the Children’s Notable Book Committee began dividing its list into age-designated groups: Younger Readers, Middle Readers, Older Readers, and All Ages. Our chapters on the 1970s through the 1990s appear alphabetically, but each title carries an identifying letter—Y, M, O, or A—at the end of the bibliographic imprint that reflects the age designation selected by the committee.
Annotations for each title are based on the original text as written by members of the committee in the year the books were honored as notable. Information has been added to identify winners of the following children’s literature awards: Newbery Medal, awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children published in the United States during the preceding year; Caldecott Medal, awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year; and Batchelder Award, given annually to the American publisher of the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a foreign language in a foreign country and subsequently published in English in the United States during the preceding year.
Following the decade-by-decade listings is an appendix comprising theme lists made up of notable titles selected from those included in the body of the book. The titles in the theme lists include brief bibliographic imprints in which author, title, illustrator (if different from the author), original year of publication, and age designation are included.
The book concludes with author-illustrator and title indexes to the material included in the decade-by-decade chapters.