It’s Children’s Book Week! At City of Light we are especially proud of our beautiful children’s books this week, and we celebrate our very talented, creative authors and illustrators.
But this celebration began long before City of Light came into existence. In fact, it was the brainchild of the librarian of the Boy Scouts (the Boy Scouts had their own librarian?) in 1913. Franklin K. Matthiews proposed a “Children’s Book Week” and began touring the country to promote higher standards for children’s books, enlisting the support of—who else?—publishers, booksellers and librarians.
Frederic G. Melcher, the visionary editor of Publishers Weekly who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library and a major figure in the library world, loved the idea. In 1916, with the enthusiastic support of Melcher and Moore, the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association co-sponsored a “Good Book Week” with the Boy Scouts.
In 1944, the newly-established Children’s Book Council took over what by 1919 had come to be called Children’s Book Week. The 100th anniversary of this important event was celebrated in 2019—just in the nick of time, as it turns out. The 101st anniversary this year is fully virtual.
The Swing was the first children’s book published by City of Light (then Buffalo Heritage Press). One of my childhood favorites, this delightful poem by Robert Louis Stevenson was a stand out in my tattered copy of A Child’s Garden of Verses. Beautifully illustrated for contemporary children by Orchard Park artist Heather Lynn Harris, this was a pretty classy way to enter the challenging world of children’s books.
It was also the beginning of a long and successful relationship with Harris. As of October 2020 with the release of The Monster in My Basement, City of Light has now published four beautiful books written and/or illustrated by this award-winning artist, including the Moonbeam Award recipient Five Hungry Mice, also a retold, illustrated version of an 19th century ditty by Francis A. B. Dunning, a contemporary of Stevenson. But Clover and the Shooting Star may be the most important book that I have published in my 35 years in the industry. This endearing board book is now used by dozens of Hospice organizations to help toddlers cope with loss. You can give this book of wonder and hope to a toddler, too.
In Spring 2020, at the height of the pandemic when no one was listening and no real book release events could be held, we released—well, tried to release—four spectacular new picture books.
The Alekizou and His Terrible Library Plot, written by Nancy Turgeon and illustrated by Patricia Raine, inspires children to learn to read and to love the library. You will never meet a creature quite like The Aleikizou, made up entirely of consonants! He learns to read, and young readers learn their vowels in English and in American Sign Language! Bright, colorful, and delightful, it reads as though it were written by Dr. Seuss himself.
A Kindness Remembered: A Fable shows youngsters how a single act of kindness can change a life forever. Artist Beth Lazzazero Mack painted the illustrations many years ago when her children were small. Today she is on the front lines, serving our elders at an Assisted Living Center. She knows better than most the impact of small, random acts of kindness. She gently instills this knowledge in young readers through the engaging story of an injured red-winged blackbird.
Willy and Lilly’s Adventures with Weather was written by our favorite TV weather lady, Jennifer Stanonis and illustrated by Buffalo artist Bill Blenk. The mother of three toddlers, Stanonis knows precisely how to explain complex weather concepts to youngsters. In fact, she even added a handy glossary of terms to this Moonbeam Award-winning book so that parents and teachers can help explain them, too. As climate change threatens our planet, understanding the fundamentals of weather is more important than ever. Willy and Lilly are here to help!
No words? How can you tell a story without words? Artist Linda MacRitchie Graf does just that in Treasure in the Trunk, a wordless picture book. By providing only illustrations, she encourages children to use their imaginations, to tell the story in their own words. This may honor children’s native languages in a multilingual classroom, or it could be a way for these same children to practice English. At home, children can “read” the story to their parents, What a creative concept! And wait until you see what’s in the trunk…
In addition to the more than a dozen children’s books that have already rolled off the City of Light presses, five more are slated for release in Spring 2021, including the first book in two different middle grade chapter book series, a picture book that inspires youngsters to clean up dust bunnies, and a gorgeous picture book that is also a perfect gift for moms and grads. Stay tuned!