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From the earliest lullabies and nursery rhymes, children have been charmed by poetry. It soothes the crying baby and helps the schoolchild learn. Even the somber morality tales of the eighteenth century are made more palatable through verse.

The Butterflys' Ball. New York: McLoughlin Bros., circa 1860.

Written by William Roscoe, a historian and Member of Parliament, and originally published in 1807, The Butterflys' Ball has often been credited with ushering in a new era in children's books, one in which light-hearted, non-didactic, non-moralistic tales would finally be readily available. A story in verse, it describes a party attended by butterfiles, beetles, snails, and moles. The popularity of this cheerful fantasy made possible such later classics as Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows.

Charles Lamb, 1775-1834.
The King and Queen of Hearts: With the Rogueries of the Knave who Stole the Queen's Pies: illustrated in fifteen elegant engravings. London: Printed for M.J. Godwin, 1809.

This anonymous poem is the first of Charles Lamb's published writings for children. The copperplate engravings illustrating the book are after drawings by William Mulready, and resemble the images on playing cards.

Heinrich Hoffmann, 1809-1894.
Slovenly Peter, or, Cheerful Stories and Funny Pictures for Good Little Folks. Philadelphia: J.C. Winston, 1919.

This is an English translation of Struwwelpeter, a collection of cautionary tales in verse, first published in 1845. The moral stories are carried to an extreme; full of images so horrific that they become funny. Among the characters are the cry-baby whose eyeballs fall out, the glutton who is eaten by bees, and idle Fritz who was eaten by a wolf. The original title page suggested that the book was appropriate for readers between three and six years old, but modern parents might fear that their little ones would be traumatized by the graphic horror. Children, however, love to be frightened by monsters that are clearly not real.

Schnick Schnack, Trifles for the Little Ones. London: G. Routledge, 1867.

Simple poetry and lovely chromolithographic pictures make this a typical children's book of the Victorian period.

Kate Greenaway, 1846-1901.
Under the Window: Pictures & Rhymes for Children. London; New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1879.

This was Kate Greenaway's first picture book for children, composed of her own verses and illustrations. Working with Edmund Evans, the greatest wood-engraver of the day, Greenaway designed the book as a work of art. Each two page spread was meant to be seen open, pages are surrounded by a decorative border, and colors are coordinated throughout.

E. V. B. (Eleanor Vere Gordon Boyle), 1825-1916.
A New Child's-play. Sixteen drawings by E. V. B. London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1879.

On the title page is a quote from the poet Schiller, "Deep meaning lieth oft in Childish Play." This clearly reflects the new positive attitude toward childhood as a time of joy and innocence.

Howard Pyle, 1853-1911.
Yankee Doodle: An Old Friend in a New Dress. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1881.

The illustrations for Pyle's first book, Yankee Doodle, are simpler than those in his later works. His interest in the historical accuracy of the costumes in the images is already apparent.

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872-1906.
Poems of Cabin and Field. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1899.

Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African-American authors to attain national prominence. Dunbar's poems, generally written in dialect, were set in an idealized pre-Civil War plantation world. While not written for children, his lullabies and gentle humor would appeal even to a very young audience.

Bertha Upton, 1849-1912.
The Golliwogg in War! London, New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899.

The Golliwogg in War! is one of a series of books featuring the "Golliwoggs" which were African-American dolls. Bertha Upton wrote the verses for the books, her daughter Florence did the illustrations. The Uptons did not copyright their work which was soon copied onto a wide variety of cards, games, and even wallpaper. The composer Claude Debussy, in his suite Children's Corner (1906-08), included a "Golliwoggs Cake-walk."

Eugene Field, 1850-1895.
Poems of Childhood. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1904.

Familiar verse such as "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod," accompanied by the delicate illustrations of Maxfield Parrish, has made this a beloved children's classic. Parrish went on to become the highest-paid commercial artist in America in the 1920s, but today is best-known for his highly imaginative fantasy illustrations.

Brown, Margaret Wise, 1910-1952.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown; pictures by Clement Hurd; with a 50th anniversary retrospective by Leonard S. Marcus. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Since it was first published in 1947, Goodnight Moon has become a classic first book for babies. The simple tale of a bunny saying goodnight to his favorite belongings has become a lullaby for many children. Brown, educated by the progressive educational philosophy of the Bank Street College in New York, wanted to write an anti-fairy tale which focused on the "here and now" world of a child's home surroundings.

Introduction Early Works Fables and Fairy Tales Books of Instruction Primers Popup and Movable Books Stories before 1850 Stories after 1850


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