Art and Literature at the New York Public Library

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White Book Cover

Making Stories Come Alive: Art and Literature at the New York Public Library

The toy car from The Phantom Tollbooth, artwork from The Very Hungry Caterpillar, the great green room of Goodnight Moon, a monster-size hole in the wall inspired by Where the Wild Things Are — these are just a few of the gems that visitors can peruse at “The ABC of It” exhibition at the New York Public Library (NYPL).

This free exhibit, which runs through March 23, “draws on collections across the Library to present the literature for children and teens against a sweeping backdrop of history, the arts, popular culture, and technological change,” the Library explains. Nearly 250 books and artifacts are on display and are “so intelligently woven together by the curator, Leonard S. Marcus,” The New York Times writes, “that you make your way through them with a mixture of eager pleasure and focused attentiveness.” Marcus has curated exhibitions on children’s books and their illustrations at several other locations, including the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. He is also the author of numerous books about children’s literature and their authors and artists.

Wizard of Oz: Title Page of Book“The books and related objects on view,” the Library elaborates, “reveal hidden historical contexts and connections and invite second looks and fresh discoveries.” Children and adults alike will marvel at how the “exhibit’s multidimensional design mirrors the labyrinthine content of the many books it highlights,” Publisher’s Weekly writes.

In addition to installations and artifacts, the exhibit features video and audio selections, like E.B. White reading the first chapter of Charlotte’s Web. Elizabeth Bird, the Youth Materials Collections Specialist at NYPL raves, “[T]here is no doubt in my mind that this is the best presentation I have ever seen NYPL commit to. Bar none.”

Original drawings for The Wizard of Oz, a letter from Lewis Carroll to the “real” Alice in Wonderland, Alice Liddell Hargreaves, a 1666 copy of Aesop’s Fables with His Life, the original Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals, banned children’s books from around the world–there is something to intrigue every curious visitor, bookworm or not.

Wizard of Oz Illustration

Have you been to the exhibit? What children’s books have influenced you as an artist? Share your comments below!

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