Beautiful Books for Kids (and Adults, Too!)
I’m currently completing an MFA in Book Arts, so you can bet that I judge a book by its cover. And binding. And paper. And overarching design. I won’t refuse to read an aesthetically displeasing book (I have spent many hours over the course of my life with a Norton edition in my lap, after all), but I cannot resist a beautiful book.
Which is how I’ve managed to acquire a little collection of beautiful books for my twin daughters. When you couple my love of the material book with nostalgia for childhood reading, I truly cannot help myself. Here are some of the editions we’ve brought home, where they serve the dual purpose of feeding the soul and the eyes:
Puffin Classics Series: Puffin has published a series of ten lovely little hardbacks of titles like Anne of the Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, The Wizard of Oz, and Huck Finn. I adore these books. The color palette of all of those titles stacked together is just the prettiest. Some have black and white illustrations (reprinted from previous editions), while others have none, but they are a pleasure to look at regardless. I can’t wait until my kiddos are at a stage where they have a sustained enough attention span for chapter books.
The Enchanted Collection by Amazon’s Heirloom Collection: It was news to me that Amazon has undertaken publishing in addition to selling everything under the sun. I don’t really know the scope of their publishing ventures, but I was intrigued by a boxed set of five books — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, The Wind in the Willows, and Little Women. The box unfolds to expose two sides and closes with a magnetic flap, so the structure is especially fun for little hands to explore. These editions are larger in format and feature full-color illustrations but aren’t as pleasing to hold as the Puffin books in my opinion. Neither series is cloth-bound — they both are covered with sturdy papers, but the Heirloom Collection’s covers are slick with a little bit of sheen. If your kid smears a gob of peanut butter and jelly on the cover, it will be a cinch to clean up — which, I suppose, has its merits in the context of children’s literature — but while I want that quality in a kitchen or bathroom floor, I’m not necessarily eager to cradle that kind of surface in my hands. There’s just nothing soft about them. They do have ribbon bookmarks , stuck-on endbands, and edge coloring, which are all nice touches. Are they worth the almost $50 price tag? Meh. I suppose that depends upon how you feel about Amazon.
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Taschen: This book reprints twenty-seven of the Grimm tales and offers a great introduction about the brothers and the tales historically as well as brief intros to each of the stories. It’s roughly 8.25×10.25″ and hefty at 320 pages. Illustrations to each tale are reprinted from various older editions of the tales ranging from the 1820s to the 1950s, resulting in a veritable gallery of illustrative styles. While the fairy tales themselves are rather shocking at times in their brutality (Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother encourages her husband to abandon the children in the woods since the family doesn’t have enough to eat — stay tuned for more on this topic soon from Lynne!), it’s a treasure to page through. And I am giddy to report that Taschen is publishing The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen in the same format as well, set for release in October! I suspect that will find its way into a little pile of Christmas presents for the girls.
Any readers out there suckers for beautiful editions like me? What are your favorites?
I of course also love to judge books by their covers! My favorites are the Arden Shakespeare editions (King Lear has an old tree photograph for a cover…love it). Love that Harry Potter has new covers these days, too.
I didn’t know that the Harry Potters had been redesigned! Which set do you like better? I just looked them up and have to say that I’m partial to the first ones; I love how the subtitles are hand-lettered as part of the illustration in those. I really like some of the illustrations for the new set, but the white lettering gets a little visually lost, I think. Are you going to start a collection of Harry Potter book covers, too? That would be fun : )
I like the original covers, too…but mostly because they are the ones I read way back when. 🙂 The lettering is definitely more unique.
If I start collecting HP covers, I might run out of space! Yikes!
It’s a good thing Frankenstein doesn’t have multiple volumes!
One of my first experiences of beautiful books was reading a set of Lord of the Rings – the books were so big I had to lay them on my lap, and I could feel how heavy the paper was when I turned the pages. They were illustrated by Alan Lee, too – gorgeous detailed drawings of dragons and hobbits. It made me feel like this was what LITERATURE was supposed to feel like. (I’d love to get my hands on those new Harry Potters, too!)
Last Christmas my sister gave me a complete Jane Austen from the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Collection. Although I have many other editions, this is the most beautiful!