NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Iconic children’s authors Judy Blume and Eric Carle helped the New York Public Library celebrate children’s literature Monday, as the library released a list of 100 great books from the last 100 years.
The list includes picture books for preschoolers as well as books for older readers like “The Hobbit” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
“The Cat in the Hat,” “Pippi Longstocking” and “Where the Wild Things Are” all made the list, which accompanies an exhibit on children’s literature at the library’s main building at 476 Fifth Ave.
Blume and Carle joined librarians for a reading and panel discussion.
“Viewed over time, children’s books are the collected memory of our hopes and dreams,” said moderator Leonard Marcus, a book critic and the curator of the exhibit. “They are the message in a bottle that each generation tosses out to the next generation in the hope that it may wash ashore and be read and be taken to heart.”
Blume, 75, whose “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” is on the list, said that when she was in the fourth grade herself she always had stories in her head.
“But I never told anybody about them because I thought if I did they would think I was weird,” she said.
Since the NYU alum began publishing in the 1970s, many of her books dealing with subjects like racism, divorce and sexuality have been banned by authorities who considered the topics inappropriate for children.
Blume has made the top 10 list for the most frequently challenged authors for seven of the last 12 years, according to the American Library Association. Among her most controversial works are “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret?” – a narrative of a girl’s concerns as she enters puberty; “Deenie,” the story of a girl with scoliosis which includes a discussion of masturbation; “Blubber” — a story of fifth grade girls that includes frank discussions of bullying and racism, and “Forever” – a story of a high school romance that includes open discussion of sexual activity.
“Books that are loved by children are often the books that scare adults,” Blume said.
Carle, 84, made the library’s list with “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” his 1969 picture book about a voracious bug that becomes a butterfly. He said he created the caterpillar by folding and manipulating paper; he first thought of the character as a bookworm, Willie the Worm.
“And I had this wonderful editor and she didn’t like the worm so much,” Carle said.
Students from Public School 41 in Greenwich Village and Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem sat up front as the two authors read from their work.
Fourth-grader Brianna Astacio of Our Lady Queen of Angels said Blume’s “Double Fudge” was her favorite book because “it’s funny.”
Carle – a Syracuse native and onetime New York Times graphic designer — read his brand-new book, “Friends,” about a boy who swims across a river and climbs a mountain in search of his friend.
Spoiler alert: He finds her.
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