About the Holiday
If you love picture books, you know the thrill of holding a new or a new-to-you book in your hands and opening up to that very first page. The children’s sections of bookstores and libraries draw you in with humor, fairy tales, poetry, biographies, science, and so much more—a whole universe of creativity, thought, knowledge, and imagination—that enlightens and entertains. This month take time to indulge your passion for picture books!
Books! Books! Books! Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library
By Mick Manning and Britta Granström
Everyone knows you can fit a book into a library, but how do you fit a library into a book? Mick Manning and Britta Granström have very tidily discovered a way to translate the content and atmosphere of the incredible British Library into their visually stunning and packed-full-of-knowledge picture book. Opening with a brief history of the library building and its holdings, the authors then invite readers inside to take a look.
First on display are “ancient handmade books like the St. Cuthbert Gospel, found in a coffin!” this little book is the oldest surviving book to have been produced in Europe that still has its original covers and binding, dating to before 687 CE. After being trekked around England in the coffin—just one step ahead of invading Vikings—it was removed from its hiding place, kept by a private collector, and finally bought by the British Library for nine million pounds in 2011.
Any English major knows all about the thrilling Scandinavian story of Beowulf—“the oldest surviving long poem in Old English.” The copy found in the British Library is “three thousand lines long” and “was hand-written in the eleventh century.” Here too is the Magna Carta—one of the most influential legal documents in the world. And the Canterbury Tales may just be something assigned in high school to some people, to others it is a technological marvel—“the first book ever printed in English using an amazing invention: moveable type and a printing press.”
“Big book” doesn’t begin to describe the Klencke Atlas which was made for England’s King Charles the Second. It is so “ginormous” at 7 feet x 5 feet 10 inches (2,1 x 1.78 meters) that “it takes six people to lift it!” What’s the smallest book, you ask? That would be Lady Jane Grey’s Prayer Book. Measuring just 2 ¾ x 3 3/8 inches (70 x 85 millimeters), it accompanied her to her execution after she ruled England for only nine days. Then there are books of all sizes that “are so valuable that they are kept in bombproof strong rooms, deep underground.”
Britain has produced many of the greatest writers of all time, and their books can also be found here. Authors such as Jane Austin; Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Brontë; and Charles Dickens. Any good library offers books of all types—not just fiction—and the British Library is no exception. You’ll find cookbooks, medical books, and scientific books, like writings by Leonardo da Vinci, Oliver Goldsmith, and Charles Darwin.
There’s the fantastic—like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—and the mysterious—like the cases of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Some writings don’t come in a book, but they move people all the same. That’s why the British Library also has collections of sheet music from the world’s greatest composers and “a copy of every newspaper published every day in Britain and Ireland since 1869, as well as many more going back to the seventeenth century.”
How does one library hold so many books? Well, many of them are contained in vaults, and if you were to order one for viewing or to check out, it would come on “an automatic conveyor system, like a little railway.” That’s the way one library can hold so many books, and now you know how one book can hold an entire library!
Mick Manning and Britta Granström’s text-and-illustration collaboration creates a masterful tour of one of the world’s most treasured institutions. Choosing which books and authors to highlight, must have been an awesome task (in both senses of the word), and Manning and Granström more than succeed with their collection of the fascinating, familiar, and fantastic. Leading off with a book preserved in a coffin is a combination of comic and creepy genius that kids will eat up, and ending with perennial favorite, Sherlock Holmes, who is known to all ages, is elementary brilliance. Each book or type of book is presented on a two-page spread that includes a brief history and description of the work or collection, a bit about the author, and, where appropriate, a snippet from the story.
Dynamic collage-style illustrations employ era-appropriate colors, typefaces, and images for each book introduced, allowing readers to clearly see the authors, subjects, characters, and themes each work encompasses. A skeleton lies in a dark casket, his bony hand holding the St. Cuthbert Gospel; Beowulf rips the arm off a Grendel created from pages written in Old English; Lady Jane Grey’s shadow portrays her executioner; old-style anatomical drawings inform the discussion of medical books; as Charles Dickens walks past a wall plastered in broadsides of his book covers, could that be little Oliver Twist pickpocketing his pocket watch?; and Lewis Carroll sits at the table with Alice, a Dormouse, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter.
More information about the works and their authors as well as a glossary follows the text.
For book lovers, every page of Books! Books! Books! brings a smile. It would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves and a fantastic resource for school or classroom libraries.
Ages 8 – 12
Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763697570
Discover more about the books produced by Mick Manning and Britta Granström on their website.
Picture Book Month Activity
Book Jacket Bookmark
If you can’t get enough of reading, print out one—or more!—of this printable Book Jacket Bookmark. Why not add the title of a story you would write to the spine then color it before slipping it between the pages of your book?
Picture Book Review