There's nothing like a classic book, and this year there's a bumper crop of beautiful new anniversary editions sure to make adults nostalgic and kids engaged.
Can Charlie Bucket really be 40 years old? Yes he is, and everyone can help celebrate with the 40th anniversary edition of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Most everyone knows what a jaw-breakingly good story this is, as poor Charlie Bucket takes a fantastical tour of the chocolate factory belonging to the mysterious Willy Wonka. It's one of my all-time favorites, and, of course, also a splendid movie (with a new version slated for release next summer, starring Johnny Depp as Wonka). This full-color anniversary book is particularly yummy, printed on a series of candy-colored pages lavender, pink, blue and yellow. Drawings of wrapped pieces of candy fill these pages: on endpapers, at the end of chapters, around borders. Quentin Blake's illustrations have long been a delightful hallmark of Dahl's novels, and their energy and humor bursts through in a rainbow of colors. With its roomy layout, easy-on-the-eyes print, and illustrations galore, this edition is perfect for both read-alouds and read-alones. Just grab some candy and turn the pages.
SETTING THINGS RIGHT
Eleanor Estes earned a Newbery Honor in 1945 for The Hundred Dresses, the story of a little immigrant girl named Wanda who wears the same dress to school every day. When she gets tired of being teased, she tells her classmates that her closet at home contains 100 dresses. This "restored" edition brings the delicate lines and colors of Louis Slobodkin's art to life. There's also a new letter to readers from Helena Estes about how her mother came to write this classic (these background notes are always fascinating). It turns out that the author was inspired by a girl in her own class who always wore the same dress and was teased, and then moved away. Helena Estes explains that her mother never had a chance to apologize: "What could she do so many years later, my mother wondered, to set things right to reach out to the girl who had stood lonely and silent against the red brick wall of the school? Well, she thought, the one thing she could do was to write her story." Why does our school district pick such a book for required reading, one so seemingly a "girl's story"? It's a splendid tale, that's why, and a grand lesson on teasing, bullying and forgiveness.
THE VAMPIRE BUNNY
For 25 years now, kids have been howling at Deborah and James Howe's Bunnicula. The tale is narrated by a lovable dog named Harold, who tells how a pet bunny arrived at his household not just any bunny, but a vampire bunny. Just read a few pages and take a look at the spooky new cover art showing Bunnicula with glowing red eyes, and you will be hooked. This was the first of many books about Bunnicula and his pals, and in this edition James Howe explains how it came into being: "One night in 1977, two underemployed actors, a husband and wife who didn't know the first thing about writing a children's book, sat down at their tomato-red kitchen table and jotted some notes about a vampire rabbit and the 'typical American family' with whom he came to reside." Sadly, Deborah Howe died before the book was published. The book's popularity led James Howe to his true calling, and he's been writing ever since.
BLESSINGS TO COUNT
About 50 years ago my dear friend Elizabeth Orton Jones won the 1945 Caldecott Medal for illustrating Rachel Field's poem Prayer for a Child, now published in a special diamond anniversary edition. I love giving this book to newborns and their families. Regard- less of denomination, it contains a lifelong message of childhood love, comfort and well being, as a young girl says her bedtime prayer and blesses what is dear to her:
Bless my friends and family.
Bless my Father and my Mother And keep us close to one another.
Bless other children, far and near, And keep them safe and free from fear.
Miss Jones led the way in multiculturalism before it had such a highfalutin name. She paints a sea of little faces from around the world to accompany these last lines, a beautiful sight and a tribute to world understanding.
STICKING HIS NECK OUT
Lordy, lordy, look who's 40! It's Shel Silverstein's A Giraffe and a Half. This cumulative tale starts out with a giraffe stretching, and thus the title, with an added, hilarious complication on each page. Silverstein's line drawings and poems are always simple, but so rich that they never lose their appeal. This latest edition contains a giraffe tape measure for recording your little reader's changing stature. Put this book between other Silverstein classics (such as The Giving Tree) and Dr. Seuss books, and you'll be set with a tall order of classic children's rhymes and humor.
Happy birthday to these literary gems, just as fresh and wonderful today as they were when first published. The only difference is that now they are already well known and loved all around the world. It's safe to say that 50 and 60 years from now, new generations of readers will be clamoring for 100th anniversary editions of these classics.
Alice Cary writes from Groton, Massachusetts.