Best Of The Best For Children, by Denise Perry Donavin
In many ways, this book was very disappointing. It is, of course, to be expected that books for children would have a great deal of agendas behind it. Even so, this book certainly goes out of its way to make its agenda plain and that is not something that I find nearly as enjoyable as others would. The end result is that while this book had a lot of material in it, most of it was simply not material that I could enjoy looking at. The most obvious books to like were all included under other categories, mostly because they had been converted to other media, and the fact that the book did not limit it self to a small number of recommendations did not mean that it included the sort of high quality picks that might fall just beneath a top 100, but instead included picks that would seem to only make sense if you understood what it was that the authors were trying to do, and that is make it seem as if the ALA and their educational agenda was something that could be enjoyed and should be followed by everyone. And that is simply not the case.
In terms of its contents, this book is almost 350 pages long and is divided into several sections with a fair amount of repetition among the recommendations. The editor begins with credits, acknowledgements, a preface, editor’s introduction, and then a key to various ALA awards, honors and lists. The authors begin with books (1), including a guide on how to use the book, recommendations for board books, preschool ABC’s and picture books, multicultural fare and fractured fairy tales for early graders, middle grade books, fantasy education, sex education, books about fathers and sons, and picture books for older readers, as well as encyclopedia and dictionary recommendations. The author then turns her attention to magazines (2), starting with magazines for the very young, then early graders who are encouraged to start writing, and looking at sports magazines as being of interest to middle graders and teenagers. There are recommendations for videos (3), including visual music and food related videos for children, middle grades, anti-drug messages, alcohol and peer pressure, and other videos about selecting books and videos for teenagers. The author recommends audio works (4), including music made for children to dance and walk and clap to, travel tunes for early graders, and Peter and the Wolf for middle graders and teenagers, as well as stories, dramatizations, and folklore including ghost stories for middle graders and teens and native american legends for middle graders. The authors recommend computer software, including puzzles for preschoolers, word processing for early graders, homestyle publishing for middle graders, and multimedia productions for teenagers. There are also recommendations for toys (6) and travel (7), after which the book closes with an index.
Fortunately, this is a book that is not likely to be read very often, because it tries to make recommendations about so many areas that it is sure to be obsolete as soon as it was put into print. Who wants to read software recommendations that are five years old, even? Who wants recommendations for books that likely went out of print as soon as they were published because they never caught on with a mass market outside of the limited activist childhood education market? This book was written by people who fancied themselves to have far more expertise in advising children (and parents of children) than they really existed, and if that bothers you at all then this is a book which will likely not feel as enjoyable to read as it probably was to write. The book could have benefited from being tightened up and focusing on those aspects which were timeless and lasting. Alas, that did not end up happening here.