Monday, May 05, 2008

all that's missing is that old-book smell

When my best friend Anne and I traveled to Washington, DC in 1997 to visit our friend Jamie who was working there as an intern at National Geographic, we spent an afternoon at the Library of Congress--admiring the architecture, taking the tour, prowling the gift shop (I think of that trip every time I hang the Library of Congress ornament on my Christmas tree), and most important, absorbing the presence of so many books so well organized and well preserved. What a mecca for bibliophiles, educators, writers, librarians (all of which I am now)!

Now you too can revel in the Library of Congress' amazing collection from the comfort of your own computer--and use their resources as you expose your kids to different languages! From the rare book collection, here are entire works of children's literature, digitized for your pleasure, so you can read them page by page on your computer screen. You can even print them!

Available are classics (The Secret Garden, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz), nursery rhymes (Mother Goose), poetry ("A Visit From Saint Nicholas"), fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen), and plenty of works I've never heard of, such as the 18th century's Little Pretty Pocket-Book, Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly and The Square Book of Animals from 1900. The site even offers a few children's books in French (Vieilles Chansons pour les Petits Enfants, Fables de la Fontaine, a translation of Poe's poem "The Raven" illustrated by Manet) and German (My Very First Little German Book--"Wo ist meine Katze? Ich weiss nicht. Ich habe Milch fur sie. Sie trinkt so gerne Milch.")!

The illustrations are often exquisite, and the old-fashioned lettering and yellowed pages are evocative of a time when books were more precious and, perhaps, more treasured by children than they are today. All kids should have a chance to see tomes like these--online or in person--regardless of what language(s) they speak--and see what children's literature was like before Captain Underpants.


  1. PS: To read modern children's books on your computer, check out Tumblebooks:

  2. We're running out of books to read to Joseph. We brought some in our luggage, the rest we ship. The link you gave is so precious, I will print them out .. the French and English to read to the kids, and the German for myself :D. TFS!

    Btw, Joseph speaks more English to us since we're in Munich. We modify our OPOL a bit and reply also in English whenever he addresses us. When in the US, we almost never read English books to him, but now we do because he asks for it. This change is interesting as it never happened when we're still living in the US. I will write about in in my blog sometime later.

  3. Thanks for the link! I have been reading the German book - it's so sweet! And it's really interesting how it's supposed to be "My First German Book" but really has complicated language. A "First German Book" published today would be so simply written.

  4. Santi--I look forward to reading more about how your family is adapting to life in a new country! You'll have to let me do an updated profile later this year....

    Jeanne and Santi--Glad you like the link!

    Jeanne--I've noticed the same thing about old "French for beginners" books--they tend to throw a lot of information at the learner without much introduction or explanation. I did find one at a used bookstore recently which is so cute that I'll probably blog about it eventually! It concerns a family of mice.