Providing children with quality reading material that is also pleasing to the eye is a great way to encourage reading without having to assign it. Kids will naturally bury themselves in these classics with their full-color plate illustrations and clear type that reads smoothly. The very best in children's literature is represented here—from Treasure Island and Huckleberry Finn to Little Women and The Wizard of Oz.
Of the 45 titles, nearly all are unabridged (five have more extensive editing: Gulliver's Travels, King Arthur, Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family Robinson and Three Musketeers). Titles are chosen for their appeal to younger readers, and none of them include offensive or adult material—but like all great children's literature, the titles are equally appealing to adults. At the same time, books with a lot of philosophical content are absent in favor of more lighthearted, adventure-oriented fare.
A different illustrator was chosen for each volume based on their ability to adequately evoke a specific text. Some of the styles are more relevant to younger children, consequently making those titles probably less appealing to older readers, but illustrations throughout the series uphold a high artistic standard. Artwork never overwhelms a text, instead acting as a supplement and imaginative aide.
We've seen four renditions of this series, starting in the 1940s. You can search for the specific series you are interested in below and narrow your results. For accurate results, please include quotes, like this: "series 1".
Series 1: The earliest ones (with a fairly plain cover and a pasted oval picture on the front) originally came in slip cases, and we don't believe they ever had dust jackets. There are only 29 titles in this series, published in the 1940s-50s. Later printings brought additional titles (you can download a full list from this page).
Series 2: The second "popular edition" run were slightly smaller size cloth books with a patterned design fairly consistent from volume to volume; these did have dust jackets, and used copies that still have quality djs are slightly more valuable than those without. Like Series 1, there are only 29 titles in this collection. There are also paperbacks of at least of few of this collection, which we don't list here.
Series 3: The third version came in a larger size, and had very handsome pictorial cloth covers. This series was published primarily in the 1970s. We believe there were 34 in this series, but still have some research to do on this. Collectors may quibble here, as some books have grainier textures than others, some came with titles printed on the covers, others had titles printed on a heavy mylar jacket and others had no title printed at all.
Series 4: The fourth versions were the same size again but with glossy covers. Some covers are the same as those in series 3, but a number are new and all have a different texture and the look of the binding is tweaked. New titles added here include Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island, Jane Eyre, Peter Pan, Dr. Dolittle, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Sherlock Holmes and some of the darker books like Frankenstein and Dracula. These were published in the 1990s-2000s, and all have ISBNs printed on the back.
All editions stand tall and handsome on the shelf. Hardbound with sturdy pages and easy-to-read type, these are the kind of books you can hand down to successive generations without fear of premature destruction. Unless, of course, your kids abhor and despise books, in which case you wouldn't be collecting volumes as attractive as these for them.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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