Publications: Recent Children’s Books, 1925-1939

From 1925 through 1939, known under the series title Recent Children’s Books, the American Library Association produced a series of resources to support collection development in children’s libraries. Each publication is rich with recommendations of contemporary children’s literature. Read on to learn more about early Recent Children’s Books!

At least as early as 1925, the earliest publications of Recent Children’s Books were four-page documents recommending recent children’s book publications from the previous year until present. Over time, the list would grow and so too would the bibliographies. In 1925, there were two sections, including “For Very Little Children” (as seen in the first image above) and “For Older Girls and Boys”. In 1926, a cover image was included featuring a cut courtesy of the Harcourt Brace and Company, with new ALA Headquarters member Jessie Gay Van Cleve credited as the compiler. In fact, for almost the entirety of the series, beginning with this edition, children’s book publishers took annual turns providing courtesy images for the bibliography’s cover. The 1926 edition also included six pages of recommendations too. The following year, in 1927, the content was reduced to four pages, “For Older Girls and Boys” was changed to “For Older Boys and Girls”, and a new cut was on the cover too. While the 1928 edition also featured a new image and four new pages of books too.

By 1929, the series was printed on color paper and the final page included the first series recommendation of a book catalog, Realms of Gold by Bertha E. Mahony & Elinor Whitney. In 1930, the layout changed from a vertical fold to a horizontal fold, possibly playfully extended the cover image of a larger water spout pouring books to a child (as seen in the second image above). In 1931, the series returned to the original vertical fold and the “For Older Girls and Boys” section was moved to the front. In 1932, a new section was added under the title “Christmas Stories”.

In 1933, the organization changed again with two new sections too, including “Picture Story Books” and “For Readers Eight and Over”. In 1934, the sections were replaced with “For Younger Children” and “For Older Boys and Girls”. In 1935, the publication began printing with ink colors other than black, a publication price guide was included at the bottom of the last page, and the books were arranged alphabetically by the author’s last name rather than by reading level. In 1936, the section titles were removed, a new catalog by Mahony and Whitney, Five Years of Children’s Books, was recommended at the end, and an untitled and possibly abstract image was included on the cover.

Two years later, in 1938, cuts were reintroduced on the cover while the section titles did not return until the following year. Then in 1940, North Portland Librarian Elizabeth A. Groves, took over as the compiler. Unfortunately, more issues have not been identified in our holdings yet, while the story likely continues on.

Copies Available at Your ALA Archives

Physical copies of early Recent Children’s Books bibliographies are available for viewing at the ALA Archives. Please view the Record Series 24/33/15 database record entry, for more information.

Got Something to Donate to the Story So Far?

Many people have been involved in the long history of A.L.A. publications and bibliographic work. Do you have any information about early book list bibliography participants, collaborators, publications, or beneficiaries? Please contact us through social media. We and our readers would like to read about it.

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