Blogger Alyson Feldman-Piltch

A New Classic

Yesterday, Jonda McNair posted about classic Coretta Scott King (CSK)  books on the CSK Blog.  McNair pointed out that often when one thinks of a classic book, they do not think of books written by and about African-Americans. Citing an article she wrote in The Reading Teacher in 2010, McNair shares what her criteria for a classic book in African-American literature are- often  books can be grouped into three categories:

“universal experiences (e.g., death, love, and friendship) from an African American perspective, breakthrough books that are a “first” in some way or break new ground, and literary innovation (e.g., use of language, style, etc.).”

At the end of the post, Jonda shares the titles of some CSK winners that meet this criteria, and are what she considers CSK Classics, one of which is a personal favorite, Everett Anderson’s Goodbye.

As I sat on the train this morning to work, I thought about classics in children’s literature, and how there are books that meet aspects of  the criteria Jonda shared,that have never necessarily won an award, but have impacted children’s literature.  Are there universal titles that everyone agrees on?  Is there other criteria How did a book become a classic to begin with?  Is there a special bat-signal that is sent up each time a book becomes a classic?  At what point do we start sharing these books as the “new classics”?

I know these are a lot of questions, and I know that there is no one answer.  Or maybe, there is?  Anyway, below is a list of some books that I would consider a new classic, and some of my reasoning.  Feel free to add to it in the comments or try to answer the questions! I apologize in advance for the lack of finality in this list and it’s reasoning; the ideas and thoughts are still churning!


Alyson’s New Classic Books

  1.  Captain Underpants series : breaking new ground
  2.  Wonder: universal experience, recommended on school lists (does this make it a classic?? I feel like there’s a correlation between school-approved books and classics)
  3. Harry Potter series: breaking new ground
  4. Rapunzel’s Revenge Calamity Jack ( I always recommend these to people looking for new graphic novels, even though they’ve been around.  Does the fact I always recommend them make them a classic?)

One comment

  1. Awnali Mills

    I think it’s really hard to determine a classic book because the definition changes according to who you talk to. But I’ve always understood a classic to be a book that is read and loved by successive generations because something in it speaks to us in a profound way. If a book is read and loved by two generations, or three, and then fades into obscurity, is it a classic? If it wins an award, but few people read it, is it a classic? I tend to think not. Perhaps as librarians we play a role in creating classics, because we point children to them and enable generation after generation to experience them and love them.
    I think Wonder and Harry Potter may very well become classics. I do think it’s a case of “many are called but few are chosen,” though. Perhaps in 50 years, we’ll know if we were right.

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