125 timeless books, curated by the New York Public Library for its birthday

125 timeless books, curated by the New York Public Library for its birthday

The New York Public Library turns 125 on May 23. To celebrate, the institution is turning to its love of books

Forget birthday candles, the New York Public Library is counting its years with books. To mark the 125th anniversary of the library, the storied institution has released a list of “125 Kids Books We Love.”

From “The Adventures of Captain Underpants” to “Zita the Spacegirl,” titles date back to May 23, 1895 (the official date of the library’s incorporation), and were selected by librarians. All books are classified for readers age zero to 12 — though there is no reason that an adult should refrain from immersing into the collection. Of the works chosen, only one title or series per author were allowed.

Though the library remains closed, patrons can read the selections through the New York Public Library’s e-reading platforms.

“The best way to honor our anniversary is to be true to our mission and support the people of our city, who are going through a period of unprecedented challenges,” New York Public Library President Anthony W. Marx said. “We are doing that in many ways; this list, which gives families ideas for books to read together, is just one way we’re trying to help.”

The books selected by the team tasked with whittling down the library’s immense collection include works that “inspire a love of reading,” “make kids want to continue reading,” “remind kids why reading is fun, exciting and enlightening” and “survive the test of time.”

For those who grew up with the titles, the list is a nostalgic trip through childhood memories.

“We all remember the children’s book that first captured our imaginations and got us hooked on reading,” Lynn Lobash, the library’s assistant director of readers services, said. “Those books hold special places in our hearts, and this list is tribute to that excitement and nostalgia, but also to our role helping families find their next great reading experience.

She continued: “For families trying to cope during a difficult time, for kids who want to get lost in a good book and for parents trying to model readers, we hope this list is a good starting point. It wasn’t easy to narrow it down to 125 books — people are passionate about kids books — but we think the end result is strong.”

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The library also considered the literary merit of the books and calculated in checkout data over the past 125 years. The team toiled over the selections for months, ensuring that the “New York City’s diverse voices are represented as best as possible.”

The announcement coincided with the release of video that culls together 125 staff members, authors and book lovers. Titled “Reading Brings Us Together” and clocking in at 10 minutes, the video celebrates the “power of reading” with snippets from Al Roker, Bill T. Jones, Desus Nice, Elizabeth Strout, Ethan Hawke, Ocean Vuong, Padma Lakshmi, Tim Gunn and more. The presentation also includes a list of recommendations from those featured.

The library stated that they will continue to release lists of books, tied to the anniversary, as the summer progresses and the institution’s stacks remained closed.

Marx said that the “hope is that these magical, timeless titles provide a much-needed positive distraction, support for remote learning, discussion that brings people together around books and maybe a challenge goal to achieve over the summer: can you read them all?”

Here are 12 historical fiction books that made the cut for “125 Kids Books We Love”:

“All-of-a-Kind Family,” by Sydney Taylor
“The Birchbark House,” by Louise Erdrich
“Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music,” by Margarita Engle, with illustrations by Rafael López
“Esperanza Rising,” by Pam Muñoz Ryan
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick
“It Ain’t So Awful Falafel,” by Firoozeh Dumas
“Number the Stars,” by Lois Lowry
“One Crazy Summer,” by Rita Williams-Garcia
“Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” by Mildred D. Taylor
“A Single Shard,” by Linda Sue Park
“The War that Saved My Life,” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
“The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963,” by Christopher Paul Curtis