Little Bear's all-time favorite book came out today to cheer him up when he bonked his head: volume one of the 1961 edition of Childcraft, Poems of Early Childhood. This book was my mom's when she was little, and it somehow made it through all of us kids mostly intact. Little Bear could listen to it all day long, flipping through the pages and pointing to the poems he wants to hear, looking at all of the sweet illustrations. It gets tucked away in the closet frequently to give Matt and I a chance to read him other books, because if it's out it is the only one he wants.
I know the editors change up what they include in each edition, so I'm very glad to have such an old version! There's nothing "modern," nothing questionable or crass, just classic children's rhymes and poetry. There are even several bedtime prayers, which you certainly wouldn't see today, and the Christmas poems mention Christ! I love Eloise Wilkin's illustrations, and her work is scattered all through the book. It's interesting to see how my taste in illustrations influences Little Bear's: most of the art I've exposed him to has not been full of overly bright colors, cartoony figures, or bold, dark lines, and when we do come to pages (or other books) with that kind of illustration he loses interest very quickly.
As I'm not finding time to read anything but picture books and blog posts these days, I feel justified in making sure they are picture books that aren't full of cringe-worthy poor artwork! (Not that all modern storybooks have poor art, and the ere are modern stories [Anna Dewdney, Disney's Winnie the Pooh] in our basket of books, but it is heavily weighted toward older stuff.)
Am I risking raising an art snob? A storybook-illustration snob? They say that exposing your children to good art, good literature, good music, etc from a young age will help them appreciate it more as they grow older, and of course I want him to see the value and beauty of classic art. What parent doesn't want their child to love what's good? But there's the objectively good, and then there's personal preference on neutral matters. Homer and the Small Cowper Madonna, and Bob the Builder. How do you explain the difference to the mind of a child, without reducing things too far to a black-and-white so simplified it's no longer true?