​Celebrating immortal children's books

Now something short and sweet from our Faith Salie...

The titles evoke places that are far away, yet still familiar: "Treasure Island," "The Secret Garden," "Where the Wild Things Are" ...

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From "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" by Beatrix Potter (1902).
CBS News

Stories we grew up with, that still make us smile.

"These are the books we loved as children," said Erik Holzenberg, director of the Grolier Club in New York. "These are the books that we loved so much as children that we read them to our own children. And maybe we re-read them on the sly, ourselves."

In recent weeks, the Grolier Club has been home to an exhibit celebrating the books that have been shaping young minds and sparking imaginations for generations.

"I think we feel, as a society, emotional about childhood. We idealize it. We cherish it. We try to recreate it for our own children," said Holzenberg.

The exhibit traces the history of children's literature as far back as the 1600s. The illustrations -- like home away from home. The characters -- like old friends.

The appeal of SOME books hasn't quite stood the test of time ( "Orbis Sensualium Pictus," anyone?).

Early children's books weren't just there to entertain. Their goal, said Holzenberg, "was to socialize these kids, to educate them to some degree, but to make sure that they didn't grow up to be savages."

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Scholastic

And girls in in particular were encouraged to be civilized, according to children's literature scholar Andrea Immel.

"The boys get the best adventures until the 20th century," she told Salie. "Girls are on a smaller stage. They're at home interacting with their siblings or maybe their neighbors."

Even though these books were intended for kids, Immel points out they resonate just as much with adults.

"Most of us want to be brave, make a difference, do the right thing, and you're allowed to do that in children's books, still," Immel said. "Solve the crime, win the Quidditch match -- all those things."

And so, as we turn the pages of our own lives, these stories find a way to stay with us.

"I think these books twice capture us, right?" said Salie. "Your experience of reading it with a child and seeing it through a child's eyes, but then your experience of reminiscing about having it read to you."

"That's right," said Holzenberg. "We loved them. Our parents loved them. And we hope our children'll love them."


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