Choosing Children's Books


176 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 0-921217-12-9
DDC 011'




Reviewed by Joan Weller

Joan Weller is head librarian at the West Branch of Ottawa Public
Library, and the children’s literature reviewer for the Ottawa


This annotated selection guide offers lists of more than 1,000 children’s books from North America, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. Acknowledging pre-publication problems, authors David Booth, a language arts professor at the University of Toronto, Larry Swartz, a resource teacher for the Peel Board of Education, and Meguido Zola, a professor of children’s literature at Simon Fraser University, list the following questions in the book’s introduction: What would we include? What would we leave out? What would our selection criteria be? Would we choose children’s favourites, critics’ favourites, or our own favourites? Would each entry have to have been read, or more importantly, have been used with children by one of us?

Answers to these questions would establish the authors’ criteria and thus help to create their credibility. However, direct answers are not given. Consequently, knowledgeable readers will question the book’s arbitrary, constricting, narrow classifications. Following the lead of author-critic Dorothy Butler in her Babies Need Books, the authors divide their lists into four major divisions (Pre-school 0-5, Primary 5-8, Middle Readers 8-11, Young Adolescents 11-14).

Adding some confusion is the additional arrangement, “books generally read by adults to or with children would be arranged in alphabetical order” and “books read by children on their own would be arranged by the level of difficulty of the material — a very rough measure.”

Attempting an international scope is laudable but the exclusion of many fine Canadian books is disappointing. Elizabeth Cleaver receives one entry. Award-winning author-illustrator Marie-Louise Gay receives none. Dennis Lee’s Jelly Belly merits an entry over his internationally acclaimed Alligator Pie. Monica Hughes’s Keeper of the Isis Light is listed under “Other Books.” Under “Other Books” by the same author some receive several entries, others none. One questions certain juxtapositions: Winnie the Pooh alongside Blueberries for Sal under “Classics,” Sherluck Bones mystery books beside James and the Giant Peach under “Primary Readers”, to name a few.

Typographical errors, no title index, incorrect order of series titles (see L.M. Boston), no differentiation made between the author as illustrator or writer (see Ian Wallace), the listing of “other books” while neglecting to establish readership (see B. Doyle) all add up to a book with very limited value. Michele Landsberg’s Guide to Children‘s Books, Nancy Larrick’s A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Reading, and Canadian Books for Young People offer librarians and teachers selection tools which are much more valuable.







Booth, David, Larry Swartz, and Meguido Zola, “Choosing Children's Books,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024,