As I've mentioned before, I love children's books and I took a course on children's literature in college. During that class, we discussed this book by Anita Silvey, an expert in the field of children's publishing. She has also published other books about children's literature including The Essential Guide to Children's Books and Their Creators, which I also own and enjoy.
Her premise is imagining that she was going on a sea journey on a boat that including many children of all ages and their families. She imagined that they became shipwrecked on an island and the books that she brought with her would have to suffice to educate, entertain, and inspire all the children on the ship. She limited herself to 100 titles and only chose from the last 100 years. She also decided that she would only count one book per author, although she listed additional titles by the same author for further reading.
The list itself is impressive, including beloved classics as well as unknown titles, both new and old. However, my favorite part of this book is the background information Silvey provides for each book. She takes a couple of pages for each title and reveals a wealth of inside information. Sometimes she tells the story behind how the book came to be published, or talks about how the author and illustrator came to work together. She also tells us how some of our favorite books almost had a different title, or characters of a completely difference species! I have used this book to help me choose books for my nieces and nephews, but mostly I've enjoyed it myself as I've learned more about my childhood literary favorites.