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Celebrating anniversaries of children's literature classics

Published: Saturday, Dec. 31 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Everybody loves a birthday party. And there’s much to celebrate by the lovers of children’s books; for example, Peter in “The Snowy Day” is turning 50, and Babar has delighted readers for 80 years. These are just two of the titles from favorite picture books, classics and series that have or are soon to have commemorative anniversaries.

Celebrating 80 years

“The Story of Babar,” by Jean de Brunhoff (published in 1931)

Beginning as a bedtime ritual, Babar stories and art were family favorites passed from parents to son, Laurent, who continues the legacy today. To celebrate his 80th year, the publication of “Babar’s Celesteville Games” will coincide with the 2012 Olympic events. Babar books and memorabilia will be exhibited at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. It was initially published in French in 1931.

Celebrating 50 years

“The Snowy Day,” by Ezra Jack Keats (published in 1962)

A small boy ventures outside of his city apartment building to enjoy the first winter snow. The portrayal of Peter as an African-American child was groundbreaking since the civil rights movement was gaining interest during that time. “The Snowy Day” won the 1963 Caldecott Medal.

The Jewish Museum in New York is hosting an exhibit of Keats’ original art. An oversized commemorative edition of “The Snowy Day” is planned.

“A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle (published in 1962)

This classic science-fiction thriller introduces the Murray family and the possibilities of astrophysics and cellular biology through a series including “Wind in the Door” and “Swiftly Tilting Planet.” The 50th commemorative edition of “A Wrinkle in Time” includes the L’Engle Newbery Award acceptance speech (1963), new photos and an afterword by her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis. Media campaigns and a new Web page will precede the publication of “A Wrinkle in Time: the Graphic Novel.”

“James and the Giant Peach,” by Roald Dahl (published in 1962)

Attesting to its popularity, James can be read in 34 languages around the world. To celebrate the half-century anniversary, the publisher is promoting “Follow that Peach,” an online initiative, “Peach-grams,” where children can send a personalized message to friends and a “Peachtakes,” which has a grand prize winner with a tour to London visiting the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. See www.followthatpeach.com for information.

“The Phantom Toll Booth,” by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer (published in 1962)

The timeliness of Milo’s adventures through a peculiar toll booth into a strange land with Foothills of Confusion, Seas of Knowledge and the distress rules of Dictionopolis makes this a classic for middle-grade readers. The collaboration of Juster and Feiffer is a singular success story since they never worked on a project together again until 2010 with the picture book “The Odious Ogre.”

“The Annotated Phantom Toll Booth” by literary critic Leonard S. Marcus features interviews with both Juster and Feiffer with facsimiles of notes and drafts of their work together.

Celebrating 30 years

“Jumanji,” by Chris Van Allsburg (published in 1981)

From the picture book of an unpredictable board game to a feature movie in 1995, Jumanji has delighted and frightened youngsters with numerous translations in languages around the world. It won the Caldecott Medal in 1982. A 30th anniversary edition of the book provides a new cover with a CD of the text read by Robin Williams, who starred in the film.

Celebrating 25 years

“The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks,” by Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degan (published in 1986)

A series of many other buses have followed the first one that took the tenacious Ms. Frizzle and her class to discover the source and care of drinking water. The science-based themes branched into a television series as well as Magic School Bus Science Kits (available online) and Nintendo games with an app for an iPad.

Celebrating 20 years

“Martha Speaks,” by Susan Meddaugh (published in 1991)

After six Martha tales, this talkative dog now appears to millions of viewers in PBS television shows. Martha may just be the first picture book character that has an iPhone, a tweet account and a Facebook page.

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