All-time greatest hits

From classics to the newest in picture books; cartoons to nursery rhymes, it can all be found in one enormous tome - but why?

The Hutchinson Treasury of Children's Literature, ed Alison Sage, £19.95. Where would you find The Borrowers and Roald Dahl between the same covers? Ogden Nash and John Burningham? With Christina Rossetti and John Agard? Grimm and Tony Ross? In this extraordinarily compendious 500- pager, more a portable library than a single volume, there are extracts from just about every writer, poet and illustrator whose work for children has become a catchword. There are nursery rhymes, songs and limericks too; and the volume can almost be used as a catalogue of illustrative styles in books for the young.

But - magnificent as it is - it's not immediately clear who or what it is for. It is not really an anthology; the longer items are not complete. It is more like a pattern book - and what child wants their story to be a mere taster, cut off after a few pages? One laudatory notice described it as a perfect christening present, which seemed a bit odd. And then the light dawned. Not for the baby, silly - it's for the parents, a crash- course in what they should be aiming to buy, read, see and encourage over the next decade and more. Not a bad idea, at that.

Left, a classic illustration by Randolph Caldecott for `The Queen of Hearts'; below, one of Arthur Rackham's `Mother Goose' silhouettes.

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