Collecting Vintage Children’s Books

I Want To Be A Dairy FarmerI Want to be a Dairy Farmer from Happy Fortune Vintage

Ah, books. They’re beautiful to look at, comforting to carry and hold, and they often smell divine. They can transport us to a whole different world just by turning their pages. If you’re a book lover, chances are good you have a bookcase (or two) overflowing with different titles. My bookcase is an eclectic mix of my favorite novels, my boyfriend’s endless collection of sci-fi adventures, old textbooks, art references, and history books. But there is one corner of my bookcase that is special. It houses my small collection of prized children’s books.

Wings for PerWings for Per from Oceanside Castle

“Children’s books?!” you may ask. “Why are you collecting children’s books?” I have no kids in my house, or even any in my extended family (quite yet!); I’m not a children’s book author, or even a serious book collector. But I’ve found children’s books to be the perfect combination of my interests. I love vintage ephemera, I love illustration art, and I love collecting on a shoestring budget. Within the pages of a children’s book (especially across the past 100 years or so), you can find an endless array of storytelling, art making, and design.

Boy Scouts on a Long HikeBoy Scouts on a Long Hike from Whimzy Thyme

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post books can act as fantastic pieces of decor. But they can also be treasured objects on their own. Once you hit upon a subject, artist, style, or theme that speaks to you, it’s easy to start hunting for additions. For example, a handful of scouting books from a variety of years can be an amazing resource to learn about the history of boyhood in America. How did scouting change from your grandfather’s youth to your fathers? They can be amazing conversation starters and you never know what you might learn.

Fables de la FontaineFables de la Fontaine from French Attic Finds

Perhaps the most exciting part of collecting vintage children’s books is the hunt. From traditional book fairs and auction houses to flea markets and library sales, children’s books are everywhere. I’ve found some of my most treasured titles in my grandmother’s attic, where they sat awaiting someone who would open them and bring them back to life. My personal collection started as a vague search for mid-century, bright illustrations – when I stumbled across a book called ‘Pandora’ and fell in love with the artwork (the fact that it looked exactly like my cat Lila didn’t hurt!), and from that point on I was always keeping an eye out for more titles by the same author and illustrator, Clare Turlay Newberry.

Pandora and Lila the CatPandora by Clare Turlay Newberry and Lila the Cat

Children’s books are a great way to add vintage art into your life without breaking the bank. Unlike an original illustrated poster from the 1940’s, a children’s book from the same era might be found for pennies on the dollar, and include pages and pages of beautiful art. While I love books in their original bound form, if a book is damaged the pages can always be removed and framed individually, giving them an entirely new life!

Framed French NewspaperFramed French Newspaper from Erika’s personal collection

Children’s books remind me of warm summer days spent laying on my quilted bed, hours spent reading and getting lost in my dreams, excitedly awaiting the start of the new school year. Perhaps the moment of reliving that excitement and joy is what inspires me to collect. When I found a copy of my mother’s favorite childhood book we enjoyed reading through it together, and she pointed out which images were her favorite growing up. Whatever the stories of your youth, whether they were full of colorful kittens and dinosaurs or frightening adventures through haunted woods, taking a peek at them again can be a surprisingly refreshing break from a stressful day. I’m just counting down the days until I can share those stories again with the next generation of little ones in my family – stories passed down through the generations to be shared and cherished for years to come.

Let's Be Healthy and Uncle Dan's Book About TreesVintage Children’s Books from Vintage Curiosity Shop

Many thanks to Happy Fortune Vintage, Whimzy Thyme, French Attic Finds, Vintage Curiosity Shop, and Oceanside Castle for their lovely book listings! 

Written by: La Roux Vintage

Erika is the owner of La Roux Vintage. When not out scouring the greater Boston area for vintage home decor, she can be found running, painting, teaching herself to play the accordion and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

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About Written by: La Roux Vintage

Erika is the owner of La Roux Vintage. When not out scouring the greater Boston area for vintage home decor, she can be found running, painting, teaching herself to play the accordion and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

25 Replies to “Collecting Vintage Children’s Books”

  1. Great article! I love children’s books, too! Vintage picture books do have great illustrations and I still enjoy reading chapter books with child main characters (and not just because I am a former grade school librarian!).

  2. I still have my Winnie-the-Pooh set from when I was young in 1961. Plus an antique picture book on animals from my elementary school library that my Dad had to pay for since I misplaced it for a couple years. These books and my first Bible from my Grandmother for my 12th birthday are a few of my most cherished belongings. Wonderful to know that I am not alone in my passion for Children’s books.

  3. I love children’s books! One of my college projects in the 70s was to create a card catalog with reviews of children’s books; I still have it. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around my mother reading us fairy tales, or bringing us a new book when we were sick. The illustrations were mesmerizing; the stories magical. As an adult, I’ve collected a few children’s books. It’s a way to recapture some of those very special hours from my childhood when a book could transport me to another world.

  4. This is such a charming reminder of the books I loved as a child. One of my most prized possessions is a book that belonged to my grandmother when she was a little girl. She and I loved to snuggle up and read it together…thank you for reminding me to remember those times…and to spend a moment with that book.

  5. oh what a great read! I can just get lost in children’s books. I just sold an entire set of children’s bedtime stories, nursery rhymes etc and they were out of this world!!! The illustrations were artwork! I love the idea of framing them! Thanks for such a post!

  6. Fabulous article, I’ve been a life long lover of books! I agree the smell of a book alone can transport me back in time! Children’s books never lose their appeal and they truly are treasures. Great post!

  7. Wonderful read that reminds me of all my favorite childhood stories. I shared these books with my children and have loving saved them for that next generation.