Californiana for the Young & Young at Heart:  A Special Exhibition of Books for Children with a California Theme now at the California State Library

The California History Section of the California State Library holds a sizeable collection of books which authors since the 19th century have designed for children of all ages. Visitors can see these historic treasures in Californiana for the Young and Young at Heart: A Special Exhibition of Books for Children with a California Theme, California History’s newest exhibit running through February 2007 at the California State Library (CSL). 

California’s storied past, from the early days of Spanish exploration to the gold rush to the feats of modern-day sports stars, has long provided fertile ground for the authors and artists who create books for children.  The colorful publications in the CSL exhibit provide a fascinating look at the cultural history of California boys and girls. The exhibition items also document the ever-evolving interpretation of California’s past. Many consist of textbooks from the late 19th and early 20th centuries created or approved by California’s Department of Education. Included in the exhibition is a selection of Chinese language textbooks dating from 1910 to 1930 used by the Sacramento Delta community of Locke. Others, however, have taken on historical themes centering on early explorers, Franciscan missions, Gold Rush, Pony Express, and building of the railroads.

Highlights of the exhibition include Uncle John’s Stories for Good California Children (San Francisco, 1860), the first California story book for children; letters and books of Palmer Cox, author of the famed Brownies series; an inscribed copy of Capital Kitty presented to the State Library by first lady Sharon Davis; a California juvenile textbook written by State Librarian emeritus, Dr. Kevin Starr; and a series of beautifully autographed books by Leo Politi of Los Angeles. Politi, a native of Fresno, fell in love with Los Angeles’ Latino community and produced a splendid series of books focusing their rich culture.

In recent years, ethnic and ecological themes have become popular. The story of Ishi, the last survivor of the Yahi tribe; African Americans in the Gold Rush; Chinese migration to California; and John Muir, the father of modern ecology movement, have provided children’s authors inspiring themes.

With more economical means of printing in color, artists and publishers have developed beautifully illustrated books that appeal to both young and more mature audiences. As a result every page becomes a work of art with dazzling images of the Golden State.

Californiana for the Young and Young at Heart: A Special Exhibition of Books for Children with a California Theme is open to the public from 9:30 to 4:00 Monday through Friday excluding state holidays in the Mead B. Kibbey Gallery in the Library and Courts II Building at 900 N Street, Sacramento, California 95814.

For more information please call CSL Principal Librarian Gary Kurutz at (916) 653-0101, or email 



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