I've slowly plodded along with this goal over the last decade or so, checking out an old book here and another old book there (The newer books -- say from the last 30 years or so -- I had all read long ago or as they were released and/or won). A few weeks ago I realized I only had 3 winners left that I hadn't read. So I got a card to Western Washington University's library (my library didn't have them all) and checked out the last ones.
I've learned a lot from studying the old illustrations. Especially by studying the way illustrators in the past used negative space and limited color when printing still required illustrations to be color-separated.
Even though it's likely many of the older stories would probably not be published in the same form today (many of the old books are loooooooong for picture books), they often have charmed me in surprising ways. There's a lot of gold in them there hills of old books (and not just the shiny round sticker kind of gold).
Like the one I just read today,
-- the story was long and there were a lot of lists that characters read which felt cumbersome to read, but I LOVED the innovative and creative way the lists were illustrated. I also like the child-friendly resolution to the story.
It's also been interesting to note years when a now relatively obscure book won the medal while a now beloved classic took an honor.
I feel like reading the old books is like studying art history. It's understanding one's roots. It's good for a tree's roots to reach deep so its branches can reach higher into the sky. Is that too cheesy to say?
Oh and did I mention it's been really fun?
Someday I'd love to finish all the honor books too. I honestly don't have many left -- a few dozen I think. The main problem is that they are kind of hard to get a hold of. Maybe I'll make a push for it in the next month. I could read picture books at bedtime instead of novels (my son does). Ya... I like this idea. After all,
I'm loosing regular access to my beloved library soon
Wish me luck.