The first books we read play a powerful, shape-changing role in our lives. “Children’s books are gateways to a lifelong love of literature and art,” says historian Leonard S. Marcus. “They give us the heroes we need just when we need them: at the start of our quest to discover who and what we are. They give us stories we will long remember.”

Books for young people have been published in North America for more than 300 years – from well before the founding of the United States. Through them, writers and artists have crystallized each generation’s hopes and dreams for the next generation, and young people have learned what it means to be an American…and a human being. As Marcus observes: “To understand what our nation has cared about over time, we have only to look at the books we have given our children and teens.”

The mural depicts forty-two squirrels intensely engaged in reading thirty-four books that represent significant milestones in American children’s literature.

Created by celebrated illustrator and author Paul O. Zelinsky, the mural began with small preliminary drawings and paintings, which were merged with digitally drawn and photographed material, then reproduced at this enormous scale. Zelinsky over-painted the mural to enhance its depth, texture and vibrancy. The American Writers Museum is honored to feature this exceptional permanent original artwork.