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Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books

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This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children's books—John Newbery himself. While most children's books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader's enjoyment. New This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children's books—John Newbery himself. While most children's books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader's enjoyment. Newbery—for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named—became a celebrated author and publisher, changing the world of children's books forever. This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.


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This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children's books—John Newbery himself. While most children's books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader's enjoyment. New This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children's books—John Newbery himself. While most children's books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and games. He believed that every book should be made for the reader's enjoyment. Newbery—for whom the prestigious Newbery Medal is named—became a celebrated author and publisher, changing the world of children's books forever. This book about his life and legacy is as full of energy and delight as any young reader could wish.

30 review for Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books

  1. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    As someone who has a great interest in the history of children's literature, and who has done some research into the earlier centuries of that history, I was quite excited to discover that there was a picture-book biography of John Newbery, the eighteenth-century British publisher who did so much to popularize books for the young, and for whom the Newbery Medal is named. Unfortunately, almost everything about the book - with the notable exception of Nancy Carpenter's expressive and amusing illus As someone who has a great interest in the history of children's literature, and who has done some research into the earlier centuries of that history, I was quite excited to discover that there was a picture-book biography of John Newbery, the eighteenth-century British publisher who did so much to popularize books for the young, and for whom the Newbery Medal is named. Unfortunately, almost everything about the book - with the notable exception of Nancy Carpenter's expressive and amusing illustrations - was a disappointment to me. From the title on - no, Michelle Markel, Anglophone children's books did not have their birth with John Newbery or his contemporaries - I found myself irritated by the tone here, and by some of the author's underlying assumptions about early children's books and how they were received. In the end, I concluded that although the topic here was worthy, the book itself was sufficiently misleading to give a wholly incorrect impression of early English children's literature. Given that this is so, I simply cannot recommend it. One of the classes I enjoyed most, during the course of completing my masters, was devoted to early English children's literature, stretching from the Puritan period through the late eighteenth century. When reading such works as James Janeway's 1671 A Token for Children: Being an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives, and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children it is easy for the contemporary reader to conclude, as Markel does, that children were forced to read "religious texts that made them fear that death was near." What readers coming from such a perspective fail to understand about the historical and cultural context of such works, is that in a time when infant mortality was incredibly high, and most children would have experienced the loss of multiple siblings before reaching the age of ten, the idea of deceased youngsters finding a better life in the hereafter would have offered, not fear, but great comfort. This is but one example of how Markel misreads her subject, too enmeshed in her contemporary viewpoint to really understand the texts she has (one hopes?) read. Markel's statement that there were no books for children in the early 18th-century isn't simply factually incorrect, it is self-contradictory, given her subsequent (misguided) statements about the nature of those earlier books. Her claim that the exciting books being produced in the period weren't shared with children is also a misreading. It ignores the fact that social mores about the appearance of children in public would have been different at that time than those we observe today, assuming that because children were not permitted in such institutions as lending libraries, the books sold there were not shared with young people. In point of fact, many works were written explicitly to be shared in the family circle, and were intended, if not solely for children, at least partially for them. Markel mentioned John Locke in her afterword, which I find ironic, given that it was his statement in his 1693 Some Thoughts Concerning Education about the suitability of The History of Reynard the Fox as children's literature that first inspired me to examine three centuries of children's retellings of that tale in my masters dissertation. Needless to say, quite a few versions of Reynard predate John Newbery and his influential Little Goody Two-Shoes , discussed by Markel in her text. I recognize that my interests and training are not those of many other readers approaching this picture-book - something that can be seen by the almost universal praise heaped on Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books by other online reviewers - but I feel they do give me the ability to pick out the subtle but persistent inaccuracies to be found therein. That so many, even in the world of children's literature studies, continue to believe some of the canards presented here is a cause of concern to me, but given that Markel explicitly set out to research the subject, I expected something a little more nuanced and accurate from her. I do think Newbery and his story are worth telling, so it is with regret that I say: This one is not recommended.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Krista the Krazy Kataloguer

    From the minute I opened the book to the first page, and saw the old-fashioned font and illustrations, I knew I would love it. Markel describes how boring children's books were until Newbery became a publisher in London and decided to print books that would interest children. My favorite picture in the book is a two-page spread of Newbery and a whole group of kids shouting "Balderdash!" to the parents who thought that reading fun books would make children act like wild beasts. Newbery cleverly m From the minute I opened the book to the first page, and saw the old-fashioned font and illustrations, I knew I would love it. Markel describes how boring children's books were until Newbery became a publisher in London and decided to print books that would interest children. My favorite picture in the book is a two-page spread of Newbery and a whole group of kids shouting "Balderdash!" to the parents who thought that reading fun books would make children act like wild beasts. Newbery cleverly mounted a campaign to convince parents to his way of thinking, and was one of the first to offer toys with books, and to publish a magazine for children. It's not really known how many of the books he published he actually wrote, as author's names were either not included or were pseudonymous. It's known that he wrote the first one, A Pretty Little Pocket-Book, but no one is sure about one of his most popular books, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes. The story ends, appropriately, with children in a library today shouting a "Huzza!" for Newbery, and, finally, a quote by him. Markel goes on to provide further details of his life at the end of the book. I didn't know that, at the same time that Newbery was publishing children's books, two other publishers were also doing the same. All three were inspired by the ideas of the philosopher John Locke. I also didn't know that Newbery sold patent medicine! Children everywhere should read this in order to appreciate the libraries full of children's books they have access to today. Highly recommended!

  3. 4 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    This charming picture book for children and adults tells the story of how children's literature came to be and why. In the days of powdered wigs and hoop skirts books were for the wealthy. They were boring and hard for children to read. Books aimed at children told children how to behave and what to do. John Newbery rejected that. He thought children's books should be entertaining tales. He became a printer, editor and possibly author of fairy tales and fun folk tales for children. The History o This charming picture book for children and adults tells the story of how children's literature came to be and why. In the days of powdered wigs and hoop skirts books were for the wealthy. They were boring and hard for children to read. Books aimed at children told children how to behave and what to do. John Newbery rejected that. He thought children's books should be entertaining tales. He became a printer, editor and possibly author of fairy tales and fun folk tales for children. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes is one of his most famous books. While his stories often taught lessons, the lessons were subtle and more entertaining. They were also affordable for children and enormously popular. The prose of this little biography is peppy and peppered with exclamation points. The knowledge is imparted in a lively and fun manner just like Newbery's books. The sentences are short and simple so children can read the text themselves. In the back of the book is a historical note for adults and a bibliography. The thing that kept me from giving this book 5 stars is the illustrations. The colors were a little dull and didn't suit the peppy text. The 18th century may have been a long time ago but it was a colorful time period. The two-dimensional drawings are cute and the illustrator studied the styles of the 18th-century to make them look more accurate. I would recommend this book to all readers young and old who may be interested in the history of children's books.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Michele Knott

    An interesting look at the man behind the medal! I think when you look at what the award is given for - most distinguished contribution to children's literature - readers will be able to compare to Newbery's own contributions during his lifetime. I know how our Mock Newbery Club will begin its first meeting every year!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Detailed and lively pen and ink and digital medial illustrations complement the story of John Newbery, the man many credit as the father of modern children's literature. Bibliophiles will surely recognize his name, which now is emblazoned on one of the premiere prizes for excellence in writing for children. Given annually since 1922, the medal can be credited for possibly elevating the quality of children's books. In this picture book, Newbery is depicted as someone interested in reading and pub Detailed and lively pen and ink and digital medial illustrations complement the story of John Newbery, the man many credit as the father of modern children's literature. Bibliophiles will surely recognize his name, which now is emblazoned on one of the premiere prizes for excellence in writing for children. Given annually since 1922, the medal can be credited for possibly elevating the quality of children's books. In this picture book, Newbery is depicted as someone interested in reading and publishing books. When he set up shop in London, he produced small, child-size books with pretty covers and contents sure to please children, even marketing the books alongside toys. While he made sure to keep publishing materials that appealed to adults, he also curried favor with the younger set. Through all the images in the book, this groundbreaking man is depicted as smiling and surrounded by children who are having fun while reading, quite a contrast from the earlier, stodgy handling of reading materials for children. It would appear that he actually enjoyed youngsters as well as profiting from their interest in his books. With the large and various types of font faces and the snippets about how parents were initially concerned that reading books that were fun might affect the character development of their children in a negative way, today's readers will breathe a sigh of relief that children's books now serve very different purposes than simply teaching them a lesson. The book's back matter provides additional interesting snippets about Newbery and his various moneymaking efforts. I'll certainly be sharing this with my students when we discuss the history of children's books and publishing as well as bringing it out during awards season. I love having the additional suggested reading in order to learn even more about someone so important in this field that I love so much. Wouldn't it be cool if Newbery could look down from wherever he is and see what he has wrought!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kid Lit Reviews

    PPBF --- Perfect Picture Book Friday Group Post This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children’s books—John Newbery himself. While most children’s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and . . . Why I like this book: ~The illustrations, paper choice, font changes, and of course the powder wigs put readers in 18th century England. ~I like the exubera PPBF --- Perfect Picture Book Friday Group Post This rollicking and fascinating picture book biography chronicles the life of the first pioneer of children’s books—John Newbery himself. While most children’s books in the 18th century contained lessons and rules, John Newbery imagined them overflowing with entertaining stories, science, and . . . Why I like this book: ~The illustrations, paper choice, font changes, and of course the powder wigs put readers in 18th century England. ~I like the exuberance of the English readers and all of the imagination and creativity that went into their books—but not for kids. ~Kids read didactic fare that told them how to act, and not to laugh. Yes, that’s sadly correct. (I don’t really “like” this, but it leads up to something special.) ~A publisher’s apprentice finally opens his own store and publishes his own books. But this guy, he thinks kids need fun stories, just like the adults. He even published a kid’s magazine for the same reason. ~You may know his name—John Newbery—thanks to an award in . . . Originally reviewed on Kid Lit Reviews. To read full PPBF post and see illustrations, go to: http://bit.ly/PPBF-Balderdash

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kermit

    Could a librarian possibly NOT give this book 5 stars? It's the story of John Newbery and how he championed the writing and publishing of children's books in the mid 1700s in England. I don't think that kids will readily pick this up and read it---even though it is in engaging picture book format. It's another one of those children's books that adults will probably enjoy more than children.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Fun design, great illustrations, but I'm just not sure it connects enough to today's young readers.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marina

    The illustrations were great but I really liked the variation of fonts throughout. I know, weird. Good into to Newbery and his philosophy of children's books.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Scott Fillner

    This will be a great book to kick off our Mock Newbery.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Becca

    Bonus points to this history book for showing people of color in its pages, unlike so many other history and historical fiction books that seem to assume there were no POCs until the 1900s.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Diana Maria

    There's no balderdash about this book for sure! It's a sweet story about John Newbery's love for reading and his quest to make children's books available to the little people far and wide. Thank you Mr Newbery for the priceless legacy you left behind.☺️ *Also, the illustrations are superb🌈

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alex Baugh

    What better day to look at a book about John Newbery than today, the day when the 2018 Newbery Award is announced, along with all the other ALA Youth Media Awards. And while most people know about the Newbery Award, few know about the man it is named for. No need to wonder any more - Balderdash! tells the story of John Newbery and his novel idea of publishing books for young readers that they would want to read. Way back when, that is, before 1726, children had only preachy poems and fables or re What better day to look at a book about John Newbery than today, the day when the 2018 Newbery Award is announced, along with all the other ALA Youth Media Awards. And while most people know about the Newbery Award, few know about the man it is named for. No need to wonder any more - Balderdash! tells the story of John Newbery and his novel idea of publishing books for young readers that they would want to read. Way back when, that is, before 1726, children had only preachy poems and fables or religious books to read, while adults had all kinds of exciting, adventure stories available to them. Then John Newbery, who had been a boy who loved reading more than working on the family farm, decided that children should have good books to read as well. Newbery was a follower of philosopher John Locke who thought that children should have books that were 'easy and pleasant.' Putting his ideas into practice, Newbery first learned the printing business and then, as soon as he could, he set off for London, opening his own print shop in the heart of St. Paul's Churchyard. It was here that Newbery begin publishing books for young readers, enticing them to want to read books like The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, Tom Thumb and Giles Gingerbread by selling them with an accompanying ball or pincushion. Of course, there were also ABC books, science books, history books and geography books, but the kids loved the books that Newbery published and sold so much, they fell apart from use. Pretty soon, other publishers followed Newbery's example and began to publish children's books as well. Markel has written a wonderful, engaging book that really captures all the enthusiasm that Newbery must have felt when he began his career in children's book publishing. The text is fun and lighthearted, but provides readers with a clear picture of what life was like in the early 1700s, particularly for children. One thing does need to be taken into consideration when reading this book - books were only bought by people with money and not everyone went to school and learned to read. Also, the books Newbery published back then probably wouldn't appeal to today's readers very much. Carpenter's mixed-media illustrations only add to the enjoyment of the text, extending and enhancing it with the same lighthearted attitude, and at the same time, both reflect the passion John Newbery felt about his work. And I can almost guarantee that once your young readers learn the meaning of Balderdash! you will be hearing it frequently - I know I did (hint - look on the front jacket flap). Markel has also included lots of useful back matter for further exploration about the life of John Newbery, and children's book publishing. Balderdash! is a book that should be on the shelf of every children's home and/or school library. It's just that good. This book is recommended for readers age 5+ This book was provided to me by the publisher, Chronicle Books

  14. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    First sentence: Welcome! This book's for you. Every page, every picture, every word, and even its letters are designed for your pleasure. Lucky, lucky reader. Be glad it's not 1726. Premise/plot: Balderdash is the story of the origins of children's book publishing. It is the story of one man in particular, John Newbery, and his contribution to the world. And it is a BIG contribution to be sure. The narrative begins by taking readers back to a time when books were decidedly NOT for children. "In t First sentence: Welcome! This book's for you. Every page, every picture, every word, and even its letters are designed for your pleasure. Lucky, lucky reader. Be glad it's not 1726. Premise/plot: Balderdash is the story of the origins of children's book publishing. It is the story of one man in particular, John Newbery, and his contribution to the world. And it is a BIG contribution to be sure. The narrative begins by taking readers back to a time when books were decidedly NOT for children. "In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books. Books of pirates and monsters and miniature people. Tales of travels and quests and shipwrecks and crimes. At the fairs, in the market stalls, in the bookshop windows were hundreds of wonderful books. But not for children." (Where there any materials written with children in mind? Some. "Preachy poems and fables, religious texts that made them fear that death was near...") John Newbery was a boy who LOVED reading who grew up to be a publisher. He wanted to publish books for the WHOLE family including children. SHOCKER. Books written and published specifically for children to READ AND ENJOY! If that wasn't shocking enough. He marketed his books to sell with TOYS. ("Price of book alone, 6 pence, with a ball or pincushion, 8 pence...") He soon expanded to publishing magazines for children. His ideas were novel and wonderful! Can you imagine a world without children's books?! My thoughts: I LOVED this one. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I found it fascinating and packed with detail. I was not completely unfamiliar with the history of children's literature. In fact, one of my favorite graduate courses was the history of children's literature. There was a huge difference between the before and after. If you weren't thankful for children's books before the course, you certainly would be afterwards. It was a great way to celebrate PROGRESS. The same is true of reading this picture book. IT reminds us of where we've been and how far we've come. It celebrates the legacy of one man's contribution, but it also celebrates READING in general. Text: 5 out of 5 Illustrations: 5 out of 5 Total: 10 out of 10

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tasha

    This picture book biography is the story of John Newbery, the man who first created books for children in the 18th century. Books were popular in London at the time, but all of the fun books were for adults. Children had to read poems and fables that were dull and taught them about social niceties. John Newbery grew up to be a publisher and realized that children needed different books. He created a book that was filled with fantasy and games and then he made it very attractive and paired it wit This picture book biography is the story of John Newbery, the man who first created books for children in the 18th century. Books were popular in London at the time, but all of the fun books were for adults. Children had to read poems and fables that were dull and taught them about social niceties. John Newbery grew up to be a publisher and realized that children needed different books. He created a book that was filled with fantasy and games and then he made it very attractive and paired it with a toy. Next came a magazine for children and eventually a novel. The books were written anonymously but all were sold and printed by Newbery himself, the man who created children’s literature. Markel has captured the feel of the creativity and wildness of someone who decided to make a major change in the world. The text here is celebratory of the new discoveries and new chances being taken in books. Markel points out all of the positives about Newbery’s book and avoids noting that his books don’t bear any resemblance to children’s books of today. Rather, the focus is on the invention, the cleverness of the marketing and the popularity of children’s books from the very beginning. Carpenter’s illustrations are filled with pizzazz. They have a great energy about them, depicting the bustling streets of London, the desirability of the books, and even showing sad children with real humor. She uses slightly turned pages to show other images underneath along with speech bubbles. The text of the book is also playful, moving through different fonts and text sizes for emphasis. A glimpse of the earliest children’s books, this historical picture book biography is a pleasure just as Newbery’s were. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Anyone who loves reading Newbery award-winning books for children will love this book, and it even includes parts of the stories that he created and first published. As the book says to children readers, be glad you didn't live in 1726 because people thought children only needed books that taught them "preachy poems and fables." John Newbery thought otherwise, and you can discover how he changed children's literature in this book. It's such a happy story, and the colorful, black-outlined illustr Anyone who loves reading Newbery award-winning books for children will love this book, and it even includes parts of the stories that he created and first published. As the book says to children readers, be glad you didn't live in 1726 because people thought children only needed books that taught them "preachy poems and fables." John Newbery thought otherwise, and you can discover how he changed children's literature in this book. It's such a happy story, and the colorful, black-outlined illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are filled with the happiest of children, those of Newbery's time and in the final page, today's.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Earl

    It was great to read about the person who inspired one of the most prestigious awards in children's literature. As a publisher, a bookseller, an author, and a clever marketer, John Newbery became an early pioneer in making children's books things that kids would actually want to read. A fascinating story paired with lively illustrations and packed with lots of back matter information. Book lovers- particularly those in the kidlit community- will enjoy this and want to add this to their collection.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    This adorable book tells the story of John Newbery and the beginning of picture books with quirky illustrations and simple text. Though it's a biography, it is everything a biography in picture book format should be: cute, fun, easy to understand, engaging, and it tells a story children should know. And not just children - adults should know this one, too. I mean, have you ever wondered where the Newbery Award comes from? I would definitely use this for storytime.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Lane

    Lovely book. Gives background of evolution of children's reading books. Illustrations lovely also.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lisa D

    Loved this! What a unique book!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amber K.

    I will definitely be reading this to introduce Mock Newbery this year!

  22. 5 out of 5

    DaNae

    A slam dunk to get in most children't libraries. An excellent case made that reading for children should be a celebration.

  23. 4 out of 5

    J. Bryce

    Cute kids' bio of children's lit pioneer John Newbery (1713-1767), who the Newbery Medal is named for. Recommended!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Delightful! I loved the different fonts and sizes of the text, and the story was excellently delivered. I am sorry to say I didn’t know ANY of the history behind John Newbery until reading this. Now I can see why he has a children’s book award named after him! John Newbery was a man who had big ideas that completely revolutionized children’s literature. He wanted to be a publisher, so he began his very own publishing company in London. Along the way, he realized that children only had boring boo Delightful! I loved the different fonts and sizes of the text, and the story was excellently delivered. I am sorry to say I didn’t know ANY of the history behind John Newbery until reading this. Now I can see why he has a children’s book award named after him! John Newbery was a man who had big ideas that completely revolutionized children’s literature. He wanted to be a publisher, so he began his very own publishing company in London. Along the way, he realized that children only had boring books to read, so he began creating books and magazines just for them! He even sold toys to go along with the books. :) The thing I find most interesting after reading this is that many of the Newbery winners on the shelves these days aren’t usually kids’ favorite books. Yes, they have literary merit, and I generally like Newbery winners but... I think it’s interesting that adults are the judges for the Newbery awards. I bet that if John Newbery were still alive, he’d want the CHILDREN to pick them. After all, his whole purpose was to create material THEY would enjoy. Not adults. Adults already had/have enough to read! Anyway, just a thought I had. Balderdash is a great picture book biography. And I loved learning about how children’s literature began!

  25. 5 out of 5

    PATRICK

    Because I work in an elementary school now and I have better access to Children's Books and School Book Sales and also because my boyfriend is a Children's Book collector among other things, I am becoming more and more infatuated with them and the language in them. There's a certain art to it and I'm glad that we got a picture-book biography of the man who started it all. The illustrations are extremely detailed which I love, and colored nicely like a vintage book. Read this to your kids!!! Or i Because I work in an elementary school now and I have better access to Children's Books and School Book Sales and also because my boyfriend is a Children's Book collector among other things, I am becoming more and more infatuated with them and the language in them. There's a certain art to it and I'm glad that we got a picture-book biography of the man who started it all. The illustrations are extremely detailed which I love, and colored nicely like a vintage book. Read this to your kids!!! Or if you're like me, read it to yourself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    It was fun to read a little about Newbery and his role in getting children's books written and published. I appreciate that the author includes additional information about Newbery in an author's note at the back as well a bibliography.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie Virginia

    5 stars to design and enthusiasm - I loved the paper quality, the different typefaces, and the illustration styles. The content is a little bit harder for me to rate. A very good introduction to the idea that children's books haven't always existed and a wonderful tribute to those who believed in kid lit, but I feel that some of the technical terms and other vocabulary might be out of reach for some younger readers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    High hopes for this one, but it didn't quite connect with me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    michelle

    Full review can be found at booksmykidsread.wordpress.com. Balderdash! is a great biography about a man whose name is synonymous with children’s literature. The cover of the book even has such a wonderful illustration by Nancy Carpenter that the book screams out to be read. But even with Newbery being such an important name in children’s literature, I admit that I didn’t know much about him before reading this book. Given the amount of children’s literature I read, I can’t fathom a time when there Full review can be found at booksmykidsread.wordpress.com. Balderdash! is a great biography about a man whose name is synonymous with children’s literature. The cover of the book even has such a wonderful illustration by Nancy Carpenter that the book screams out to be read. But even with Newbery being such an important name in children’s literature, I admit that I didn’t know much about him before reading this book. Given the amount of children’s literature I read, I can’t fathom a time when there weren’t books written for kids. But as this book aptly describes, in the early 1700s that was not the case. Children were not wanted in bookstores or libraries. Between Markel’s engaging text and Carpenter’s comical and vibrant illustrations, kids can really get a sense of the difference. The few books children were told to read in school were “religious texts that made them fear that death was near, and manuals that told them” how to do everything. When John Newbery gets introduced into the book, you can’t help but like him. In a time where so many adults were reading for pleasure, it is astonishing that no one else had tapped into the niche market of children. Some 20 years earlier, philosopher John Locke had written about the need for children to have “easy and pleasant books” as part of their education, but few had agreed with him. Thankfully for all of us kid lit bloggers, Newbery created books specifically for children that were irresistible, fun, and educational. They were also pocket sized so the kids could take them with them wherever they went. We all owe a debt of gratitude to the “father of children’s literature” – John Newbery. I adored this book. I admit that children’s book bloggers are probably biased about this one since it touches on all of our sweet spots – great story, wonderful illustrations, engaging, and a book about books! But this is also one of those great biographies for children to read because it talks of someone going against the norm to follow a passion. John Newbery loved books. He loved them at an early age, there just weren’t any around that were intended for him. So when he got old enough that he could make a difference, he did. He also created the first magazine for children. Markel finishes the book with a great page of more detailed information on Newbery’s life for the older reader (or adult) who wants to know more. There are also little gems throughout the book, such as a picture of John Locke saying that “Reading should be a treat for children,” on the spread where he is merely mentioned as “a famous philosopher.” This book is sure to capture the attention of children as well as grown-ups.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Baby Bookworm

    This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily! Hello, friends! Today, we’re reading Balderdash!: John Newbery And The Boisterous Birth Of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, the story of the famous publisher and his dream to bring a new genre of literature to life. Back in 18th century, when John Newbery was just a lad, there were no books for children – well, except for dry school texts and omino This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily! Hello, friends! Today, we’re reading Balderdash!: John Newbery And The Boisterous Birth Of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, the story of the famous publisher and his dream to bring a new genre of literature to life. Back in 18th century, when John Newbery was just a lad, there were no books for children – well, except for dry school texts and ominous religious parables. It was thought that children shouldn’t read for pleasure because it might make them unruly and mischievous. John – who grew up loving books and learned to print and publish his own materials under his own company – disagreed. He believed that children deserved stories, magazines, novels and nonfiction books that entertained as much as they instructed. So he began printing children’s stories, assembling his own anthology for little ones called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, filled with games, stories, and lessons. The children of London went wild for it, and it eventually became a best-seller in England and the US. Newbery went on to publish more books and periodicals just for little ones, pioneering a genre that still brings joy to baby bookworms today. This one was right up our alley, and we ADORED it! The story celebrates Newbery’s belief in children’s literature as well as the concept of kidlit itself, recognizing that children have always been passionate about reading, and detailing Newbery’s devotion to bringing the power of words and stories to that audience. The pace is fantastic; where kidlit biographies can sometimes be tedious, this one moves briskly while using creative typeset and detailed, whimsical illustrations to keep little readers engaged. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved learning about this visionary publisher. A fun and informative true story, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved! Be sure to check out The Baby Bookworm for more reviews!

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