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Monday, August 26, 2013

From the Good Mountain: How Guttenberg Changed the World, written and illustrated by James Rumford. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press. Macmillan, Raincoast. 2012. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"In the city of Mainz in Germany, around the year 1450, there appeared a mysterious thing. It was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds. It wore a dark brown coat and was filled with gold. It took lead and tin, strong oak, and mountain to make it.

What was it?"

As we all strive to share more nonfiction in school classrooms, I am one of the official enthusiasts for using picture book biography to help young readers look at history, the way things have changed and the many amazing people who have helped fashion those changes.

Johannes Gutenberg certainly changed the way that books had previously been made. And, he did it with elegance and beauty:

"Gutenberg's books were works of beauty. The letters were crisp and clear. The ink was jet black, and even today it glistens like new. No one knows how he was able to do such beautiful work."

On facing pages, James Rumford introduces us to the man and the printing press that he invented. On the left side, the text is a riddle to be solved concerning paper, leather, gold leaf, ink, and finally, the printing types themselves. On the right are the images painstakingly created to give a true sense of the process. It isn't until late in the book that we meet the man who is credited with the invention of the printing press and a brand new way of creating books for people to read.

When all was said and done, Johannes held in his hand:

" A printed book
not all that different from
the one you are holding,
and it would
change the world

Poetic and beautifully illustrated using ink, watercolor and gouache, this book is illuminated with gold on its borders, just as Mr. Gutenberg's printed books were. James Rumford evokes the fifteenth century and Mainz, Germany in carefully constructed images that give readers a feel for the process as it evolved. It's lovely!

The "Epilogue" further considers Johannes Gutenberg and also discusses how that original printing press process has changed over the past five hundred years. It also encourages a search of key words on the Internet to bring further understanding.

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