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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Balderdash: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"John wanted to publish
fine books for the whole
lot of them - and for their
children. He knew the
youngsters were hungry for
stories. Many boys and girls
handed coppers to street
hawkers for ugly chapbooks
of fairy tales ... "

While we are on the subject of libraries and writers, I thought I would share this book about John Newbery who is widely known as the father of literature for children, and has the Newbery Medal named for him. I did not know his story; as I knew little about Andrew Carnegie. We are blessed to have authors willing to do the research and present us with engaging and important stories about people who deserve our attention.

John Newbery loved children, and thought they deserved books that would educate and captivate them. Ms. Markel begins with an invitation to be a part of his world and his quest to create those books. It is great fun:


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."

Turn the page and get the fun started. In a spirited and refreshing tale, she keeps the children John wanted to reach front of mind. She takes us to the city of London, where John found himself in the midst of those who bought and sold books. His store was designed to attract parents and their children. But, he wanted the books for kids to be worthy of their attention. He was concerned about their parents, and how they felt about that.

 “Many mums and dads worried that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”

He did not agree, and set out to prove it. Honing in on an idea to put a book and a toy together for one price, he captures the attention of those important to him.

“Will the parents buy them? Are they too…cheerful? The children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”

We are in his debt.

Nancy Carpenter uses pen and ink and digital media to create energetic illustrations to engage readers and enhance their reading. Her edges make it look like a book straight out of Mr. Newbery's publishing house. The details are most welcome and filled with bounce. Sure to please those who share it, this is another biography that deserves our attention.

Wait until you get to the last charming scene!

Included is further information about John Newbery, a description of the books mentioned in the  text, books and articles for further reading, and a selected bibliography.

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