Thursday, May 03, 2018


Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books. Michelle Markel. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2017. 44 pages. [Source: Library]

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

© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Unknown said...

Wonderful to read your thoughts on this book. I'd definitely be interested to learn more about both the book and the topic of publishing history having read your post. Visiting from BIF linky (commenting from my blogspot but I mostly blog at WP)

Joy Weese Moll said...

That sounds delightful! My limited knowledge of the history of children's literature doesn't go that far back in time.