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

UPDATE TIME: 2017-04-25 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

" Nice illustrations, fun to read story of how children's books began to be written and sold. " said.

" As someone who has had the pleasure of serving on the Newbery Award Committee I was utterly charmed by this book. I learned some things about the man who inspired the award that I was unfamiliar with. The illustrations were period set and leave much to discuss with kids like dunce caps. A cool biography for reports and a fun way to introduce kids to John Newbery if you happen to do a Mock Newbery or some other type of Newbery club. " said.

" a lovely introduction to the life of publisher John Newbery, one of the earliest to publish books specially for children. " said.

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

" Loved this! What a unique book! " said.

" A bit of a bio about John Newbery - the father of children's books. " said.

"I had a hard time deciding on this one for only one reason. The story itself is totally fine- interesting, informative, engaging. Pretty illustrations and fun typography and page design. But.


*Almost* every face (and there's A LOT of faces) is white. On the one hand, this is historically set during a time of slavery, so excuses could be made. On the other hand (and more importantly, heart and mind), who cares? It's a kids book filled with illustrated inaccuracies technically (I doubt a ton of kids hung out by themselves tableau-style with this guy in the streets). And, what, you want your picture books filled with black children portrayed as slaves? No? So instead you chop them out all together? Is that really such an improvement?

I doubt the intention of the illustrator (and the rest of the team that okayed this) was bad. They probably just didn't notice. Didn't even notice. But at the end of the day, the effect trumps the intent.

This book is supposed to tell the story of how picture books came to be. How Newbery thought all kids should have fun stories to enjoy! But I guess what he meant was just white kids. When I picture a kid today sitting on the floor flipping through this book and seeing so, so many pale little faces staring out at them paired with words like "all children"... it kind of makes me want to scream at someone. That stuff gets internalized, people.

And, yes, barring that, the story is pretty great, but I figure if I'm going to make an effort to stand up for the importance of diversity, I don't get to pick and choose when I do it. The line is not moveable, nor is it really that fuzzy. We just have to be aware of what we're looking for, and keep looking, and keep listening, and keep learning.

Well, fingers crossed this galley goes through one last proofing. There's been a few major gaffes with kids picture books and their treatment of race recently that, while this one doesn't compare to the others (which even ended up getting pulled out of circulation by the publishers), is horrifically disappointing, to say the least.
" said.

"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!" said.

June 2017 New Book:

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