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

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-26 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"A fun picture book story of John Newbery, for whom the most prestigious award in American children's literature is named. It's written to the child reader, very informally, "Welcome! This book's for you! ....lucky reader. Be glad it's not 1726." Because back then kids had only books written for adults or preachy fables to read. Newbery became a printer, then publisher, and made books for kids that were entertaining, a new concept in those times. He also did clever marketing, like including a ball or a pincushion with his books! Today's book publishers are only following in his footsteps. Author's note gives more info on Newbery and other early children's book printers, and mentions the Newbery award. Fantastic illustrations! Uses a variety of fonts like they did in 18th century books. Done in a cartoony cheerful style, with pages illustrated to look like they are being "pulled back" from the story to reveal modern kids in a bookstore. Loved it. Great gift book idea." said.

‘Balderdash!’ is the story of John Newbery and the impact he made on children's literature. Prior to Newbery, children were expected to read only allowed to read serious books; scripture, preachy poems, and fables. Children were excluded from the extremely vibrant reading community of the time. Newbery’s mission in life was the give children the option to read books for enjoyment. The illustrations are my favorite part of this book. Every page has so much to look at and play a vital role in bringing the story to life. The John Newbery Award is one of the most prestigious awards in children's literature. Telling Newbery’s story through an entertaining picture book is a great way to tell his story.

Pretend that you live in John Newbery’s time. Write him a letter thanking him for bringing children’s books to the world, and tell him about your favorite book/genre of books.

Markel, M., (2017). Balderdash!: John Newbery and the boisterous birth of children’s books.San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
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"The illustrations in this picture book biography, even the endpapers are gorgeous! The first page enlightens young readers about this innovator with pizzaz. "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." Few know what an impact John Newbery had on children's literature, and many perhaps never learned the true connection between John Newbery and the famous John Newbery Award for excellence in children's literature. After reading this irresistible tale of John Newbery, with a perfect marriage between illustrations and text, readers will gleefully learn the true story of the man who inspired the famous medal for the most distinguished contributions to American children's literature. Contemplating this story, I'm curious that the Brits didn't have a problem with ALA using their esteemed children's author to honor American children's authors. A must have for all elementary libraries." said.

"This is the kind of book that I always enjoyed reading. "Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books", written by Michelle Markel, introduces a new generation to Newbery’s legacy. He is known as the father of children’s literature and namesake of the Newbery Medal. His name is revered by all who read and write books for children.

“Lucky, lucky reader. Be glad it’s not 1726,” begins this effervescent tribute to publisher John Newbery. Back then, writes Michelle Markel, children read “preachy poems and fables,” but Newbery strove to publish exciting children’s stories, a prospect that frightened parents: “Many mums and dads worried that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!” Weathered-looking typography offers a visual nod to the printing theme, and Markel’s enthusiastic narration pays its own homage to Newbery’s belief that children should have “delightful books of their own.”

"Balderdash!" reads as a delightful invitation to children: When readers turn the first page, they enter the expansive world of John Newbery, and after their journey, readers are securely deposited in the wonderful world of reading, in a book nook for children. Extra biographical information and a selected bibliography make this book perfect for teachers and librarians.
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"This book offers an entertaining and informative biography about John Newbery. It describes his journey to becoming a much beloved printer/publisher of children's books in England and, eventually, the namesake for the annually awarded book for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

The narrative is engaging and shows how Mr. Newbery followed his passion and achieved success by fulfilling an unmet need. I love how the text is printed using different fonts, and I have to admit that I learned a bit more about earlier printing processes as well as new vocabulary from the vocation.

I loved Nancy Carpenter's illustrations, created using pen and ink and digital media. They had a wonderful mix of cartoonishness and realistic detail that really enhance the story.

The additional information provided in the back of the book about the author as well as a comprehensive listing of resources for further reading and study about Mr. Newbery are very helpful in more fully shaping the reader's knowledge about the man.

new words: type sticks, type stands, chases, and quoins
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"With the mountain of great children’s books to choose from these days, one could be forgiven for imagining children’s publishing has been around as long as adult books have been available for the masses. But it wasn’t until John Newbery (the man the Newbery Award is named for) became a publisher in the mid-1700s that books children could read for fun came along. Before that, children were expected to read preachy poems and manuals with lots of rules on how to conduct themselves.

Newbery’s life and the influence he had is told, fittingly, in a picture book by Michelle Markel called Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books. The cover sets the tone for the story, with an aproned Newberry holding an open book surrounded by cheering children, many also holding books.

The tone throughout the book is playful and irreverent, which is how many in Newbery’s time saw him. But children loved the books he published, which were small and pretty. Some even came with a toy. It is believed that Newbery wrote many of the titles he published, but the author was officially anonymous.

Balderdash! ends with a short bio of the man, more about the books he published, and references for further reading. Book lovers of all ages will enjoy reading about this man who is so important to the emergence of good literature just for children.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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"In 2013, Leonard S. Marcus wrote a picturebook about Randolph Caldecott (published by Farrar Straus and Giroux) using Caldecott’s own illustrations to tell his story. As a member of the 2015 Newbery Award Committee, it should surprise no one that I would jump for joy when seeing a picturebook about John Newbery that serves as a complimentary piece.

England in 1726 was “brimming with books. Books about 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. Oh, no. Children had to read preachy poems and fables, religious texts that made them fear that death was near, and manuals that told them where to stand, how to sit, not to laugh, and scores of other rules. ”

John Newbery grew up on a farm and loved to read, so he apprenticed himself to a publisher and as soon as he was able, he moved to London and opened his own shop. Because Newbery liked children, he wanted to share books they would enjoy and published his first book for children – which included a toy ball or pincushion. Children loved it! He became a very successful publisher of picturebooks, novels and non-fiction exclusively for children, so is now considered to be the Father of Children’s Literature.

Pen and ink artwork by Carpenter is digitally enhanced and bring to life the whimsy of this time period. What better way to start a unit about Newbery Medal books than to read about the man behind the medal? For all grades.
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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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June 2018 New Book:

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