November 20, 2017

Subscribe to SLJ

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel | SLJ Review

Get the latest SLJ reviews every month, subscribe today and save up to 35%.

redstarMARKEL, Michelle. Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books. illus. by Nancy Carpenter. 44p. bibliog. further reading. Chronicle. Apr. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780811879224.

K-Gr 2 –This winning picture book takes on a subject that one wouldn’t think, at first glance, would be of interest to modern-day audiences—a look at the life of an 18th-century publisher and shopkeeper. But said publisher is none other than John Newbery, who embraced the teachings of John Locke and is credited with introducing the notion that children’s books should be engaging and entertaining instead of strictly instructional and religious. We are all greatly in his debt. Markel’s delightfully exuberant treatment follows Newbery’s lead and presents the facts of his life in a wholly original and absorbing way, mixing evocative and richly detailed cartoon artwork, a playful use of typography, and visual and textual homages to his books and legacy. Carpenter relies on sepia ink, and the pages are digitally made to look old and weathered. Readers learn that Newbery was a savvy businessman, selling patented medicine, magazines, and toys in addition to his carefully selected books and was not at all assured that his ventures would succeed. “Will the parents buy them? Are they too…cheerful? The children gobbled them up like plum cakes.” The back matter is fully sourced and extensive and includes biographical detail as well as descriptions of the books mentioned. VERDICT This title is a fun read-aloud with multiple curricular connections. A stellar introduction to “the father of children’s ­literature,” and a glorious example of dynamic bookmaking. ­Huzzah!–Luann Toth, School Library Journal

This review was published in the School Library Journal June 2017 issue.

Luann Toth About Luann Toth

Luann Toth (ltoth@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor of SLJ Reviews. A public librarian by training, she has been reviewing books for a quarter of a century and continues to be fascinated by the constantly evolving, ever-expanding world of publishing.

Share
A Day-Long Celebration of Fandom-Beloved Stories and Characters
Join Library Journal and School Library Journal for our inaugural LibraryCon Live! We’re excited to offer this day-long virtual festival for book nerds, librarians, and fans of graphic novels, sci-fi, and fantasy. Network online with other fans and explore our virtual exhibit hall where you’ll hear directly from publishers about their newest books and engage in live chats with featured authors. You’ll also learn from librarians and industry insiders on how to plan and host your own Comic Con-style event.
Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind

*