Tomfoolery!: Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children’s Books

Chronicle. Nov. 2023. 44p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780811879231.
Gr 1-3–In a history that gallops along like John Gilpin’s horse, Markel traces the career of a lad mad for drawing, who switched careers midstream from banking to art and after some low points (“Sometimes, on his letters, he draws himself as a sad, frumpled cartoon”) went on to replace the “pretty poses and cluttered scenery” of the Victorian era’s picture books with images still notable for their unrestrained energy and humor. McClintock evokes that energy by incorporating samples of Caldecott’s art (and, for contrast, examples from stodgier tomes) into her finely drawn views of livestock scurrying underfoot or streaming from sketchbook pages. She also dresses up a busy multiethnic crowd of city and country folk first in period dress, then in modern attire to link past audiences to present ones. In end notes the author fills in some biographical details, with nods to Caldecott’s publisher and contemporaries Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. Readers open to more than just a taste of his distinctive works and sketches of his life and times will find Leonard Marcus’s Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing well worth the plunge—but this brief tribute gets to the heart of what makes his work so enduringly appealing.
VERDICT If Marcus still rules the roost, here’s a high-stepping alternative for younger readers.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing