John Newbery, the father of children’s literature and namesake of the Newbery Medal, is revered by all who read and write books for children. Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel, introduces a new generation to Newbery’s legacy.
The book follows Newbery’s career, which begins as a printer and ends as a publisher who revolutionized children’s literature by printing over 100 fun and entertaining titles for children. It’s an animated and lively tale, ever faithful to Newbery’s philosophy that children need amusing books. Children’s books in the 1740s were didactic and boring, but Newbery promoted purchasing a book accompanied by gender-specific toys, a brilliant marketing campaign that was met with success on both sides of the Atlantic.
Nancy Carpenter’s illustrations have a sprightly and energetic style. The edges of the pages are painted to look like an old-time storybook and lend a certain gravitas to the narrative. The mod, marbleized endpapers are reminiscent of Newbery’s first book for youngsters. Fonts in different sizes add interest to the text.
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.