TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

John Newbery

John Newbery is considered to be the father of children’s literature. He was born a farmer’s son on July 9th, 1713 in Waltham St. Lawrence, Berkshire, England. As an adult he was a qualified printer and publisher. It wasn’t long before he opened his own bookshop in London, The Bible and the Sun. He had a prime business location as his shop was situated in St. Paul’s churchyard, the address that was later long associated with children’s books. In 1744 John Newbery published his first children’s book, The Little Pretty Pocket Book. It was a neat, well-printed publication, which inspired children towards good manners and good moral values. Books of that era were created with the notion that literature should be both entertaining and give good instruction. Some other of his earlier children’s publications were The Circle of the Sciences, The Lilliputian Magazine, The Governess or Little Female Academy (by Sarah Fielding, Newbery’s sister), The Twelfth Day Gift, Mother Goose’s Melody, her Tales and, most celebrated of all, Goody Two Shoes. Newbery’s books were a cut above the rest because they were well-constructed on good print and lasting paper. They were attractive, had a unique animated feel to them and they covered a variety of topics. Although John Newbery’s books are virtually unheard of in our day and age, at his time they were full of pep and personality. It was always his top priority through his literature to please children as well as to improve them. When he died in 1767 he had subtly left a huge mark on humanity through the creation of the new branch of literature in children’s books.


The Newbery Award:

The Newbery Medal is named after eighteenth-century British author, publisher and bookseller John Newbery, who is considered the father of children’s literature. On June 21, 1921 Frederic G. Melcher proposed the concept of an award to the Children’s Librarians’ Section of the American Library Association. The medal was to be awarded for a book published the previous year that offered ”the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”. The purpose of the award was stated as follows: “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.” The concept was eagerly accepted and Melcher had Rene Paul Chambellan design the bronze medal. The first medal was awarded in 1922. It was the first children’s book award in the world. Each year since, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, awards a Newbery Medal to a book with the author’s name and the date engraved on the back. The Association also names the Newbery Honor Books, which would be considered the runner’s up and are books that are worthy of attention. The Newbery Award is the best known and most discussed children’s book award in America.