Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

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

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

Michelle Markel
Illustrator:  Nancy Carpenter 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books , 2017   ISBN: 978-0811879224

In 1726 books of all kinds were being printed in England. Stories, biographies, histories, travel tales and so much more could be found in bookshops and market stalls. The only books that were not being created were good books for children. Children were expected to make do with “preachy poems and fables,” as well as “religious texts” and “manuals.”

At this time there was a boy who lived on a farm. His name was John Newbery and he preferred reading books to farm work, so when he came of age he left home and went to work for a printer.

John loved the printing process so much that as soon as he could he became a publisher. John then moved to London, which was the heart of the book world in England at that time. John set up shop “in the heart of the book marketplace” in the great city. He wanted to create books for all the people he saw on the streets, including the children.

Many people thought that books that would entertain children would make those children “wild as beasts,” but John did not agree. He created a book that included stories, pictures, ABC’s, and proverbs, and when it was ready A Little Pretty Pocket Book was sold for just six pence. For eight pence you could get the book and a toy.

John then went on to create magazines, non-fiction titles, and a novel for young readers. Adults liked all these formats so why shouldn’t children? His book The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was so hugely popular that editions were published in America as well.

This wonderful, engaging, and often amusing nonfiction title tells the story of a man who truly was the father of children’s book publishing. The author shows us how passionate John Newbery was about his work, and how hard he worked to create books for young readers of all ages.

At the back of the book readers will find further information about John Newbery and his legacy.