Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel; illustrations by Nancy Carpenter.


10.17.20 • 1:00 pm EDT | 0 responses |

There are so very many things we take for granted. And in the face of the pandemic, it has come to a reckoning with many of us.

Not just the financial securities of a job and all that flows from it, of course, is paramount in many people’s lives…food and shelter.

But, maybe selfishly, I am speaking of all the incidental things in life we tended to take for granted; visiting with family and friends or stepping out to a movie and a bite to eat.

I have had a great deal of time to pore over picture books in the last eight months and here is one that I cannot recommend highly enough; for WITHOUT the gentleman about whom it is written, there would be NO PICTURE BOOKS.

I am speaking of John Newbery for whom the Newbery Medal is named.

Young readers back in 1726:

Children had to read preachy poems and fables, religious texts that made them fear that death was near, and manuals that told them where to stand,

how to sit,

not to laugh,

and scores of other rules.

Because the  future champion of CHILDREN’S  BOOKS

was just a lad.


John Newbery lived on a farm, but loved reading more than “forking hay,” so he went to work for a printer and later became a publisher himself.

Being a smarty, he moved to London which was the very center of the bookselling trade and there, in the center of St. Paul’s Churchyard, he found a place for his store amid the hustle and bustle of the city.


John liked children.

Why shouldn’t they have 


books of their own?


John Newbery wanted books to be a treat for children.

He wanted his ABC book to be fun with letters from “Jack the Giant Killer,” and pictures of Blindman’s Buff and other children’s games.

In addition, there would be proverbs, classic materials AND a message to mums and dads.

And, setting them out in his bookshop window, a book alone was 6 pence, BUT with a small toy…..8 pence!


And the books flew out the door!

The children

gobbled them

up like plum cakes.


Who knew John Newbery was a marketing genius as well?


He came up with a magazine for children; then, wonder of wonders…A NOVEL FOR CHILDREN called “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes.”

John Newbery had a book store that sold books on ABC’s, Tom Thumb, Giles Gingerbread, books of jokes and riddles, books of science, geography and history.

John Newbery is the Father of Children’s Literature!

No wonder there is a medal bearing his name that is given yearly for a children’s book of surpassing quality.

Here is a quote from Newbery’s ” A Little Pretty Pocket-Book” :




in the


is to make them









I agree, and so, please read “Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books.”

Oh, and the art by Nancy Carpenter is splendorous!






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