Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books Written by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books is one of these books that John Newbery himself would have loved.

Smack at the first page, children are welcomed with, “This book is for you..”

Without reading any farther, author Michelle Markel manages in just a few words to encompass Newbery’s philosophy that children’s books should be for children, not for their parents, teachers or care takers.

A little contemporary looking girl is turning the page to reveal in trompe ll’oeil rendering, more pages in the book. She is taking us back to 1726 when children had to read preachy poems and religious texts “that made them fear that death was near…”

Until, a young lad grew up to champion children’s books as we know them today.

Lucky, lucky reader.” says Markel.

Illustrator Nancy Carpenter has done a magnificent job depicting 1726 London’s street scene and Markel’s narration and language is so authentic that at one point, I almost felt like one of those little nippers, handling coppers to street hawkers for “ugly chapbooks of fairy tales and chopped-up versions of grown-up books.”

Jhon Newbery goes on to establish a book store in London. He displays his books at his store window wondering, “Will the parents buy them? Are they too…cheerful?

But Jhon’s courage and determination pays off. “The children gobbled them like plum cakes.” And so, the age of charming, exciting, inspiring and heart warming children books, magazines and novels has begun.

Markel dishes out an extra treat by inserting a story within a story, introducing today’s young readers to Goody Good Two-Shoes and other beloved books, published by John Newbery.

The typography and cream-color paper let the reader feel and almost smell the ink at the old print shop where John got his start.

Lucky , lucky readers indeed.

This book is…




Off on Their Own

So we raise our children and care for them.

Then, one day, they’re all grown up, ready to leave the nest and take off on their own.

Time for college, empty nest syndrome and knowing that we’ve raised them well and it’s their time to make their own mark.

amalia Hoffman

Freedom in Congo Square

A few books manage to convey the stories of slavery, oppression and American history with just a spare rhyming text, the way Carole Boston Weatherford has done so well in Freedom in Congo Square.

The story of Congo Square where slaves in New Orleans would gather on Sunday afternoons to dance, make music and let the drum-beat sooth their hardship fascinated me.

It is the story of human nature and our desire to go on living and breath freedom even when caged in hardship.

The book is narrated over the seven days of the week, each day with its own chores as slaves look forward to that one precious Sunday afternoon when they could leave the master’s plantation hell and dive into paradise of semi freedom.

The illustrations by Gregory Christie perfectly accompany the lyrical text.

Created in a style of folk art, they also reminded me of Egyptian paintings depicting slaves performing their chores.

In the beginning, the figure are stiff as if oppressed. As Sunday comes along, they transform into bodies full of movement, as if that one Sunday afternoon breathed life in them. Skirts flow, legs swing and musical instruments take over the broom, hoe, bricks, mop and the master’s whip.

The book includes an informative forward and an author’s note for further understanding and class discussion.

Freedom in Congo Square cover