September 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month


About the Holiday

Discovering a new book is one of the joys of life! Right now bookstores everywhere are filled with books waiting for you to take them home, open the cover, and start reading. Whether you find a new book published just this year or one that’s older but new to you, take the opportunity of this month’s holiday to add to your home library. Children especially benefit from reading new and classic books—and thanks to the subject of today’s book, they have plenty to choose from!

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

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter


With a hearty “Welcome!” readers are invited to explore—and appreciate—the pages, pictures, words, and even individual letters that make up the book they’re holding. Back in time, a book like this didn’t exist. How far back? Well, let’s return to 1726…. “In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books.” There were exciting tales about imaginary places, sailing voyages, mysterious happenings, “pirates, monsters and miniature people”—for adults. What did kids read? Their books were all about teaching them how to have good manners and how to live a good life because death was always near. Scary stuff and not much fun at all!


Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

One of the children reading these books was John Newbery who, despite the dreariness, loved to read more than he liked to do his chores. When he grew up, he left the family farm and went to work for a printer. After he learned the business, he became a publisher himself. He moved from his small town to “London, center of the bookselling trade.”

Soon, he found the perfect storefront on a busy street and opened his shop. He had a dream of publishing books for every taste—and for children too. “He knew the youngsters were hungry for stories. Many boys and girls handed coppers to street hawkers for ugly chapbooks of fairy tales, or for chopped-up versions of grown-up books.” When John Newbery tried to offer good books for children, however, the adults balked. They were afraid “that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”


Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Balderdash!” John Newbery said. And others agreed. Two publishers issued books of alphabet rhymes and stories, and another published some books of nonfiction. But “John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible.” The books he created included pictures of fun children’s games, enjoyable ways to learn ABCs and other subjects, and fantasy stories. He even wrote a note to moms and dads to alleviate any fears.

The covers of his books were colorful and attractive and carried the title “A Pretty Little Pocket-Book.” To further entice kids and their parents, John offered to sell books along with a toy for a very good price. John wondered if his books would look “too cheerful,” but “the children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”


Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As customers bought books in the front of his shop, John created new books in the back. In addition to fiction books, he began printing books on math, science, and other subjects. With the books a success, John Newbery turned his thoughts and his press towards creating a magazine for children, and, finally, a novel. The novel was titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes and was a rags-to-riches story about a little girl who succeeded through “study, hard work, and kindness.” It showed children that they too could achieve their dreams. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was a hit in England and America.

While the authors of John Newbery’s books were all anonymous or had “silly, made-up names,” it wasn’t hard for people to figure out who was really creating the books that brought their children so much joy and made their lives better.


Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about John Newbery as well as a resources page follow the text.

Kids will love Michelle Markel’s entertainingly informative book that takes them back to a time when the unthinkable was reality. Markel’s charming text is as infectious as John Newbery’s love of books, and readers will laugh at how kids’ books were once perceived. Her conversational tone and bemusement at the state of publishing at the time creates a warm reading experience—like a secret shared between friends.


Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Nancy Carpenter infuses Balderdash! with the sights, dress, activities, and flavor of the time period in her pen-and-ink illustrations. Humor abounds, from the little boy overflowing with tears in the corner of the first page to a young John Newbery relishing the feel and smell of newly printed pages to parents pulling their children away from “dangerous” books. Along the way, kids will want to scope out all the details on each page. A variety of typefaces and sizes further enhances the humor and ambience of the book.

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books would make a great addition to home libraries for kids interested in books, history, and innovation. Teachers will also find the book to be a perfect beginning for language arts or history units.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0811879224

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

I Have the Reading Bug! Bookplate and Bookmark


Do you have the reading bug like John Newbery? If so, here’s a bookplate and bookmark for you to print to show your love of books!

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark | I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Dr. Seuss’s Birthday | Read Across America Day

The Sneetches and Other Stories Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Read Across America was designed by the National Education Association as a day to raise awareness of the importance of reading and to motivate people to read more. What better day could they have chosen to celebrate the joys books can bring than March 2—Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday! With 46 children’s books to his name, Dr. Seuss is one of the world’s most beloved authors, and one whose imagination has entertained generations of readers.

For more information on the Read Across America program visit

The Sneetches and Other Stories

By Dr. Seuss


If you love reading chances are Dr. Seuss has something to do with it! He wrote so many stories that there are fantastic and fantastical creations to fit everyone’s fancy! Today I’m reviewing my favorite collection of Dr. Seuss tales—I hope you’ll like it too!

The four stories in this collection touch on such topics as individualism, prejudice, stubbornness, fear, and just the ridiculous. Perhaps the best-known tale is The Sneetches, in which a community of Sneetches, some of whom sport stars on their bellies and some who do not, fall prey to a slick salesman and his star-on and star-off machines. The Sneetches run themselves ragged trying to be popular and keep up with the fad of the moment. In the end, Sylvester McMonkey McBean has made monkeys of them all and drives away with a smile and all their cash. He thinks they’ll never learn, but he’s wrong—the Sneetches are actually richer for McBean’s visit and become a closer-knit community.

In The Zax, a North-going Zax and a South-going Zax are strolling along on their individual tracks when they meet face to face in the middle of nowhere. Neither one will move the slightest inch to the left or the right to let the other pass. They stand “toe-to-toe” in unbreakable stalemate, even if it means the whole world must halt along with them. “Of course the world didn’t stand still,” Dr. Seuss tells us. The middle of nowhere became somewhere. Buildings went up, people moved in, and a highway was built right over the Zax, who are probably standing there still.

Ah, the poor mother in Too Many Daves! If only she’d had a little more imagination and forethought in the name department she may have saved herself a lot of trouble. One after one, however, she named her sons Dave—all 23 of them! Too late she thinks of all the other names she could have used, and here is presented a list of names that far outshines any baby naming book on the market. Be ready for giggles when you get to “Stinky.”

My very favorite story is What Was I Scared Of?. It has just the right combination of spookiness and humor to satisfy any budding mystery buff. One night while picking berries the hero of the story spies a “pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them.” The pants begin to show up in the oddest of places, no matter how hard the storyteller tries to escape them. The pants are rowing on the river, riding a bicycle, and walking the same path. When the pants and the narrator peek around the same bush, however, they’re both in for a surprise. “Why, the pants were just as scared as I,” the narrator reveals. Instead of gloating or running away, our intrepid hero learns that feelings are often shared and he becomes a friend to the pants that once so frightened him.

Of course these stories are all told with Dr. Seuss’s inimitable word choice, rhymes, names, and rhythm accompanied by his whimsical characters and landscapes.

Ages 4 – 9

Random House, New York, 1961 | ISBN 978-0394800899

Dr. Seuss’s Birthday/Read Across America Day Activity

CPB - Reading Bug Book Plate (2)

I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate


There’s no better feeling than leafing through the pages of your own book! Now, to keep precious books from getting lost, you can dress them up with this printable I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate!



  1. Print the I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate
  2. Cut out the bookplate
  3. Write your name on the line at the top
  4. Using glue dots or removable mounting squares attach the bookplate to the inside front or back cover