Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Literary Giants - New Picture Books



Visit Alyson Beecher on Wednesdays for Non-Fiction Picture books at Kidlit Frenzy.  From Alyson and others, you will discover wonderful non-fiction books!

        It's a pleasure today to share new picture book biographies of two favorite and important men in literature.
         Anyone who loves reading Newbery award-winning books for children will love this book, and it even includes parts of the stories that he created and first published. As the book says to children readers, be glad you didn't live in 1726 because people thought children only needed books that taught them "preachy poems and fables." John Newbery thought otherwise, and you can discover how he changed children's literature in this book. It's such a happy story, and the colorful, black-outlined illustrations by Nancy Carpenter are filled with the happiest of children, those of Newbery's time and in the final page, today's.



        I’ve loved the Tolkien books for years, have read and re-read them, read The Hobbit with more than one book group. So I was thrilled to hear that a picture book bio was published. Then I was thrilled again to learn that I had won a copy!  Caroline McAlister has told a bare story of John Ronald, orphaned at twelve, sent with his brother to a cold-hearted aunt, but who managed to grow into an imaginative and intelligent professor. Bits and pieces of Tolkien’s life are told from the early books read to him by his mother, through the bleak times with his aunt, then on to a boarding house where he met his future wife, Edith. He went to war, he taught at Oxford and met his friends often. There they shared stories they were writing. There is no real reference to those meetings, the ones with the group called “The Inklings”, but adults reading will recognize the reference. The most wonderful theme carried throughout the book is John Ronald’s fascination with dragons, until finally, on one page, he meets not a dragon, but pens the line “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” No dragon, but Bilbo’s story was followed, and as Tolkien wrote,  Bilbo took him on that journey. He told the stories of the adventure being written to his children in the evenings. Finally convinced he was ready, he took this tale to a publisher, and it was loved immediately. His love for dragons gave us many wonderful adventures. 
      The dragon theme is carried throughout the book by Eliza Wheeler, in direct and creative art, but as she explains in an endnote, there are hidden dragons within the pages, too. The endpapers also have a dragon theme, quite lovely. Here's one example:

       There also is an author's note and additional information in the back matter, along with the bibliography. 

11 comments:

  1. Really loved both of these books. I'm featuring them in a week or so, I think! Can't wait to use Balderdash with our Mock Newbery club next year!

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    1. Yes, it really will be fun to use with your Mock Newbery! The book includes lots that I didn't know about him.

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  2. I adored Balderdash. It was so well done! I definitely need to pick up the Tolkein book. We recently gave my 10 year old a copy of the Hobbit and I have friends who were obsessed with it as children.

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    1. Your ten year old will love John Ronald's Dragons if reading The Hobbit, now a must companion! Yes, I loved Balderdash too. Thanks, Michelle.

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  3. I really want to read both of these! I want to learn more about Newbery, and I love Tolkien (I actually took a Tolkien class in college!).

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    1. That would be terrific to take a class about Tolkien, Kellee. I bet you'll love this new book. Thanks!

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  4. I just got both of these books this week, and I adore them, too. The language is so fun in the Newbery book, and I loved the art in the Tolkien book. Books about book-makers!

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    1. Yes, they are wonderful. I'm glad you enjoyed them, too, Annette! It was fun to read those old, first stories by Newbery. Thanks!

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  5. I just returned John Ronald's Dragons. And I'm sad because I wanted to look for the dragons in the illustrations. Oh well, I'll just have to request it again, along with Balderdash! which is a totally new title for me. I love learning about new books from my blogger friends.

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    1. Thanks, Ramona, hope you can check it out again! And Enjoy Balderdash!

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  6. Yay great books this week! Now it'll be great to find an nfpb about Randolph Caldecott!

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