Imogene’s Last Stand (Candace Fleming & Nancy Carpenter)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming & Nancy Carpenter, a delightful tale of a courageous little girl with a passion for US history.

Imogene has loved history from her first words – literally (they were, “Four score and seven years ago”). At school, she gives a show-and-tell lecture series on important women in history. But now, her mission is to breathe new life into the Liddleville Historical Society, a crumbling house full of all her town’s history. She and her father work tirelessly to restore every inch, but when they are finished, no one comes to visit. The next day, a sign is placed in the front yard: the house is to be torn down to build a shoelace factory. Imogene is not about to watch history be demolished without a fight, and sets to work – but how can one girl save the history of an entire town?

We LOVED this. Smart, confident and brave female protagonist? Check. Imogene is the type of character we live for, a historical figure-quoting, independent and ingenious firebrand who fights for what she believes is important, not only for herself but for everyone’s benefit. A meaningful story about knowing, understanding, and learning from our past? Check. In fact, the solution to the conflict is found in history, showing how our past can often inform our present problems. There’s even some adorable father-daughter moments between Imogene and her dad, and a wonderful, subtle girl-power-in-politics moment at the end. The pen-and-ink illustrations are perfect for giving both whimsy and gravitas to Imogene’s tale in equal measure, and the length is perfect. Backmatter even gives context for Imogene’s quotes. An awesome read for any young student of history, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Balderdash!: John Newbery And The Boisterous Birth Of Children’s Books (Michelle Markel)

Hello, friends! Today, we’re reading Balderdash!: John Newbery And The Boisterous Birth Of Children’s Books, written by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter, the story of the famous publisher and his dream to bring a new genre of literature to life.

Back in 18th century, when John Newbery was just a lad, there were no books for children – well, except for dry school texts and ominous religious parables. It was thought that children shouldn’t read for pleasure because it might make them unruly and mischievous. John – who grew up loving books and learned to print and publish his own materials under his own company – disagreed. He believed that children deserved stories, magazines, novels and nonfiction books that entertained as much as they instructed. So he began printing children’s stories, assembling his own anthology for little ones called A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, filled with games, stories, and lessons. The children of London went wild for it, and it eventually became a best-seller in England and the US. Newbery went on to publish more books and periodicals just for little ones, pioneering a genre that still brings joy to baby bookworms today.

This one was right up our alley, and we ADORED it! The story celebrates Newbery’s belief in children’s literature as well as the concept of kidlit itself, recognizing that children have always been passionate about reading, and detailing Newbery’s devotion to bringing the power of words and stories to that audience. The pace is fantastic; where kidlit biographies can sometimes be tedious, this one moves briskly while using creative typeset and detailed, whimsical illustrations to keep little readers engaged. The length is great, and JJ and I both loved learning about this visionary publisher. A fun and informative true story, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!