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How Gutenberg Changed the World

by James Rumford illustrated by James Rumford

Pub Date: Sept. 18th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59643-542-1
Publisher: Neal Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook

Ironically, this book honors the inventor of the printing press more through illustrations than words.

Sumptuously illustrated in the style of medieval manuscripts, this title offers fascinating descriptions of the steps and materials involved in 15th-century bookmaking. Children will savor the explanations and detailed, jewellike illustrations that clearly convey the procedures, substances and skill that went into the preparation of what the text calls a "mysterious thing." Each process and component is discussed on a page that ends in a riddle, answered on a facing page. When Gutenberg (German for from the good mountain) enters, it’s almost anticlimactic. Still, his printing press’s success and the illumination and binding of his first efforts are lucidly related, and a sample page is illustrated. Only on the final page of the story does the author confirm what the press actually produced. Overall, adults will likely be more captivated than children, having greater perspective on and appreciation for what Gutenberg brought forth; no explanation for how Gutenberg’s innovation changed the world is presented for youngsters. However, even adults will be frustrated by the lack of glossary and sources. Young readers desiring further information are given a list of terms to search for on the Internet, though this seems a frail substitute.

An homage that is ultimately more a testament to the author-illustrator’s own bookmaking skills than paean to the inventor of movable type.

(epilogue, key search terms) (Picture books/biography. 7-10)