From the Publisher
“The book’s own blocks of print are surrounded by a wealth of spirited, loosely drawn ink-and-watercolor spot illustrations, colored with pleasingly muted shades and accompanied by enthusiastic explanatory notes.” Publishers Weekly
“The art and practicality of bookmaking get an attractive treatment in this fully illustrated volume, which provides a clear, concise history up to the time of Gutenberg’s press.” Booklist, ALA
"This neatly balanced account earns its shelf space anywhere books are important." The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
The title notwithstanding, Koscielniak (The Story of the Incredible Orchestra) offers not so much a history of the printing press as a history of the book itself. Less than half the pages are devoted to Gutenberg, about whom little is known, and who died in 1468. Koscielniak camouflages this gap with imaginative evocations of the printing pioneer's workrooms and by emphasizing his technological innovations: an easier way to make metal type, better ink and a press that applied pressure evenly. A long background section explains printing and paper development, beginning in second-century China (passages such as "Pi Sheng, a Chinese printer, had the idea to use separate, coin-thin, fired-clay characters, which were pasted with tree resin and wax in rows on an iron plate" may confuse younger readers, despite abundant illustrations). The book's own blocks of print are surrounded by a wealth of spirited, loosely drawn ink-and-watercolor spot illustrations, colored with pleasingly muted shades and accompanied by enthusiastic explanatory notes ("A willow or other stick cut with a flat tip can be used with ink to produce Gothic-style writing. Try it!"). The discussion of the specifics of book-making, from compositing type to sewing together signatures, may be too densely detailed for some, but motivated readers will come away with an understanding of the general process and with an appreciation for the man saluted at the end as "Mr. G." Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Moving smoothly from children in a modern library to the goldsmith shop of Johann Gutenberg (c.1398-1468), author-illustrator Koscielniak skillfully leads middle readers through this appealing picture book explaining how modern printing came to be. (He also shows how earlier books were copied and illuminated by hand.) While Chinese and Korean printers had used wooden, clay, and metal type centuries before, Gutenberg was the first in Europe to print with movable type in a press. After his achievement, others quickly followed, although Gutenberg himself lost his print shop only five years later. Attractive watercolor illustrations picture the making of paper and ink and the steps of pouring metal type, setting the type so it can be printed in the wooden press, and binding a book by hand. Explanations are clear, and there's even some humor, as when Gutenberg and a carpenter walk into a medieval winery and say prophetically, "We need to buy a used cheese or wine press. Mr. Gutenberg here has a new idea." Several pages of Gutenberg's famous Bible are reproduced before readers move back to the library and exclaim, "Thanks, Mr G.!" The quality of the paper is especially fine from the creamy parchment-like title pages to the endpapers showing letters in cast-metal type, adding to the pleasure of handling and reading this lively, informative account of Gutenberg's landmark invention and its origins. This is a perfect book for kids who love to read and for those who like to know how things work. 2003, Houghton Mifflin, Ages 9 to 13.
Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library Journal
Gr 2-5-With an emphasis on Gutenberg and his work, this easy-to-read and informative text explores the history of printing, from the invention of paper in China in the year 105 to the development of different types in the late 1400s. Watercolor illustrations are both detailed and entertaining. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Koscielniak wowed with The Story of the Incredible Orchestra (2000); he is much less successful here. He opens with a scene at the library (the person at the desk has a bun and glasses, but at least she is using a computer). "Soooo many books," he writes. He explains the origins of paper and of movable type in China and in Korea before Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press and movable type in Mainz, Germany, around 1450. Koscielniak’s watercolors are bright and engaging, but they, and the text, raise more questions than they answer. The Chinese and Korean figures are clearly Western; scribes in monasteries are those who did the copying of books, but there is no mention that they were monks or of the Church. There is also the moronic comment that "most people didn’t bother to learn to read because they had no access to books"--tossing aside the social history of literacy in a single line. The accompanying illustration is pretty feebleminded, too. Marginalia adds to the information, and the technical descriptions are good. Definitely not for the younger picture book crowd, however. (Nonfiction. 8-12)