Tuesday 5 May 2009

A Little Pretty Pocket Book 1744

There are letters from Ackworth School in the early days of the school complaining about a shortage of books for the pupils. This was not owing to a lack of funds, but owing to a simple lack of reading matter written specifically for children. There were chapbooks about and the colourful and cheerful way in which they were presented seem to suggest that they might have been intended for a young and simple audience, but the truth is chap books often had content that was unsuitable for children such as: How to repair your maidenhead.

John Newbery is credited with the first book written just for children, as late as 1744 - just 35 years before the founding of Ackworth School. The book is called A Little Pretty Pocket Book and came with a ball if you were a boy, or a pincushion if you were a girl. The ball and pincushion had both a red side and a black side. If a girl did something good, then her mother or governess would put a pin in the red side. For something naughty, a pin was stuck in the black side. And...if you had 10 pins in the red side then you would be rewarded with a penny from Jack the Giant Killer - but should you have 10 pins in the black side, then Jack the Giant Killer would send a rod to beat you!


  1. That's really interesting! I wonder if that's why the Newberry medal is called that.

  2. You are absolutely right - it is! I am sorry to say I didn't know the medal existed and am really pleased to hear that it does. Thank you very much for this post, Margaret.