Tomfoolery!: Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children's Books (Hardcover)

Tomfoolery!: Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children's Books By Michelle Markel, Barbara McClintock (Illustrator) Cover Image
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A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2023 
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023 


"Exuberant."―Horn Book Magazine, starred review 

"Excellent."—Booklist, starred review 

"Storytelling at its best."—Kirkus, starred review

"Enduringly appealing."—School Library Journal, starred review 

"[A] lively portrait."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Meet Randolph Caldecott, the artist who revolutionized picture book illustration and for whom the prestigious Caldecott medal is named! From acclaimed picture book creators Michelle Markel and Barbara McClintock comes a lively, humorous, and energetically informative biography that celebrates the spirit of storytelling in art.

Quick! If you don’t move fast, you’ll miss him—there he goes—Randolph Caldecott, future famous illustrator. His sketchbook is full of hurly-burly: wild weather, frisky animals, and people so sprightly they can barely hold onto the pages. But in the 1850s, there were no children’s books like that. Not yet.

Many books are published, but their pictures look stiff, full of pretty poses and cluttered scenery. No one has imagined how much fun an illustrated book could be because the future hero of children’s book illustration is still just a lad. Join Michelle Markel and Barbara McClintock for a riotous adventure through the seminal history of children's books—their art, their joy, and the man who changed them for good.

[Tomfoolery noun: silliness, shenanigans, buffoonery, skylarking, or pranks]

FASCINATING TRUE STORY: This picture book biography introduces readers to the man who redefined children's books, transforming the reading experience of people all around the world! Anyone who loves history, biographies, or books for children will find themselves charmed by this lively look at the life of Randolph Caldecott.

WHIMSICAL AND ENGAGING: Full of verve and fun, humor and dynamic vocabulary, this book is history with pure delight, sure to engage even the most reluctant readers!

FUN AND INSPIRING GIFT BOOK: With compelling visual storytelling and an inspiring role model for aspiring writers, illustrators, and creatives, this picture book makes a great gift for any giving occasion.

PERFECT FOR MOCK CALDECOTTS: Teachers and librarians who introduce the Caldecott Medal and its voting process to kids will find this invaluable as an introduction to looking at, thinking about, and celebrating art.

Perfect for:
  • Anyone who loves or wants to learn more about kids' books and children's book illustration
  • Librarians, educators, and parents of kids who love history and nonfiction
  • Aspiring picture book writers and illustrators of any age
  • Fans of true stories, biographies, and fascinating facts
  • Special occasion or thank you gift for teachers and librarians

About the Author

Michelle Markel writes informative, enjoyable children’s books at her home in Los Angeles, California. She’s the author of Tyrannosaurus Math (a CCBC Choices Reading List selection), The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau (a PEN/Steven Kroll Award winner and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner), and Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 (a Jane Addams Children’s Book Award winner, a Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award winner, and an NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor book). Visit her at

Barbara McClintock has written and/or illustrated over forty books for children, including her highly acclaimed Adèle and Simon series. Her books have received five New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book awards, three ALA Notable Children's Book citations, a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Honor, and two Golden Kite honors, as well as many other accolades, best book selections, and starred reviews. A self-taught artist, McClintock discovered the work of Randolph Caldecott when she was in her early twenties, and he became a mentor, inspiration, and kindred spirit to her. McClintock lives in Windham, Connecticut, with her partner, the illustrator David A. Johnson, and their four demonstrative cats. You can find her online at

Praise For…

“[An] exuberant tribute to the illustrator who revolutionized children’s books.” — Horn Book Magazine, starred review

"This follow-up…is another excellent resource, one that explains not only who Randolph Caldecott was but also why his approach to illustrating books for children has had a lasting impact.” — Booklist, Starred Review

"The historical moment of this innovation is captured with verve and verb-forward flourishes in this lively portrait of a person whose illustration style still inspires contemporary picture book creators.” — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A cacophony of verve and frolic, this is biographical storytelling at its absolute best.” — Kirkus, Starred Review

“[H]ere’s a high-stepping alternative for younger readers.” — School Library Journal, Starred Review

A Kirkus Reviews Best Picture Book of 2023

Product Details
ISBN: 9780811879231
ISBN-10: 0811879232
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: November 14th, 2023
Pages: 44
Language: English