Thursday, September 29, 2005

Pithy Publisher

That Rick Richter (Simon & Schuster Children's Prez). First he gave us a line that I steal all the time, about the once-ubiquitous genre of "I-love-you-more-than-that-other-book does" books; in the latest PW he has this to say about the allegation that backlist books are a cash cow: "That's an overstatement. It's a critical part of our business. If you don't spend any money on promotion, it's a cash cow, but the rent on the barn is still high." I do admire a man who understands the need to keep metaphors--like cows--herded in the same direction. (For an example of someone who does not understand this need, have a listen to Barbra Streisand's new song "Night of My Life," which randomly spouts off about merry-go-rounds, roller-coasters, love being a river, rivers becoming oceans, love being a color, going to the wall, climbing to the top, and radar.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A little more about stars

We've finished choosing the stars for the November issue, and they will be posted on the site in a couple of weeks. One book that occasioned a lot of discussion was Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch, published by Greenwillow in September. It had originally been passed over for review by the Magazine, but then Anita Burkam, who had been asked to review it for the Guide, suggested it was good enough for reconsideration. Amen. While the book looks like fairly standard fantasy/horror series fiction, the writing is spare and vivid and the story is uncompromising in its depiction of supernatural evil. I've been bothered by a tendency in genre writing to superficially ape the diction of bygone fiction (sorry), with, for example, flowery authorial passages that would be at home in E. Nesbit. Lemony Snicket does this sort of thing to be funny, but I'm thinking of books like Taylor's Shadowmancer or Paolini's Eragon, which both indulge in a self-conscious archaicness that achieves an effect more coy than majestic. The Last Apprentice is written with immediate and transparent prose. I would have eaten it up as a ten-year-old.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Our launch of this Horn Book blog coincides with a very busy week. We are in the last throes of the November/December issue--checking edits and layout with Lolly Robinson, our designer, deciding which book reviews will be highlighted with a "star," and writing the editorial. And, of course, LOTS of busywork to avoid the last; years ago Betsy Byars said that the hardest part of writing was sitting down to the keyboard, but what she wasn't reckoning with--then--was all the temptation offered by the Internet, such as Mini Putt. Please understand that I provide that link only as an exercise of my nascent ability to construct same.