Friday, September 29, 2006

November stars

And lo, behold the glittering firmament of books that will be starred in the next issue of the Horn Book:

Merry Un-Christmas
written by Mike Reiss, illustrated by David Catrow

The Last Dragon
written by Silvana de Mari, translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside

The Green Glass Sea
written by Ellen Klages

Street Love
written by Walter Dean Myers

written by Philip Reeve, illustrated by David Wyatt

A Drowned Maiden's Hair: A Melodrama
written by Laura Amy Schlitz

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Food, Frolic, and the Fall of Rome

Although he was not to be found in the taupe-tinged atmosphere of Banana Republic, my trip to New York was otherwise full of tasty moments--haute Polynesian with Elizabeth, schnitzel with the Germany girls, Starbucks with Fuse #8, panini with Richard Peck, and Emerald City (Key lime) mousse on a yellow-brick road (made of chocolate) with Eric Carle. The theme of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art benefit bash was, in homage to their current exhibition, the land of Oz : Dorothy et al wandered through the crowd selling raffle tickets, and each guest received a pair of green-tinted shades. When I told an enquiring Peter Sis that the glasses would allow him to see all the party guests naked, he replied, "in this crowd, why bother?" Terribly ungallant, I know, but he did make an exception for one titian-haired publisher I won't embarrass here.

The party celebrated the inauguration of the Carle Honors, given this year to an artist (Rosemary Wells), an "angel" (philanthropist Helen Bing), a mentor (Carle's chief editor Ann Beneduce), and a "bridge" (Weston Woods' Mort Schindel). All, thankfully, kept their remarks brief and gracious; Rosemary Wells opined that while we were living in an era akin to the fall of Rome, "we have something Rome didn't: 'Eric Carle.'"

Well, can't argue with that (except to say that Rome had something we don't: Virgil). Not to pick on Rosemary, who was just being gracious, but her remark reminded me that we in this field do have a tendency to plump the importance of children's books up to a point that can seem self-deluding. As when Philip Pullman said, in his Carnegie Medal acceptance speech for The Golden Compass, "There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book." Balderdash. Old-timers may remember when Horn Book editor Ethel Heins and School Library Journal editor Lillian Gerhardt practically came to blows over this very issue. Literally: Lillian threatened, in print, to come up to Boston and hit Ethel over the head with a chair. Ah, those happy golden years.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Taking a Bite out of the Apple

Limoliner is taking me and Miss Pod to New York tomorrow. We'll be listening to The Emperor's Children (quite addictive and geographically apropos) and reading books for the star discussion next week. I'm going for the Eric Carle Museum bash Monday night, and also have dates with the Germany girls and intrepid blogger Fuse8. Any free time will be spent talking about you all with Elizabeth and stalking my secret boyfriend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

We're looking . . .

. . . for a managing editor for the Horn Book Guide. Come, join the madness! Details about the job are here.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Teddy bear, teddy bear, do a trick--

Teddy bear, teddy bear--oops, better not. Someone from Maine might be reading. If the staff and supporters of the Read With ME organization were less interested in covering their, um, bottoms and more invested in actually defending Schoolyard Rhymes, they might attend to the subtitle: Kids' Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. They could also learn from Susan Dove Lempke's Horn Book review of the book, from our September/October 2005 issue: "Those who know childhood humor will not be shocked that many of the poems do feature underwear and insults." "There are words in there I don't allow in my house" says outraged Maine mother Erica Smith. Yes, and this is why we fucking make you send your kids to school.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006

Talking Trash With the Disney Girls

Jennifer Brabander just forwarded me this Disney fantasia.

Hands Across the Water

I had breakfast this morning with Janetta Otter Barry and Sarah Butler of Frances Lincoln Ltd. in London. They were here both to talk about some books F.L. will be selling in the U.S. in the upcoming seasons and to find out about how the book reviewing system in these parts works: according to Janetta, reviews in the States have much more of an impact on sales here than reviews in the U.K. do there.

I was interested to find out more about how the "distributed in the United States by . . ." kind of publishing works. It's different from publishing companies such as Scholastic, say, which have editorial offices in multiple countries, and different again from selling the rights to a U.S. publisher (Frances Lincoln is the original publisher of Mary Hoffman's Amazing Grace, for example, but licensed the book to Dial for publication here.) Sarah explained that different books will take different paths to becoming available here, depending on what's projected to be the best way to achieve the most sales, and/or find inclusion on the various award and recommended reading lists. It's certainly a fuzzy distinction: I said at breakfast that I thought Frances Lincoln books would not be eligible for ALA's Notable Books list (because the rules state the book must be "published" in the U.S.), but now I see that Canada's Groundwood Books has received Notable citations, and they seem to be in the same situation as F.L., with both companies' books distributed here by Publishers Group West.

I know this all might sound like so much insider baseball, but as trade agreements, publishing, and consumer access to foreign books makes country-of-origin both less and more complicated, we all might need to be rethinking our rules about what we mean by "published here." Where?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Taking the Easy Way Out

My friend Pam Varley and I were emailing this morning about our current audiobook listening, and sharing our common guilt at keeping, on, a "wish list" of books that we plan to listen to that is composed of titles rather more challenging than the books we actually end up purchasing. On my end, the new Peter Carey novel still waits hopefully on the wish list while I merrily download yet another Donna Leon mystery. As Pam wrote, "there's probably a thesis somewhere in a comparison of Audible 'wish' lists and 'buy' lists."

I tell myself, and frequently other people, that guilt has no place in reading choices. But maybe it is part of the pleasure: reading as playing hooky? having an illicit affair? Similarly, virtue should have no greater a place in reading, either, but there's something to be said for the results of dogged determination, or going to church even though you don't feel like it, or even simply bragging rights.

Books I loved reading and books I'm glad I read. Two lists I can live with.

Liquid Paper

J.K. Rowling reports that airport security in New York wanted her to check her handwritten notes for the next Harry Potter with her luggage. What does she write with, shampoo?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Now you see her . . .

Now you don't!

So what do you think was the reasoning behind the cover change of The Green Glass Sea (published this fall by Viking), an excellent historical novel set at Los Alamos, and what it was like for the children there, during WWII? My first thought was that the photo of the girl might have made people think it was an Anne Frank book, or perhaps the publisher might have decided that the design was just too darned busy, especially if somebody decides to put an award sticker on it. The second definitely says literary fiction here, and tones down the math. It's beautiful, but I have to say the first cover made me grab the galley straight away. And, cover questions aside, I'm glad I did. Do watch for the book.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

No news isn't good news, it's actionable.

The Beverly Hills boutique Kitson's is suing US Weekly, for not mentioning its name. I do hope there's more to the story than this or I'm going to be getting papers from T.A. Barron. Or Billy Crystal.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Do Drugs Really Rot the Mind?

Although it was fun finding out, in Judith and Dennis Bradin's Jane Addams: Champion of Democracy (Clarion, November) that Jane experimented with opium in college, perhaps more pertinent to this anniversary day is their inclusion of an excerpt of an article Jane Addams wrote for Ladies' Home Journal in 1913, imagining that men rather than women were agitating for suffrage:

You are so fond of fighting--you always have been since you were little boys. [If you were allowed to vote] you'd very likely forget that the real object of the State is to nurture and protect life, and you would be voting away huge sums of money for battleships, each costing ten million dollars, more money than all the buildings of Harvard University. Every time a gun is fired in a battleship, it expends, or rather explodes, seventeen hundred dollars, as much as a college education costs, and yet you would be firing off these guns as mere salutes, with no enemy within three thousand miles, simply because you enjoy the sound of shooting.

You tell 'em, sister.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Sex Panic

So the fuss (discussion starts about halfway down the page) about The Rainbow Party might have been, uh, overblown.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Caveat Empty-headed

I can't decide who is more embarrassed by the tentative settlement of the James Frey case: the readers, for thinking they deserved a refund, or Random House, for caving in. Personally, I think $23.95 is dirt cheap for a lesson in skepticism.

And now I want a refund for those Sea Monkeys.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Vengeful Tigress or Screeching Harpie?

You decide. But I like "Anonymous"s take-no-prisoners style in this attack on chicklit. The argument, though, is familiar to anyone who's been through the Nancy Drew/Wildfire Romance/Goosebumps wars: bad writing (and reading of said) drives out good. But junk has always been with us, and the audience for literary fiction has always been small. And Anonymous has a tendency to bolster questionable premises ("Chick lit claims . . .) with a muddle of not necessarily codeterminant facts (" . . . to be representative of women's lives, their hopes, fears, dreams and values"). She does this again later, with "as America increasingly devalues intellectual rigor, education and compassion, it becomes harder and harder to find a good book." What does compassion have to do with any of this?

For a more
laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez attitude toward this argument, try Nick Hornby's essay on "How to Read."

Friday, September 01, 2006

September/October Horn Book

Our September/October issue of the Horn Book Magazine is out; a special issue with the theme, "What Makes a Good Book." (We decided to leave the question mark to our readers.) You can view the table of contents, which itself links to a few articles and reviews from the issue, including my long-promised take on stars. To subscribe to the Horn Book, or to order a copy of this issue, please contact Alison Amato at