Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Dammit! Put Chloe on!"

The Horn Book's subway stop was like an episode of 24 this morning, with circling helicopters, black-garbed Staties, cleared bridges, police cars everywhere and news vans looking for a story. It turns out there was a package that could have been a bomb but wasn't. The Boston Globe had to settle for a story about a kid stuck on the subway who called his school to say why he was late--and they didn't believe him. Shocking, I know.

The drama continued in the office when I spoke to an SLJ reporter who was doing a story about ALSC's possible sanctions against bloggers who serve on award committees. That was the big buzz at midwinter, and while the ALSC board did entertain some suggestions for how bloggers might be reined in, at this writing it looks like calmer heads have prevailed, and bloggers will have no less and no more responsibility than any other committee members for respecting the confidentiality of the award committees' doings. It was brought to Read Roger's attention that a previous post did in fact violate the confidentiality rules, and I took that post down. (That's all I'm saying, except that ALSC was correct in this particular and that it was nothing especially juicy.)

The Foundation for Children's Books event last night was lively and crowded and informative I hope. I got to meet J. L. Bell and Ilse Plume, and saw my pal Leo Landry, who has some seriously spooky ghost stories to tell about a house he used to live in.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Three random notes

1. Kitty Flynn has tracked down some more James Marshall material from our archives.

2. If you're bored and in Boston tomorrow night, I'll be moderating a panel at Boston College for the Foundation for Children's Books. Program description:

The Foundation for Children's Books presents a panel discussion "What Happens Next in Children's Books? On Tuesday evening, January 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Vanderslice Hall, Boston College. Roger Sutton, editor-in-chief of the Horn Book, talks with a panel of senior editors from publishers small, medium and large--Judy O'Malley of Charlesbridge Publishing, Elizabeth Bicknell of Candlewick Press and Margaret Raymo of Houghton Mifflin--about the changing nature of publishing books for children and youth. Topics will include the reign of fat fantasy, the decline in picture books, and the future of the new kid on the block: graphic novels.

Please join us for what promises to be a stimulating evening. At-door registration is $15. For more information, including directions and other events in our evening speaker series, please visit our website at

3. Watch my head explode over at Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It Looked Like Spilt Milk

Yes, one can sense a fluffernutter trend in my apres-ALA postings, but just one more. Go look at the hilarious contest Lisa Yee just ran, where you change the first letter of one word in a children's book title, then give a sentence explaining what the book is about. I love Lisa's example of Old Keller: "Deaf, dumb blind girl gets rabies and has to be shot." You're terrible Muriel.

You see these fractured-children's-book-titles lists all over the place now (Goodnight Bitch by Eminem), and we published a good one by Ron Koertge in last September's Magazine. But when Elizabeth and I began the Books for Mature Young Readers list when we were in Zena's children's lit. class, we thought we were pioneers (and full credit to E., who acquired most of the titles). We were going to publish reissues (Hop on Pop) and new titles (A Boy, A Dog, A Frog, and a Sheep; Don't Move and It Won't Hurt). I thought of one the other day: Amazing Grace Jones.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Paradigm shift

When I spotted the galley on the new book truck I thought I was reaching for one thing:

but found myself with another.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

My first blog dream

I dreamed last night that I was blogging about a catalog for an original-art exhibition I had received in the mail. The show was by Emily Arnold McCully, and most of the watercolors--beautiful all--were in the five or six thousand dollar range. There was one, though, that was listed at 2.1 million, and it was clear to me that this was McCully's nearest and dearest, and the cost was an expression of how hard it would be for her to part with the picture--but she would, for the price.

I have never met E.A.M. in real life and have no idea what price she puts on her dreams.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I just want to say this one thing about the Newbery

Over at Oz and Ends Monday, J.L. Bell questioned the lack of diversity among the Newbery winner and its attendant Honors, noting that all four books are "very serious" and have girls as central characters. Run, I wanted to tell him. Duck-and-cover. Some people get really protective of that medal, as Martha Parravano and Lauren Adams learned ten years ago when they brought up the same question as Mr. Bell, but in their turn asking why the Newbery too often tended to go to middle grade novels about white children.

This year we have four books, all middle-grade realistic fiction, all with white female protagonists. Not to say that the four books aren't distinct from each other, but look at what all of them aren't: picture books, poetry, easy-reader, fantasy, science fiction, biography or other nonfiction. What gives?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Awards update

A complete list of the 2007 ALA winners is now up on our website. We've included our reviews: see what the Horn Book thought of the winners.

And the Winners Are...

From the ALA Midwinter press conference: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Jackson/Atheneum) has won the 2007 Newbery Award; the Caldecott Award goes to Flotsam by David Wiesner (Clarion); and author-illustrator James Marshall is the recipient of the Wilder Award for his lasting contribution to children's literature.

Check back here later today (around 4 p.m. EST) for a link to our website with more information about all the winning titles, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine or The Horn Book Guide.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Nothing to see here, folks

as I am distractedly trying to keep with Guide and Magazine book review edits while getting ready to go to ALA tomorrow. I will try to post from Seattle and I promise to let you know what making The Call (for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award) is like.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Scott O'Dell Award

The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages (Viking) is the winner of the 2007 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The award is presented to a children's or young adult book published in English by a U.S. publisher and set in the Americas. A standing committee (Ann Carlson; Hazel Rochman, chair; and Roger Sutton) selects the winner. Established by the late historical fiction writer, Scott O'Dell, the award is administered by his wife, Elizabeth Hall. The author is presented with a $5000 prize.

In November 1943 11-year-old Dewey Kerrigan travels west to live with her father in Los Alamos. But what is the mystery about her dad’s war work? What is the top-secret “gadget” he’s working on? She is a budding inventor, and she enjoys all the talk about science and mechanics in the community that includes “Oppie” and other eminent scientists. Her classmates taunt her and call her “Screwy Dewey,” but she makes friends with another outsider. The girls’ daily battles are set against the radio news of war, and as tension builds, readers of this gripping story will discover with Dewey the truth of the secret weapon that will change the world. There’s no sermonizing, and Dewey is no convenient mouthpiece for a history lesson. Instead, Klages gets completely inside her complicated hero to make readers see the world as she sees it: dangerous and unpredictable, and made only partially manageable by science.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Who Gets to Win

Britain's Commission for Racial Equality, a government funded watchdog and advocacy group, takes issue with the Decibel Penguin Prize, an Arts Council-funded contest for short stories from U.K. writers from Asian, African, or Caribbean backgrounds. (Thanks to Galleycat for the link.)

The debate sounds familiar. And while Marc Aronson (and Andrea Pinkney in her response) did much to throw light upon it, we aren't done with it yet. But being done with it is precisely not the point, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Read or Die

That was the summer-reading-club theme once proposed by a group of blackhearted children's librarians in my Chicago Public Library days; I thought of it today when I saw on PUBYAC a query about "read for fines" programs, wherein children can work off their overdue book fines through time spent doing some sustained silent reading in the library.

Speaking as someone who became a librarian in order to get a handle on the overdue fines I've been accumulating since I was five, I would have appreciated this approach. But its logic completely confounds me. Reading as a penalty is right up there with reading for money (as in, read seven books for a McDonald's gift certificate, a horror show of a reading club I had to run one year) as an extremely mixed message about the value of books. And while reading-for-fines does offer an alternative for those who can't afford to pay, it faces off children with money versus children who read instead. Euw.

Even if I were an Ayn Rand kind of pro-fine librarian, I would have trouble getting my mind around what this policy says about fines, never mind reading. By allowing children to substitute the very activity which resulted in the fine for the fine itself, you undermine the punitive and, hopefully, deterring nature of the penalty. You're winking. Because of course you're not saying that the reading-for-fines is punitive: that would make the rest of your workday a lie. Or not, in which case get out of here.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Miss Potter misses, she says

Here's Lolly on Miss Potter, and don't miss the links.

Again, Dangerous Visions

We saw Children of Men on Saturday. I was kind of dreading it, having seen the preview so many times for the past year, and then reading reviews of how depressing it was. (We were taking out our friend Pam for her birthday and I wondered if Dreamgirls might be more suitably upbeat.) But as brilliantly filmed as the movie was, it wasn't all that harrowing, perhaps because it doesn't have much in the way of moral depth or ambiguity. The similarly set District B13, while superficially a dumber movie, offered a more complicated picture.

But Children of Men's genius is in its full-blown-full-blooded portrait of a world which has come to almost a complete stop. I found myself thinking about The Giver--you could see how people, confronted with a society as broken as the one depicted in the movie, would find the chilling security of Jonas' community such a comfort. Lowry's genius in that book is also the fully imagined realization of its setting, and it's brilliantly unsettling in the way she first gets you to want to move there before revealing the price to be paid.

Where you can really go to town with comparing Children of Men and The Giver is in their endings. I won't give anything away, though. See for yourself.

Friday, January 05, 2007


We have also just posted on the website some Horn Book articles by and about the writers we mourn as the year turns, Mary Stolz and Philippa Pearce. Both Mary Stolz's tribute to Ursula Nordstrom and Susan Cooper's to Tom's Midnight Garden are rich.

Mrs. Heelis to you

Our Beatrix Potter expert Lolly Robinson will have a review of Miss Potter online for you on Monday; in the meantime, take a look at Lolly's article about Potter's friendship with Horn Book founder Bertha Mahony Miller. The debate about the success of Renee Zellweger's impersonation reminds me of a story Australian YA novelist Nick Earls told me about working with a bright-eyed and extremely capable young publicist who turned out to be Renee doing undercover research for Bridget Jones!

There are several other additions to you might want to take a look at: excerpts from the January/February issue, Web Watch, and a burgeoning gallery of Horn Book Magazine cover art.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

It Didn't All Start with Ponyboy

While conventional wisdom has it that the young adult novel was born in the late sixties with books such as The Outsiders and The Pigman, let's have a reflective pause for Mary Stolz, who died last month at the age of 86. Although most remembered now for the middle-grade novels A Dog on Barkham Street and The Bully of Barkham Street, from the 1950s on Stolz was writing novels such as Pray Love, Remember, and Who Wants Music on Monday? for and about smart teens with complicated lives. Brava.