Wednesday, April 18, 2007

With apologies to Velma

Varner, who played no part in the story I was vaguely remembering on yesterday's blog comments. Varner succeeded May Massee as the children's book editor at Viking, and did many good things, not least of which was suggesting to the young Susie Hinton that she go with the initials S. E. for her first book, The Outsiders.

Here's the story, which is from an interview Leonard Marcus conducted for the January/February 1995 issue of the Horn Book. Leonard was interviewing HarperCollins's library marketing wizard Bill Morris, who was clearly in the mood to spill:

I don't know that this is true, though I've been told it is, that during the years when Miss [Anne Carroll] Moore was chair of the Newbery-Caldecott committee, the committee would never actually meet. The other members would just send in their ballots to her, and she and Miss Massee would get together to count them! If you look at the list of medal winners, there was a period when Viking won something almost every year! It's a marvelous story, whether or not it's true.

That, my friends, is gossip (for those of you who opined that children's book blogs did not traffic in same).

Thanks to all of you who participated in yesterday's ferocious discussion. I learned a lot--mostly that what I was looking for in blog book-reviews was perhaps a case of missing the oranges for the apples. Someone has just asked in the comments there that I address the question "why do you [meaning me] write book reviews?" to which I have a long answer and will try to address after I've gotten a virtuous amount done on the book I am allegedly here at home writing. So it might be tomorrow.

13 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Well, I will say this. Having worked at Viking for 18 years, we all admitted there were a few dubious looking Newbery and Caldecott honor books in the company library--I remember, for example, Kurt Weise's "You Can Draw Chinese" and "Dash and Dart."

And of course, Viking's Secret of the Andes beat Charlotte's Web for the Newbery! Still, when you look at those old 40s and 50s honor books, there are a lot of choices that seem somewhat obscure, not just those that list Viking as publisher.

By the way, I have a copy of Janson's History of Art that I picked up on the Penguin free book shelf years ago. When I packed it up as I was leaving Viking, I noticed the name written on the fly leaf: "Velma V Varner."

sdn said...

dude! you forgot annis duff.

Elizabeth said...

Yup. The order of Viking editors (now called publishers) is: May Massee, Annis Duff, Velma Varner, Linda Zuckerman, and Regina Hayes, who still holds the title. It's kind of neat that there have only been 5 since Viking's founding in 1933.

sdn said...

god, i feel like such a pedant. elizabeth? six. don't forget george!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Sutton,

...and what book are you virtuously writing away on?

Katherine

Roger Sutton said...

It's called When Blogs Die: What to Read to Your Kids When the Power Goes Out.

Actually, it is a book for parents, about books for children, co-authored by Martha Parravano and I, to be published by Candlewick. If I say any more I'm afraid I'll jinx it, so don't ask.

Anonymous said...

If it wins the Newbery, I'm going to be VERY suspicious.

Roger Sutton said...

Yeah, you and May Massee both ;-)

Anonymous said...

"co-authored by Martha and I" I hope you have a copyeditor!

Anonymous said...

you guys are joking, right? there wasn't really a Velma V. Varner of Viking, was there? next you will tell me she vacationed in Vancouver.

Roger Sutton said...

You and me both ;-)

Anonymous said...

Miss Carole Anne Moore was not going to let a Harper Book win!!!

I knew Bill Morris and this is the Gospel!!!

rindawriter said...

A book?? You're writing a BOOK?? About time and am greatly looking forward to perusing it...although, because I already love the title if that is the title that it will keep through publication which I hope it does.

Sigh...I also already distrust my own ability to be unbiased about it in a blog review...ought a reviewer to dissect himself/herself as well as a book in a book review? Or just be distant, cold, clinical, practical? Can one ever be completely unbiased,unemotioanal about anything, ever?