Friday, June 29, 2007


I would really like to get some agreement on this word or for people to give up using it altogether. I most recently ran across it this morning while reading Elizabeth Kolbert's review of some new Hillary Clinton biographies in The New Yorker:

Sympathetic and unsympathetic biographers alike tend to tell Clinton’s more recent history as a sequence of spectacular humiliations—first Gennifer, then health care, then Monica—followed by even more spectacular recoveries: an office in the West Wing, a seat in the United States Senate, a shot at the Presidency. Along the way, they offer some never before disclosed documents or factoids.

One of my first task with new editors or reviewers is to educate them in Horn Book usage of factoid, which we take to mean, following Norman Mailer's coinage of the term in his biography of Marilyn Monroe, something that looks and sounds like a fact but isn't. Our Guide reviewers particularly, faced with the mountain of nonfiction series books that splash random data about their subjects around usually hectic double-page spreads, want to use it to mean "small fact," a usage we immediately spank out of them. I can appreciate words with multiple meanings, but not when they can be used to mean two contradictory things: are these Hillary Clinton books giving us trivia or telling us lies?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ten Cents a Dance

. . . or, in this case a dollar a word. My enterprising friend Mike Ford--we met when I heard a man yelling "Roger! Roger!" in the park, and it turned out to be Mike calling his dog--is writing a pay-as-you-go novel online, where he will add another word for each dollar somebody gives him.

Although he talks a good game--

The point is to get people thinking about what having art in their lives is worth to them. Artists can only keep producing art if they get paid for it. What would happen if all the writers stopped writing because they couldn't afford to do it anymore? What if writers only wrote the words that people were willing to pay for? That’s what I want people to think about.

--I'm not buying it. We don't pay writers for writing, we pay them for having written, that is, we pay for the product not the process. And, as readers, we rely on such considerations as recommendations from friends, reviews, cover design and flap copy, etc. in deciding which books we're going to buy. Mike's novel could start out well and then fall apart. Or it could be going along swimmingly but end mid-stream if the donations dry up.

Still, it's better than, a since proven spurious website demanding cash from visitors else a couple would abort their unborn child.

See how much fun we were having?

I don't know who was holding who up at this point, but Martha P. makes for a great booth partner. Photo courtesy of our exhibit floor neighbor Brian Enslow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Romper Stomper Bomper Boo

Yes, I saw lots of my friends at work and play over the weekend at ALA, although my own presence felt circumscribed: mornings in the booth, afternoons at the Caldecott meetings, dinner with a friend, Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet, over and out.

I met a lot of you at the Horn Book booth, and I thank you for stopping by. The exhibit hall traffic seemed less busy than usual, at least in our neck of the woods, but not so quiet that I could wander the floor for candy and swag. The only juicy thing I heard was that Jailbird Hilton had successfully shopped a children's book proposal to HarperCollins, a rumored denied by one Harper editor who stopped by. Otherwise, all was peace. I did sign up a few more boys, including Leonard Marcus, Bob Lipsyte, and Ken Roberts, to write for our upcoming special issue on Boys and Girls; my job this week is to remind them of their perhaps rash promises.

I'd tell you all about the Caldecott meetings, but then I'd have to kill you.

Seeing the Big Banquet from the other side of the lights was fun. The food is exactly the same, with the only perk being that the waiters are more wont to refresh your coffee, perhaps anticipating the ripple effect of a sleepy speaker. As the Wilder winner was not on the dais, Susan Patron had to graciously divide her attention between me and Newbery Chair Jerri Kladder. It was fun--Susan and I went to the same college, albeit in different years, so we got to reminisce a bit. Susan is a native Los Angeleno, something that became apparent when the dais began unaccountably shaking during her speech, and she said something like, "oh, earthquake" and continued unperturbed with her prepared remarks. Both she and David Wiesner spoke well: he's an old pro at this now, of course, while Susan has the storyteller's gift of being able to make eye contact with two thousand people. Me, not so much--as I was awarding the Wilder Medal to James Marshall, my attempts to look between my speech and the audience were continually being interrupted by a photographer at my feet, who raised his lens every time I looked up until I finally told him to stop. It worked, less because of my commanding presence than because he got the giggles.

The thing I didn't know about being an award committee chair was that at the reception following the banquet you have to stand in a receiving line, shaking hands with everyone who had not had the good sense to run for the cab line. I don't care if I do live in Massachusetts, never, never will I marry if this is part of the deal.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Question for the Young Ladies

When I was in college in the late 70s, two of the things you had to do before you could be an official lesbian were listen to The Changer and the Changed and read Rubyfruit Jungle.

I'm working on a "Second Look" article about Annie on My Mind (25 years old now) and I'm wondering if that book has similarly become a rite of passage. If so, when--high school?

Share your stories, sisters. Yes, possibly for publication.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bounced Back

As a few people have noted on last week's crankypants post, the SLJ site (and the unstoppable Fuse) are rid of the tawdry bijoux that decorated them. It's safe to go back.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Maybe she's older than I thought

People's Leah Rozen on the new Nancy Drew movie: " . . . all that talk of Ned, roadsters and hunting for clues in abandoned mansions paled next to the thrill-filled young adult novels I was sneaking off my adolescent sister's bookshelf, like Johnny Tremain and Island of the Blue Dolphins."


Here's the duckling story.


D.C. in the summer at least isn't Orlando in the summer, but when can ALA get back to San Francisco? (Not in the foreseeable future, but we do get to go to Las Vegas in 2014.) But I'll be there and would be pleased if anyone would like to drop by the Horn Book booth, #3154. You can find me there from 9-12, Saturday through Monday. And I'll be the boy with the purple socks at the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

People Are Not Inherently Evil

I'm just back from a run; it was hot and my legs felt like they were encased in molasses. But about halfway through I came upon a great scene: a family of geese crossing the Jamaica Way. I hate geese, but this gaggle of two adults and seven young ones was inspiring. The grownups led the way, pausing at the curb to let a few fast-moving cars by, then sauntering, leisurely but with a definite aim, across the street while each of the four lanes of cars stopped in turn. (This is Boston, where nobody is sentimental about geese, and in no way was the entire flow of traffic going to stop for them.) If you know that street, you'll know how dangerous it can be to drive, much less cross. My hat's off to the Sunday drivers!

I have a story about Boston ducklings, too, and I'll put up the link to that tomorrow.

Friday, June 15, 2007

And how!

I was happy to see Debbie Reese confirm my impression of American Girl World as hostile territory. Why people continue to see this empire as good for children is beyond me. If you want to educate your children into the joys of brand loyalty and conspicuous consumption, at least Disney is more affordable. And the catalog? Yup, still porn.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Make it Stop!

SLJ, I love you. I happily worked with Lillian Gerhardt and Trev Jones for years, and I did some of my best writing in your pages. And Little, Brown, too, where I published my sole book for young people and whose upcoming offerings include the extremely terrific The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Smooches to you both.

So my decision to no longer visit or link to anything on your websites is not personal. It's because of that fucking ad for some LB fantasy novel bouncing all over the SLJ site and ravaging my nerves. It will not be gotten rid of. It follows you as you try to scroll down the page. The whole page quivers with its movement. I am not at all opposed to nice, polite blog ads that stay in the margins where they belong. But advertising via animated stalking is really beneath both of you. I suppose valiant VOYA, whose name is the most persistent image in the ad (not exactly what LB had in mind, I'm sure, and it can't make SLJ happy, either) is the real winner here, but it's hard not to include them in my resentment, too. VOYA, however, is worth a link, and the only thing that bounces over there is the prose.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The New Laureate

Sometime Horn Book contributor Madelyn Travis interviews Britain's new children's laureate Michael Rosen, he of the funny verse and the very sad book. We love Madelyn here because it was her since-third-grade friendship with our Jennifer Brabander that brought Bridget Jones's Diary to the Horn Book long before the rest of you had heard of it.

And if the CBC, LC and Mrs. Cheney et al are listening, I'd love that new "national ambassador for children's literature" gig. Sure, I'm not a famous writer, but I'd know what I was talking about, and I'm a good talker. Plus you wouldn't have that little Jack Prelutsky problem, whose assumption of the Poetry Foundation's "Children's Poet Laureate" position seems to have more effect on his jacket designs than on anything else. Besides, who died and left them God? Oh, that's right.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"We Are All Winners"

opined Karen Hesse in her Newbery-Medal acceptance speech (yeah, I know, easy for her to say) but I am stoked, not to mention contractually obligated, to announce the winners of Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. The Most Books Read Prize goes to the Midwestern Lodestar blog, and the Most Time Spent Reading Prize to the blog Finding Wonderland.

Congratulations to you both. I remain unsure about why my mentioning these winners is supposed to be some kind of prize and have a sneaking suspicion MR is expecting me to make fun of their reading choices or something, but I would never do a thing like that where you could see me. Now shoo, earnest readers. Go outside and play.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Paging Julie Brown

We've put together a summer reading list for your pleasure; please note that it fulfills no requirements and promises nothing but a good time.

Bruce Brooks kicked off my summer reading with a gift of the latest Prey book (Invisible Prey) by John Sandford. Give me Sandford's Lucas Davenport in the summer and Donna Leon's Guido Brunetti in the winter and I'm a happy man. Otherwise this summer, I'm planning to continue my binge on Turkey and the Turks and am currently enjoying Elif Shafak's The Bastard of Istanbul and Hugh Pope's Sons of the Conquerors. But that's indoor reading, and for the beach--if I get there--I like 'em big and stupid. Any suggestions?

Friday, June 08, 2007

East Side, West Side,

Brooklyn and Harlem, too. But I began my New York Time (an obscure but funny adult novel by Richard Peck, btw) with a view, from Elizabeth's living room, of the East River and ended it in Viking publisher Regina Hayes' office, which overlooks the Hudson. And had a grand time in between, too.

The memorial service for Janet McDonald was held at NYPL's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, up on Lenox Ave. in Harlem. It was great to meet so many of the people, family and friends, Janet had described in her emails. It was great to "see" Janet as well: we had never met and never spoke, so a couple of videos filled out the picture for me. (You can see her infamous Condi Rice "tribute" here.) Friends from Vassar and Paris spoke, as did Janet's editor Frances Foster, making everybody cry. Afterward we repaired around the corner to what I was told was Janet's favorite NY restaurant, Miss Maude's Spoonbread Too. Yummy. Afterward, Janet's agent Charlotte Sheedy skillfully strong-armed me a cab.

Virgin to all boroughs save Manhattan, I took my first trip to Brooklyn the next morning to meet Bruce Brooks. I totally should have rearranged my schedule to meet Jon Scieszka there, as he lives just two blocks away from Bruce. But Bruce and I had a fine time without him, reminiscing over the past twenty years of our friendship and wandering around Prospect Park in vain hopes of finding Bruce's baby son Drake, who had gone there with the sitter. We caught up with Drake (as well as Bruce's grown son Alex) back at the apartment, though, where, in an incident that would provide great fodder for my later discussion about boys and reading with Jon, one-year-old Drake became fascinated with my watch. I thought he was enjoying the sparkly blue and chrome-ness of the thing, but no, he kept twisting my hand so that he could inspect the workings of the clasp, less interested in how the thing looked than how it was put together. Score one for gendered behavior!

Then, carefully ushered via excellent directions from Atheneum editor Jordan Brown (a colleague of Bruce's wife Ginee Seo), I subwayed myself over to Penguin's offices to meet Jon, who, for the record, totally got the Big Monkey-Little Monkey thing. We spent a lively hour or so talking about boys and books and reading, and Jon showed me the first page proofs of his upcoming Truck Town empire over at Simon and Schuster. (Let me hasten to add, o Penguin potentates, that we also talked about Jon and Lane Smith's forthcoming Viking title Cowboy and Octopus.) Look for the interview in the September Horn Book special issue, Boys and Girls.

Thanks, boys, for a great trip, and girls, too: along with my best pal Elizabeth (with whom I didn't get nearly enough talk, but thanks for the hospitality!) I got some time (and choice gossip) from Regina and Sharyn November and Lara Phan at Penguin. I guess we get to do it all over again at ALA in--yikes!--two weeks.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

One for the boys

Sorry, you all; I know the last week on this blog has been like sitting in class and getting hand-outs from Teacher. I've been quite busy with BGHB stuff and proofreading the Guide.

Whereupon. Whereupon I had one of those old-fashioned, Jane O'Reilly "clicks!" of recognition, although in my case it was not a housewife's moment of truth; it was the realization that I do indeed work in a female-intensive profession, one wherein no one but a man would even blink at proofreading the following passage:

Mischievous Little Monkey causes trouble while Big Monkey tries to work. When it's finally playtime, Big Monkey explains that he might not always like Little Monkey's behavior, but he always loves Little Monkey. (from a review of I Love You, Little Monkey.)

That men think about sex every seven seconds is apparently not true, but with a world intent on throwing it in our faces even in books for the young it can be very difficult to focus.

Speaking of boys, I'm off to New York tomorrow to interview Jon "Big Monkey" Scieszka for our upcoming special issue, "Boys and Girls." I will also be attending a memorial service for my friend Janet McDonald, and seeing another bold monkey, Bruce Brooks. Back Friday.

A Small Correction

We misreported the date of the forthcoming Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards: they will be celebrated on October 12, 2007.