Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fanfare 2007

is up for your reading pleasure. This list will be published in the January/February issue of the Horn Book Magazine.

Picking a (Prize) Fight

This report on the Ratatouille producers' dilemma about whether to promote the film for a Best Animated or Best Picture Oscar slot reminds me of our children's book also-rans, the Coretta Scott King Awards, the Sibert, and the Geisel. Before anyone gets huffy, what I mean is to question whether the existence of these awards makes it less likely that books eligible to receive them become subconsciously marked-down by the Newbery and Caldecott judges because they can win "something else." After all, wasn't it the relative lack of award attention for books by black authors and illustrators, for nonfiction, and for easy readers, respectively, that brought these new awards into existence in the first place? (Personally, I'll give an award to anyone who can diagram that last sentence.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Meg Cabot as Alistair Cooke

Meg Cabot brings an American classic to life.

Congrats to my best pal

and our frequent commenter Elizabeth Law, whose appointment as VP and publisher of Egmont USA has just been announced. Yay, Lawzy! Send us pics, I mean snaps, from your glam London party!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Excuse My Dust

A Horn Book interview with Philip Pullman is forthcoming on our website later this week; Philip and I spent a few minutes on Friday discussing the upcoming Golden Compass movie and the peculiar Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, whose job I totally want: the man makes more than 300,000 smackers a year interviewing himself for press releases.

In preparation for the interview I reread The Golden Compass, something I hadn't done since reviewing it for BCCB way back when. In all the subsequent debate re the trilogy's weighty themes and dizzying ideas, I had forgotten just how action-packed this book was, complete with cliff-hanging chapter endings. It has completely propelled me into The Subtle Knife, which I'm re-reading via audiobook, an excellently addictive production (despite some cheesy musical interludes) narrated by Pullman himself with full-cast dialogue seamlessly worked in.

Now is this work-reading or pleasure-reading? Virginia Heffernan wonders why we draw a distinction.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Burning down the house?

Amazon's new e-book reader, Kindle, is here. I have great hopes for e-books, read them regularly (via Miss Palm) and Kindle has a lot of neat features, mostly stemming from its free (if limited) wireless access to the internet. But two things are stopping me from wanting one: it's ugly and it doesn't have a backlight. If technology doesn't allow us to read in the dark, what's the point?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Starred Books, January/February '08 Horn Book

The following books will receive starred reviews in the January/February issue of the Horn Book Magazine:

Becca at Sea (Groundwood) by Deirdre Baker

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You (Foster/Farrar) by Peter Cameron

How the Hangman Lost His Heart (Walker) by K. M. Grant

Jabberwocky (Jump/Hyperion) illustrated by Christopher Myers

When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs (National Geographic) written and illustrated by Hannah Bonner

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas (Clarion) by Russell Freedman

War in the Middle East: A Reporter’s Story (Candlewick) by Wilborn Hampton

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Gregory Maguire and Susan Cooper, photo by Richard Asch

While the rest of you were chowing down on thousand-dollar-a-plate surf-n-turf at the National Book Awards (unless you were too busy fondling--oh ICK I can't even say it) I was scarfing cookies graciously provided by Candlewick Press and Simon & Schuster as refreshment for our evening of talk about fantasy, the reading and writing of it, with Susan Cooper and Gregory Maguire. The house was full (guarding the door, Cambridge P.L.'s Julie Roach told me she heard all manner of subterfuges--"my friend has my ticket"-- and brooked none) and the conversation lively. Greg is naturally loquacious and Susan more reserved, so my job as moderator kept me on my toes. MIT will be posting a video of the event on their MITWorld site and I'll let you know when that's up; in the meantime you can still catch Susan Cooper tonight, free, at 7:30 PM at the First Church in Harvard Square.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What are the odds?

The New York Times Ten Best Illustrated Books have been announced; as commenter Ruth notes on a previous post, the gender score is eight to two. Elsewhere in the Times's special section on children's books I review Jaclyn Moriarty's The Spell Book of Listen Taylor (Levine/Scholastic).

I note with only fortuitous smugness that the last time I judged this list, in 2005, we selected five male and five female illustrators. But I didn't know this until now, as Henrike Wilson (winning for Brave Charlotte) and Alexis Deacon (for Jitterbug Jam) didn't come to the party.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Another Phone Call from the Past

I realized a forty-year-old dream last night when we went to see a community theater production of Hair. The Rent of its day--although far more transgressive--Hair was the Big Thing for little show-tune freaks, given even more appeal by the fact that we had to listen to the record (which was all we knew of the show, since we certainly wouldn't be allowed to see it. Nudes!) out of earshot of our parents. I remember clandestinely (I thought) listening to my older sister's recording and my mother overhearing "Happy Birthday Abie Baby" ("emanci-motherfuckin'-pator of the slaves") and pitching a fit. Has High School Musical ever occasioned such perfect drama?

Growing up in Boston added allure, too, as, when the show came to town in 1970, it was promptly shut down and banned for a month until the Supreme Court allowed it to reopen. I remember faking illness to stay home from school one day because the cast was going to perform on some local TV talk show. How ironic that "America's oldest community theater" (the Footlight Club opened in 1877) would be presenting it thirty-some years later without fuss, obscenities and (discreetly lit) nudity intact.

I didn't get half of the sex jokes back then, and certainly didn't recognize just how druggie it was--my exposure to illegal substances was then limited to the "awareness tablets" that a cop had brought into our junior high and lit in front of the classroom to demonstrate what marijuana smelled like so we would know when to blow the whistle on a party, I guess. Last night, at fifty-one, I had little patience with the show's loosey-goosey free-range dialogue that was supposed to convey the inspiration of drugs and wondered how anyone could have ever heard it as meaningful or even sincere.

But to think of drugs as "mind-expanding" is even more taboo today than in 1968, as is the show's gleeful employment of racial epithets. Forget getting banned in Boston; can it play in L.A.?

What I mostly thought last night, sentimentally and dolefully, is that now I'm the parents and, really, so is the show. I'm betting the sweet kids on stage were as bemused by the LBJ jokes they were spouting as I had been by "Sodomy."

Friday, November 09, 2007

New Podcast: Grace and Alvina

Our latest podcast is up.

In anticipation of the Robert's Snow: for Cancer's Cure snowflake auction, Lolly talks with author-illustrator Grace Lin and her friend, co-blogger, and editor at Little Brown, Alvina Ling.

Creative Writing Exercise

Try and rewrite this story, forwarded to me by Kitty and Zoe, as an episode in a YA novel by:

a) Jack Gantos
b) Cecily von Ziegesar
c)Chris Crutcher
d) Paula Fox

Compare and contrast. I thought of including Ron Koertge among the choices, but this scene already practically happens in his first novel Where the Kissing Never Stops.

Phone Call to the Past

Pursuant to my recent post about sequels, I see from A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy that not only are Ellen Emerson White's old books about The President's Daughter being republished, she's rewriting them to bring them in line with the most recent book, Long May She Reign, which is set in the present day but picks up the action from the end of the last book, Long Live the Queen.

Phew. If only they could do this with the old Magic Attic books, which apparently invite readers to join a fan club by calling an 800 number which time and fate have transformed into a phone sex line. And I wonder what's happened to 537-3331, Amy's phone number in I Am the Cheese. If you figured out the area code you could find yourself talking to "Amy's father," aka Robert Cormier. Or so I was told.

Vote for Claire!

cuz she's got a new booklist up about politics.

And speaking of which, did anyone catch Al Gore on 30 Rock last night? He's huge.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Book TV

I've never watched it. Is it really this bad?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Reading by the numbers

Monica Edinger has been hosting a lively discussion stemming from Jonathan Hunt's Horn Book article, "Epic Fantasy Meets Sequel Prejudice." Sequels sure do pose questions to reviewers: can you fairly evaluate volume one of something when volume two is meant to finish the job? What if you've skipped volume one, only to find that volume two has made it worthwhile? Or one was terrific, but two doesn't do it any favors?

I once had to review a volume three of something where two had not been published (in this country). And there's the recent example of Ellen Emerson White's new Long May She Reign, sequel to an out-of-print series whose most recent entry was published in 1989 . . . .

Thursday, November 01, 2007

More Music

Miss Pod is happy that Claire's latest Monthly Special compiles books about music.

And here's an old favorite--one of the best evocations of music I've read is Bruce Brooks' YA novel Midnight Hour Encores (Harper, 1986).

The Nov/Dec 2007 Horn Book Magazine

is out and we've posted some selections on our website along with a nifty bunch of web extras (who knew Astrid Lindgren could be such a . . . oh, go look for yourself and fill in the blank).

And that Christmassy cover of Olivia is giving me complete permission to ramp up the carols on Miss Pod. A great way to get into the seasonal spirit: try singing "O Little Town of Bethlehem" to the tune of "The House of the Rising Sun."