Thursday, July 31, 2008

September/October starred books

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

Traction Man Meets Turbodog (Knopf) written and illustrated by Mini Grey
Ghosts in the House (Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Kazuno Kohara
The Cardboard Piano (Greenwillow) written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime (Hyperion) written and illustrated by Bob Shea
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (Candlewick) by M. T. Anderson
The Hunger Games (Scholastic) by Suzanne Collins
Tender Morsels (Knopf) by Margo Lanagan
Nation (HarperCollins) by Terry Pratchett
All Stations! Distress!: April 15, 1912: The Day the Titanic Sank (Flash Point/Roaring Brook) written and illustrated by Don Brown
The Way We Work (Lorraine/Houghton) written and illustrated by David Macaulay

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A message from the future

Simon & Schuster offers new picture book biographies of Hillary Clinton (Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull and Amy June-Bates), Barack Obama (Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope, by Nikki Grimes and Bryan Collier), and John McCain (My Dad, John McCain by Meghan McCain and Dan Andreasen ). Of interest solely to their respective fans, the books are equally adulatory (Clinton by understatement, Obama by overstatement, McCain by, c'mon, he's her dad), but only the last dares predict the future. To be published on September 2, My Dad, John McCain ends "in September 2008, the Republican Party had a big meeting, the Republican National Convention. And on that day, my dad was officially chosen as the Republican candidate for president of the United States."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are They Here?

Does anyone else think it's kind of wild that the New York Times published an op-ed warning us to take UFO's more seriously? I mean, I will, I do, just strange to see it there.

The TV debut of the Teletubbies was not at all surprising to those of us who had read John Christopher's When the Tripods Came.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Actually, should you even be here?

Is reading on the web going to destroy our children's ability to read books? Does it matter? Here's an excellent article on those questions.

Have you noticed how much the web likes to talk about itself? That's what I find worrying!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Listen to Grandma

In reading Jill Lepore's New Yorker account of the battle between E. B. White and Anne Carroll Moore, I couldn't help finding my sympathies more with the old lady. Lepore seems to favor E. B. and Katharine White because they're more sophisticated, the cool kids. Moore's the earnest, humorless battle-axe, given to such pronouncements as "reading is an end in itself; its object is lifelong pleasure and profit," "reading should be more commonly treated as a sport of continuous interest in all schools," and "both literature and children stoutly resist grade limitation." What a bore.

Of course she had her limitations and of course she went down fighting, but children's literature and librarianship owe her plenty.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Stick to Your Own Kind?

I'm intrigued by Arthur Laurents's plans to bring West Side Story to Broadway next winter in a "bilingual revival," having the Puerto Rican characters speaking Spanish and otherwise making the show "more realistic." (Here's hoping he doesn't try to set it in the present, though, because that gorgeous, swanky 1950s brass would sound as corny as Kansas in August.)

That theme of bridging cultures (I know WSS is based on R&J, but making the Montagues and Capulets into Jets and Sharks throws us into contemporary contexts) came to me yesterday when I was editing a Guide review of The Umbrella Queen, a picture book by Shirin Yim Bridges and Taeeun Yoo. Apparently based on the "umbrella village" of Bo Sang in northern Thailand, the story is about a little girl, Noot, who longs to paint umbrellas the way all the women in the village do, but instead of painting the traditional patterns of flowers and butterflies, she paints elephants. The Thai king comes to judge the umbrellas in the annual contest and names Noot the winner, "because she paints from her heart." It's a nice enough little story, but has an unacknowledged dynamic that shows up time and again in American books for children about "other cultures," allegedly honoring different cultural norms but in fact contravening them to celebrate the spirit of individual expression. (Historical fiction does this too, as Anne Scott MacLeod wrote in a brilliant essay for us.) It's a case where the story's need for conflict subverts its simultaneous claim on cultural authenticity. There's no story if Noot happily paints flowers and butterflies, but the fact that she triumphs by painting elephants says, in effect, that the tradition that inspired the story isn't worth holding on to. Can you have it both ways?

Monday, July 14, 2008


When Richard and I went to Paris a few years ago, I was intent upon visiting the House of Balmain, where I purchased a beautiful tie from their small men's collection. But I was less interested in shopping than I was in seeing the place where Valentine O'Neill began her career as a fashion designer. Valentine is fictional, a character in Judith Krantz's Scruples, a book that positively sizzles with brand-name-dropping, put there not as paid product placement but as verisimilitude of an especially glamorous kind.

So I'm a little impatient with the argument that we should be worried about brand names in YA fiction. I could certainly get into a fine frothing if the YA series actually whored themselves out to the highest brand-name bidder, which would be both sneaky and lazy: if it doesn't matter if your heroine wears Chanel or Balmain you haven't thought hard enough about her. But that's not what's happening, and I am more scandalized that the Times article pimped this possibility so heavily only to reveal that it had no basis in fact. Yet.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

She works hard for the money

Claire has a new book list devoted to careers. (And gosh darn, why didn't I think to show her my treasured copy of Bruce Learns About Life Insurance?)

Trivia question

What novelist for children with more than three or four books to his or her name has never written a sequel? I ask because I'm surveying my books to be be reviewed for the September issue (surveying being far more entertaining than actually, you know, reviewing) and, like, six out of the seven novels are sequels. (And Jen and Martha know to keep the fantasy far, far from me so it's not that.) I thought Katherine Paterson, but then Martha pointed out that Lyddie shows up twice.

If any M.L. S. student is in need of a thesis topic, I think it would be very interesting to examine sequel-publishing over time. We've always had 'em, I know, but do publishers these days routinely encourage writers to follow a successful book with a related one? Or have they always?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Notes

The new Notes from the Horn Book is hot off the virtual presses. In this issue we recommend some new books about the Olympics and China, make a truck stop for some new toddler tales, listen to some recent audiobooks, and ask R.L. Stine what scares him the most. Read and subscribe (it's free) here.

And to those of you who have already signed up, thank you--the circulation of Notes has doubled since the first issue, which makes us very happy indeed.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

After the Gold Farm Rush

Due to the enthusiastic spamming of the Chinese gold farm miners, I've enabled comment moderation on this blog, meaning that I have to approve your comment before it appears. But flare and flame away, as I'm only using it to stop spam (and, as before, off-topic personal attacks on others than myself).

Not that a career as a gold farmer isn't an interesting one.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The breadth of children's literature

It's a wide world, all right. I'm editing Guide reviews this week and got conceptual whiplash when I hit these two picture book reviews in a row:

Harriet Dancing, by Ruth Symes and Caroline Jayne Church. "A hedgehog's feelings are hurt when the dancing butterflies won't let her join in."

Giant Meatball, by Robert Weinstock. "A reckless, oblivious jumbo-sized meatball bounds into a small town, unintentionally terrorizing its residents."

Really--between those two, what more could you need?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

ALA: the Long and Short of It

The long pants: with Linda Sue Park at the N/C banquet; photo by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

The short pants: with Elizabeth Law and Doug Pocock at Disneyland; photo by lassoed stranger.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Voice of the People

I love Marla Frazee's A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever (a BGHB honor book this year) but wondered about the audience. Lily Feldman clears that up for me.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

July/August Horn Book Magazine

Get your collector's edition now! While the limitations of technology (and the absence of a thrilling soundtrack and a screaming crowd) means that the tour de force with which Brian Selznick opened his Caldecott speech won't have quite the same effect on paper, those same images can still be yours for as long as the acid-free paper holds out. Likewise, you won't get the same dramatic impact of Laura Amy Schlitz's bravura performance, but you will get every single word she rather breathtakingly memorized for a notes- or paper-free delivery. (As I've noticed about prior speeches, the thing on the page can be astoundingly different from the thing as written--what drew laughs in Schlitz's speech Sunday night often provokes a more meditative response in print.)

You will only find the speeches in the printed Magazine, (which can be ordered from khedeen at hbookdotcom) but we have uploaded a selection of other articles, including profiles of Selznick and Schlitz by their editors, Simmons prof Amy Pattee on Sweet Valley High (and reflections by several authors on their own adolescent "guilty pleasure" reading) and my editorial on just why Newbery girls and the swingin' teens of Sweet Valley are sisters under the skin.

We guys do love our schematics

I'm so happy when a picture book for adults is published as just that. Like this one.