Friday, February 27, 2009

Don't miss Lolly!

A reminder--Lolly's thing is tomorrow at 1:00PM at the Eric Carle Museum, a beautiful space in the beautiful town of Amherst, MA. I hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Isn't this why they brought us blue M&Ms?

The New York Times has an article about parents making kids afraid of Oreos, but one nutritionist offers sensible advice:

All an 8-year-old kid should know is that he or she should eat a variety of colors, and don’t supersize anything but your water jug.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Futures trading for writers

While I keep hearing about books about zombies, what I keep seeing are books about post-apocalyptic survival. Which makes me wonder if there's less of a future in e-books than people are saying.

I got a reminder of simpler terrors this morning on the subway, where I was listening to the new audio edition of Mary Downing Hahn's Wait Till Helen Comes. The narration was not great, sounding kind of like an irritating fifth-grader who insists on reading aloud for a period longer than her audience has patience for, but it made me wonder if the stark frights of this book are best conveyed from the page directly into the reader's head, no batteries required. As it was, I was still scaring myself silly. Too many children's-book-ghosts are funny, or misunderstood, but not the one in this book. And I can't think of another children's book that actually has its heroine confront fears of mortality and existential obliteration. (Well, there is that scene in Seven Little Australians where the girl dies screaming about her fear of death. No Beth March, she.)

The fact that Helen so consistently wins children's-choice awards across the country gives me hope for the future: kids who can handle it are exactly the kind I want around to take care of things when the lights go out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Why aren't they called adults' books

and adults' books editors? In any event, there is a great roundtable discussion among four of 'em over at Poets & Writers.

This past week I had to deal with a new author who was rather over-enthusiastic in his attempts to persuade the Magazine to review his book. I finally had to call in the big guns--his publisher--to get him to back off, but it also provoked a lament on his publisher's part that the rules seemed to be changing, that authors were being pressed by their publishers, their colleagues, the whole media culture, to go out and promote their own books with the time and zeal that used to be spent on writing the next one. So haranguing review editors might have seemed to this writer to have become acceptable--expected--behavior. I hope it's not a trend!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

As Alice Rosenbaum turns in her grave

With this hell that is my cold (not just mine; everybody at the Horn Book is taking turns staying home sick, and over on Facebook Elizabeth said she felt like she was three dwarfs at once: Dopey, Sneezy and Grumpy) I'm sorry I haven't been here for a few days. I did have a bright moment on the subway this morning, where a man reading The Fountainhead gave up his seat to a lady. For those of you who never went through an Objectivist stage, this is kind of like spotting Ralph Nader test-driving a Hummer.

Friday, February 13, 2009


I hope some of you can join me at the Eric Carle Museum to hear the Horn Book's own Lolly Robinson talk about what happens to picture book pictures when you hang them on a wall someplace and maybe somebody buys them and then maybe somebody buys them again or maybe nobody buys them and they just sit up in some loft somewhere (okay, I'll refund the price of the Carle admission to the first person who can identify that particular '70s flashback).

Lolly's talk is on Saturday, February 28, at 1:00PM. Come on down!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

February Notes

Books for Black History Month, love stories for Valentine's Day, baby animals, presidents hither and yon and a chat with Betty Carter--it's all in the February issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Maybe it's all the Ayn Rand I read in high school

but I find these landscapes immensely comforting. They remind me of a night drive Anne Quirk and I had back from Galveston to Houston, through some fairyland of lights and probably toxic gases.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

She really liked it.

Claire, that is, re Coraline-the-movie.

This sounds like fun

My old friend Brian Alderson and Books for Keeps editor Rosemary Stones are going to be conducting a five day course about Philip Pullman in France this June. If that is not enough, listen to this from the course brochure: "Le Verger is a beautifully renovated complex of farm buildings in a small village in the Yonne d├ępartement of Burgundy, France. It is easily reached by Eurostar and TGV or by car. Accommodation is a mixture of single and shared bedrooms. There is a swimming pool and large orchard garden. Burgundy is renowned for its Romanesque architecture, chateaux, food and wine and there will be time for visits to some of the many local places of interest."

Sounds like that great French movie Swimming Pool, lacking only a divinely nude Ludivine Sagnier lounging by said pool. But you never know. More details are available from Rosemary at piazza AT btinternet DOT com.

UPDATE: Rosemary tells me there is now a website for the program.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Put It Where You Want It

Debra Lau Whelan's SLJ article on where librarians are shelving The Graveyard Book is classic shit-stirring. The article's lead asks a question ("Where does the book belong—in the children’s area or in the teen section?") and then goes on to give selective anecdotal evidence to conclude that any decision to put the book in YA consists of internal censorship. "And that's against professional ethics."

Nonsense. If you're classifying a book that you think appeals primarily to fifth-through-eighth graders (SLJ's estimation; Horn Book coded it as sixth-grade up), you are going to shelve it where you think most likely readers will most likely find it. Putting it in the YA section is not necessarily (or even probably) an act of censorship, if that's where you put all your other middle-schoolish books. (Hell, putting it in adult because that's where your Gaiman fans are is all right, too.) The fact that a book wins a Newbery Medal does not give it some kind of free pass into the children's room; remember, the Newbery goes through age fourteen, which, by the ALA definition, includes the first two years of the young adult age range. (The ALA turf war over the twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds is ever with us.) Different libraries serve different populations and make different decisions. I like Pat Scales' suggestion--multiple copies--but if you're only buying one, don't let SLJ's admonitory finger force you into putting the book where it doesn't belong.

I agree with Whelan that if you put The Graveyard Book in YA because you're trying to keep it out of younger readers' hands, then, sure, that's censorship. But the article--like her piece with Rick Margolis about the "controversy" inspired by Gaiman's fuck-filled Twittering--doesn't give us the whole picture, instead only citing evidence that supports a sensationalized angle. That ain't reporting.

What's with all the flashbacks?

I wish I could find this great example Florence King gave of a sentence filled with clauses and "had"s and "had had"s that indicated that an author "had failed to begin her story far enough back in time." Flashbacks are ruining my prime-time experience. Lost, Heroes, Damages, even Without a Trace--it seems like they can't go ten minutes without the words "seven years earlier" appearing as a title card on the screen. I think what bothers me the most is that it's supposed to look like fancy sleight-of-hand po-mo storytelling when it only increases my suspicion that they are making it up as they go along, and going back to patch up inconvenient inconsistencies. Thank God for 24.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Cuba Libro Prohibito

Vamos a Cuba is back in the news. I'm glad that the Dade County schools are in such great shape that people can expend their energy on this.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Lurve is in the air

and Claire has been busily sighing and swooning on your behalf. See her latest booklist of love stories.

Speaking of Claire, she's been pushing me for years to read Neil Gaiman's American Gods, which I'm finally doing. And loving, not least for the following exchange, among the most indelible in American literature:

The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.
"Say 'Nevermore,'" said Shadow.
"Fuck you," said the raven. It said nothing else as they went through the woodland together.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The dangers of anecdotal research

So this guy is estimating that Amazon has sold half a million Kindles. I have seen just two people, one months ago and one today, using them in public. Considering how many hours I spend on a subway, bus, train or plane I thought I would see many more, and I do look. So where are they? Maybe it's a New York thing. Or maybe half a million isn't actually a lot.

Looking over his shoulder

and not liking what he sees, Stephen King dismisses Stephenie Meyer as not able to "write worth a darn. She's not very good."

What do you think possessed the old gas bag? Maybe he doesn't like the way she spells her name?

In mentioning his "formative influence" on J. K. Rowling and praising her work, King reminds me of what Zinka Milanov allegedly said of Mirella Freni: "she sounds like a young me!"

Complete with pop-up nuns but no Nazis

"Maria always said that 'girls in white dresses' were among her favorite things, but she never thought she would be one of them!"--from The Sound of Music: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up, forthcoming in August from S&S.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More about money

Boston Globe writer David Mehegan has a great piece on what's going on at Houghton Mifflin. Don't skip the comments, either--lots of perspectives from people who used to work there.

And don't miss the aforementioned Patsy Aldana expounding at some greater length on just what money and publishing have to do with each other, for each other and to each other.

Rachel's last look around

Rachel presents the Ultimate Web Watch (the new overlords may have something planned but we don't know just what yet).

And don't miss the Cynsational interview with Groundwood publisher Patsy Aldana. That is one lady who tells it like it is:

Over the course of your career, what are the most significant changes you've seen in the field of publishing books for young readers?

The abandonment of the once great British and American houses of the tradition of the editor-driven list for a new reign of TV tie-ins, merchandising, and the need to make more and more money.