Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She has a really good point.

I like Jill Wolfson's dissent about SLJ's upcoming Battle of the Books, for which I am the Decider between Ways to Live Forever and Octavian Nothing II. Jill is right--the BOB provides more publicity for books which have already received plenty, and as a series of apples-and-oranges decisions, it doesn't have a whole lot of critical weight. I think, though, you have to look at it as a game in which the spectators are the most important part, making their own predictions and choices and laughing at the judges. It wouldn't work if the books in contention were worthy but little(r)-known. I'm in fact a little surprised that Ways to Live Forever is in there--it doesn't have nearly the profile of the others.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Houston, you have a problem.

I will be in Houston for the Texas Library Association meeting this week. Unless you are a demonic rabbit or a cranky illustrator, come find me at the Horn Book booth all day Wednesday and on Thursday morning.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Somebody really didn't think this through.

The name of Toni and Slade Morrison's forthcoming picture book from Wiseman/Simon & Schuster is Peeny-Butter Fudge. I can't be the only adult who has the sense of humor of a nine-year-old.

"Oh yes, the new Lowry. Haven't quite got to it yet, but the woman's a genius."

While I can think of plenty of children's books that are actually coffee table books for adults (I know Wabi Sabi was a popular book in the blogosphere but to me it's a perfect example of this) I'm wondering if there is such a thing among children themselves. Like, is there a Fatal Shore for ten-year-olds? Are there books kids intend (perpetually) to read, pretend to have read or otherwise have a social or internal stake in? We know from Harry Potter that books can be status-bearing among kids, but do they provide enough social va-va-voom to inspire youthful poseurs?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No, I have not twatted,

unlike Stephen Colbert, but I see from Monica that SLJ has set up a Twitter feed for their Battle of the (Kids') Books. As you will see there, I am a first-round judge for this thing but I'm not allowed to tell you anything else just yet. Okay, let me just say this: Girls, you're both pretty.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blogging Bolognese

Just typing that, I'm hungry. I know things have been quiet 'round here; we're in the middle of our remodeling/move and my mind is perpetually elsewhere. But I have been keeping with with the Bologna Book Fair via Craig Virden's excellent posts over at PW; do take a look. And our faithful friend Elizabeth is there as well and I'm hoping she'll pop in with a comment.

Okay, what's for dinner?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Silence of the Bunnies

Now this could haunt my dreams:

We've been entrusted with the care of Ruby for a couple of weeks. She may look like a rabbit but behaves more like a Sphinx, her silent inscrutability causing me to project all manner of implacable menace into her unblinking gaze. Dogs and cats, you know where you are with them. Not Ruby.

While it seems like every chapter book now contains, like the Obligatory Sex Scene of every 1970s adult potboiler, a de rigueur Escape of the Class Pet, the care of caged beasts were not a part of my elementary education. I can't imagine being able to concentrate on the SRA box with something like this staring at me all day long.

(Photos by Richard, a braver man than I.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I'm over the Moon!

Okay, not really, but I just finished talking with Buzz Aldrin, who really has been over--and on--the Moon. How cool is that? I was interviewing him for the upcoming issue of Notes from the Horn Book, wherein we feature his and Wendell Minor's Look to the Stars.

Everybody has something that will get them talking, and for Mr. Aldrin it was SCUBA-diving.

Having It Both Ways

The recent "Battle of the Books" match-up between Shadow Country and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks has caused some debate around the YA blogosphere; see Liz B.'s post and the comments there attached for some enlightening discussion.

I won't vote since I haven't read Shadow Country but I like the way the debate bares the fundamental question about the difference between books for youth and books for grownups: is there a difference and what is its nature? To my mind, it's this question that keeps children's/YA lit as a genre perking along and it's only when we have it answered that we'll find ourselves in trouble. (As far as linking children's and YA books goes, that's a question answered by publishing history.)

Here's a corollary question. What if Frankie had been published as a book for adults? As crisply observed social comedy, the book has definite cachet within its genre, and its nomination for the National Book Award was both deserved and no surprise. But what if it wasn't YA, simply undifferentiated (category-wise) fiction? I'm guessing it would have lost to Shadow Country without a murmur or reproach. The fact that Frankie is a YA book gains it a certain recognition (both within and without the YA walls) it would never get otherwise.

I've been listening to Sissy Spacek's stunning reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, another book that provokes the what's-the-diff question, as it is a book published for adults now mostly first-encountered by adolescents. I read it in fourth grade and not since; what's striking me now is how much I missed being more allied with Scout-the-child-subject than Scout-the-adult-narrator. I remain glad to have read it at nine but it's very much an adult book.

Let's leave the question of just how stupid this kind of book tournament is for another time. SLJ is going to be running one this spring and I've said I'll judge a round (just because it's stupid doesn't mean it isn't fun) and will let you know what it's like.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Books under wraps

Lolly took this neat picture of what our book collection looks like during remodeling. I can't quite tell where in the alphabet this is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

March Notes

The latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book should or could be in your inbox now. Bon appetit, he says, already deep into laying out the May Magazine, which features an essay about food (and a recipe) by Linda Sue Park along with madeleines from Arnolf Adoff, Jack Gantos, Lynne Rae Perkins and Peter Sis.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shoot me now.

While I was running yesterday in the glorious weather (ha ha, I know) I came upon a woman walking her dog, a little cattle-dog mix-thing. Hyper but cute. The dog was desperate to come over to me and say hello, so I stopped and played with her for a minute. The woman started talking to the dog: "Yes! Yes! You like him 'cause he looks like your grandfather! Yes!" She then explained that she meant her father of course, like that made anything any better.

I felt . . . seasoned again this morning while pawing through the review carts, and remembering when a book about anorexia (Deborah Hautzig's Second Star to the Right) or lesbian mothers (some Norma Klein novel) was still cause for comment--and review--simply by virtue of its subject. So is it a good thing or a bad thing that books on such topics can now pass unremarked?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Go Outside!

I wish I could, but in the meantime here's Claire's latest booklist, The Great Outdoors. Look forward, too, to the next issue of Notes, in which I get the lowdown from Mo Willems about playing outside.

We're undergoing construction in the office starting Monday, and while the Magazine editorial space gets reconfigured, Claire and I are going to be roommates. I hope she doesn't snore.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Giving Up

I'm quite enjoying The Rights of the Reader, the new Candlewick edition of Daniel Pennac's Comme un Roman, first published here as Better than Life, and I have been pondering Right No. 3, "The Right Not to Finish a Book." Here as elsewhere, Pennac's aphoristic style puts the ooh-la-la in Gallic shrug:

So the book falls from your hands?
Well, let it fall.

Some people can't stand to not finish a book, which has never been my problem. But I notice I am now more likely to . . . drift away from a book that's giving me problems, pretending I'll get back to it someday. Sometimes I find that even my best intentions are defied by the sudden impenetrability of a book I had been thoroughly enjoying but for one reason or another put down. Too much time has passed, peut-ĂȘtre. What was a fun summer read seems vapid in the cool light of hiver. But there is always the problem of giving up too soon: one hundred pages of slogging through the opening days of the Spanish Civil War (which is always hard to keep straight in the first place) put me off C. J. Sansom's Winter in Madrid but Richard just emailed to tell me that the next four hundred pages totally redeem the slow start (he retrieved the book from my I'll-get-back-to-it stack, where it was placed right under The Likeness, which defeated me two-thirds of the way through).

I'm curious to know what rules other people out there might have for Giving Up. (And Fessing Up: how much of a book do you have to have read in order to say that you read it?)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Tweet this.

I interview Neil Gaiman in the March SLJ.

March/April 2009 Horn Book Magazine

The Horn Book has a snow day today but our latest issue is out and, partly, up. We've posted an intelligently bristling argument from Farah Mendlesohn what's wrong with contemporary YA SF as well as veteran Joanna Rudge Long's thoughts on what to look for in a "Three Little Pigs." The print Magazine also includes Susan Fletcher's moving account of her epistolary friendship with Elvand, an Iranian writer and translator and we solicited stories of similar friendships from a handful of other authors for children. Catherine Murdock weighs in on the absence of mothers in children's books--it's A Good Thing--and Elizabeth Wein looks back in time. In better bookstores, bathrooms, and libraries now (or soon).