Monday, July 27, 2009

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is It a Crime?

Drinks for anyone but Elizabeth who can identify the musical quoted in the title.

The Simmons program Crime and Misdemeanors is ending this morning with closing remarks from M.T. Anderson, and my responsibilities--save paper-grading--will be through. I've been twittering away from the back of the room, but it's difficult to convey the extravagant genius and delivery of a Jack Gantos in 140 words. (And something tells me that Mr. Tobin Big Words won't be any easier.) If you go to the HornBook feed (linked over there on the right) you can at least get a sense of who's been talking.

Yesterday I was on a panel with Vicky Smith (Kirkus) and Deborah Stevenson (BCCB) about reviewing; the best moment for me was when Deborah and I confessed to letting House in the Night slip by while Vicky quietly crowed that Kirkus had named it the best picture book of the year. What we neglected to get into is how incestuous this whole business is--I used to run BCCB, Vicky formerly reviewed for the Horn Book, Deborah taught the Simmons summer course the last time and has an article coming up in our November issue. It's a very small pond.

I'll try to get you some more moments from the Institute later this week but am off tomorrow for some kind of management retreat in Ohio. If they think I'm doing trust circles or paintball wars . . . .

Monday, July 20, 2009

ALA aftermath

At a birthday party in the Catskills this past Saturday night, not only did the conversation--among civilians, no less--turn to the pleasures of The Graveyard Book, the waitress chimed in as well: "that book is so awesome." So I was proud to be able to brag about my interview with Neil Himself at ALA last week. I was a little taken aback when I saw him, black-clad and sunglassed, coming down the aisle accompanied by a bevy of slender young women also dressed in black--jeez, a freaking entourage, I thought, but the conversation was good. The highlight, I thought, was Neil's response to my favorite question: "have you ever seen a ghost?" While Naomi Shihab Nye, hands down, had the best response I ever got to this one, Neil had a good story too, involving a dark country night, solitary streetlight, and a gypsy. His storytelling skills are as impressive off the cuff as they are on the page. [Update: Naomi's ghost story is posted in the comments.]

Although we had a little trouble perfecting the sound system (but kudos to my roadies Andrew and Randy for keeping at it) the five interviews I did were all swell. (Six were scheduled but Laurie Halse Anderson had a family emergency and had to go home.) Highlights from the others:

--I asked Candy Fleming if she had ever had to give up on a biography because she got bored with her subject. She said no, but that in her work on a forthcoming book about Amelia Earhart, she had definitely found her admiration for the aviator tempered. I hope the book will tell us why.

--Brian Selznick said that becoming an artist means accepting the fact that you will live in a state of terror. (I think he's been hanging out with Sendak too much.) He also said that he's working on a book that, at this point, is twice as long as Hugo Cabret.

--Ashley Bryan gave us a preview of his call-and-response Caldecott speech, getting us to roar along with Eloise Greenfield's "Things." The crowd also serenaded him with "Happy birthday," whereupon he invited us all to his party the next night. I wish I could have gone but, honestly, at eighty-six that man wears me out.

--We had a triple threat Monday morning with Caldecott medalist Beth Krommes (pictured), her author Susan Marie Swanson, and their editor, Ann Rider. Beth explained scratchboard technique and knowing when to stop; Susan read their book aloud; Ann talked about how an editor envisions a picture book with only a brief manuscript in hand. They all got bemusingly embarrassed when I asked Beth an innocent question about what reading antique furniture magazines at bedtime did to her dreams.

I hope we can do it again next year--hey, Midwinter is in Boston, maybe I can get some of my favorite homies to submit to interrogation.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Some enchanted evening . . .


"Once you have found him, never let him go. Once you have found him . . . "

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blast from the Past

Jen Robinson alerted me to the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for YA fiction, new to ALAN/NCTE but not to me. Years ago, Walden offered this award to YALSA, which turned it down because of her insistence that the winning book demonstrate "a positive approach to life." We (I was on the board then) didn't want to get into the position of deciding somebody else's road to happiness. That said, it's nice to see Walden get some recognition again--back in the 50's-60's she wrote several crypto-lesbionic sports novels notable for their fearless female main characters and basketball play-by-plays as exciting as anything penned by the boys.

Not to mention the flaming cheese. Opa!

Back from ALA but barely. Returned to Boston Tuesday evening then spent Wednesday on the phone for a Horn Book board meeting; faced today with two hundred pages of Guide editing and my Simmons class coming over to talk about reviewing in situ. It was a great conference--the author interviews went very well despite some problems with the sound system and Katrina was a selling demonette. Saw lots of old friends (including one I hadn't seen in thirty years, only at ALA via her library-architect girlfriend) and made plenty of new ones, too. Nikki Grimes's Horn Book article started kicking up a fuss on Monday when we published the new issue, and I hope the conversation continues. More later, with photos.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

July Notes

The latest Notes from the Horn Book is out, with an interview with Rebecca Stead; four more great books about New York City; summer reading for middle-schoolers; picture books about food; and a tip of the hat to the Coretta Scott King Awards, celebrating their fortieth birthday this year.

In a first, you will find the CSK acceptance speeches in the July issue of the Magazine but DON'T LOOK YET, as it cannot be published until Monday, after the Newbery and Caldecott speeches are given at ALA in Chicago. I'm told you can get a copy hot off the presses at our booth (#2259) that day if you sign over your first-born or sign up for a subscription.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Speaking as one old fart to another

Somebody asked on the previous post (and I STILL need your questions) what I thought about Nicholas Kristof's recommendations for summer reading. Not much--any list of the Thirteen Best Books is pretty random and thus useless and I have to wonder whether, in including the Hardy Boys, he means the ones he read as a lad (nostalgia time) or the ones currently published (out-and-out lame). I also wonder about his assertion that IQs dip during a summer not spent reading. Does IQ work that way?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Five Questions for . . .

You might know our monthly Notes from the Horn Book feature, "Five questions for . . ." in which I ask an author or illustrator of the moment questions both pertinent and inane. At ALA next week (yikes) in Chicago, this feature is going live at the Junior Library Guild booth (#2256) right across from ours (#2259) in the convention center. Here's the lineup:

Saturday 10:00 Candace Fleming, who has just won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for The Lincolns.

Saturday 12:00 Neil Gaiman, Newbery Medalist.

Saturday 2:00 Ashley Bryan, Wilder Medalist.

Sunday 11:00 Brian Selznick, for one last walk down the runway before he surrenders his Caldecott crown.

Monday 10:00 Laurie Halse Anderson, this year's winner of the Scott O'Dell Award for Chains and author of the much talked-about Wintergirls.

Monday 11:30 Beth Krommes, Caldecott Medalist, and she will be accompanied by Susan Marie Swanson, who has promised to read their House in the Night aloud.

Do come! And do here, in the comments, suggest some questions I might ask any or all of them.

More information about our conference activities--dancing boys! beautiful women!--can be found here.