Friday, October 30, 2009

I know this has happened before,

but when do you think trick-or-treating starts when Halloween is on a Saturday? I can't believe Hopey has been running things since January and still hasn't gotten back to us on this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Let's not forget that the gal had a good point, but

The discussion/flamewar over at Betsy's place about the Amazon Vine program reminds me yet again of the best way to get people to leave comments on a blog post: write something about blogging that implies in even the tiniest way that some practices might be better than others. People love to go all meta on that stuff.

In other words, as Betty Cavanna's Diane Graham (in A Date for Diane) recalls from a teen dating etiquette book she's optimistically memorized, "let a lad talk about himself."

Now, if someone would kindly leave a note in the comments accusing me of accusing Betsy of doing the same thing that I am doing right now, we can all watch the metaverse explode together.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paging the Ambassador . . .

The most interesting statistic of this teen reading survey concerns who responded to it: "while we purposely marketed the survey to attract male readers, females are the vast majority (96%) of responders."

It would be really good to know if book reading breaks down in similarly dramatic proportions. We know that girls and women read more books than do boys and men, but how much eek! many more?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The science museum had lost its charm

I twittered my on-the-spot reactions to the Harry Potter exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, mainly, as a way to kill time because this show was definitely So Not My Thing. While I knew it was going to be about the films (which I've only seen out of the corner of my eye on TV) rather than the books, I dragged my companions along to the preview with the promise that there might be some cool stuff about moviemaking and special effects. Instead, it was an admittedly dazzling faux-Hogwarts gallery of costumes and props, a couple of minimally interactive pit stops (skee-ball like Quidditch tossing; plastic plants that made a noise when you touched them) and a big fat $ouvenir emporium. No ideas of any kind about science or magic or movies were offered. True fans will not be deterred, I'm sure, but I was a little embarrassed for the Museum, whose role, I think, is limited to giving the exhibit space (I wonder how the profits get sliced up). It could have been great, though, with opportunities to look at the science behind alchemy, say, or how CGI really works. But this was all "celebrate the magic," complete with English-accented guides and guards recruited from Craigslist. Why, so you feel like you're in an English museum? I dunno.

But Where in the World Is Nina Garcia?

It's getting very difficult to muddle on without her, but we have nevertheless appointed our judges for the 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. They are Horn Book Magazine executive editor Martha V. Parravano, NYT children's books editor Julie Just, and novelist (and long-time-ago Horn Book columnist) Gregory Maguire. Information about the awards and guidelines for submissions can be found on our website.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wild Thing, I think I . . .

. . . well, I don't know what to think of the new Spike Jonze movie but luckily Claire does and she tells you here.

Feed me.

A couple of weeks ago, in the aftermath of telling Alan Kaufman to do a not very nice thing to himself, I asked him to name names of the "high-tech propagandists" who tell us that we will be better off without books. I found one:

. . . the techies in Silicon Valley are giving us powerful new tools for telling stories. Scary because the old ways of telling stories are about to become obsolete, and if we cling to them, we'll be washed away. In the past we've all worked in silos. "Print people" had one way of describing the world. "Video people" had another. But the silos are getting crunched together. It's as if for most of your life you could get by speaking only English, but now you need to learn a bunch of other old languages, and, what's more, you must then master a new language that is evolving out of the DNA of all the old ones.

Newsweek journalist Dan Lyons is primarily speaking about news-delivery here, but he does lump in book reading along with all the other exciting things that full-time connection to the Internet is going to give us: "these devices will play video and music and, of course, display text; they will let you navigate by touching your fingers to the screen; and—this is most important—they will be connected to the Internet at all times." Coming from a generation that was always admonished to turn out the light when leaving a room, I do wonder who is going to pay for the apparently unproblematic necessity for lots and lots of electricity. And as for being connected to the Internet at all times--Alan, pass me a pitchfork.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How many words would it take?

Inspired by our Martha, Jonathan Hunt has a good post up over at Heavy Medal about the possibility of a picture book ever winning the Newbery Medal.

Taking names

I think it was in Martina Navratilova's autobiography that I read that Rita Mae Brown found names for her characters by wandering through old cemeteries. Now she could just wander through my junk mail, which today provided me with Dahlia Holley, Ailene Petruso, Arlean Taina, Shane Zavatson and Sarah Madrid. There must be a science to spam-name generation and I would love to know it--they are usually just the other side of plausible.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Magic School Bus Visits the Bowels of the Unconscious

The Horn Book offices will be closed this afternoon as the staff is making a field trip to see Where the Wild Things Are.

Horn Book reviews of NBA finalists

Kitty has posted 'em. One is still forthcoming and another will not be reviewed as its publisher decided rather late in the game that it was in fact a book for young people.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good luck with that

I'm not sure just how sustainable e-lending e-books is going to be for public libraries. Three points made in yesterday's Times article about the practice moved my eyebrows higher and higher until they were indistinguishable from my hair:

“'People still think of libraries as old dusty books on shelves, and it’s a perception we’re always trying to fight,' said Michael Colford, director of information technology at the Boston Public Library. 'If we don’t provide this material for them, they are just going to stop using the library altogether.'”
Okay, so people don't care about books in libraries, but if we can give them something they don't even need to leave their bedrooms to obtain, that's going to keep the lights on?

". . . with few exceptions, e-books in libraries cannot be read on Amazon’s Kindle, the best-selling electronic reader, or on Apple’s iPhone, which has rapidly become a popular device for reading e-books. Most library editions are compatible with the Sony Reader, computers and a handful of other mobile devices."

Who wants to read a novel on a computer?

"Most digital books in libraries are treated like printed ones: only one borrower can check out an e-book at a time, and for popular titles, patrons must wait in line just as they do for physical books. After two to three weeks, the e-book automatically expires from a reader’s account."

Who wants to wait in line to read a novel on a computer?

I understand that libraries are doing the best they can, faced with restrictions from publishers (several of whom, big ones, will not license their ebooks to libraries) and the mercurial nature of electronic files. But I wonder if libraries are trying too hard to fit ebooks into a circulation model designed for physical media. While the reasons for borrowing a physical book from the library are several--it's free, you don't have to provide storage for something you'll only read once, browsing the shelves provides serendipitous discoveries--right now, anyway, the only reason to get an ebook from a library website is that it is free, albeit hampered by considerable restrictions. Are there enough people willing to wait in line for a digital copy of The Lost Symbol that they will have to read on their desk- or laptop or Sony Reader, when they can buy it for around ten bucks (digital edition) or fifteen (widely discounted hardcover)? This does not sound like a situation upon which to build a future.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October Notes

The latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book has just been published, with an interview with Kristin Cashore, reviews of new fantasy sequels, new chapter books, new picture-book biographies of artists, and new books about autumn. New! New! New!

NBA Nominees, Young people's division

from Publishers Lunch:

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

I'm a little surprised by the Small in this category as I don't think it was published as a children's book and was not sent to us for review.

If you liked The Lost Symbol . . .

It occurs to me that now that Robert Langdon has raced around Rome, Paris, and D.C. he ought to go to New York; precisely to Madeleine L'Engle's current residence, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. His readers would love her; hers, I'm not so sure about.

Rough Cut

Here's a clip from my interview last Friday. I'm afraid to listen to it, so you be the judge.

Friday, October 09, 2009

They're Gonna Put Me in the Movies

Some documentarians are coming by today to interview me for a forthcoming film about children's books. It did make me clean my office, so that's good.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

BGHB Awards, pictures and video

The indefatigable Lolly Robinson and Katrina Hedeen have posted photos and video from the 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards held last Friday evening. Check it all out. (In this pic l. to r. are Harper editor Anne Hoppe, judge Jonathan Hunt, winner Candace Fleming, judge Ruth Nadelman Lynn, and me.)

Think before you write.

"The red liquid was wine, but it shimmered like blood."--from The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I'm sure Stephenie Meyer could be trusted to rearrange this simile into its proper order.

And can we talk about that title for a minute? In my opinion, "The Lost Symbol" is right up there with "When You Reach Me" for unmemorability, and by that I mean my inability to remember it correctly. The Secret Symbol? The Lost Code? When I Reach You? When You Get Here? Some years ago I had similar trouble with the beautiful picture book Night Driving by Jon Coy and Peter McCarty. In the space of one issue of the Horn Book I think I referred to it as Night Ride, Drive at Night and Night Drive Home (oops, that's Joni Mitchell).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Hot air didn't stop the Nazis, either.

From a San Francisco bookstore forum, reported in Shelf Awareness:

The idea for the panel, said co-owner Margie Scott Tucker, came from a statement made by Alan Kaufman, novelist, memoirist, influential in the Spoken Word movement and editor of The Outlaw Bible of American Literature: "When I hear the term Kindle, I think not of imaginations fired but of crematoria lit." Kaufman moderated the panel, called the "Great Internet Book Burning Panel." (No books e or otherwise were actually burned despite the catchy title.)

Other panelist included beat generation icon Herbert Gold, San Francisco Noir author Peter Plate, Ethan Watters, author of several books including Urban Tribes: Are Friends the New Family? and Cleis Press's Brenda Knight, a participant in the Google case.

Kaufman began by reading an essay soon to be published in Barney Rossett's Evergreen Review, which is now an online-only publication, he noted. "The book is fast becoming the despised Jew of our culture. Der Jude is now der Book," he read. "High-tech propagandists tell us that the book is a tree-murdering, space-devouring, inferior form of technology; that society would simply be better off altogether if we euthanized it even as we begin to carry around, like good little Aryans, whole libraries in our pockets, downloaded on the Uber-Kindle."

Even speaking as someone whose Kindle gathers dust and who views shopping at as an unpleasant act of last resort, get the fuck over yourself.

Monday, October 05, 2009

November-December Stars

The following books will receive starred reviews in the November-December 09 issue of the Horn Book Magazine:

Imogene’s Last Stand (Schwartz & Wade/Random) written by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

The Lion & the Mouse (Little) illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

War Games (Random) by Audrey Couloumbis and Akila Couloumbis

Crossing Stones (Foster/Farrar) by Helen Frost

The Storm in the Barn (Candlewick) written and illustrated by Matt Phelan

The Great Death (Holt) by John Smelcer

Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have (Egmont) by Allen Zadoff

The Mitten (Scholastic) retold by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal (Carolrhoda) written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary (Viking) by Elizabeth Partridge

I feel like a butler.

We will be posting the video from last Friday's Boston-Globe Horn Book awards before the end of the week, and the speeches will appear in the January/February issue of the Magazine. Thanks to all who came, in person and in spirit.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Shh! The movie's started!

Over at SLJ's excellent Heavy Medal, Nina Lindsay and the Horn Book's own Jonathan Hunt are playing Siskel and Ebert with A Season of Gifts, a debate I predicted (or precipitated--my working theory about FlashForward) a couple of weeks ago.