Thursday, April 29, 2010

Write on your hand instead

Remember how creeped out everyone got when Amazon remotely deleted 1984 from Kindles everywhere? Well, this is creepier. Now they keep a record of what you underline.

I'll Take Things That Are Happening in the Future for $300, Alex

1. It's in the mail and features an interview with Margaret Wise Brown as well as some provocative thoughts on why a true respect for children's books means not eating meat.

2. She's illustrated some of the most beautiful picture books of the 20th and 21st century and is giving the annual Sutherland Lecture at the Chicago Public Library on Friday, May 7th. Tickets are free and may be reserved here.

3. He'll be signing blads of A Family of Readers at Book Expo in New York on May 26th from 1:00 to 2:00 PM at the Candlewick booth and will also be at the ABC dinner the previous evening. He hopes to meet you at either or both places.

4. I am quite possibly the ugliest neologism ever derived from an acronym in history. [see previous answer.]

5. Where the tall but portly bow-tied man will be conducting live interviews with the winners of the Caldecott, Newbery, and Printz Medals.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Go Rimbaud and Go Johnny Go

I'm reading Patti Smith's Just Kids, her reminiscence of her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, and she writes a lot about her adolescent passions in reading, from Foxe's Book of Martyrs to Rimbaud and Verlaine. It's making me wonder what the disaffected youth of today are reading. Born in 1946, Smith is pre-YA era, but do her literary descendants find anything of value in the books we publish for teens today? Or does their self-defined outlaw status keep them away from anything adults decree to be "for" them?

Monday, April 26, 2010

R.I.P. Buster

Our beloved Buster died last Friday, just after he attained his majority--he was twenty-one.

That's the guess, anyway--he came into my life when Betsy Hearne, out with her dog, saw him in a Chicago park for two days running and brought him into our office. For me. (If Betsy Hearne ever suggests you do something, trust me, do it.) The vet who checked him out then said he seemed just about a year old. We will never know from whence he came, but he was fixed and housebroken and well-fed; my guess is that he got out and lost. (My friend Nina used to tease me that there was a child in Chicago who sobbed herself every night to sleep asking "Where's b-b-b-Brownie?")

Thanks to all of his friends, especially Horn Book alumnae Anita Burkam, Claire Gross, Marilyn Bousquin, and the late Amy Chamberlain, who kept an eye on him when I had to go out of town. If I do say so myself, he had a great life.

Updated to add the original glamor shot:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

And as a bonus, I would even shelve books.

In my next life, I hope to come back as a children's book writer with enough talent and poise to be invited by the wonderful Monika Schröder to visit the American embassy school in New Delhi. Linda Sue Park just got back.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What these two things have in common is Stephenie Meyer

The Atlantic would like to see more book banning. Their argument makes me recall a discussion with a friend who was living in Mexico during a particularly repressive time--she said something like "well, sure, if you say the wrong thing too loudly you risk getting arrested, but in the States you can yell your head off about injustice and no one pays any attention. Which is worse?"

I can never get all that exercised about ALA's largely manufactured banned books drama, and yesterday I saw a number that was a lot scarier than their reported 460 book challenges in 2010. As reported in the PW of April 12th,  the Association of American Publishers says juvenile hardcover book sales in February of this year were down 48.5% from those of a year earlier.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

With the movie starring the next Shia LaBeouf?

This whole iPhone leak story sounds like a YA novel. The boy (probably pudgy) lives with his mysteriously unreachable single dad, who runs a bar (this will allow for lots of wisdom from the grizzled regulars). Our computer nerd antihero is completely uncool--until the day he finds a too-cool-to-be-true device made by the most powerful company on earth left behind by someone in a group of partying programmers. (It will turn out that the guy who actually left the phone is the secret loner of the group, and he and our boy will eventually bond, leading somehow to the programmer's romance with the next Cameron Diaz.) Ensuing media sensation leads the boy to undreamed of heights of popularity (and a date with the next Emma Roberts) until he discovers that popularity isn't all it's cracked up to be. He runs away to the woods armed with nothing but . . . a hatchet that had been left at the bar when his dad was a boy, by a prospecting drifter who turns out to have been, I dunno, Dicey's father or something. In the woods he realizes that Nature has been communicating for eons without cell phones and so can he. With his dad. (In the movie, the trees will actually talk.)

Monday, April 19, 2010

The power of art

Baby Evelyn, a friend of Lolly's, really likes to throw herself into her reading.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

April Notes

With books about animals, archeology, alternate worlds, regular kids and dinosaurs PLUS an interview with Rita Williams-Garcia, author of One Crazy Summer, the latest issue of Notes from the Horn Book is now out.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

That's what SHE said

Fuse #8 has revealed the final result of her prodigious survey of what we (meaning those of us who read Fuse and voted in her poll) think are the top 100 novels for middle-grade readers. Not a big surprise there at #1, but since the Horn Book is infamous for its allegedly dislike of E.B. White's book I thought I would take the opportunity to review the record.

Here is what Anne Carroll Moore, NYPL Dragon Lady, wrote in her "Three Owls Notebook," a column she wrote for the Horn Book, in December of 1952:
From picture books I step into real trouble and I may as well confess that I find E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, illustrated by Garth Williams (Harper $2.50), hard to take from so masterly a hand. There is no one whose writing I more deeply regard in the adult field. Stuart Little disappointed me but thousands of people liked it. Stuart Little was a dream story. Charlotte’s Web is born of real life in the wonderful countryside of my own childhood. I grew up on a large farm in Maine. There are chapters of great beauty and rare understanding of the life of farm animals in Charlotte’s Web. They moved me very deeply as I read them without Garth Williams’ fine pictorial interpretation, but as a children’s book it never came clear from the preoccupation of an adult who had not spent a childhood on a farm. The story got off to a fine start. Fern was as living a girl as one could wish when she rescued the runt pig from her father’s ax, but no such country child would have spent day after day beside the manure pile to which the pig was consigned and repeated afterward to as dumb a mother as a parent’s page ever invoked what the animals told her in their language. Fern, the real center of the book, is never developed. The animals never talk. They speculate. As to Charlotte, her magic and mystery require a different technique to create that lasting interest in spiders which controls childish impulse to do away with them.
  Bear in mind that ACM had complete editorial control over her column; thirteen pages later,  then-editor Jennie Lindquist gives the official Horn Book imprimatur in the review section:
Entirely different from Stuart Little but just as original is this story of Wilbur, the Pig, and his friends--Fern, a little girl of eight, and Charlotte, the spider, whose remarkable spinning astonished the countryside and saved his life. To write a nonsense story around this situation might not be too difficult, but it took an E. B. White to get beauty and wisdom into the story along with the humor. And only a real farmer could have pictured so convincingly the folk of the farmyard! The plot, the conversation, the characters, all defy description; no one can get any idea of the book without reading it himself. I read it first in galleys without any illustrations, and now that I have seen them it seems to me a tribute to both author and artist that I got from the story the same picture of Wilbur and his companions as Garth Williams gives in his drawings. They are exactly right.
So. There. I wonder what Bertha Mahony Miller, founder of the Horn Book and friend of ACM, still keeping an eagle eye on the company as its president, thought of the book.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Love Letter to Japan

A great song by Bird and the Bee, and one I would like to sing today in honor of Japanese publisher Rei Uemura, remarking in the April 5th issue of PW of the offerings at the Bologna Children's Book Fair: "There are too many zombies, vampires, werewolves. I can't tell them apart anymore."

Diane Roback offers many more juicy quotes in her report on the Fair. I found Jen Haller's (of Penguin) observation particularly interesting: "people are bringing a lot of teen fiction to sell, but they're looking for middle-grade." As are we.

Friday, April 09, 2010

May/June starred reviews

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

by Elisha Cooper

I Know Here
by Laurel Croza; illus. by Matt James

What If?
(Porter/Roaring Brook)
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth
by Lynne Rae Perkins

by Deborah Wiles

Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters
by Jeannine Atkins

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors
by Joyce Sidman; illus. by Beckie Prange

Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty
by Linda Glaser; illus. by Claire A. Nivola

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

More about boys

The Awl is where all the good Gawker writers went, and their look at tween reading is worth your time.

A man after my own heart

and, increasingly, teeth.

Monday, April 05, 2010

My Day Out

I had a wonderful sort of field trip on Friday, observing books in the wild. Breakfast with Candlewick, who showed off some highlights from their fall list including--wait, is it too soon for me to start flogging this horse? NO--Martha and my A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature, out in September. Our editor Hilary Van Dusen (who worked on the book alongside Marc Aronson, himself opining in the NYT this weekend about the very topic that consumed most of our discussions, permissions) said nice things about the book and the food was good.

Then I went over to Porter Square Books for the first time and spent more money than I had and less than I wanted to. The trick is to pick out four books and then virtuously put one back. I bought Ha Jin's Waiting for Richard, Barbara Demick's Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea for me, and Michael Gruber's Night of the Jaguar for both of us. (Has anyone read Gruber's mystery trilogy starting with Tropic of Night? Set in steamy Miami, it's great warm-weather reading.)

Then lunch, with Barefoot Books marketing man John Bigay. Their office looks just like their books, all greeny purply jungly batiky, so the shrimp and grilled pineapple salad I had (at the restaurant downstairs; why is MY office in the middle of a food desert?) seemed just right. Like overgrown geeks everywhere that day, we mostly talked about the iPad, which I won't buy until I can see it as something other than an oversized iPod Touch, which I adore for the way it makes me feel like I can hold my brain in my hand.

More, more, more

1,288 new reviews added to the Horn Book Guide Online. How do you like it? How do you like it?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sunday morning reading

Oh, so much to catch up on here and an editorial to finish to boot. In the meantime, check out two essays by Friends of the Horn Book: Boston Globe-Horn Book judge Julie Just writes about parents in YA books for the NYTBR and Zetta Elliott, whose "Decolonizing the Imagination" appeared in the March/April issue, considers "blackness and borders" over on her blog, Fledgling.

Back to the editorial. Paying heed to the Horn Book's legendary fact-checking, I now have to go watch Working Girl to make sure I have a quote right.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

April 1 Festivities

This is certainly the most UnGreenwillowy thing Greenwillow has ever done.

Two questions about mystery writing

I'm reading (listening to) Lisa Scottoline's latest Bennie Rosato mystery, Think Twice. It's too preposterous for its own good (Bennie's evil identical twin Alice buries alive and then impersonates our heroine), but like many a mediocre book it makes me think about how good books get written. My first question is about suspense, and I'm hoping Nancy Werlin is reading. How does a writer judge just how long a suspense element can be, uh, suspended, without irritating the reader? Part of the task, I imagine, is to keep the suspense credible--how long can Alice impersonate Bennie without someone catching on?--but another part is keeping the reader from losing patience and skipping to the end or tossing the book aside. When does a writer know she's hit the sweet spot of resolution, not too soon, not too late?

My other question is for readers and has to do with series books--Think Twice is something like Scottoline's tenth book about Bennie and her all-lady law firm. When we've been following a series, what does it take to make us give up? I think we forgive weak elements or even weak entire entries because we feel invested in the characters, and there is no question I'll finish Think Twice and eagerly anticipate the next one. But sometimes it can take just one book, bad in some unforgivable way, to make me swear off a series forever and never look back. I dumped Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series when one of them seemed pruriently violent to me. I dropped Jon Land's books about the American and Israeli detective team when he put his heroine on an iceberg parked in the Red Sea. But is it that the author has made a fatal mistake, or that he hadn't really had me hooked in the first place?