Thursday, February 25, 2010

An editorial query

For an upcoming article, we need to compile a list of children's and YA authors and illustrators, living or dead, who are/were vegetarians (don't ask; just subscribe!). Can anyone point me to any such verifiable persons?

Would we get more love from advertisers

. . . if we worked the way Yelp is accused of doing?

"Oh, we can make that 5-in-the-Guide totally go away, no problem. A star, you say? Well, let me tell you what I can do . . . ."

I remember some years ago my friend Mary K. Chelton raising a ruckus in the Letters column of SLJ, implying that positive reviews (in SLJ and elsewhere) bore an interesting relationship to advertising in the same pages. And I myself have pondered the practice of book award committee members being wined-dined-and-sixty-nined by publishers. While I know of no instance where a review or an award has been even attempted to be bought or sold outright, it behooves us all to keep the lines as bright as possible. At the risk of boring you with this anecdote for the tenth time, I remember a BBYA committee I was on arguing about what Gary Paulsen might have meant by some ambiguous turn of phrase or plot, I forget just which. One member brightly announced that she knew exactly what was meant because "Gary told me while we were dancing last night." It's not the dancing I minded so much as its bumping into the evaluation process.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Old home week

Didn't kiss no pigs but did have a glorious drive down (up? up and down?) Sunset Blvd. from the Getty Museum to the heart of Hollywood. (Unfortunately, the only stars we saw were of the reality-show stripe, Bruce and Kris Jenner, sitting in the booth next to ours at Beso, the restaurant managed by son Ethan. I had to be told who they were. Ethan also introduced us to Beso chef Todd English, who arrived at the restaurant with a bevy of beauties.)

The work part of the week went fine. I spoke about Mommy/Daddy-loves-you-best books at Pomona to an audience of enthusiastic students, profs, booksellers and writers (Susan Patron, Candace Ryan, and Megan Whalen Turner graciously attended.) After lunch (our thirty-year-old favorite, patty melts at Walters, which has gotten way fancier) the next day with my old Pitzer bestie Ruth, we went over to the campus for a rather more intime (read: sparsely attended) but lively discussion of censorship with Susan and then went for a walk around the campus, which has doubled in size since the 70s. The students were very polite to us Olds, and even praised the cafeteria food. (The all-you-can-eat ice cream, rumored to be a string attached to a bequest, was gone, but I noted that two vegan specialities were offered on each menu.) Right: Susan Patron and me.

And son Dorian and his wife were very gracious to drive out to SFO for our stopover on the way home, bringing number-one-grandson Miles along for our adoration. When did he turn from a baby into a little boy? (He's not even a year yet, so it must be the haircut.)

And now I'm back and pondering the in-box drama that is the ALSC discussion of lowering its age level of service from fourteen to thirteen. It's amazing what can draw fire from the dragon ladies' throats!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Percy Jackson

Claire takes a breather from library school to review the movie.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I'm gonna see the folks I dig, I'll even . . .

. . . oops, don't want to have to make like Sylvester and use my magic pebble to hide from the boys in blue. But I am going to California next week and will be giving two presentations to which you are all invited. Both are free.

The first is on Thursday, February 18th, where I'll be at Pomona College in Claremont, speaking on "Children's Literature and Adults: Where do we get off?" It's at 4:15 PM, Ena Thompson Room, Crookshank Hall. I hear there will be snacks.

On Friday the 19th, I'll be speaking at my alma mater Pitzer College, also in Claremont, with fellow alum Susan Patron on "What Makes a Good Banned Book?: How Children's Literature Gets Into Trouble." That will be from 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM, reception to follow, Broad Performance Space. Those with testicular fortitude are welcome to join us.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Eat these words

"Terrific Baby" cake by Jennifer Brabander for Elissa Gershowitz's baby shower today at the office. Photo by Lolly Robinson. Elissa is married to Ken Silber and we really want them to name the baby Wilbur. As you can see.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Notes, awards edition

The February issue of Notes from the Horn Book is out, featuring parent-friendly takes on the ALA winners and an interview with O'Dell winner Matt Phelan. See if HE thinks The Storm in the Barn is historical fiction.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Great minds

Our Fanfare choice Button Up: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Petra Mathers has been awarded the 2010 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Congrats, Alice!

And now, to paraphrase Nicki Grimes on Jerry Pinkney, just give Petra Mathers the damn Caldecott medal, already.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

How do you buy books?

I'm perplexed by Amazon's statement about their showdown with Macmillan, where, after pulling that publisher's print- and e-books from, they (paradoxically) go on to defend the free market as the best friend to the little guy:

We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan's terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it's reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don't believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative. (from the Kindle discussion board)

So the idea is that if a book from Macmillan costs too much, a reader will choose a less expensive book instead. Really? Is that how we buy books? I can see taking a risk on a book that is cheap (the top five Kindle best "sellers" are not cheap, they are free) but I can't see wanting to read, say, Finger Lickin' Fifteen, and settling for something else because Amazon wasn't selling it (the situation now) or because it cost more than some other book. I do understand the bookseller's reluctance to allow publishers to set prices (although I also kind of wish I was back in Germany, where book-discounting is verboten, thus allowing independent stores to compete) but I'm not buying its logic. Unless--the reading culture of e-books becomes a completely different thing from that of print books, where you don't care so much about reading the new Janet Evanovich as you do for reading whatever the hot e-book du jour is, whose price might only be a buck.

Who will read about who?

Whom? I never get that right.

In either case, J. L. Bell has posted one of the smartest things I've yet read about color and reading. Much of the current blogging discussion about the "whitewashing" of covers, etc., assumes that if evil publishers and ignorant librarians would only change their ways and open their eyes they would see a world of unprejudiced young readers eager to devour books regardless of the color of skin on the cover or on the main character. But as Bell asks, do we know this to be true or do we simply want to believe it?

I've been working on an essay about the last ten years in children's book publishing (note to ALA: yes, it's coming, already) and while I can be as self-righteous as anyone about the cynicism of publishing, I can also see that the school and library forces that, in the past, informed a moral code in children's books have an increasingly small impact upon an increasingly small piece of the business. The gatekeepers didn't "make" Harry Potter or Twilight, they followed along.

On a related note, I laughed when I read a reader's comment about the Times report on the Oscar nominations: "'Urban drama' means there are black people in it, in case anyone was wondering. Come ON, New York Times!"

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

March/April starred reviews

The following books will receive starred reviews in the March-April issue of the Horn Book Magazine:

My Garden, by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)
Once by Morris Gleitzman (Holt)
Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs by Ron Koertge (Candlewick)
The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan; illus. by Peter Sís (Scholastic)
Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork (Levine/Scholastic)
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins)
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer; illus. by Josée Masse (Dutton)

Count 'em, 669

Previewing the Spring 2010 print edition of The Horn Book Guide, that's the number of new reviews just added to the Horn Book Guide Online. Check it out.