Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A book that begs for flashlight reading

Serendipitous with my enjoyment of M. T. Anderson's refereeing of Charles and Emma v. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, I had the best time last week reading the equally Darwinian-themed The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1912. Somehow I had always missed this novel (and its subsequent movie spinoffs), but my ten-year-old self would have loved it. You can tell how much fun Conan Doyle had  playing with Darwin's theories; the book busily throws poisonous snakes, ape-people, Indians, and dinosaurs at the bombastic Professor Challenger and his crew, who dip into a dizzy smorgasbord of scientific thought to account for what they are seeing. Cheerfully racist and violent, though, so I can't imagine the book regaining a foothold today.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did we make it?

I think we did.  In the news: Australian fantasy writer, and winner of the 1984 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (for A Little Fear), Patricia Wrightson has died. More happily, Hans Christian Andersen awards have been won by David Almond (also a BGHB winner, for The Fire Eaters) for writing and Jutta Bauer for illustration (although I suspect Ms. Bauer is somewhat older than the fifteen years the IBBY site would have her be!).

More later--but a question about Wrightson, and Mayne and Garner: still read by kids? In the U.S. at least, these three were more critics' darlings than popular favorites but I still wonder how they've stood up amidst the great wash of fantasy published in the last decade. It's much more of a populist genre than before, yes?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

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Birds do it

and we're doing it too, migrating, from Read Roger's home on hbook.com to some shady spot that Blogger has picked out for us. It's really more a forced march. When we get there, you should be automatically moved to join us. So they tell us. Everything should be a-okay by this evening, Lolly says.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sid Fleischman

Sid Fleischman, winner of the Newbery Medal (for The Whipping Boy) and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (for Humbug Mountain) died on March 17th at the age of ninety. To remember him, we've posted an article Sid wrote in 1976 for the Magazine.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Not as rhetorical a question as you might have wished

From the promo blurb for My Double Life, by Janette Rallison:

You know how they say everyone has a twin somewhere in the world, a person chance has formed to be their mirror image? Well, mine happens to be rock star Kari Kingsley. How crazy is that?

Not crazy at all, when you, like I, have just spent two days combing through dozens (and dozens) of new YA novels, every other one of which seeming to encapsulate a formula of romance novel plus high-concept commercial hook plus glamorama cover art. In my day we called these paperbacks.

One of the more interesting of post-Harry Potter developments has been the emergence of commercial fiction for young people; that is, books designed to be purchased by kids/teens themselves, written in an undemanding style and with an alluring, quickly graspable premise. Airport books. Except if they were airport books, I wouldn't have to think twice about not reviewing them. And. There. Are. So. Many. And so many that seem to want desperately to be just like some other book that has already been a hit. Little Vampire Women, I'm looking at you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maybe this is only funny if you've been reviewing books for twenty-five years, but

What do Heath Ledger: Talented Actor, John Lennon: Legendary Musician & Beatle, and Michael Jackson: King of Pop have in common? They are all entries in the Lives Cut Short series from ABDO.

Aw, now I'm all nostalgic for Things to Know about Death and Dying, published in Silver Burdett's Look Before You Leap series in 1985.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Battle of the Books

SLJ's Battle of the Books begins with Jim Murphy deciding between Charles and Emma and Claudette Colvin. Was this random? I mean, is it chance that a noted nonfiction writer is choosing between two nonfiction books? I do agree with his choice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Honor Books or Runners-Up?

Until I read Time magazine this morning, I hadn't noticed that the Academy Awards had changed "and the Oscar goes to . . ." to "and the winner is . . . ," a phrasing not heard on the show since 1989. In our own world, ALSC changed the designation runner up to Honor Book for, er, runners-up for the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in 1971. I've been assured by several people that the change was not just euphemistic and that the terms mean different things but damned if I can figure out what the difference is. Does anyone know? K.T., Nina, Peter, are you out there?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March Notes

In the new issue of Notes from the Horn Book, we recommend some springtime picture books, middle-grade adventure novels, new YA for girls, and a few good science books. And I interview the sizzle behind the Frizzle, Joanna Cole.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Thursday, March 04, 2010


We're working on a feature for the May issue, "What Makes a Good Graduation Gift Book?" and it's causing me to think about how complicated gift-giving can be. As Betty Carter says in the article, any gift of a book comes with an agenda: here's what I like or think is important and/or here's what I think you like or should find important. In either case, here's what I think about you. I remember the time an acquaintance gave me a Madonna CD for my birthday, and my acerbic friend Ruth remarked, "that's the kind of present a straight girl gives a gay man . . . she doesn't know very well."

Me, I generally give a gift card rather than a book, a dodge that Anne Quirk rightly denounced as cowardice. Richard is braver and/or more thoughtful, and almost always comes up with gifts of books or music that reveal he keeps a close eye on my tastes as well as what I already own. But for my last birthday he gave me a copy of Arthur Phillips' The Song Is You. It was a good guess, all about love and music and iPods, sort of a higher-minded High Fidelity, but reading it was complete hell--the prose was simply way too rich for my taste. But I gamely soldiered on, a few pages here and there, always packing it in my bag for vacations but never getting much beyond page 75. You have to, right, when it's a present from someone who loves you?

He eventually noticed that it was languishing, however, and took it for his own enjoyment. (Perhaps this was his motive for buying it in the first place, the way I bought him Simon Mawer's The Glass Room, which, fortunately, he loved and I am loving.) But today, triumph! I just got an email from him quoting from the Phillips, "her breath a cumulus the size of a peach," adding, simply, "slows you down, doesn't it?" Uh huh.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

March/April Horn Book Magazine

The March/April issue of the Horn Book Magazine, dedicated to Katherine Paterson, is now out and, selectively, up.

Why is there air?

And why does everyone think we all understand football? Last week I finally saw The Blind Side, whose climax involves a football game and a kid learning how to change from being a crap football player to a great footballer player. I couldn't tell the difference between what he was doing wrong and what he was doing right, despite the p r o l o n g e d football footage.

Now I'm reading Louis Sachar's new book The Cardturner, which revolves perhaps obsessively around the game of bridge. But what does Sachar, via his narrator Alton, evoke to explain it? Yup:
"I realize that reading about a bridge game isn't exactly thrilling. No one's going to make a movie out of it. Bridge is like chess. A great chess player moves his pawn up one square, and for the .0001 percent of the population who understand what just happened, it was the football equivalent of intercepting a pass and running it back for a touchdown."
Now I'm two times deeper in the dark.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Many men have tried to mix us up but no one can

Today we welcome editorial director Brian Kenney (with me above; photo taken by Mitali Perkins at Midwinter), publisher Ron Shank, and the rest of School Library Journal and Library Journal to Media Source, our parent company. Here's the press release:

Ohio-based Media Source Inc. announces today that it has acquired Library Journal and School Library Journal from Reed Business Information-US. The acquisition includes all print and Web products, services, supplements, and newsletters, including Library Hotline. With this purchase, Media Source, best known for its ownership of Junior Library Guild and The Horn Book, Inc., adds substantially to its product offerings in the library market.

“Library Journal and School Library Journal are valuable magazines that deserve a corporate home focused on libraries,” said Randall Asmo, CEO of Media Source. “We respect the history and contribution of LJ and SLJ. Our goal is to build upon those strengths to provide a vital and comprehensive service to the librarian community.”

The Editorial and Advertising Sales groups of the acquired publications will continue operations in New York City. Asmo continues, “Editor-in-Chief Brian Kenney and Publisher Ron Shank are important to the success of SLJ and LJ, and they will remain in their current roles. We believe that the combined businesses of SLJ, LJ, Junior Library Guild, and The Horn Book will create a myriad of new opportunities in the marketplace. At the same time, our plan is to have each business unit continue to operate with complete editorial independence.”

About Media Source Inc.: Media Source, with headquarters just outside Columbus, Ohio, is the parent company of Junior Library Guild (JLG) and The Horn Book, Inc. JLG is a review and collection development service that provides new release children’s and young adult books to more than 17,000 school and public libraries. The Horn Book, Inc. reviews children’s and young adult books in two print publications, The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide.

About School Library Journal (SLJ): Each monthly issue of SLJ includes reviews of children’s and young adult books, audio, and multimedia products, as well as news, features, and columns that deliver the perspective, resources, and leadership tools necessary for its readers to become indispensable players in their schools and libraries. More than 100,000 librarians who work with students in public and school libraries read School Library Journal.

About Library Journal (LJ): Founded in 1876, Library Journal is the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field. Over 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. In its twenty annual issues, LJ reviews nearly 7000 books and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns.

About Reed Business Information-US: Reed Business Information-US (www.reedbusiness.com/us) is a leading business-to-business information provider of publications and web sites, as well as custom publishing, directories and research. Reed Business Information-US is part of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK and ENL), a world leading provider of professional information and workflow solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal, Risk Management and Business sectors.

Reed Business Information-US and Reed Elsevier were represented by The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., a New York City-based investment bank that specializes in the media and information industries.

Media Contact:
Andrew Thorne, VP Marketing, Media Source Inc.