Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas, now shut up.

I'm over at Out of the Box today opining on Wild About Books, my favorite thus far of the book apps I have read/heard/fingered/etc. A larger question here, though--why are the narrators for these things so annoying? Thank God you have the option to shut them up and read aloud for yourself because I haven't yet heard a reader I thought was much good.  Too perky, too much verbal underlining, too much of that talking-to-the-children voice that would and should get you slapped if you tried it on another adult. Why inflict it on kids? Courtesy of Ellin Greene, my storytelling professor at GLS, I'm definitely of the less is more school.


If you have a couple of days to sink into an audiobook during these holidays I can't say enough to recommend Kate Burton's unabridged reading of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Here's someone who knows how to sound like a child without getting all juvenile about it. She uses not voices but inflections to convey when each character is speaking--at one point Francie's brother is mimicking their mother and Burton gets the doubled effect just right.  What a book, too--I think I last read it when I was twelve and I'm stunned at both what I remembered and what I forgot.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I was not a good do-bee and got all my reviews done before my vacation so I guess I'll be doing some of that (and, yes, Elissa, reading Guide pages) but I hope to get in a few books, several good meals, and some good running when we are in Ptown next week. Hope your week is terrific as well.

Monday, December 20, 2010

R.I.P. Ron Shank

I'm sorry to report the death of former Horn Book publisher Ron Shank. While it was a blink-and-you-might-have-missed-it relationship, as Ron became ill shortly after LJ and SLJ (and he) were acquired by Media Source, he did come up to Boston for a day and everyone here thought he was going to be a terrific boss. He had Great Plans for us and we will do our best to honor his memory.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Toddler talk

Our Kitty and her son Jakob found themselves on Salley Mavor's blog this week.

Jakob of the Ducks

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Notes from the Horn Book, Fanfare edition

The December issue of Notes from the Horn Book is out with the complete annotated Fanfare, our choices for the best books of 2010, and an interview with the Fanfared Megan Whalen Turner.

Also, Anita Burkam reviews (the movie)  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Sounds good!

What IS truth?

We're working on the March/April Magazine, a special issue about non- and historical fiction. (I'm thinking we should quote Pilate for the issue title but this is mostly Martha's baby so I'll have to run it by her.) Anyway, there's going to be a fabulous essay by novelist Marthe Jocelyn called "Was the Pope Old?" Re the provision of "information" by a novel, Jocelyn writes "What I learn from a book depends on what the author chooses to tell me in what order with what emphasis--and what I happen to care about learning just at that moment." Yup.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes, it's a book, but . . .

Lane Smith's It's a Book got into hot water on Boston's North Shore when a literacy foundation tried to donate copies to 340 first graders via their schools. While I don't buy into the harrumphing that has plagued this book's final page I do have two cautions. One, first-graders? I think It's a Book is better for third. Two, foundations (and Scientologists and Baha'is and Bible-thumpers) should know that gifts do not trump selection policies in public institutions. Just because you want to give something away, it doesn't mean that somebody has to accept it. If this were true, the nation's public libraries would be swimming with copies of National Geographic, and the nation's public schools would be swimming in Coke®.

I'm also bothered by the concept that one book suits all. Unless the publisher unloaded copies on the foundation, somebody had to pay for these books. Even at Amazon's suspiciously deep discount of 57 percent, that would come to more than 1800 dollars, money that could have been spread around to give the kids some choice.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fanfare 2010

The following books have been named to the Horn Book Magazine's 2010 Fanfare list, our selections for the best children's and young adult books of the year. The list will be published in next week's Notes from the Horn Book with annotations explaining what makes each book so great. In the same issue, Martha Parravano has "Five Questions For . . ." Fanfare honoree Megan Whalen Turner. Sign up now.


2010 Horn Book Fanfare

Picture Books
Mirror, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick)
Me and You, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne (Farrar)
I Know Here, written by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood)
April and Esme, Tooth Fairies, written and illustrated by Bob Graham (Candlewick) 
The Village Garage, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Ottaviano/Holt)
Nini Lost and Found, written and illustrated by Anita Lobel (Knopf)

Fiction
Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum)
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher (Dial)
Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley, by Stephanie Greene (Clarion)
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)
The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, written and illustrated by Lincoln Peirce (HarperCollins)
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)
The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic)
Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
The White Horse Trick, by Kate Thompson (Greenwillow)
A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins)

Folklore
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, written and illustrated by Salley Mavor (Houghton)

Poetry
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton)
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse (Dutton)

Nonfiction
They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton)
The War to End All Wars: World War I, by Russell Freedman (Clarion)
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot [Scientists in the Field], written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop (Houghton)
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery, written by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook)

One for the boys

Peter asks a really good question about the William C. Morris Award for first-time YA writers. I hadn't realized that fourteen of the fifteen shortlisted finalists thus far have been women. Given the buzz around  (and the merit of) Charles Benoit's You, I was expecting to see that there. [Edited to read: until I discovered the book wasn't eligible; see comments.] Also, what about Jandy Nelson's The Sky Is Everywhere? That's the Girl Book of the year.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Field trip!

Writer Susan Kushner Resnick pays tribute to one of our finest local institutions, the New England Mobile Book Fair.

New Guide reviews

The Horn Book Guide Online has just added 290 new reviews for your reading pleasure. Also, beginning in January, the Magazine will be including a supplement of Guide reviews, selected from the last two years, in each issue. Up first we feature reviews of recommended sports books to accompany Dean Schneider's article "What Makes a Good . . . Sports Novel?"

You know, sports is a pretty funny-looking word.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Do you skim?

In her review of the new super-indie film Tiny Furniture, Manohla Dargis wrote of the writer-director-star Lena Dunham that she's "not afraid of boring you," a phrase I am convinced is going to come in very handy when I have to say something at least nominally nice. I've already used it while watching In Treatment.

Dargis meant it as a straightforward compliment, though, and I can see what she means. There are moments in film (or tv, theater, opera) where we accept being bored as either part of the work's artistic strategy (my example of this is always Elaine May's Mikey and Nicky, which uses our boredom to set us up for the explosive ending) or as a time-out for daydreaming until things get interesting again. That's a lot harder to do with a book, though, because a book can't read itself, tapping you on the shoulder when it goes back to being good. Thus the power and pleasure of skimming. While I'd never skim something I was reviewing (cross my heart), I do it all the time in private life. And if it doesn't cause me to give up a book entirely, it frequently enough sends me back to read what I skipped once I've found out that it's going to be worth it. People do get huffy about skimming though, insisting you haven't "really read" a book if you've skipped the snoozy parts or ducked out before the end. But there's reading and reading: I don't know about you, but once I'm bored, I've stopped "really reading" anyway, as my awareness of my discomfort has pushed me from the world of the book.

Hazel Rochman tells everybody to skip the first chapter of Wuthering Heights. I believe I shall, should I ever try to read it again.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

We Real Cool

"To today’s children linear storylines are boring and only relevant in school. Providing access to [video] games/stories became one of the missions of our youth services department. We wanted to be exciting, fun, and relevant to the young customers we see in our library every day."

Take a look at this American Libraries article about how popular a library can be simply by providing video games and equipment. Then come back and shoot me.

It's not that I object to the library circulation of video games. Knock yourselves out. It's the rationale. Since birth, I have given adults who were trying  to be "exciting, fun, and relevant" a wide berth, and I suspect that these librarians are taking the games more seriously than do the kids themselves.  I also think it is rather counter-countercultural to use the ratings determined by the industry's self-regulatory agency to decide which kids get to play what. Are the selection process and access policies suspended for non-book materials?