Wednesday, February 23, 2011

and someday Man will walk on the Moon

Interesting discussion on the ALSC-L listserv: they are discussing what to do with Judith St. George and David Small's So You Want to Be President, which, last revised in 2004, includes the statement that "no person of color has been President." On the one hand it is dated and inaccurate; on the other, the original edition (ending with Bill Clinton) won the 2001 Caldecott Medal. What trumps what?

In any case, Scottie Bowditch at Penguin tells me that a revised edition (with some new pics as well) is due out next January.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Let's hope this doesn't catch on

An author is suing the publisher of a book review for criminal libel. The Times article is entertainingly snarky (it doesn't hurt that the author, reviewer, and publisher are all lawyers) but don't miss the exchange of letters between the author and the publisher (it's a pdf), who seem to be friends. Or at least they were.

Although there was that one time a publisher threatened to sue us if we reviewed any more of their books (we did and they didn't, by the way, but they no longer submit their titles for review), most of the flack we get here is about the books we don't review. (Cue Alex Forrest, with a butcher knife, holding a copy of Peter Rabbit.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Gratuitous or essential?

Watching the Grammys the other night and finally succumbing to the hook they seemed to be playing over and over (reminding me of the night, now and forever, the Tonys would not let go of "Midnight . . . all the kitties are sleeping . . ."), I became curious about the apparently runaway success of "Need You Now." (The original is fine but I love this tribute even more.) I was interested to discover that the label had some concern about the line "It's a quarter after one, / I'm a little drunk, / And I need you now." Luckily, the band and wiser heads prevailed, as I think the song became the ubiquitous hit it is because its slight whiff of realism gives those who disdain "adult contemporary" or "smooth country" permission to go ahead and enjoy the song. I wonder if the inclusion of what we used to call swear words do the same thing in books for kids. That even if a sentence would read perfectly well without the fuck thrown into the middle of it, does the use of the offending word gives readers permission to trust the book?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When books become real

This little bit of internet mischief always makes me think of Frindle.

R.I.P. Margaret K. McElderry

In memory of the great and good Margaret K. McElderry, who died on Monday, we offer the two-part interview Leonard Marcus conducted with her for the November-December 1993 and January-February 1994 issues of the Horn Book Magazine.

The list of books Margaret published that I love is very, very long, but it begins with Margot Benary-Isbert's The Ark, which my mother bought for me when I was around ten, and which I read over and over for years. Every kid should be fortunate enough to find such a book to love so much, and it's thanks to the MKMs of the world that they get published. God bless her.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

HBGO à go-go

The Horn Book Guide online has just posted 349 new reviews of the great, good, and distinctly mediocre.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Boy in the Garden and Two Great Ladies

I review Allen Say's latest book in the Times today. I had been hoping that book, along with Anita Lobel's Nini Lost and Found might figure in the ALA lists and awards but do they listen to me? In any case, we've made a beautiful cover from Nini's art for the forthcoming Horn Book Guide. (And in related news, I saw and heard Anita's daughter Adrienne via the magic of HD satellite transmission yesterday afternoon during the intermission of the Met's production of Nixon in China, for which Adrienne had created the sets.)

One last and sad Anita and Nini connection--I heard late Friday that Anita's Knopf editor Janet Schulman had died. Janet, formerly of Macmillan (the old one) and retired publisher of Random House children's books, is a true legend and was a great colleague. A good writer, too--in the recently published  In the Words of the Winners, our collection with ALSC of the last decade's Newbery and Caldecott speeches and related material, I cite her Pale Male as a book I thought the Newbery committee should have paid attention to. Janet had promised me a walk in Central Park to see the titular hawk but now I will have to do it in her memory.

Friday, February 11, 2011

You're terrible, Muriel

English writer Martin Amis, quoted in The Guardian:
I say, 'If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book', but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you're directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable.
 Pass the popcorn.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I guess Dakota Fanning would be too obvious a choice

for Alice, but Greenwillow reports news of casting choices for the movie version of The Last Apprentice, one of my favorite scary books.  Jeff Bridges as the Spook, huh. Saw him last night in True Grit, a movie that seemed to me compelling but not involving.

When there's not an app for that

And speaking of science, check out this smart SLJ article by Douglas Rushkoff about the perils of raising consumers, rather than creators, of digital delivery systems. While it is true that I've never actually used the assembly language I learned in library school (twice, as I flunked it the first time), it was good to get an understanding of what's under the hood.

And no pink sneakers for you, young man

Oprah's pal Dr. Phil offers advice to a mother whose five-year-old son likes girls' clothes and Barbies:

"This is not a precursor to your son being gay," explains Dr. Phil. He'll know that in time, but this is not an indication of his sexual orientation.

Dr. Phil tells Robby that she has a job to do: "Direct your son in an unconfusing way. Don't buy him Barbie dolls or girl's clothes. You don't want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game ... Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys."

Most importantly, he tells Robby, "Support him in what he's doing, but not in the girl things."

One, "Robby" needs to clean up her act and refeminate her name. Two, we wonder why boys don't read more. Three, any man who makes a career of sitting around on a couch to chat with the ladies is in no position to throw purses.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

February Notes

The February issue of Notes from the Horn Book is out, headlined by Martha Parravano's Five Questions for Wilder Award winner Tomie dePaola. Otherwise, we give you a handy annotated list of the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Sibert, King, and Belpre-winning books.

Becoming a Nation of Wusses

The recent report about the reluctance of high school biology teachers to teach evolution really drives me crazy. Again. I think I am most bothered by the 60% of teachers who weasel out of or around the topic because of fear, not their own convictions. It's like librarians who don't buy certain materials because they are afraid they will get into trouble. Sometimes this threat is real, sometimes not, and sometimes it's just projection, the teacher or librarian using an imaginary public to justify his or her own worldview. But if science teachers won't stand up for science, who will?

We've got a great piece coming up in the May issue by Steve Jenkins about the politicization of science and its effect on education. Read it and weep.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Alice McKinley called, and she wants her cover back

Phoebe Stone's The Romeo and Juliet Code, which is getting a starred review in the March-April issue of the Magazine, is a book with many mysteries. Not least of which is the cover, left. Call me obtuse, but there's nothing about that cover that screams or even whispers eccentric, mildly over-the-top tale about a sturdy English girl who in 1941 is taken across the treacherous Atlantic by her parents to stay with some unconventional relatives who live with a whole bunch of secrets in an old house on the coast of Maine. P.S. No beach-blanket cuddling.

And slept, on the bus, through the Superbowl

Back from a weekend in New York--Lost in the Stars at Encores! (terribly worthy and high-minded), Billy Elliot (LOTS of fun) and a double-dip at MOMA with Andy Warhol's movies and the Abstract Expressionists (my favorite pictured, Jackson Pollock's Easter and the Totem).

I wonder when we learn to be willingly (if grudgingly) edified. Watching Lost in the Stars, I thought, "well, this is dull and preachy and the singing isn't all that exciting, but I'm glad to have finally seen an Encores! production and to add to my knowledge of Kurt Weill's music, which in the main I like." I guess it's a form of delayed gratification, never my favorite concept, but perhaps I'm growing up.

As far as "Modern Art" goes, I just stick with Gertrude Stein's considered response: "I like to look at it."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

March/April stars

The following books will receive starred reviews in the March/April 2011 issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage (Scholastic)

Chime by Franny Billingsley (Dial)

Recovery Road by Blake Nelson (Scholastic)

The Romeo and Juliet Code by Phoebe Stone (Levine/Scholastic)

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt; illus. by Louise Yates (Knopf)

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random)

Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell (Little, Brown)

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story by Thomas F. Yezerski (Farrar)

Shoulda stuck to their guns

Colleen has a great post up summarizing the drama that's been going on around Bitch Magazine's publication of "100 Young Adult Books for the Feminist Reader." The comments on the magazine's site are the best--incensed that Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels (among others) had been removed from the list because it might "trigger" victims of rape, other writers who have books on the list (Maureen Johnston, Ellen Klages, Scott Westerfeld, etc.) are demanding that their books be removed, too.

But these "triggers." I dunno--while I don't deny that subsequent experiences can unpleasantly or even horrifically cause a previous trauma to reemerge, who knows what is going to do what to whom?  It seems like the ultimate drama queen trump card: you can't say/write/show/do anything that might cause somebody/somewhere/sometime to have a panic attack? Shoot me now.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Well, what about Dick Sargent, then?

The children's librarians over at PUBYAC are discussing impossible homework assignments--like the kid who came in and needed a biography (it had to be a book) about Dick York, famous Indianan. I sympathize--I'm sure I've mentioned here before the hordes of kids who came into my little branch library needing copies of God Is My Co-Pilot. The YAC-kers, per usual, have lots of helpful suggestions, not for Dick York biographies, unfortunately, but how to effectively and tactfully communicate to schools just what kinds of resources are available at the local library--or on the planet.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

In a perfect world Hawaii Five-O would be the number one show

I would love to be a Nielsen family, but I have never understood why the TV industry still relies on sampling for data. And apparently they will have to change.