Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where we make your dreams come true

It was thanks to the Horn Book that Lisa Yee got to meet her childhood favorite writer. And how does she thank me? Lisa tells me that in honor of my legendary enthusiasm for the American Girl company, she named a character "Rachel Sutton" in her American Girls book Aloha, Kanani, set in contemporary Hawai'i. What she didn't tell me is that Rachel Sutton is the heroine's whiny little bitch cousin from the mainland who wrinkles her nose at all the riches of the Aloha State.

Thanks, Lisa. Next time could I just get a date with Danno?

Even if he is only three feet tall.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Diana Wynne Jones, R.I.P.

In honor of Diana Wynne Jones, a long and true friend of the Horn Book who will be much missed, we're posting an article she wrote for the July/August 2004 Horn Book. Also, a rather funny letter.

May/June stars

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

 Tweak Tweak by Eve Bunting; illus. by Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion)
RRRalph by Lois Ehlert (Beach Lane/Simon)
Good Luck, Anna Hibiscus! and Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus! by Atinuke; illus. by Lauren Tobia
(Kane Miller)
The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm; illus. by Adam Gustavson
The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson
Lark by Tracey Porter
Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
Encyclopedia Mythologica: Dragons & Monsters by Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabuda
Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins; illus. by Vicky White
Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air by Stewart Ross; illus. by Stephen Biesty

Come on down

Next Tuesday through Friday I'll be down at the University of Southern Mississippi's Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, delivering the Ezra Jack Keats Lecture on Thursday. Hope to see some of you there. I last spoke there in 1998 and have gone to the Guide to find some very interesting differences in what publishing looked like then and what it looks like now. Short version: boy wizard.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pizza with rabbits

Kevin Henkes and free pizza are appearing at the Cambridge Public Library Wednesday night. You have to be at least five years old to attend but I heard a rumor that a flash mob of protesting toddlers is already suiting up.

Are historicals history?

In my capacity as chair of the Scott O'Dell Award, I received a letter from a prominent author of historical fiction, bemoaning what she sees as a current lack of interest in the genre among publishers. I have no idea if this is true, as what publishers are in the market for now won't reveal itself to me for at least a year. And while it's true that fewer historicals seem to be published now than in the heyday of the Dear America series (which is being re-amped, I've noticed), the publishing of historical fiction seems to have been fairly consistent over the past decade. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rowling on Lifetime--this could be good. Snort.

But at least Sam got a new job! I'm so happy she's moved on--Brian was a total wimp and Jack would only break her heart again.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mata Haris

Valerie Plame's announcement that she is embarking on a series starring a female spy reminded me of one of my favorites, Evelyn Anthony's books from the 1980s about Davina Graham, starting with The Defector. Subsequent titles include The Avenue of the Dead, Albatross, and The Company of Saints, and while they were reissued with new titles by Severn House in the mid 2000s everything seems out of print. Look for them in your library and only lament that Brit TV never got around to them when Helen Mirren was in her Jane Tennison glory days.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In which I possibly overextend my metaphor to dangerous ends

Last night we went to a preview for the new Omnimax movie Tornado Alley. If you like weather porn, it's really swell, with big scary skies, hail, and lots of cloud and funnel action. I'm not sure I learned much more about tornadoes than I knew going in, but that could be because the immersive footage overwhelms Bill "Big Love" Pullman's Paxton's! narration of the science behind what we were seeing.

Two points I began considering when my attention wandered: One, the only other Omnimax movie I remember seeing is The Polar Express, awful in more ways than I can say. So I don't know if it's my inexperience with the medium that lead to my queasy but delighted disorientation, for, say, the first fifteen minutes of the 45 minute film. I thrilled to the rain, the approaching tornadoes and the zooming-in on the Mad Max-like storm-chasing truck. But after a while, the screen simply looked big, and I felt less like I was experiencing the weather and more like I was watching a movie. (Richard fell asleep.)

My second point might be related to my first. Through most of the movie, we go along with stormchaser-filmmaker Sean Casey as he seeks to plant his truck (which has these cool extensions that grip the ground) right in the middle of a tornado. With aid of radar and other Science, he gets close, closer, but the storms either die down or dance off in another direction. The funnels--gestating, growing, twisting--are awesome to see. But when he does get himself inside, at the end of the movie, it's a letdown, just a blur of wind and rain and white noise. It turns out tornadoes are a lot less interesting (visually, anyway) from the inside than they are from without. Bill Pullman's Paxton's! other tornado movie, Twister, made high drama of the (admittedly ludicrous) moment when he and Helen Hunt are chained at the heart of the storm, watching little silvery cups twirl up into the funnel, their experiment a success and their love renewed. So don't go see Tornado Alley thinking it's going to look like this.

My work-related conclusion concerns our now-reflexive expectation that an "insider's view" is always better, and more "authentic," than an outsider's when it comes to a book 's cultural context. I know people aren't weather. I know outsiders looking in can "get stuff wrong." But I'm guessing that if tornadoes had people living inside them (hey publishers! a new hook!), those folks would have no clue about what their home looked like from the outside--and it's a spectacular view. Inside, it just looks like rain as usual. Now, it is true that Sean Casey's journey into the storm promises to give us new knowledge about tornadoes, and who's not for that? Let's just not automatically dismiss the view from the outside as one not worth seeing.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BALIS workshop, SFPL

Of COURSE I stood up for The Book (in this case, Patrick McDonnell's Me, Jane), but, really we all did--moderator Nina Lindsay and my co-panelists Kristin McLean and Jason Griffey--in the March 4 panel on e-books sponsored by the Bay Area Library and Information System.

We were speaking in the wake of HarperCollins's announcement about their new rules for libraries and ebooks, but that didn't take up as much of the discussion as I thought it would. Mainly, this is because ebook-reading seems to be mostly an adult thing, at least at this point. Kristen's research seems to bear this out--that while kids are adept consumers of various digital products and devices, they still seem to like their book-reading on paper between covers. And Jason acknowledged that while he expects his daughter to do ever more of her reading on screen as she ages, for now books are definitely part of the mix.

You know, there's reading and then there are books. I already do most of my reading on a screen, don't you? It seems to me that the future is going to involve a rather interesting parsing of what we mean by recreational reading, and just what part librarians will play in that mix.

My point with Me, Jane was that some books depend upon format more than others, that paper (in this case) allows you to see the textures that are an important part of the storytelling strategy, and that page-turns can be crucial. And my visit later that weekend with grandson Miles got me thinking about something else: kids want their screens to do stuff-- move, squeak, respond. There are a lot of books where those things simply don't need to happen; in fact, we don't want them to happen. But does this mean printed books will survive, or that a taste for no-frills long-form reading will die off?

Monday, March 14, 2011

BoB Round One

SLJ's Battle of the Books kicks off with Francisco X. Stork making the wrong choice. And he kind of wimps out.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fingers first

I really tried to work it with Miles and the iPad:

Ehh, thinks Miles, but now his mother really, really wants one.
But, at not-quite-two, he did not seem to understand that touching various spots on the glass would make different things happen. He did go after the one non-virtual button on the iPad with a vengeance, but all that does is close whatever program is open at the time, meaning we didn't get very far in A Present for Milo. And he looks more interested in my finger than in the screen.

Or in my eye:

Yes, that's his favorite, The Tushy Book
Or in his firetruck:

With me and Richard--hey is this kid a lefty? Takes after me!

Make it new!

Marc Aronson takes on challenges, particularly a substantial critique by Jim Murphy, to his article "New Knowledge," which appears in the current issue of the Magazine. In his post Jim says he wishes we had a way for readers to comment on articles we post on the site and SO DO I. Until we figure out how to do that, you can comment here or in our Letters to the Editor column, reachable at Magazine at hbook dot com.

(Oh, and that thing Marc blames on us? Totally him. But he is still among our beloved.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Grandchildren are important

if only for the way that, posed correctly, they can take thirty pounds off a guy.

photo by Richard Asch

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ladies and a Gentleman

I'll be reporting on my trip to SF once I wrest the photos from Richard's camera; short version: it was swell.

Meanwhile Katie celebrates Women's History Month with a new booklist of some excellent recent biographies and the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art announces its 2011 Carle Honors Honorees: artist Lois Ehlert, artist and philanthropist Jeanne Steig, University of Minnesota's Children's Literature Research Collections curator Karen Nelson Hoyle, and picture book editor extraordinaire Michael di Capua. Congrats to all!

Friday, March 04, 2011

Mean Girls wannabe

Horn Book intern (and competitive latte artist) Beth sinks her teeth into Amy Holder's The Lipstick Laws over at Out of the Box.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Muppets go BOOM!

Over at Out of the Box, Muppet fan(atic) Cindy raises the curtain on BOOM! Kids'* graphic novels featuring Jim Henson's Muppets.

*which has, as of two weeks ago, morphed into KABOOM!

My whereabouts

Off to San Francisco to talk about ebooks with the children's librarians, have dinner with Nina Lindsay, catch up with college friends, and see the kids. Miles is getting Miles to Go (Candlewick) by Jamie Harper, and Sofia, daughter of my friend Georgie I met in an anthro class, is getting Me . . . Jane (Little, Brown) by Patrick McDonnell.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Keeping it up

We're editing Magazine reviews today, and a couple have made me wonder when and whether we should mention author or publisher websites that promise additional material that supports the book. If anyone in library school is reading this and needs a paper topic, please take a sample of books published, say, three years ago, that coaxed readers to hop online for more. I want to know what that more looks like now.  My guess is . . . less.

This space for rent

Our (well, Kitty's) very own licensed characters, Jakob and Chloe, celebrate Dr. Seuss Day.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

And THEN I'll stick FORKS in my eyes.

I'm over at li'l sis's place today, declaring my love for Big Nate.