Monday, August 29, 2011

New World Coming

A new website, anyway, launching next Tuesday, September 6th (fingers, legs, eyes, toes, etc. crossed). The address remains the same--www.hbook.com--but the look will be livelier and the navigation easier. This blog will be at hbook.com/blogs/readroger (likewise for /outofthebox) and don't forget our new blog debuting that day, /callingcaldecott.

One thing I'm most looking forward to is the ability to make and respond to comments about any articles, not just blog posts, we put on the site, and I'm hoping you will, as Quentin Blake had it, all join in.

Here's a preview of my new look, courtesy of designer Lolly Robinson and illustrator Ed Briant:


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The cake she baked


Simmons gal Susan Bloom made this delicious wedding cake for us, chocolate with praline frosting. YUM. While it is true that I am taller than Richard, I am represented by the little faux-Hummel guy in the bow tie (whose head fell off when we washed him; sorry Kitty) while the tall man is an Alias action figure of arch villain Arvin Sloane as played by Ron Rifkin, to whom Richard bears a startling resemblance.

Thank you Susan for the cake; Kitty for the faux-Hummel and all the Horn Bookers who made fruit salad, took pictures, danced, and held my hand.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family Values


After twenty-odd years of living in sin, Richard and I are getting married this weekend (the pic above is from the lovely surprise shower thrown for me today by the Horn Book ladies) and tomorrow is the start of the preparatory madness. Music: check; lights: check; suits: check; vows, food, rings, cake, cleaning: not so much. See you all next week!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cross out Beezus!

I just saw two three four new YA novels indulging employing  annoying pervasive strike-throughs to indicate a narrator's dithering second thoughts or transparently self-buffing lies strategic rearrangements of the truth. I think this might be 2012's dead girl OCD selectively mute protagonist of choice. It's kind of like when everyone gets the same toy for Christmas an interesting  new post-modern narrative choice that reveals the self-centeredness reflexivity of the typing writing process.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Question re The Help,

which I have just finished and found interesting in ways intended and otherwise. But I am unsure about a major plot point and will to try to phrase my question so as not to spoil it for anyone planning to read it or see the movie: Did Minny actually do what she said she did to Hilly or was the genius just in making her believe she did?

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Hubris alert

I am looking forward to the ART production of Porgy and Bess, the first opera I ever saw from good seats (I was taken by the late great Oz librarian Margaret Trask twenty-five years ago in Sydney)  and thus responsible for my financial ruin. And I understand that this production is not going to be the full-on opera, with dialog replacing the recitative and a Broadway singer (the wonderful Audra McDonald) starring as Bess. One of the great things about the work is the way it has survived various incarnations and the success many of the "numbers" have had as pop and jazz standards (best being, I think, Nina Simone's "I Love You, Porgy")

But a recent NYT story makes me verrry nervous, especially this quote from playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, tasked with revising the opera for this production. She says, "if [Gershwin] had lived longer he would have gone back to the story of ‘Porgy and Bess’ and made changes, including to the ending.” She's going to change the ending? The ending is the BEST: Porgy, freed from jail, returns to Catfish Row only to find Bess has run off to New York with that no-good Sportin' Life. "Bring me my goat!" he commands, referring to the goat-driven cart he uses to get around (although not, apparently, in this production; he'll use a cane instead). And off he heads to New York, leading the chorus in the rousing "Oh Lord, I'm on my way." What is Parks going to do instead, send Bess to rehab? This is kind of like saying that had E.B. White lived, Charlotte would be happily spinning sheets for Fern's babies.

So now I'm just hoping it won't be the adolescent disaster that was ART's Cabaret.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Counting YA

Harold Underdown has done some interesting digging into the statistics about YA publishing that were used by journalist D.B. Grady for an article in the Atlantic. But whether there were 30,000 YA novels published in 2009 (unlikely, as Harold demonstrates) or 8,000 (as Harold estimates), can we all agree that there are too many? My own recent research into this question revealed that while the number of hardcover books published for children and teens in 2010 (about 4500) was just 25% higher than the number published in 1998, the percentage of those books that were novels almost doubled, from 18% to 33%. (I did not differentiate middle-grade and YA, but I'll try to recrunch and get back to you.)

On a related note, have you ever noticed how much the menfolk of the children's book biz love to count things? Ask Peter Sieruta or Jonathan Hunt or Ray Barber about  what-won-what-when-and-how-many-times and prepare to be amazed. Maybe Travis Jonker should design some Newbery-Caldecott trading cards, complete with stats on the backs.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Press here

I was just checking some links for the forthcoming issue of Notes from the Horn Book and found this beautiful thing.

Expectations

Richard and I have been watching MI-5 (The Show Originally Known as Spooks) via Netflix. Andrew Thorne warned me not to get too attached to any of the characters, and I'm seeing why, as the show seems liable to bump off anyone at any time, either by death or banishment to a foreign country. It's a very different experience from watching any high-stakes American show, in which any departure (lethal or otherwise) of a main character is scheduled for Sweeps Week or the season finale, and is accompanied by much drum-banging in advance. (Of course, this might have happened in the U.K. when the shows were originally broadcast--does anyone know?)

When i was speaking at the Simmons Institute this past weekend, somebody asked me if the broader parameters for YA (age range, subject, sheer numbers) meant that our expectations of the genre had become more uncertain. My first thought was that we have an awful lot of main characters dying in the first chapter, but since they go on to narrate from The Beyond it's not all that disturbing. But are we thrown for more loops? Despite the ever-greater perils into which they are thrown, can we still count on YA heroes to stick around for the finale? Who's done a body count?

Frankly, I'm up for any book which doesn't make me say, "oh, it's another one of those."