>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.

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Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Agreed on both points.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >It was the supernatural element of The Card Turner that bugged me. Surprised Stork didn't deal with it (one way or the other).

  3. Anonymous says:

    >You know, I agree that Stork sort of wimped out when it came time to make a decision, but I disagree with your claim that he didn't make the right choice. I thought both were awesome, but Cardturner read better… Easy was a little too hard to get through at times. One or two of those (often implausible) episodes could have been cut out to help with pacing. Come on, you had a problem with supernatural in Cardturner but no problem with 15-y.o. Ry sailing a boat and not killing himself?!
    -Sam Bloom

  4. Roger Sutton says:

    >Like the BRIDGE wasn't? ;-)

    I could accept the sailing more easily than the sudden appearance of the spirit guides–they just seemed like such a weak way to bring the book to a conclusion.

  5. >Too many of these decisions come down to "they're both good books and I have to pick one, so here", which maybe underscores why I don't get much out of this competition. Actually, I prefer the coin-flip to when the authors say something that doesn't make sense at all, like when one author chose a particular book over another because you could tell how much work the author put into it, not that the other author didn't work just as hard, but you didn't really pick up on that reading the book… I mean, what?

  6. Anonymous says:

    >I though the supernatural component of The Cardturner raised too many issues without addressing them. Oh, so there's an afterlife? Tell me more. Is whatisname the evil Senator somewhere in Hell? Who else is there with you? Can you channel Abraham Lincoln for me? Should I worry more about the pack of crayons I stole in third grade?

    I would expect all kinds of questions to present themselves when you have clear proof of life after death, but none of them seem to cross the characters' minds.

  7. Anonymous says:

    >You're right, Roger – the whole bridge thing IS pretty hard to fathom! But I enjoyed it so much I just kind of took a leap of faith with it.

    In response to Wendy, I agree that a few of the judges have made kind of lame claims about why they're picking something (like last year with When You Reach Me losing because the judge basically lost interest once he realized there was a time travel component). In the end, there is a lot of diplomatic speech going on, where one author obviously doesn't want to tread on toes, but I still enjoy the process all the same!
    -Sam Bloom

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >Sam, I like the lame claims more than the boringly scrupulous even-handedness. But these judges are in a very tough spot, and they have nothing to lose by making nice. It's a small world–I saw a tweet last week from an agent who said she wouldn't represent someone who wrote something not-nice about one of her authors.

  9. >I actually liked both these books, but I thought The Cardturner was a little more traditional with the kind of magical old person, the boy/girl thing, and the kid finding himself in an interest he at first had no interest in. The passion for bridge really made the book for me, and I don't even like playing Uno.

    So an agent said she wouldn't represent someone who wrote something less than nice about one of her authors, huh? I think it was just a week or two ago that Liz B. directed us to a very lengthy Internet discussion of just that kind of thing. Wow.

  10. Anonymous says:

    >Is there any possibility that the judges–instead of "making nice" or "wimping out"–might have a heightened sense of awareness as to what kind of labor goes into a book, and what constitutes good workmanship? There seems to be a vague assumption that negative criticism is courageous and above suspicion, but that praising a book involves some form of toad-eating. Could we have a little skepticism about that assumption, please?

  11. Roger Sutton says:

    >I think, Anon at 10:30, that authors are completely capable, more than reviewers, of understanding the work that goes into a book. But that's not what's being evaluated here. Stork was asked to read two books and tell us which one he liked more and why. He didn't do that. Also "awareness of what kind of labor goes into a book" and "what constitutes good workmanship" are very different things, and while I would trust an author's judgment on the first, I see no reason an author would necessarily have a "heightened sense" of the second. I don't think for a moment that the vast majority of books submitted for review to the Horn Book don't represent the best efforts of their authors–but that doesn't make their books all equally good.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >Very few of the judges for BoB are in the business of bagging on others' work. They are long past having to worry about the YA Mafia putting out a hit. They just aren't used to saying critical things in public because that's not usually an author's role. I think it is interesting to watch how they manage the problem– they HAVE to pick one book, but they don't want to hurt another author's feelings.

    Roger, you're used to hurting people's wittle feelings. I'd love to see you be a judge.

  13. Anonymous says:

    >Your point is well taken–especially since I phrased my question badly. What I ought to have said was that a writer/judge might have a heightened appreciation (not awareness) for good workmanship, because of his knowledge of the technical work involved. I was trying, in my muddled way, to suggest that because of that appreciation, his praise might be sincere–not necessarily "wimping out" or "making nice." Readers who prefer a rigorous, rather than a celebratory approach, may be disappointed by Mr. Stork's summary, but it does not follow that Mr. Stork is a wimp or a toady.

  14. >I think Roger would make a good judge, not because he's used to hurting feelings but because he's used to making critical assessments of writing. Reviewing and criticism aren't about positive or negative and being nice or being mean. They're about understanding standards and trying to determine whether or not writers have met them.

    I can certainly understand writers feeling uncomfortable about doing this for the BoB. It's like asking an employee to review a co-worker's performance who will then have to work next to her for the rest of the year. Perhaps they should be getting professional reviewers to do the judging.

  15. Anonymous says:

    >Oh, no, Gail, I disagree. In most of the cases, we already know what the reviewers think, so while I'd like to have Roger be a judge, I wouldn't want the whole set of them to be reviewers. I like putting authors on this spot and I appreciate the authors that are willing to be put there.

    Anon 12:25

  16. Anonymous says:

    >Hmm. I disagree about Roger being more used to making critical assessments than an author would be. On the contrary, I think that ability to make critical assessments of others' work is crucial to writing your own. Writers just don't make their critical assessments public as a routine part of their work and Critics do. So the real difference isn't that Roger would be more perspicacious. Just that he'd hella funny and expect the author to deal.

    Anon 12:25

  17. >Oh, I didn't say that Roger would be better than an author, just that the reason he would be good is that he is accustomed to making critical assessments, not because he's accustomed to hurting writers' feelings.

  18. Monica Edinger says:

    >Roger was actually the very first (and very decisive)judge of the very first BoB in 2009. He decided between Sally Nicholls' WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER and MT Anderson's THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING. See it here: http://sljbattleofthebooks.com/2009-battle/

    Half of the BoB Battle Commander

  19. Roger Sutton says:

    >It's interesting to me that, thus far, no BoB judge this year has come out and said that he or she thinks one of the books being judged is better than the other. Not that I think any of the contenders actually suck out loud, but I'd like a little drama.

  20. Anonymous says:

    >Yes. Is it my imagination or are they more nice and less critical this year? I don't mean critical as negative, but no one is saying why they DID ultimately choose one book over the other. Instead it has been three sets of a) nice things about one book b) nice things about the other c) I pick this one!

    I hope someone takes a stand about something, or offers some interesting insight into their own creative process.

  21. Carol Edwards says:

    >It's amazing to me that in all this discussion, the really obvious thing that preferences are personal isn't being mentioned. All of the BoB titles are fine and some of the best. So it's like do I prefer grapes today or kiwi? Am I liking parnsips or spinach? Is the best today pears or asparagus. It's all good. How DO you pick just one?

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