The Horn Book » Read Roger http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:40:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 God forbid? http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/god-forbid/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/god-forbid/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 15:30:14 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51646 He doesn’t really, but some incoming Duke University students are objecting to the pre-freshman year assignment of Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir of growing up gay (and the basis for the wonderful musical of the same name). If I were God–or Duke chancellor–I would immediately revoke these kids’ admission, given the evidence that they […]

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jesus_facepalmHe doesn’t really, but some incoming Duke University students are objecting to the pre-freshman year assignment of Fun Home, Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel memoir of growing up gay (and the basis for the wonderful musical of the same name). If I were God–or Duke chancellor–I would immediately revoke these kids’ admission, given the evidence that they are too stupid to live, much less go to college, MUCH less face life as thinking Christians who had best be prepared to encounter people, situations, and ideas that conflict with their own views on what constitutes a righteous life. Jesus Christ, you guys, Jesus Christ.

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Oh look, another newsletter http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/oh-look-another-newsletter/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/oh-look-another-newsletter/#respond Thu, 20 Aug 2015 15:26:37 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51614 Look for The Horn Book’s new quarterly newsletter, WHAT MAKES A GOOD…? debuting on August 26th with “What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction?” The issue features Five Questions for Steve Sheinkin, an essay about how to select NNF by the Junior Library Guild’s Deborah Brittain Ford, and brief reviews of our choices for the best narrative nonfiction published for kids […]

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WMAG_narrative_nonfiction_728x144Look for The Horn Book’s new quarterly newsletter, WHAT MAKES A GOOD…? debuting on August 26th with “What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction?” The issue features Five Questions for Steve Sheinkin, an essay about how to select NNF by the Junior Library Guild’s Deborah Brittain Ford, and brief reviews of our choices for the best narrative nonfiction published for kids and teens in the last few years. If you are already a subscriber to any of our newsletters you will receive this one automagically; otherwise you can sign up here. It’s free!

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Threesomes? http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/threesomes/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/threesomes/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 16:08:34 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51505 “You just follow your heart when it comes to fingering scenes” was MY takeaway quote from the latest newspaper report on the steamy goings-on in YA fiction, which predictably, has people a-Twitter. But while the article is sensationalized, it isn’t incorrect. Young adult fiction is sexier than it used to be, even if the “threesomes” […]

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Fingerplays“You just follow your heart when it comes to fingering scenes” was MY takeaway quote from the latest newspaper report on the steamy goings-on in YA fiction, which predictably, has people a-Twitter.

But while the article is sensationalized, it isn’t incorrect. Young adult fiction is sexier than it used to be, even if the “threesomes” promised by the title are only evidenced by one example, with the other citations going to books about love triangles, which we all knew already (and are sick of? Yes?). And by sexier, I don’t mean “more characters having sex” but “more writing likely to elicit sexual arousal.” What we used to call–happily–dirty parts.

Contrary to Alessandra Balzer’s assertion in the article that “in the 1960s and ’70s, there wasn’t a category officially known as YA,” books for young adults have been marketed as such since at least the 1970s–I’m looking in a 1977 issue of the Horn Book at a Pantheon ad for Benjamin Appel’s Hell’s Kitchen which calls it a “powerful YA novel.” Sex has been a part of the genre since way back when as well, even if was generally off the page, some notable exceptions being Judy Blume’s Forever (1975), Elizabeth Winthrop’s A Little Demonstration of Affection (1975), and Norma Fox Mazer’s Up in Seth’s Room (1979). But the scenes even there were tasteful and discreet and designed to educate more than lubricate. The major differences between YA of the 70s and that of today are two: the intended audience is older (14 through adult rather than 12-16) and more of it is unabashedly commercial, that is, published as entertainment rather than for at least nominally didactic purpose. Abby Glines could not have written “Fuck, baby, you’re so damn tight” in a 1970s YA novel. When the 70s gave us Go Ask Alice‘s memorable “another day, another blowjob” we were meant to be horrified (even if what we actually were was titillated).

All of which is why I wonder at some of the arguments, such as those I read on Twitter yesterday defending the genre’s virtue, made for YA today. It’s not that it should not be defended, but that it is defended on the same grounds as were those didactic books of the 70s: authentic and truth-telling and hard-hitting and speaking to kids where they are at, man, and all that. Some of today’s YAs are all of those things, sure. But a lot are just great fun, and to defend them on the grounds of their moral necessity is to miss their point and as well to necessarily admit the arguments of their critics, such as the idiot the article quotes who claims the genre’s excesses groom readers for child molesters. Why can’t we just admit that teens like to read about sex?

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Summerteen 2015 http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/summerteen-2015/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/summerteen-2015/#respond Tue, 11 Aug 2015 15:33:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51491 SLJ’s Summerteen virtual conference is this Thursday and it’s free and promises to be a good time. I am particularly looking forward to hearing M. T. Anderson, Paula Ayer, Marc Aronson, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti talk about narrative nonfiction, which also happens to be the topic for the debut issue of our latest newsletter coming later […]

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hand_washingSLJ’s Summerteen virtual conference is this Thursday and it’s free and promises to be a good time. I am particularly looking forward to hearing M. T. Anderson, Paula Ayer, Marc Aronson, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti talk about narrative nonfiction, which also happens to be the topic for the debut issue of our latest newsletter coming later this month, What Makes a Good …? At ALA this June a number of school-and-library publishers were touting new “narrative nonfiction” series but it seemed to me that the term was being used very loosely to mean any book with a beginning, middle, and end, so I’m eager to hear the experts.

Has anyone read Bartoletti’s new book, Terrible Typhoid Mary? It’s really gripping but makes you want to wash your hands compulsively the entire time you’re reading it. But, as Bartoletti points out, washing your hands is USELESS when it comes to typhoid.

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Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-septemberoctober-horn-book/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-septemberoctober-horn-book/#respond Wed, 05 Aug 2015 16:11:08 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51353 The following books will receive starred reviews in the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Fire Engine No. 9; written and illustrated by Mike Austin (Random) The Nonsense Show; written and illustrated by Eric Carle (Philomel) Waiting; written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow) Two Mice; written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion) Crenshaw; by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel) Sunny Side Up; by Jennifer L. […]

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FireEngineThe following books will receive starred reviews in the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Fire Engine No. 9; written and illustrated by Mike Austin (Random)

The Nonsense Show; written and illustrated by Eric Carle (Philomel)

Waiting; written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)

Two Mice; written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion)

Crenshaw; by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel)

Sunny Side Up; by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien (Graphix/Scholastic)

I Crawl Through It; by A. S. King (Little, Brown)

The Nest; by Kenneth Oppel; illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon)

The Hired Girl; by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)

Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event; written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond; illus. by the author (Ferguson/Farrar)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans; written and illustrated by Don Brown (Houghton)

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear; by Lindsay Mattick; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War; by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook)

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick)

 

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Haunted home http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/haunted-home/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/haunted-home/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:44:01 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51221 With the theme “Homecoming,” Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature held its biennial Institute this weekend; the Horn Book staff provides an excellent summary. (And Shoshana Flax has written a poem in its honor, too.) The funniest moment was when Jack Benny Gantos quipped about Go Set a Watchman, whose publication, he said […]

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Homecoming1948With the theme “Homecoming,” Simmons College’s Center for the Study of Children’s Literature held its biennial Institute this weekend; the Horn Book staff provides an excellent summary. (And Shoshana Flax has written a poem in its honor, too.)

The funniest moment was when Jack Benny Gantos quipped about Go Set a Watchman, whose publication, he said was like the meeting of Heaven, “Harper Lee,” whom his left hand personified as a shining point in the sky, and Hell, “HarperCollins,” Jack’s voice dropping to a growling bass as his right hand pursued and snapped up his left like a shark.

The most resonant speech for me was Rita Williams-Garcia‘s adeptly enacted dialogue between her thirty-three and fifty-eight-year-old selves. That is the span between Rita’s first book and her most recent; as it happens, that is the span of my editorial career as well. The quarter-century interval has made us both somewhat easier to be around, and I pray for the same for you youngsters.

The segment I was most looking forward to turned out to be another dialogue, this one fashioned as a three (or four?) act two-hander starring Barbara Harrison (the Center’s founder) and Gregory Maguire (its first graduate and subsequent co-director with Barbara). Homecoming, indeed! But if you thought this was just a nice sentimental gesture to the old guard then you have been in a coma for all those years Rita and I were busy getting nicer.

Barbara and Gregory left Simmons abruptly in 1985 when the College decided to change the Center’s freestanding status, placing it under the aegis of the education department. Blood was spilled. Lines were drawn. Lots of people became not on speaking terms. When I came to Boston in 1996, the wounds in people on both sides of the battle were still open. While the retired Horn Book editors Paul and Ethel Heins had placed themselves firmly in the “anti-Simmons” group, my immediate predecessor Anita Silvey had masterfully stayed out of it, which made my initial transition easier; thank you Lady-in-the-Hat.

All of which is why it was so great to see Barbara and Susan Bloom (who succeeded her at Simmons) embrace, and to hear Barbara and Gregory place that fraught era in the context of Barbara’s initial inspired vision for the Center, its success beyond her and Gregory’s departure, and their own subsequent triumph in the founding of Children’s Literature New England (which, they cheekily reminded us–and who could blame them?–had sponsored its own “Homecoming” institute back in 1990).

I wonder what the Simmons students of today, most of whom had not yet been born in 1985, made of it all. Or maybe, for them, there was no “it all” to notice. But perhaps some ghosts had been put to rest, and this fifty-eight was happy to reassure thirty-three that things had worked out fine.

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The Horn Book and the Simmons Center are just down the hall from each other but we will next formally get together for the Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium on October 3rd, following the presentation of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards the evening before. We are still planning the day’s events but I hope you will join us!

 

 

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Remember what the dormouse said http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/remember-what-the-dormouse-said/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/remember-what-the-dormouse-said/#respond Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:55:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51103 Doing some reading for my upcoming interview with Bryan Collier tomorrow at the Simmons Institute, I got to spend a beautiful afternoon at the even more beautiful new children’s room at BPL. You should go see it. But if they ever legalize pot in this state there’s going to be a line out the door […]

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Here KittyDoing some reading for my upcoming interview with Bryan Collier tomorrow at the Simmons Institute, I got to spend a beautiful afternoon at the even more beautiful new children’s room at BPL. You should go see it. But if they ever legalize pot in this state there’s going to be a line out the door for the Pathway to Reading Sensory Wall.SensoryWallSensoryWall2More wall

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Can’t buy me love http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/cant-buy-me-love/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/cant-buy-me-love/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2015 15:44:10 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51039 The Gawker debacle has been very entertaining. I read and respect the site too much to enjoy the clusterfuck in a schadenfreudey kind of way, but I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation provided by the whole host of journalism questions set bristling. What’s a public figure? Was the subject in question a public figure, or a behind-the-scenes media […]

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The Gawker debacle has been very entertaining. I read and respect the site too much to enjoy the clusterfuck in a schadenfreudey kind of way, but I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation provided by the whole host of journalism questions set bristling. What’s a public figure? Was the subject in question a public figure, or a behind-the-scenes media rival? Would Gawker have pursued the story had the hooker been a lady? Would the commentariat be as outraged had the hooker been a lady? Will Twitter ever let the “die on that hill” metaphor die on that hill, already?

My take briefly: The story should not have been pursued. The editors should have known better. The publisher should have been–previously–clearer that this kind of story was no longer acceptable, and he should have taken his objections directly to the editors, not to the directors. Taking the story down, however symbolic, was the right thing to do. Rather than resigning in a high-minded huff, the editors should have considered that perhaps all the people screaming at them might have had a point. The advertising director sounds like a dick.

RejectsI’ve been very lucky that in nearly twenty years at the Horn Book I’ve never had to have the kind of conversation that should have gone on at Gawker. Reduce expenses, increase circulation, get your monthly reports in the month they are actually due, Roger–I hear those things all the time. But none of the people who has served as Horn Book publisher has ever tried to quash content. And in cases where outraged subscribers or aggrieved advertisers have complained, the publisher has always backed me up. Thank you, gentlemen and lady.

But when I read that one concern of the Gawker publisher was that the post in question might have lost them advertising dough worth seven figures in one week, my first thought was that I wanted to be very clear with you all about the relationship between Horn Book content and the advertisers who support it. (Actually, my first first thought was SEVEN FIGURES IN ONE WEEK? GIMME SOME.) So here’s the lowdown. You can’t buy a review in the Horn Book. Advertising in the Horn Book Magazine pages doesn’t get you anything beyond exposure for whatever it is you are advertising. Not advertising in our pages has no effect on our decision whether or not to review your book. The decision to give a book a starred review is made by the editors in consultation with the reviewers. As far as articles go, we welcome suggestions and submissions from all comers, but you can’t buy one of those, either.

There are two venues in which Horn Book editorial and advertising intersect. One is our Talks With Roger series, in which a publisher will pay for me (not pay me)  to interview a given author or illustrator and disseminate said interview to our Notes from the Horn Book subscribers and on our website. These are friendly interviews–if I feel like I can’t be friendly to a given author or book, I turn the interview down. While we run the edited interview by the sponsor, it is only so they can offer factual corrections; they have no say over the content. The other advertorial product we create is the Fall and Spring Preview, a labelled supplement to the March/April and September/October issues of the Magazine. In these, a five-question interview of an author or illustrator of a new book faces a page of advertising from said book’s publisher, who pays for both pages. I write the questions but the publisher selects the book. Neither advertising in the Preview sections nor sponsoring a Talks With Roger gets you a review in the Magazine. (Reviews in the Horn Book Guide are essentially automatic, as the Guide is a nonselective  source reviewing all new hardback books for children from U.S. publishers listed in the current print edition of Literary Market Place.)

I hope this is all clear, or clear enough. (It isn’t always. More than one Talks With Roger subject has tried telling me how “honored” he or she is to have been “chosen” for an interview, and while I try to let them down gently, I do let them down.) Please leave any questions in the comments.

 

 

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#Stuffwhitepeoplelike: Go Set a Watchman http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/stuffwhitepeoplelike-go-set-a-watchman/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/stuffwhitepeoplelike-go-set-a-watchman/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 19:47:36 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51022 The Harpers Lee and Collins have certainly presented readers with a lively spectacle these past six months with the promise of another novel by the famous first-novelist-forever Lee. Go Set a Watchman was written  and submitted to Lippincott before To Kill a Mockingbird (published in 1960). Opinion seems to be divided as to whether Watchman should be considered […]

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US_cover_of_Go_Set_a_WatchmanThe Harpers Lee and Collins have certainly presented readers with a lively spectacle these past six months with the promise of another novel by the famous first-novelist-forever Lee. Go Set a Watchman was written  and submitted to Lippincott before To Kill a Mockingbird (published in 1960). Opinion seems to be divided as to whether Watchman should be considered as a first draft of Mockingbird, a separate book entirely, or even a sequel, since it involves many of the Mockingbird characters some twenty years on.

Got me, but I can see why Lee’s editor encouraged her to put Watchman aside for Mockingbird. Almost all of the most dynamic scenes in Go Set a Watchman are flashbacks to or recollections of its heroine’s youth; in fact, it mostly feels like a manuscript that the writer failed to set sufficiently back in time in order to accomodate the story she wanted to tell. You can see an editor tapping her finger on any one of the scenes about the young Scout Finch and saying, “start here.” In contrast to such recollected moments as the barely pubescent Scout thinking she’s gotten pregnant from a French kiss, the scenes that take place in the novel’s present are mostly static and talky. Lord are they talky. (One great exception is a chilling episode where grown-Scout encounters her former housekeeper Calpurnia, who barely says a word.)

The big drama upon the book’s release this week was the alleged revelation that America’s most (only?) beloved lawyer Atticus Finch had turned into a big ol’ racist. I dunno:  while Michiko Kakutani tries to whip up some breathless outrage about this in her NYT review; as Barbara Hoffert writes in her Library Journal review, it’s completely possible to see the seeds of Watchman‘s Atticus in Mockingbird‘s. And the grown Scout’s horror at her father’s true colors is distinctly undercut by the fact that she agrees with him more than she will admit, with the novel as a whole ending more on Atticus’s side than not and a weak-sauce conclusion that white people shore can be complicated.

I kind of respect HarperCollins’ apparent decision to present this novel sans apology or contextualizing; there’s no fancy introduction by some respected literary figure making the book Okay. But the novel cries out for annotation, both for its connections to (and contradictions of) To Kill a Mockingbird and for its assumption of an early 1960s audience, who would be expected to understand allusions to then-recent events (such as Brown v. Board of Education) that aren’t spelled out in the book. As a literary curiosity it is completely fascinating; as a book on its own, not so much. But I am loving the fact the the drama that has attended the publication of (and the fact of that publication itself) Go Set a Watchman is only possible because so many people fell hard in love with To Kill a Mockingbird as children. Those are the books you really hold onto.

 

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Picture book problems http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/picture-book-problems/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/picture-book-problems/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:02:52 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50866 Just one more story about Miles–after deciphering the peculiar mysteries of the Thank-You Note, he wanted to hear a story, so for reasons of propinquity as much as anything else (Richard handed a copy to me lazing on the couch), I started in on Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Elizabeth Bluemle at ShelfTalker has […]

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MikemulliganJust one more story about Miles–after deciphering the peculiar mysteries of the Thank-You Note, he wanted to hear a story, so for reasons of propinquity as much as anything else (Richard handed a copy to me lazing on the couch), I started in on Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

Elizabeth Bluemle at ShelfTalker has a good essay up about longer picture books, and let me tell you, Mike Mulligan is looong, or at least it seemed so to us. Not needlessly long–all of Burton’s repeated phrases roll out in fine incantatory cadence–but every time I turned the page I felt dismayed at what looked like the increasingly enormous amount of  text to get through. (And the ending gave us each our own problems: California kid Miles didn’t know from furnaces or basements while I was inwardly shuddering at the Giving Tree-like conclusion of the formerly free-rolling Mary Anne’s acquiescence to a life sitting still in the dark.) But was the book always long? Does it only seem long now? Or are Miles and I just millennial slackers?

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outlawpeteBack in the office, I faced another picture-book dilemma. Siân brought to my desk a copy of Bruce Springsteen and Frank Caruso’s Outlaw Pete, asking if I thought it was a children’s book. She needed to know because the Horn Book Guide reviews only children’s books and didn’t want to let a ringer in. With its picture-book trim size and its cover illustration of a baby in diapers and a ten-gallon hat, it certainly looks like a children’s book, but while the flap copy says “Outlaw Pete is an adult book,” an afterword by Springsteen says “I’m not sure this a children’s book,” implying that it is being published as one.

Now, I haven’t liked a song-texted picture book since Steven Kellogg’s edition of Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and I don’t know the song this one is based on (although you can almost sing it to the theme song from The Beverly Hillbillies), but what I really don’t like are adult books disguised as books for young readers (Giving Tree, looking back up at you). Like The Boss, though, I’m not sure this is one of those. But does it look like one on purpose? Cause, see, I hate that.

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