The Horn Book » Read Roger http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:50:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Everything must change http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/everything-must-change/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/everything-must-change/#respond Tue, 16 Dec 2014 18:11:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44357 I was in New York last week to catch up with publishers, Rockefeller Center, and theater. We saw two musicals, Side Show and On the Town (thumbs up for both) and the stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (possibly the least rememberable title since Rebecca Stead’s […]

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Curious Everything must changeI was in New York last week to catch up with publishers, Rockefeller Center, and theater. We saw two musicals, Side Show and On the Town (thumbs up for both) and the stage adaptation of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (possibly the least rememberable title since Rebecca Stead’s If You Get Here. My point exactly.). Although tricked out with a stupid “we are actors playing characters who know they are actors” conceit, the adaptation was immensely watchable (that’s Richard’s photo of the set) and remarkably faithful to Haddon’s novel.

It reminded me of two upcoming projects we’re working on. On February 10th, Children’s Books Boston is hosting a panel discussion about adapting books for young people to screens large and small. Moderated by Walden Media exec Debbie Kovacs, the panel will examine how such a transformation works:

Moving a great story from one medium to another is both complex and delicate. What types of projects are best suited to this migration? How does the adapter know which elements of the story to highlight? What role, if any, does the author have in the process? What should fans of a book hope for and look for in an adaptation? Join this panel of experienced industry insiders to hear their insights and perspectives.

Details and registration here.

And in May, the Horn Book Magazine‘s annual special issue will devote itself to to theme of “transformation,” looking at how children’s books change, both in the source materials they spring from and in themselves as they make their ways into new forms and eras. I promise this will make sense by the time we’re done.

 

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Last call for Selfie Sweepstakes http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/last-call-selfie-sweepstakes/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/last-call-selfie-sweepstakes/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:09:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44078 A reminder that the due date for entries in the Selfie Sweepstakes is December 15, next Monday. Those who predicted I would be swamped with entries were wrong; right now there are about a dozen submissions. If the next week does not bring a deluge, I’ll be able to comment on each of the submissions […]

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selfiesubs Last call for Selfie SweepstakesA reminder that the due date for entries in the Selfie Sweepstakes is December 15, next Monday. Those who predicted I would be swamped with entries were wrong; right now there are about a dozen submissions. If the next week does not bring a deluge, I’ll be able to comment on each of the submissions here on the blog in the coming month. I have no idea if I will find a winner.

I think the relatively few submissions tell us something valuable about the intersection between old media and self-publishing. While it is true that some commenters said they wouldn’t submit because they thought the contest was rigged and obnoxious, more complained about the requirement of a 2015 publication date. They explained that self-published books don’t work on the same calendar as trade books do; that when a book is ready to go, it goes. Others insisted that the publication date was immaterial because good books are timeless, etc. But book reviewing is part of the news business, not simply artful critiques of whatever books we feel like writing about. I also worry that the lack of a pub date can mean a lack of other things as well–a distribution plan, for example. If the only way a book can be ordered is to mail a check to the author’s house, then it is too difficult for a library to order. To the self-publishers who complain that Baker and Taylor does not want their business, I ask, sincerely: why?

Someone recently pointed out in a comment on my original rant that it is unfair to characterize self-published children’s books as “mostly pretty terrible” when trade publishers routinely publish plenty of crap. Yes, they do. But the difference is that the trade publisher believes that any book they publish will have an audience. A self publisher is more inclined to believe that any book they publish should have an audience, which is a very different situation indeed.

See you all next week, and good luck!

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Fanfare! http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/fanfare-2/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/fanfare-2/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 16:16:55 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43786 The Horn Book Magazine‘s choices for the best books of 2014. Sign up now to receive the fully annotated list in next week’s issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Picture books: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick) My Bus written and illustrated by Byron Barton (Greenwillow) […]

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The Horn Book Magazine‘s choices for the best books of 2014. Sign up now to receive the fully annotated list in next week’s issue of Notes from the Horn Book:

Picture books:

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)

My Bus written and illustrated by Byron Barton (Greenwillow)

The Baby Tree written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Paulsen/Penguin)

Draw! written and illustrated by Raúl Colón (Wiseman/Simon)

Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Christian Robinson (Atheneum)

The Farmer and the Clown written and illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Simon)

Once Upon an Alphabet  written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, with photos by Tim O’Meara (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors written and illustrated by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash (Porter/Roaring Brook)

 

Fiction:

The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic)

The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos (Farrar)

My Heart Is Laughing written by Rose Lagercrantz; illustrated by Eva Eriksson; translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall (Gecko)

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Delacorte)

Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick)

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel)

The Turtle of Oman written by Naomi Shihab Nye; illustrated by Betsy Peterschmidt (Greenwillow)

West of the Moon by Margi Preus (Amulet/Abrams)

This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki; illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (First Second/Roaring Brook)

 

Folklore:

Little Roja Riding Hood written by Susan Middleton Elya; illustrated by Susan Guevara (Putnam)

 

Poetry:

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Candlewick)

How I Discovered Poetry written by Marilyn Nelson; illustrated by Hadley Hooper (Dial)

 

Nonfiction:

Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm; illustrated by Molly Bang (Blue Sky/Scholastic)

El Deafo written and illustrated by Cece Bell; color by David Lasky (Amulet/Abrams)

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans)

The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond written by Patrick Dillon; illustrated by Stephen Biesty (Candlewick)

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming (Schwartz & Wade/Random)

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell; illustrated by Christian Robinson (Chronicle)

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands written and illustrated by Katherine Roy (Macaulay/Roaring Brook)

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Paulsen/Penguin)

 

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Starred reviews, January/February 2015 Horn Book Magazine http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-januaryfebruary-2015-horn-book-magazine/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-januaryfebruary-2015-horn-book-magazine/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 20:05:09 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43695 The following books will receive starred reviews in the January/February 2015 issue of the Horn Book Magazine. Coming this Wednesday: Fanfare, our choices for the best books of 2014. Once Upon an Alphabet; written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel) The Bear Ate Your Sandwich; written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf) Supertruck; written and illustrated by […]

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SissonSagan Starred reviews, January/February 2015 Horn Book MagazineThe following books will receive starred reviews in the January/February 2015 issue of the Horn Book Magazine. Coming this Wednesday: Fanfare, our choices for the best books of 2014.

Once Upon an Alphabet; written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich; written and illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach (Knopf)

Supertruck; written and illustrated by Stephen Savage (Roaring Brook)

The War That Saved My Life; by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley  (Dial)

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny; written and illustrated  by John Himmelman (Holt)

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future; by A. S. King (Little, Brown)

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos; written and illustrated by  Stephanie Roth Sisson (Roaring Brook)

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Crankypants Monday http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/crankypants-monday/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/read-roger/crankypants-monday/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 15:30:03 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43629 Interesting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions. First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? […]

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badsanta1 620x330 Crankypants MondayInteresting discussion about holiday library programming over at SLJ. I have two questions.

First, as is so often true when we are talking “on behalf” of children, I want to know if Santa-in-the-library is genuinely offensive to non-Santa people, or is this a case of one party being offended in advance on behalf of another? Without even asking.

Second, where would you draw the line? Some conservative Christians, for example, have taken exception to Harry Potter. Does that mean no Harry Potter programming? Taking into account cultures and/or parents that frown on dating (let alone pre-marital sex), do we decide to forgo booklists or reading club discussion of YA romances? And you might as well jettison any and all folk material from story hour for fear of offending animal rights people, animals-don’t-talk people, anti-princess people, and purist people who want to make sure LRRH ends up in the wolf’s belly. Commenters over at SLJ have pointed out that the American holiday that does not piss somebody off simply doesn’t exist, and I would add that if you decide to decorate for nothing more than the seasonal changes you are still opening yourself up to accusations of paganism, Darwinism, and/or climate change denial/hysteria. Because this is America and this is how Americans are these days.

None of this is to justify your Christmas decorations on the grounds of “majority.” Because this is a library, where we say fuck the majority and try to do the best we can for as many people as possible. So celebrate everything: better the risk of your bulletin boards and story hours going over the top than the deadly peace of guaranteed non-offence.

 

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Some people smarter than I http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/people-smarter/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/people-smarter/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:52:42 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43562 While putting my thoughts back in to fully bake–just kidding, I’ve ditched that recipe–I wanted to share some of the valuable links people provided in the comments to my last post and on Facebook. And let me say again how grateful I am for your bearing with me. I think a lot about what it […]

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baby foot in mouth 200px Some people smarter than IWhile putting my thoughts back in to fully bake–just kidding, I’ve ditched that recipe–I wanted to share some of the valuable links people provided in the comments to my last post and on Facebook. And let me say again how grateful I am for your bearing with me. I think a lot about what it means to be a man in children’s books (why, for example, do so many of us talk about book awards like they are sports?) but my post of last Friday was not only half-baked, it was clueless as to what was happening in the kitchen and the nation.

So here’s some reality. Jackie Woodson has issued a statement in which she is definitely taking the high road:

“I’d rather continue to move the dialogue forward in a positive light rather than a negative one. This is a moment when our country can grow and learn and better understand each other. It would be nice to put the energy back where it should be — on the books and what the books are saying and doing — Redeployment is an astounding novel, Glück is nothing short of an amazing poet. I don’t know Osnos’ book yet but I plan to read it. Brown Girl Dreaming is about writing and about the history of this country. But more than that, it’s about what this conversation should be — a coming to understanding across lines of race.”

Here is a link to Nikky Finney’s “Choking on a Watermelon.” And David Perry’s post, which was one of the first critiques I saw. Laura Ruby shared this beautiful post from Ashley Ford; and Sarah Hamburg provided some historical context with Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts on Forest Whittaker’s encounter with racism in an UWS deli.

Please also see relevant Horn Book resources, which Elissa and Katie began curating after we published Christopher Myers’s “Young Dreamers,” one of the most important essays I’ve seen come through this office and for which I will be forever grateful to Christopher for sending it our way.

That’s it for today–I am now off to engage in the annual bloody battle also known as the Fanfare discussion.

 

 

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Being a White Guy in Children’s Books http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/white-guy-childrens-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/white-guy-childrens-books/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:04:28 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43405 Don’t get me wrong. White guys working in children’s books have it good. In fact, it would be fair to say we have it pretty much made. But in the wake of host Daniel Handler’s remarks at Wednesday’s National Book Awards, I find myself thinking about the privileged but peculiar position white guys have in […]

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BadBeginning Being a White Guy in Children’s BooksDon’t get me wrong. White guys working in children’s books have it good. In fact, it would be fair to say we have it pretty much made. But in the wake of host Daniel Handler’s remarks at Wednesday’s National Book Awards, I find myself thinking about the privileged but peculiar position white guys have in this field. (Some of what I have to say applies to the non-white guys, too, but I am not going to generalize that far.)

I wasn’t at the event and can’t bring myself to watch the video because I know it would have me writhing in empathetic embarrassment. So all of my information is from the transcript and subsequent internet outrage. And what I’m left with—even more than my happiness at Jackie Woodson’s win—is how sorry I feel for Handler, and how easily I could have fallen into the same trap. (I confess to some impatience with all the talk of him stealing Her Moment because Woodson is getting a way longer moment than any children’s National Book Award winner has ever gotten before. Quickly, who won last year?)

The main thing about being a white guy in children’s books is that you get a lot more attention—not to mention Caldecott Medals!—than you would otherwise, and than is really good for you. Award committees want you as a member. Conferences want you to speak. People look to you for a “male point of view”—especially when they are seeking to solve the perennial problem of The Boy Reader, attention to whose needs getting far more ink than the needs of his sister. If you’re good-looking—and here I speak from observation—you are really set. Molly Ivins would have said that you were born on third base, and, professionally speaking, she would have been right.

It’s a nice life that’s easy to get used to. But as Handler learned, it can bite you in the ass. There he was in the spotlight, doing what he’s been amply rewarded for doing for years, and he overreached. He was trying to show us that he was as cool as we’ve long been saying he was: I am so cool I can get away with a racist-not-racist watermelon joke. He couldn’t, and I’m sorry there was no one to tell him he wouldn’t. Or maybe he didn’t think to ask? It’s the least a guy can do.

[Edited 11/26/14 to add: I see this is still making the rounds on Twitter, so I just wanted to make clear that I have since realized how stupid it was (as I posted in the comments on Monday). See also yesterday’s entry, “Some People Smarter than I.]

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Reviewing race http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/reviewing-race/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/reviewing-race/#comments Fri, 14 Nov 2014 17:19:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43123 Over on Facebook, illustrator Shadra Strickland asks a good question: “Why is it necessary for a reviewer to identify the ethnicity of a character in their review when the plot has zero to do with race…especially in picture books? A friend just told me that in her latest pb, her family was identified as Caucasian. […]

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Strickland Reviewing race

illustration by Shadra Strickland from A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Reneé Watson, Random House, 2010

Over on Facebook, illustrator Shadra Strickland asks a good question:

“Why is it necessary for a reviewer to identify the ethnicity of a character in their review when the plot has zero to do with race…especially in picture books? A friend just told me that in her latest pb, her family was identified as Caucasian. It is a multi-racial family. The story is universal enough in plot, that the family could be any color. In PW’s review of Please Louise, Louise was also multi-racial but labeled as “an Asian girl”. I think it is dangerous for reviewers to assume race in pbs without being certain. Why mention ethnicity at all when the ethnicity of the characters do not inform the storytelling in picture books?”

GREAT question, and one reviewers are asking themselves all the damn time. The sub-query about misidentifying the ethnicity of a character is easy to answer (don’t do it and DON’T GUESS), but we are always trying to figure out where and how to mention ethnicity, especially in reviewing books in which skin color plays a part only in the illustrations and goes unmentioned in the text.

ON THE ONE HAND: if a story is about some universal experience unrelated to race, why even bring it up? ALL readers should be able to empathize with a story about, say, moving to a new neighborhood and making new friends. True enough, but . . .

ON THE OTHER: . . . by not identifying the ethnicity of a non-white protagonist, the review runs the risk of failing to catch the interest of the book buyer who is looking specifically for stories about non-white kids whose race plays no part in the story, and who might skip over the book assuming it was about white kids. Ms. magazine, for a few issues, identified all subjects by race including whites, who were labelled “European-Americans.” But that didn’t last at Ms. or elsewhere, and, however deplorable it may be, American readers of all colors tend to assume a character is white unless told otherwise.

SO: since we know the Horn Book has readers who are actively seeking books about non-white characters, we mention their presence in a book whenever we can. We’re helped a bit with picture books, as the Magazine runs an illustration with every picture book review. Otherwise, it can be very awkward sometimes to get a character’s ethnicity into a review of a book in which ethnicity is not a plot point. “European-American Roger was walking his dog before work one day when he was abducted by aliens.” “Our main character, a white boy named Roger, was walking his dog one day . . . .” It’s not easy or always graceful but I think it’s worth doing.

TWO corollary issues: one thing you risk when mentioning ethnicity in reviewing an otherwise “universal” book is that white readers will say “oh, not a book for me.” Unfortunately, the Magazine does not come packaged with a Slap Machine™. Second, in a discussion of books in which “the characters just happen to be African American” an African American colleague said to me “nobody in this country ‘just happens’ to be black.” We need to continue talking about both those things.

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Default in our stars http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/default-in-our-stars/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/default-in-our-stars/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 17:08:05 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43062 This week’s Entertainment Weekly has a list of “50 Books Every Kid Should Read” (view PDF here). Given that it strives to contain both classics (Where the Wild Things Are) as well as modern favorites (The Fault in Our Stars); and pop hits (The Hunger Games) along with critics’ darlings (Roll of Thunder, Hear My […]

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50bookseverychildshouldread 550x816 Default in our starsThis week’s Entertainment Weekly has a list of “50 Books Every Kid Should Read” (view PDF here). Given that it strives to contain both classics (Where the Wild Things Are) as well as modern favorites (The Fault in Our Stars); and pop hits (The Hunger Games) along with critics’ darlings (Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry), it’s a good list spanning more than eighty years of publishing.

What is sometimes peculiar are the age-level designations. Shaun Tan’s The Arrival for 6-8-year-olds? The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe for 12 and up? Why is Wimpy Kid for 6-8-year-olds and Captain Underpants for 9-11-year-olds? Proceed with caution.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviewing and age levels as I’ve been engaging with a California lawyer who has called several times with detailed questions about how the Horn Book makes such decisions. She’s very nice and not crazy (unlike the lawyer for publisher Mitchell Lane who said our negative reviews of their books were defamatory and thus actionable) and I don’t think she’s going after us for anything. At any rate, she said she was also calling a number of our peers with the same questions. It all apparently has something to do with a school district and The Fault in Our Stars, and the lawyer wanted to know how we arrived at the “High School” designation in our review. “Was it the sex?” she asked. What sex, I replied, forgetting not just how far the kids Went in the book but that I had written the review (the lawyer reminded me). So many books, so few gray cells to remember them.

But it hadn’t been the sex that caused us to label the book as for grades-nine-and-up, although designating it as such meant we didn’t have to spend any time describing it. YA publishing’s “14 and up” label only dates back to the mid-eighties, and then it was still a curiosity rather than the default it is today. Back then, “YA readers” were mainly middle-school kids. I think of Fault in Our Stars and so much other contemporary YA as being for 14- and even 16-and-up not because of the inclusion of sexytime (God, is anyone else old enough to remember Spiro Agnew going on talk shows to discuss  “the obligatory sex scene” in his novel The Canfield Decision?) but because that’s who the implied reader seems to be. “Implied reader” didn’t go very far with this lawyer, unfortunately, who really seemed to want the assurance that “High school” meant sex scenes and “Middle school” or “Intermediate” did not. (Remember how The Canning Season lost the Newbery with “you little fucks”? Good times.)

All of this is just my longwinded way of saying that the Horn Book does not assign grade levels on the basis of subject matter, “language,” or sex scenes, obligatory or otherwise. We’re just trying to suggest who might best appreciate the book.

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Reviewing from under a rock http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/reviewing-rock/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/read-roger/reviewing-rock/#comments Tue, 04 Nov 2014 21:36:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=42850 I loved Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White (try the audiobook if you want something immersive and long) and am looking forward to his Book of Strange New Things. But there was a passage in Marcel Theroux’s extremely laudatory NYT review last week  that’s driving me crazy: “Since the critical and commercial triumph […]

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RodneyDangerfield Reviewing from under a rockI loved Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White (try the audiobook if you want something immersive and long) and am looking forward to his Book of Strange New Things. But there was a passage in Marcel Theroux’s extremely laudatory NYT review last week  that’s driving me crazy: “Since the critical and commercial triumph of Hilary Mantel, the historical novel is newly respectable. One hopes that Michel Faber can do something similar for speculative writing.”

One hopes, does One? But does One read? I, who in private life pretty much run away from anything labelled speculative fiction, can easily reel off the names William Gibson, Octavia Butler, Kazuo Ishiguro, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. LeGuin, Margaret Atwood and Haruki Murakami as examples of writers who have made the genre respectable to non-specialists. To evince hope that Michel Faber might finally get speculative fiction some respect is like saying it’s about damn time that people started enjoying chocolate.

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