The Horn Book » Read Roger http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:23:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.4 The Empire Strikes Back http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/empire-strikes-back/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/empire-strikes-back/#respond Wed, 27 Aug 2014 17:04:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40304 ALSC Past-President Starr LaTronica responds to my July editorial. Incidentally, we’re publishing a terrific piece in the November issue by Thom Barthelmess (former ALSC prez and BGHB chair) about how to conduct oneself in a professional book discussion. Thom is far more temperate about these things than am I.

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No Fighting1 The Empire Strikes BackALSC Past-President Starr LaTronica responds to my July editorial. Incidentally, we’re publishing a terrific piece in the November issue by Thom Barthelmess (former ALSC prez and BGHB chair) about how to conduct oneself in a professional book discussion. Thom is far more temperate about these things than am I.

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Do you read your reviews? http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/read-reviews/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/read-reviews/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:02:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40239 I’ve been reading soprano Barbara Hendricks‘s memoir, Lifting My Voice, and it’s led me not only to a rewarding reacquaintance with her singing but to some thinking about the relationship between the artist and the critic. Hendricks spills a suspicious amount of ink over how she doesn’t pay any attention to critics (whose opinions of her […]

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statlerwaldorf Do you read your reviews?I’ve been reading soprano Barbara Hendricks‘s memoir, Lifting My Voice, and it’s led me not only to a rewarding reacquaintance with her singing but to some thinking about the relationship between the artist and the critic. Hendricks spills a suspicious amount of ink over how she doesn’t pay any attention to critics (whose opinions of her highly distinctive voice have long been divided), but even if the lady doth protest too much for me to exactly believe her, her essential argument–that critics aren’t helpful to artists–is a good one:

“A review of my performance is totally useless in teaching me about myself. Reviews reveal so much more about the reviewer than they do about the artists. Until her death Miss Tourel [Hendricks's teacher, Jennie Tourel] was my most demanding critic, and since then I have had to assume that task myself. I learned during my first year as a professional singer that a review was not the right criteria to determine how well I had done my work, whether I had done what I had set out to do. I know my repertoire and I know when I have done my best work.”

Hendricks goes on to recall contradictory reviews, mean reviews, and seeing a reviewer who had really gone after her: “He was slight, had thinning hair, wore very thick glasses, and did not look like a happy person.” But all this is to miss the point. It’s not a reviewer’s job to make a singer–or a writer–a better one. We aren’t here to help you; we’re here to help inform audiences and potential audiences. (Even Hendricks graciously if barely allows that she “imagines critics serve some purpose and I do not want to do away with them.” Big of you, thanks.)

If I were a novelist I hope I wouldn’t go near reviews of my own work. What have I to gain? Stars and pans, Kipling’s impostors alike. (I guess I would hope that my agent or editor were paying attention, though, so as to strain anything that might be useful to me through a filter of helpfulness.) Must be hard to resist, though, especially in an age when reviews go flying about through social media and a “we’re all in this together” ethos pervades the field.

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Magic School http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/magic-school/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/magic-school/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 14:27:25 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40173 Continuing my adventures in books for boys grown big, I’m reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which I somehow missed when it came out and only noticed on the recent publication of a second sequel. It’s a story about a nice boy who thinks he’s on the way to Princeton but winds up in magic school […]

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PrincetonMagic Magic SchoolContinuing my adventures in books for boys grown big, I’m reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, which I somehow missed when it came out and only noticed on the recent publication of a second sequel. It’s a story about a nice boy who thinks he’s on the way to Princeton but winds up in magic school instead, but I’m guessing everyone already knows that but me. I don’t know if it’s exactly Harry Potter for grownups but it’s certainly Harry Potter for me–Grossman gives his characters and magic AND readers a lot more breathing room than does Rowling, who seems to have an aversion to white space.

I haven’t finished it yet so can’t whine about the ending. Are the sequels worth it?

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Why The Face? I’ll tell you. http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/why-the-face-ill-tell-you/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/why-the-face-ill-tell-you/#comments Fri, 15 Aug 2014 14:11:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40106 I just finished David Shafer’s thriller Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which I read because of Dwight Garner’s NYT review. The book is everything Garner says it is–bright, popping, funny, suspenseful. And it has all the things I love: complicated heroes and heroines, smart riffs on contemporary memes, and–best of all–a global conspiracy that really is out to […]

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ending Why The Face? Ill tell you.I just finished David Shafer’s thriller Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which I read because of Dwight Garner’s NYT review. The book is everything Garner says it is–bright, popping, funny, suspenseful. And it has all the things I love: complicated heroes and heroines, smart riffs on contemporary memes, and–best of all–a global conspiracy that really is out to get the paranoiacs as well as the rest of us.

It’s just great, as far as it goes. WHICH IS NOT FAR ENOUGH. What Garner does not tell us, and as far as I’m concerned this is a cardinal sin of book reviewing, is that the book doesn’t have an ending. After about a hundred good pages of rising action, with the good guys and girl ready to take down the evil that now lurks in a container ship off the Oregon coast, everything just stops. Nothing on or in the book says “first in a series” or anything, but surely the reviewer could have said so. Unless he didn’t finish it.

Thank goodness Tolkien had already finished The Lord of the Rings before I got to the end of The Two Towers and “Frodo was alive but taken by the enemy.”

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There’s bold but then there’s brazen. http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/theres-bold-theres-brazen/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/theres-bold-theres-brazen/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:55:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=40002 So much trouble in this world could be avoided if we all simply shutted up when we did not know whereof we spoke but here I go. I have never read Alfred Ollivant’s Bob, Son of Battle, but Lydia Davis’s explanation of the changes she made for a new New York Review of Books edition […]

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BurnedBoldAndBrazen72lg Theres bold but then theres <i>brazen</i>.So much trouble in this world could be avoided if we all simply shutted up when we did not know whereof we spoke but here I go. I have never read Alfred Ollivant’s Bob, Son of Battle, but Lydia Davis’s explanation of the changes she made for a new New York Review of Books edition makes me eager to read the original if only to defend its honour honor.

In her afterword, Davis writes that “I did not want Ollivant’s powerful story to be forgotten simply because it was difficult to read.” (She said ominously.) Davis goes on to explain that she translated the Cumbrian dialect used heavily in the 1898 original and then thought oh, the hell with it, let’s fix this sucker:

“I decided that I would not only change the speech of the characters but also change the way the story was told, just enough so that almost everything could be understood without any problem, and there would be nothing to get in the way of the story.”

Trifles! I’m reminded of a letter Elizabeth once shared with me from a somewhat overconfident applicant for an editorial position who included with her letter Xeroxed pages of Steig and Lobel marked with her recommended word substitutions.

Here, for example, is the first sentence/paragraph of Ollivant’s (from the Gutenberg edition):

“The sun stared brazenly down on a gray farmhouse lying, long and low in the shadow of the Muir Pike; on the ruins of peel-tower and barmkyn, relics of the time of raids, it looked; on ranges of whitewashed outbuildings; on a goodly array of dark-thatched ricks.”

Here is Davis’s:

“The sun stared boldly down on a gray farmhouse lying long and low in the in the shadow of the sharp summit of Muir Pike; it shone on the ruins of a fortified tower and a rampart, left from the time of the Scottish raids; on rows of white-washed outbuildings; on a crowd of dark-thatched haystacks.”

Why bold for brazen, I wonder, but even more I wonder why Davis, clearly on a labor of love, doesn’t trust  today’s children to read past the same difficulties she had with the book in her own childhood: “The odd thing is that because the story is so powerful, you can read right over these hard words and puzzling expressions and not mind, because you are so eager to know what happens next. That is what I did when I first read it.” Readers do this all the time. Feeling that a book knows something that you don’t is one of the prime pleasures of reading.

Neither Ollivant’s original nor Davis’s adaptation are about to start a new craze for old Bob (I do admire NYRB’s optimistic publishing program), but I suspect that if I were the kind of kid who was going to read it, I would also be the kind of kid who would want to read the original, which is just what Davis has inspired me to do.

 

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Keep Manhattan http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/keep-manhattan-just-give-countryside/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/keep-manhattan-just-give-countryside/#respond Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:35:47 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39832 When I was invited to visit with the 2014 Sendak Fellows at Maurice’s farm, I thought it would be, you know, a “farm,” AKA a rurally situated but otherwise urbane getaway retreat. But it was an actual farming farm with rows of vegetables and corn and a tractor and silo and chickens.  Sendak’s longtime assistant […]

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When I was invited to visit with the 2014 Sendak Fellows at Maurice’s farm, I thought it would be, you know, a “farm,” AKA a rurally situated but otherwise urbane getaway retreat. But it was an actual farming farm with rows of vegetables and corn and a tractor and silo and chickens.

farm Keep Manhattan

 Sendak’s longtime assistant Lynn Caponera now owns Scotch Hill Farm, donating all its don’t-panic-it’s-organic produce to food banks in the area. Assisting program director Dona Ann McAdams, Lynn also is something like house mother to the Sendak Fellows, an annual five-week retreat for (this year) two lucky illustrators who get time and space and a stipend to work on anything they want. (This is the first year the Fellowship was held at the farm; in previous years it occurred in a big house down the road from Sendak’s own in Connecticut, but that place was sold after the artist’s death.)

Nora Krug and Harry Bliss are this year’s Fellows and it was a pleasure to get to know them both. Harry is working on the pictures for a graphic memoir by a baseball guy and currently wrestling with dividing the text into panels; the morning I visited his studio at the farm he was also composing a for-the-hell-of-it painting inspired by a snake he had seen the day before (garter, Lynn assured me).

HarryandMe Keep Manhattan

Harry is demonstrating to me the difference between watercolor and gouache.

Nora is also working on a graphic memoir, for adults, about her and her (German) family’s reckoning with the Nazi shadow over their lives and their country generally since WWII; she showed me a hair-raisingly ordinary photo album she had found at a flea market in which images of swastikas and Hitler salutes were casually interspersed among pictures of family parties and vacations.

Nora Keep Manhattan

Nora is showing me the process of creating Photoshop files for silkscreen printing.

I don’t know that I was all that helpful to these artists–although I did show Nora The Juniper Tree and consoled Harry over the New Yorker‘s rejection of his latest batch of cartoons–but I am certainly grateful for the time they gave me and patient attention to my questions technical and otherwise.

The spirit of Himself, of course was everywhere, including the bathroom–

bathroomWT1 Keep Manhattan

 The bookshelves:

MSshelves Keep Manhattan

 And even behind the cornfield:

LB Keep Manhattan

I know Maurice loved Harry’s work and I know he would have loved Nora’s (check out her Red Riding Hood). The Sendak Fellowship was very important to Maurice in the last years of his life–Lynn told me she had to pace his visits over to the Fellows so as to not tire himself out. I hope that even in the Castle Yonder he knows what good he left behind.

 

 

 

 

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Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book Magazine http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-septemberoctober-horn-book-magazine/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/08/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-septemberoctober-horn-book-magazine/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:52:48 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39827 The following books will receive starred reviews in the September/October issue of the Magazine: Draw!; written and illustrated by Raúl Colón (Wiseman/Simon) The Lion and the Bird; written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc; trans. from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick (Enchanted Lion) Viva Frida; by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author with photos by Tim O’Meara (Porter/Roaring Brook) Bow-Wow’s […]

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BowWow Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book Magazine

from Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors

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

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

The Lion and the Bird; written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc; trans. from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick (Enchanted Lion)

Viva Frida; by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author with photos by Tim O’Meara (Porter/Roaring Brook)

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

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

Nine Open Arms; by Benny Lindelauf; trans. from the Dutch by John Nieuwenhuizen (Enchanted Lion)

Egg & Spoon; by Gregory Maguire (Candlewick)

Rain Reign; by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends)

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty; by Christine Heppermann; photos by various artists (Greenwillow)

Brown Girl Dreaming; by Jacqueline Woodson (Paulsen/Penguin)

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

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

 

 

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Chicks ‘n ducks ‘n geese http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/chicks-n-ducks-n-geese/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/chicks-n-ducks-n-geese/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:14:38 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39667 We’re off tomorrow to spend a few days with the Sendak Fellows, Nora Krug and Harry Bliss, at a farm Maurice owned in upstate New York. (Why did he need a farm? Did he need a place to get away from it all from his place to get away from it all in the wilds […]

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WONDERFUL FARM HARPER Chicks n ducks n geeseWe’re off tomorrow to spend a few days with the Sendak Fellows, Nora Krug and Harry Bliss, at a farm Maurice owned in upstate New York. (Why did he need a farm? Did he need a place to get away from it all from his place to get away from it all in the wilds of rural Connecticut?). The management tells me my job there is to “be Maurice,” but someone and his pal Wolfie are up in heaven laughing themselves sick at that suggestion. Instead, I imagine myself poking my head around easels, saying “perhaps a little more green there, Nora” or “Harry, you know, Brownie here would make an excellent companion to Bailey, yes?”

I guess the one thing I can tell them about is what Maurice loved and hated–and it was generally one or the other, whether it came to his taste in pictures, movies, TV, books, music or food. “I love it!” “I hate it!” The tricky thing with him, though, is that even though you coulda sworn he’d said he loved something, catch him ten minutes later and his passion had reversed. What I wish I had was Maurice’s talent for contagious enthusiasm: he could make you love what he loved, even if, years later, you finally–secretly and hoping he doesn’t overhear–admit you really don’t find Christa Wolf all that enjoyable.

I’m sure I’ll think of something to say. And we’re going to Tanglewood to meet Lizzie Borden; we’ll show Brownie the land of his birth (he was found wandering in the Berkshire woods); and I’m to be given the opportunity to milk goats. I hope I can see them run!

 

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Why Can’t the English? http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/cant-english/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/cant-english/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 18:08:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39647 We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes last night–ehh. Some the intra- and inter-species encounters were quite moving and dramatic but the plot was on automatic and the fabulously watchable Judy Greer was wasted (she could have been completely blotto given that all she had to do was lie there with a suffering […]

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whitemountains Why Cant the English?We saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes last night–ehh. Some the intra- and inter-species encounters were quite moving and dramatic but the plot was on automatic and the fabulously watchable Judy Greer was wasted (she could have been completely blotto given that all she had to do was lie there with a suffering look in her ape-eyes). Before the movie began there were about five different plugs for The Giver, including three of the quiz questions, so somebody is looking out for you, Lois*.

Courtesy of the Kindle Daily Deal, I’m re-reading one of The Giver‘s greatest antecedents, John Christopher’s The White Mountains, first published in 1967. Boy, is it good (I use the interjection advisedly). The text used in the Kindle edition is from 2003, and it includes a preface by Christopher, “What Is a Tripod?,” about how the the book came to be. While Christopher had only written adult novels until then, a London publisher suggested he try his hand at a book for children. He did, the London publisher accepted it, an American publisher had questions:

“Basically, what she said was that she loved the first chapter but the rest of the book was a mess: it would need a complete reworking from Chapter 2 onward. This was something that had not happened to me before. My adult novels had either been taken or rejected as they stood. I was not used to rewriting and certainly not eager to start doing so with a mere children’s book.”

Christopher goes on to berate himself for his patronizing attitude and thank the editor who made his first children’s book so much better: Susan Hirschmann (sic). But the anecdote makes me think of the murmurings I’ve heard about the more interventionist editing of U.S. publishers as compared to that of their colleagues across the pond. Still true?

 

* And, Lois, I love you, but don’t think for a moment we’re going to let you claim that The Giver (the novel) does not end ambiguously just because you changed your mind. In your Newbery acceptance speech for the book you allowed that thinking Jonas and the baby are dead was a valid way to read the ending. So why are you NOW telling the Times “they are not!”?

 

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He must have been pissed. http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/must-pissed/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/07/blogs/read-roger/must-pissed/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 18:28:52 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=39591 In hunting down a quote in the June 1972 issue of the Magazine, I happened upon a note that resonates with the recent debate over the ALA awards and confidentiality. Under “Staff Notes,” in the Hunt Breakfast (yesteryear’s Impromptu column) the first entry is: “Paul Heins [the then-Editor of HB], as one of the three […]

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throwingwe He must have been <i>pissed</i>.

http://www.carolinefontenot.com/idioms-episode-xi/

In hunting down a quote in the June 1972 issue of the Magazine, I happened upon a note that resonates with the recent debate over the ALA awards and confidentiality.

Under “Staff Notes,” in the Hunt Breakfast (yesteryear’s Impromptu column) the first entry is:

“Paul Heins [the then-Editor of HB], as one of the three judges of this year’s National Book Award for Children’s Books, cast the dissenting vote on the book chosen for the award.”

I have no idea if the NBA deliberations were meant to be confidential, but damn, Paul. When I served on that committee in 1999 the discussion was very amicable but I bet not in 1972. Although the note itself  does not deign to mention it, the winning book that year is revealed further down in the Hunt Breakfast as Donald Barthelme’s The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine, which gets a good accounting by the late great Peter D. Sieruta. That announcement also includes a list of “other nominees” and the judges (Lori [sic] Segal, Jean Stafford, and Paul Heins) and AGAIN a disclaimer: “Mr. Heins cast a dissenting vote.”

I wonder which of the nominees Paul was backing. I would have had a hard time choosing among Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Planet of Junior Brown, and His Own Where, three of the ten nominees listed1971 was a good year.

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