The Horn Book » Read Roger http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:27:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 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.

***

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?

***

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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Putting it together http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/putting-it-together/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/read-roger/putting-it-together/#respond Sun, 05 Jul 2015 16:18:34 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50831 After ALA, we had a couple of days to visit with our kids and grandchildren up in sunny Marin. One afternoon, Miles (just turned six) and I were walking back from the playground when a friendly neighbor lady approached and pressed an envelope into Miles’s hands. “Oh, I know what this is,” he said, “it’s […]

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abcAfter ALA, we had a couple of days to visit with our kids and grandchildren up in sunny Marin. One afternoon, Miles (just turned six) and I were walking back from the playground when a friendly neighbor lady approached and pressed an envelope into Miles’s hands. “Oh, I know what this is,” he said, “it’s a thank-you note.” (His mom Julie later confirmed to me that thank-you notes for birthday presents were huge among the parents of the Corte Madera primary set.)

We took the note into the dining room to set about decoding it. The salutation was tough as it was written in a child’s unpracticed hand, but D-e-a-r M-i-l-e-s a-n-d C-h-l-o-e (his younger sister) was fairly easily dispatched. The message proper, written by an adult, was tougher, but Julie and I coached him through the words, identifying the letters and sounding out the phonemes. Letter by letter, sound by sound, word by word, we worked through it.  We could see the little gears working as Miles turned the letters into sounds into words into a sentence: T-h-a-n-k y-o-u f-o-r t-h-e j-e-w-e-l-r-y b-o-x. While you might think mission accomplished, there was one more step to take. “Thank you for the jewelry box. Why would somebody write THAT?” Miles asked rhetorically, but even as he did so we could see comprehension dawn, if not with the same glorious light as Helen Keller’s w-a-t-e-r, then with a similar revelatory connection between language and meaning and experience. I hadn’t known you could actually watch that happen, and it was marvelous.

Miles had the last word. Examining the closing of the note, again written in the child’s hand, he sounded out the sender’s name–A-n-n-a–and, jabbing his finger at the final letter, said “that’s a crap a,” and authoritatively flicked the note across the table. A critic is born!

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TK http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/read-roger/tk/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/read-roger/tk/#respond Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:41:04 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50182 Upcoming: We’ve just put the July/August Horn Book Magazine to bed (with very firm orders to stay there until June 29th). At 176 pages, it is quite the fattest ALA Awards issue we’ve published but it’s what’s on those pages that has me so excited. Because so much of the content is embargoed until after […]

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facepaintingUpcoming:

We’ve just put the July/August Horn Book Magazine to bed (with very firm orders to stay there until June 29th). At 176 pages, it is quite the fattest ALA Awards issue we’ve published but it’s what’s on those pages that has me so excited. Because so much of the content is embargoed until after the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet on the 28th in San Francisco, I can’t really tell you anything, but it is jam packed with good stuff. (And come on guys, you know me. I’ve seen about thirty-five years of ALA Awards go by and don’t get excited easily.)

This coming Monday, June 15th, Children’s Books Boston is holding its second annual Wicked Boston Children’s Book Trivia Contest, hosted once again by Jack Gantos. I am predicting another win for the home team.

And next Saturday, June 20th, the Horn Book will be exhibiting at Hubbub, in and around Copley Square in Boston. I have no illusions that our modest display of Boston Globe-Horn Book winners and giveaways of Magazines and summer reading suggestions can compete with face-painting and Mo Willems, but I would love to say hello to any and all of you who would be so nice as to stop by.

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Starred reviews, July/August Horn Book Magazine http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-julyaugust-horn-book-magazine-2/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/read-roger/starred-reviews-julyaugust-horn-book-magazine-2/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 17:18:22 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50054 The following books are receiving starred reviews in the July/August issue of The Horn Book Magazine: The Skunk; by Mac Barnett; illus. by Patrick McDonnell (Roaring Brook) Playful Pigs from A to Z; written and illus. by Anita Lobel (Knopf) Wait; written and illus. by Antoinette Portis (Porter/Roaring Brook) Binny in Secret; by Hilary McKay; illus. by Micah Player (McElderry) Lost in NYC: […]

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PigsLobelThe following books are receiving starred reviews in the July/August issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

The Skunk; by Mac Barnett; illus. by Patrick McDonnell (Roaring Brook)

Playful Pigs from A to Z; written and illus. by Anita Lobel (Knopf)

Wait; written and illus. by Antoinette Portis (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Binny in Secret; by Hilary McKay; illus. by Micah Player (McElderry)

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure; by Nadja Spiegelman; illus. by Sergio García Sánchez (Toon)

Goodbye Stranger; by Rebecca Stead (Lamb/Random)

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America; by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton)

Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights; by Ann Bausum (Viking)

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club; by Phillip Hoose (Farrar)

 

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#winning! http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/read-roger/winning/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/read-roger/winning/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 18:07:58 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=49748 I hope I can say how much I love the 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book winners without anyone inferring my opinions about previous years. While under my strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship with the judges I have no idea why they chose what they did, their choices for the top prizes illustrate three great things about this particular […]

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RSFARMERI hope I can say how much I love the 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book winners without anyone inferring my opinions about previous years. While under my strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell relationship with the judges I have no idea why they chose what they did, their choices for the top prizes illustrate three great things about this particular awards program. In selecting The Family Romanov, the judges added a confirming sticker (and yes we now have stickers, see pic!) to a book that had been handsomely rewarded last year. In The Farmer and the Clown, they Made Things Right for a book [UNACCOUNTABLY–ed.note] left off ALA’s prize roster (there’s a funny crack about this in the July issue). And in Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms, they make us look twice at a book that everyone liked well enough but let slip off the radar. Good job all around!

Katrina Hedeen and I traveled down on Tuesday to New York, where on Wednesday I announced the winners with 2010 BGHB Fiction winner Rebecca Stead at the close of SLJ’s Day of Dialog, for which Betsy Bird has provided an excellent recap. It was a wonderful day, capped in great style when Katrina, Rebecca, Al Berman (our ad guy) and I were joined by Richard Peck for dinner. So terrific to see him again, and fascinating to hear him and Rebecca swap tips about how to bring modern technology into fiction for young people without either quickly dating your book or revealing that you cribbed most of the information. PLUS Rebecca taught us how to totally pwn Snapchat. If that’s still a thing. Is it?

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Judges on their way! http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/read-roger/judges-on-their-way/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/read-roger/judges-on-their-way/#respond Thu, 21 May 2015 14:59:32 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=49530 Our  judges (Maeve Visser Knoth, Jessica Tackett MacDonald, and Barbara Scotto as chair) will be meeting this weekend to select this year’s Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winners. What will they pick??? (I have no idea.) Katrina Hedeen and I head to New York early next week for the announcement, for which I will be partnered by the […]

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d idol prime 22.jpgOur  judges (Maeve Visser Knoth, Jessica Tackett MacDonald, and Barbara Scotto as chair) will be meeting this weekend to select this year’s Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winners. What will they pick??? (I have no idea.) Katrina Hedeen and I head to New York early next week for the announcement, for which I will be partnered by the lovely and talented Rebecca Stead, 2010 BGHB Fiction winner for When You Reach Me. If you are attending School Library Journal‘s sold-out Day of Dialog on Wednesday, you will see Rebecca and me do our stuff live at 4:30. We will also be announcing the winners in a blow-by-blow on Twitter (@hornbook #BGHB15) and on hbook.com shortly thereafter. Please join me in wishing Barbara, Jessica, and Maeve the best of luck in their deliberations, and that they may arrive at their decisions with at least some of the holiday weekend left to enjoy.

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