The Horn Book http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Wed, 04 Mar 2015 21:24:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 From Page to Screen panel http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/from-page-to-screen-panel/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/from-page-to-screen-panel/#respond Wed, 04 Mar 2015 17:09:24 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47217 When my favorite books get made into movies, I’m there. But I’m usually wearing a t-shirt with this logo (courtesy of Unshelved): So when Children’s Books Boston announced its latest event, “From Page to Screen: An Inside Look at Children’s Book Adaptations,” I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued when I saw the range […]

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When my favorite books get made into movies, I’m there. But I’m usually wearing a t-shirt with this logo (courtesy of Unshelved):

the book was better t-shirt

So when Children’s Books Boston announced its latest event, “From Page to Screen: An Inside Look at Children’s Book Adaptations,” I was intrigued. I was even more intrigued when I saw the range of perspectives represented. Moderator and panel participant Deborah Kovacs, senior vice president at Walden Media and publisher at Walden Pond Press, has been involved with many book-to-film collaborations, including The Giver (a feature film in 2014) and The Watsons Go to Birmingham (which aired on the Hallmark Channel in 2013). Panelist Ammi-Joan Paquette, senior agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency and an author herself, has seen the work of several of her author clients begin the transition from book to film. Panelist Carol Greenwald, senior executive producer of children’s programs at WGBH Boston, helped create the television adaptations of Arthur, Curious George, and Martha Speaks. And Randy Testa, vice president of education and professional development at Walden Media, contributed to the discussion with in-depth reports of his involvement with The Watsons Go to Birmingham.

page to screen panel

L.-R.: Debbie Kovacs, Carol Greenwald, and Ammi-Joan Paquette

Almost immediately, Kovacs invoked The Giver author Lois Lowry, whose novel went through about two decades of attempts to bring it to the screen. According to Kovacs, Lowry has said that she considers a film faithful if it’s “true to the spirit of the book.” Lowry participated closely in the 2014 Giver film’s development, helping to write voiceover narration to clarify scenes that test audiences had trouble following. Kovacs and the other panelists agreed that adapters should consider the most important factors of a story’s appeal. She pointed out that when a movie has a long list of end credits, “about half of those people…have opinions” that can alter the way a film is adapted. “In their defense,” she added, “they’re putting up a whole lot of money.”

Paquette also emphasized the number of people and steps involved in the adaptation process; she warns authors not to expect that their books will be adapted for the screen. Even when books are optioned for adaptation, much in the adaptation process is beyond authors’ control. She did cite a success story, though: her client Jennifer A. Nielsen met with a scriptwriter working on the movie adaptation of her intermediate novel The False Prince. Nielsen had the opportunity to share what would happen later in the book series with the screenwriter so he could write with future events in mind.

For WGBH executive producer Greenwald, “the television series is not the book,” but part of the purpose of an educational book-to-television adaptation is to encourage kids’ continued reading about the characters. Converting brief picture books to long television series means fleshing out characters, giving them backstories, and specifying their parents’ jobs, for instance, but it’s important to preserve the spirit of the source material. The TV show’s Curious George might go on new adventures that aren’t in the book series, but (for example) the animals in his TV world can’t — and shouldn’t — talk, since they can’t in the books.

Testa spoke passionately about the Watsons film, which coincided with the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church. Although the film kept many of the episodes from the book, the bombing and issues of segregation became a more continuous part of the movie’s narrative arc. Later Testa declared, “we have to, have to, have to” depict more people of color on screen, naming Esperanza Rising and Monster as books that are waiting to be made into movies.

As you can see, book-to-film adaptations aren’t as simple as my t-shirt might have you believe, and there was a lot to talk about. Luckily, the conversation doesn’t have to end! Visit Children’s Books Boston for information on future events. Next up: a trivia rematch (date TBA)!

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Review of Won Ton and Chopstick http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-won-ton-and-chopstick/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-won-ton-and-chopstick/#respond Wed, 04 Mar 2015 16:00:50 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47214 Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw; illus. by Eugene Yelchin Primary   Holt   40 pp. 3/15   978-0-8050-9987-4   $17.99   g In this sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (rev. 3/11), the cautious kitty has another reason to be worried: an adorable new puppy. Won […]

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wardlaw_won ton and chopstickWon Ton and Chopstick:
A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku

by Lee Wardlaw; illus. by Eugene Yelchin
Primary   Holt   40 pp.
3/15   978-0-8050-9987-4   $17.99   g

In this sequel to Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku (rev. 3/11), the cautious kitty has another reason to be worried: an adorable new puppy. Won Ton is not happy when he catches his first glimpse: “Ears perk. Fur prickles. / Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! / My eyes full of Doom.” He scoffs at the ideas the people suggest for names, and ferociously warns the new pup: “Trespassers bitten.” Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations depict with sensitivity and humor the sleek gray cat’s initial fear and horror alongside the roly-poly brown puppy. Pastel backgrounds cleverly incorporating shadow and light allow the funny poses and expressions of the pair to shine. Each haiku is complete in itself, capturing the essence of cat with images such as the banished and lonesome Won Ton “Q-curled tight,” and together the poems create a whole tale of displacement and eventual mutual understanding. At the end, both cat and puppy snuggle in bed with the boy, meeting nose-to-nose as friends.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Floyd Cooper Talks with Roger http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/talks-with-roger/floyd-cooper-talks-with-roger/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/talks-with-roger/floyd-cooper-talks-with-roger/#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:42:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47101 Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here. In the midst of a classic Boston snowpocalypse, it was pure pleasure to talk to Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Floyd Cooper [in 2009 for The Blacker the Berry, written by […]

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floyd cooper twr

Talks with Roger is a sponsored supplement to our free monthly e-newsletter, Notes from the Horn Book. To receive Notes, sign up here.


floyd cooper

In the midst of a classic Boston snowpocalypse, it was pure pleasure to talk to Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Floyd Cooper [in 2009 for The Blacker the Berry, written by Joyce Carol Thomas; Amistad/HarperCollins] about his new picture book celebrating a jubilant summer’s day: Juneteenth for Mazie, published this month by Capstone.

Roger Sutton: You grew up in Oklahoma, right?

Floyd Cooper: Yes, born and raised. Around Tulsa, Oklahoma. Spent summers in Muskogee, Oklahoma. And Bixby, Mounds, Oklahoma, where my paternal grandfather had some land. He’s one-hundred-percent Creek Indian, and he had this allotment of land that was given to some of the Indians there. We would go and work some of the farms my folks had, to supply produce to the markets and things like that. It was a typical Midwestern kind of a lifestyle.

RS: Do you find that childhood making its way into your books?

FC: Yes. I’m trying to get more and more of it in there. I was just back there last week, actually, and I got to see some sights that awoke in me things I had forgotten about.

RS: Was Juneteenth something you celebrated as a kid?

FC: Well, we didn’t really celebrate it per se, but it was talked about by my older relatives. I never really understood it fully until much later.

RS: But you’d go to a barbecue and enjoy it even if you didn’t completely know what it was for, just like in Juneteenth for Mazie. Her grandfather tells her about the barbecue and that there are going to be treats and soda there, because that’s how kids connect with traditions.

FC: That’s right. They’re just there for the goodies. But those are the ways into their memory bank. Everything is attached to those fun parts. If we’re lucky we have older folks who talk to us and make sure we at least know some of the traditions. There was a lot of that with my family. I knew my great-grandparents.

RS: Wow.

FC: They still lived on the farm they built. They moved up from Texas in a covered wagon, and they built this house of stone there in Haskell, Oklahoma. They were quite old, and they’d share stories. In fact, Uncle Mose, the character in Juneteenth, is my great-great-grandfather. He was from a plantation in Georgia. He was an ex-slave. There was a photograph of him hanging in one of the rooms at the farm that we weren’t allowed to go into. As kids we had our limits. I couldn’t quite make out the features, so it’s always been a mystery to me what he actually looked like. I’m on a search for that picture now. Maybe it’s something that will turn up in one of my books. Those things, they really do come into fine focus as you get older. There’s always that regret that you didn’t know then what you know now.

RS: Right.

FC: As a child, I would have quizzed my great-grandparents a lot more, gotten even more stories.

RS: How do you connect your own children to those stories?

cooper_juneteenth for mazieFC: Telling the stories helps keep them in my memory. It’s funny how that works. The act of giving can also, in a sense, be a gift to you. You gain more insight and awareness as you pass the stories on. One of the beauties of the oral tradition is that it helps both the giver and the listener.

RS: Today if the slaves were freed, the news would be instantaneous. There’s no way the people of Texas wouldn’t hear it.

FC: That’s right. It would be all over Twitter. And that’s probably why it took two years for the news to actually reach Galveston. It traveled slowly, but it was deliberate, as much was in those days. With the culture of the black community, even before social media, there has always been this sort of a connection. It spanned geographic regions. It crossed social borders. I don’t know if you remember, in the days when they actually named dances, like you had the Twist? This was before your time.

RS: Do the Hustle!

FC: The Hustle and those dances. They were known instantaneously across the country by everybody. I don’t know how word got around. That’s just an example. Different things — the way of speaking, the slang, the verbiage, all of that was passed on. I can’t put my finger on how that happened. How would someone in Cincinnati, Ohio, know how someone in Oakland, California, would talk and act and walk, you know? It’s just amazing, that connection. I’m sure it’s like that with all cultures, there’s a sort of thread or a link that runs through, and it persists even with acclimation, with the sort of melting pot in which we all exist. Those ties — those cultural ties — remain true to that particular culture.

RS: To take the example of dances — you’d have DJs on the radio playing songs and saying, “Here’s the new Twist record.” And the DJ would listen to other DJs, so the record spreads, and of course the record company’s going around selling the record to the DJs, but then that doesn’t work unless the kids get into it. So Sally in Philly calls her cousin Sadie in Oklahoma —

FC: That’s right. It’s like a smoke signal, or like a drumbeat. Something very primordial. We find a way. And now we have social media.

RS: How do you think that will change things in terms of helping cultures to flourish?

FC: I think we’ll evolve into the medium, if we aren’t there already. It came on pretty quickly and caught us off-guard. I still know people who do not use Facebook. But I think we will evolve and take better advantage of it, and it will evolve along with us. Hopefully the internet will still be there, cleaned up and with the vision that we want it to be, as opposed to —

RS: The cesspool that it is today?

FC: Yes. I believe it’s going to get to where it’s supposed to be, but that’s just how I am, I guess. I’m a hopeful guy.

RS: And how do you see books surviving?

FC: It was put best by Stephen Roxburgh, an editor friend of mine. He was giving a talk about media, and he said books are just a bucket for words and thoughts and stories. The bucket can change, but the stories and the words, the expressions, the things that are in the bucket — that won’t change. You’ll always need that. So you have an electronic device that supplants a book, it’s just a bucket for these things. In that sense, it’s not that important as far as affecting the actual things that are in the bucket. We still need people to create for the bucket, whatever form it is. If it’s paper, or a bright light and a little flat tablet, we’ll still need content. That need that we have, as humans, to tell our stories and to hear stories will remain a constant through whatever technological change happens. We’ll carry that deep into the universe with us as we expand out further.

RS: Do you find yourself using digital tools more, as an illustrator?

FC: No, I still work traditionally for the most part. I have done some things just to experiment, but I still prefer the light in front of the painting, as opposed to coming from behind.

RS: It’s a big difference, isn’t it?

FC: Oh, it’s huge. Tremendously.

RS: I remember watching you demonstrate how you created a picture many years ago, in Hattiesburg.

FC: Oh, yes. So you saw that?

RS: Uh-huh.

FC: Okay. All right. Are you painting that way now?

RS: Who, me?

FC: Yes, did you go home and try it?

RS: No, I did not.

FC: Are you artistic?

RS: Hell, no.

FC: You’re very convinced. No hesitation there. That’s absolute, huh? Okay.

RS: But I love to look at pictures. You need people like me.

FC: Absolutely. You’re the linchpin of the whole thing. Without you, it’ll all fall apart.

RS: Gotta have readers.

FC: That’s right. And viewers, absolutely.

RS: You’ve had a remarkably consistent style over the years. Ever want to bust out and try something else?

FC: I do, and I have attempted to do that a number of times, but there are constructs in place that help to hold you in place. People who buy the art — they want the comfort, I guess, of knowing what they’re going to get, so they tend to want what they’ve seen you do, as opposed to taking a chance and trying something new. But I am expanding on my own. I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different media. Hopefully I’ll be in the position to just be able to produce that someday, and not have any other issues at hand like paying bills.

RS: Right.

FC: Social media, that will help me to have a platform, to just post something and see what happens. It may be something out of left field. I use melted chalks and some other mediums and a different palette. It’s a lot of fun, to balance what I do for books with what I play with in my down time.

RS: You know, one way you broke out years ago has always struck me — do you remember Laura Charlotte? [written by Kathryn O. Galbraith; Philomel, 1990] A book about a white child, illustrated by an African American illustrator.

FC: Yes, and I remember your statement about that. In fact, I still use it.

RS: What did I say?

FC: You said — I’m paraphrasing here — Ezra Jack Keats had done Snowy Day with Peter, and Floyd Cooper has sort of turned that around with Laura Charlotte.

RS: It really was something that was rare. Do you feel boxed in?

FC: Sometimes you do. Basically what we try to do, as artists and writers, we seek humanity first. That has no pigeonhole.

RS: Right.

FC: Publishers tend to hesitate when it comes to experimentation. But there are people who do allow it to happen. I’ve done some interesting books with Stephen Roxburgh. He’s quite a visionary. He told us maybe seven, eight years ago that the cell phone was going to be the center of the electronic universe. Everything was coming down to the cell phone and a cloud. And we didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. But it certainly has come to pass.

RS: I just walked by someone in the hall who was asking a security guard if he’d seen her wallet, and I thought, “Which would bother me more, to lose my wallet, or to lose my cell phone?” You’d think wallet, but I don’t know.

FC: I misplaced my cell phone in Nebraska once, and I couldn’t sleep a wink. I found it later, but it scared me to death, and I began to realize just how connected we are to that device. It’s like another hand. It’s scary, at the same time, to be so dependent on something.

RS: Do you read books on yours?

FC: I don’t read entire books. I’ll read the blurbs, and then I’ll get the book. I still like the book. I’d rather have the actual book and a little lamp.

RS: You know, your publisher wanted to make sure I saw the latest edition of Juneteenth for Mazie, because I only had the ARC and there were changes made to the finished book.

FC: They should ban ARCs. I’m setting a bonfire to my copies. Have you written any books yourself? I’m going to turn the interview on you.

RS: I wrote a nonfiction book for teenagers a long time ago. And then I’ve written mostly books for adults about children’s books.

FC: Is that first book still out? I’d like to see it.

RS: It’s out of print. It’s called Hearing Us Out: Voices from the Gay and Lesbian Community, and it was published by Little, Brown.

FC: What year was that?

RS: It was 1994, before I worked at The Horn Book.

FC: Wow. That’s ahead of the curve. Everything is so different now in the gay and lesbian community.

RS: Yes. The book would be completely dated. A kid would read it today and think I was talking about Martians. Because the world for gay people is completely different. Do you think that our latest diversity push — #WeNeedDiverseBooks — is going to open things up for you?

FC: I am not sure. I think there will definitely be ancillary benefits from anything in that arena, because it’s just coming down to having an impact, even secondhand, on what I do. But as far as affecting me personally, I’ll just continue to do what I do. I try to get involved in some of those things — We Need Diverse Books. But I haven’t had time to be as attentive to it as I should. I probably need to get a little bit more involved, pushing for that.

RS: Isn’t that more my job than your job, though?

FC: There you go. That’s it.

RS: Your job is to make the books.


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Review of The Walls Around Us http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-the-walls-around-us/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-the-walls-around-us/#respond Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:19:32 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46987 The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma High School   Algonquin   321 pp. 3/15   978-1-61620-372-6   $17.95   g e-book ed. 978-1-61620-486-0   $17.95 Orianna Speerling — the so-called “Bloody Ballerina” — is just fifteen when she is convicted of murdering two rival dancers. A month after her sentence begins, all forty-two girls interned at the Aurora Hills […]

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suma_walls around usstar2 The Walls Around Us
by Nova Ren Suma
High School   Algonquin   321 pp.
3/15   978-1-61620-372-6   $17.95   g
e-book ed. 978-1-61620-486-0   $17.95

Orianna Speerling — the so-called “Bloody Ballerina” — is just fifteen when she is convicted of murdering two rival dancers. A month after her sentence begins, all forty-two girls interned at the Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center are dead — victims of an unexplained mass killing. Ori’s story is gradually revealed through the eyes of two unreliable narrators. Violet is Ori’s affluent best friend, a fellow dancer who knows more about Ori’s crime than she’ll ever admit — especially if the truth might jeopardize her future at Juilliard. Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills who pushes the library cart from cell to cell — quietly waiting out a long sentence and keeping secrets of her own, such as having visions of girls she’s never met. In lyrical, authoritative prose, Suma weaves the disparate lives of these three girls into a single, spellbinding narrative that explores guilt, privilege, and complicity with fearless acuity. Amber’s voice is particularly affecting — she narrates from an eerily omniscient first-person plural perspective that speaks powerfully to the dehumanizing realities of teen imprisonment. The twisting, ghostly tale of Ori’s life, death, and redemption is unsettling and entirely engrossing.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The Carrot Patch comes to us http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/the-carrot-patch-comes-to-us/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/out-of-the-box/the-carrot-patch-comes-to-us/#respond Mon, 02 Mar 2015 21:12:41 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46975 Today’s mail brought a box of (foam) carrots*, buttons, stickers, bookmarks, and a very nice note from Wolfie the Bunny author Ame Dyckman. Thanks, Ame! In our March/April Magazine, Wolfie receives a starred review and Ame tells us a bit about Wolfie’s eating habits; look for the issue in your mailbox very soon.   *I […]

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Today’s mail brought a box of (foam) carrots*,

box of carrots

buttons, stickers, bookmarks,

wolfie swag

and a very nice note from Wolfie the Bunny author Ame Dyckman. Thanks, Ame! In our March/April Magazine, Wolfie receives a starred review and Ame tells us a bit about Wolfie’s eating habits; look for the issue in your mailbox very soon.

 

*I have to confess we had hoped they were chocolate carrots — there are some Wolfie-sized appetites for sweets in our office!

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Inside and out http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/read-roger/inside-and-out/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/blogs/read-roger/inside-and-out/#respond Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:49:52 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46967 Nina Lindsay has a terrific article up at SLJ about this year’s ALA Award winners and What It All Might Mean.  And in my latest editorial, I write about the need to value art from outsiders as well as insiders. Can we have both? Can we HAVE IT ALL?

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having-it-allNina Lindsay has a terrific article up at SLJ about this year’s ALA Award winners and What It All Might Mean.  And in my latest editorial, I write about the need to value art from outsiders as well as insiders. Can we have both? Can we HAVE IT ALL?

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Review of BirdCatDog http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-birdcatdog/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/03/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-birdcatdog/#respond Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:44:33 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46968 BirdCatDog [Three-Story Books] by Lee Nordling; illus. by Meritxell Bosch Primary    Graphic Universe/Lerner    32 pp. 11/14    Library ed.  978-1-4677-4522-2    $25.26 Paper ed.  978-1-4677-4523-9    $6.95 e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4524-6    $25.32 In this innovative wordless picture book told entirely through cartoon panels, three pets escape the ennui of domestication for brief, interconnected adventures in the wild. An introduction […]

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BirdCatDogBirdCatDog [Three-Story Books]
by Lee Nordling; illus. by Meritxell Bosch
Primary    Graphic Universe/Lerner    32 pp.
11/14    Library ed.  978-1-4677-4522-2    $25.26
Paper ed.  978-1-4677-4523-9    $6.95
e-book ed.  978-1-4677-4524-6    $25.32

In this innovative wordless picture book told entirely through cartoon panels, three pets escape the ennui of domestication for brief, interconnected adventures in the wild. An introduction explains that readers may read across the six-by-three distribution of rectangular panels for the protagonists’ parallel plot lines — the Tweety-like yellow bird in the blue-saturated top row of panels; the orange tabby in the green-toned middle row; and the bluish-gray guard dog in the yellow-hued bottom row—or read from top to bottom to “get the whole story.” Expressive, accessible art wordlessly follows the pets’ adventures, during which each animal not only interacts (badly) with the other two pets but also comes snout-to-snout (or beak-to-beak) with a wild version of itself: a hawk, a lynx, a wolf. While the consistent panel grid sacrifices the more dynamic layout and pacing afforded by a variety of panel sizes and shapes, this structure (with its protagonist-color-complementing rows) unobtrusively guides readers along. And it’s that much more effective when that structure breaks into a dizzying and hilarious double-page spread of all six creatures in a high-speed chase through the pets’ backyard, a bemused squirrel looking on. Once they have chased off the interlopers, the triumphant pets settle down for well-deserved naps on their well-defended home turf.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Week in Review, February 23rd-27th http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/news/week-in-review-february-23rd-27th/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/news/week-in-review-february-23rd-27th/#respond Fri, 27 Feb 2015 22:25:24 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46963 This week on hbook.com… March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine preview March/April 2015 editorial: “The Difference That Made Them” From the March/April issue: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s HBAS 2014 keynote speech “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers” Reviews of the Week: Picture Book: Smick! by Doreen Cronin; illus. by Juana Medina Fiction: Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by […]

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Week in Review

This week on hbook.com…

March/April 2015 Horn Book Magazine preview

March/April 2015 editorial: “The Difference That Made Them

From the March/April issue: Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s HBAS 2014 keynote speech “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers

Reviews of the Week:

Read Roger:

Out of the Box:

Lolly’s Classroom:

Events calendar

See overviews of previous weeks by clicking the tag week in review. Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to keep up-to-date on our articles!

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Editorial: The Difference That Made Them http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/opinion/editorials/editorial-the-difference-that-made-them/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/opinion/editorials/editorial-the-difference-that-made-them/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 20:00:05 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46889 Inadvertently or not, ALA heeded the call of the zeitgeist when it honored six books (out of ten in toto) by people of color in the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott medals and honors, announced last month at the Midwinter conference in Chicago. The winners were Kwame Alexander (African American) for Newbery and Dan Santat (Asian […]

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Inadvertently or not, ALA heeded the call of the zeitgeist when it honored six books (out of ten in toto) by people of color in the 2015 Newbery and Caldecott medals and honors, announced last month at the Midwinter conference in Chicago. The winners were Kwame Alexander (African American) for Newbery and Dan Santat (Asian American) for Caldecott; the honor recipients included women of color Jacqueline Woodson for the Newbery and Yuyi Morales, Jillian Tamaki, and Lauren Castillo for the Caldecott. This is all wonderful news.

Yet another honoree represents diversity of a different kind: Cece Bell, who won a Newbery Honor for the graphic-novel memoir El Deafo, is deaf. At that same ALA conference, ALSC held a day-long institute about diversity in books for young people. While speakers were careful to note that diversity included identifiers beyond ethnic group, more than one opined that what we were “really” talking about on this day was the depiction of people of color in children’s and YA literature. While that topic is more than enough for a day’s work, is it, “really,” all we are talking about?

Cece Bell presents one valuable exception; the five men whose work is profiled by Barbara Bader beginning on page 24 present another. No one would claim that these men were invisible; among them, they have fifteen Caldecott or Newbery citations and three Laura Ingalls Wilder medals. (Sendak takes the lion’s share while Remy Charlip, always ahead of the curve, has none.) And coming of artistic age at a time when such things were secret — or at least private — they all were gay. Tomie dePaola, God bless him, alone among them is still alive and flourishing: witness his glorious cover portrait of himself among brothers, convened in a party by noted hostess and self-proclaimed genius Gertrude Stein. (Who wouldn’t pay to see Jim Marshall try to make Gertrude Stein laugh? I bet he could and she would.)

Jokes about Frog and Toad being more than friends aside, none of these men ever wrote explicitly about being gay — first, one assumes, because of the strictures of the times and, second, because they created books for very young children. What enabled them to do so with such heart and intelligence? Only Arnold Lobel had children, but they all could, as Bader writes, “think big on a small child’s level.” Does their being gay have anything to do with this? I think yes.

Much is made by diversity advocates of the need to have cultural insiders create books that convey a culture with empathy, authenticity, and respect. True enough. But don’t outsiders have something to offer as well? The five artists Bader profiles grew up in an era in which gays and lesbians could not even look to their own families, never mind the wider community, for affirmation. Gay kids grew up alone, attentive to all the ways in which they did not belong. It tends to make one an extremely good observer, the first step in becoming an artist. Never underestimate the payoff of a lonely childhood.

I am certainly glad times are different now. Out gay artists, along with all those represented in the alphabet soup that is queer identity today, create picture books and novels and nonfiction for young people that forthrightly address a spectrum of sexuality and gender identity, and fewer people blink every day. But may these same artists also remember their rich legacy and continue to create wild things and clowns of God, friendly frogs and hippos, arm in arm in arm in arm to touch the imaginations of our children all.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Horn Book Magazine – March/April 2015 http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/horn-book-magazine-marchapril-2015/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/02/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/horn-book-magazine-marchapril-2015/#respond Fri, 27 Feb 2015 17:00:34 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=46777 Table of Contents Features “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Creating a demand for more good books featuring diverse characters. “Five Gay Picture-Book Prodigies and the Difference They’ve Made” by Barbara Bader From Sendak to dePaola. Columns Editorial “The Difference That Made Them” by Roger Sutton Diversity of all […]

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March/APril 2015 Horn Book Magazine

Table of Contents


Features

“Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Creating a demand for more good books featuring diverse characters.

“Five Gay Picture-Book Prodigies and the Difference They’ve Made” by Barbara Bader
From Sendak to dePaola.


Columns

Editorial
“The Difference That Made Them” by Roger Sutton
Diversity of all stripes.

The Writer’s Page
“Ex Libris” by Meg Wolitzer
What libraries have meant in one writer’s life.

Sight Reading
“Designing Woman” by Leonard S. Marcus
The achievement of designer Atha Tehon.

Field Notes
“This Is Too Much!” by Dorie Raybuck
Why verse novels work for reluctant readers.

From The Guide
“Books to Fill the Gaps”
A selection of reviews from The Horn Book Guide.


Reviews

Book Reviews
Audiobook Reviews


Departments

Letters to the Editor
March/April Starred Books
Impromptu
On the Web
Index to Advertisers
Index to Books Reviewed


Cover © 2015 by Tomie dePaola. Page 1 art from You Can Do It, Bert! Illustration © 2007 by Ole Könnecke.


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