The Horn Book http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:00:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 Week in Review, July 27th-31st http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/news/week-in-review-july-27th-31st/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/news/week-in-review-july-27th-31st/#respond Fri, 31 Jul 2015 16:00:23 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51241 This week on hbook.com… A week of Brooklyn books and book creators: The People in My Neighborhood: One Author/Illustrator’s Rambles Around Brooklyn by Stephen Savage You had us at artisanal pickles. We got your Brooklyn booklist right here. Brooklynite cover gallery Caldecott by the numbers: Brooklyn edition (math is fun!) Step right up and win […]

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Week in Review

This week on hbook.com…

A week of Brooklyn books and book creators:

Reports from the 2015 Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature: Homecoming

Reviews of the Week:

Events calendar

Summer Reading 2015

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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Step right up and win a prize! http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/step-right-up-and-win-a-prize/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/step-right-up-and-win-a-prize/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:08:10 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51235 To go with author/illustrator Stephen Savage’s article about the talented People in His Neighborhood, Katie compiled an image gallery of Horn Book Magazine covers created by Brooklyn illustrators. Keeping up the love, we gave you a Brooklyn booklist. And some artisanal pickle commentary. And even a spreadsheet. Now we want to hear more from you. […]

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To go with author/illustrator Stephen Savage’s article about the talented People in His Neighborhood, Katie compiled an image gallery of Horn Book Magazine covers created by Brooklyn illustrators. Keeping up the love, we gave you a Brooklyn booklist. And some artisanal pickle commentary. And even a spreadsheet.

Now we want to hear more from you. Tell us — in the comments here or any of the Brooklyn-tagged posts, on Facebook, or on Twitter @HornBook @RogerReads — a little something about your favorite Brooklyn book, author, or anecdote. If you’ve already commented, ba-da-bing!, she said ironically, you’re already in. You’ll be entered in a drawing to win a signed print of Stephen Savage’s brilliant Goodnight Moon-inspired illustration, “Goodnight Bridge.”

With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown.

With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. Illustration by Stephen Savage.

Put on your thinking caps (pork pie, trucker, or Nets), crank up some Son de Brooklyn (shameless plug for friend’s Brooklyn-based Cuban music band!), Do the Right Thing, and talk to us. The contest ends next Friday, August 7. Don’t fuggedaboudit.

Click on the Brooklyn tag for more from The Horn Book.

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Motion Math: Cupcake! app review http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/motion-math-cupcake-app-review/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/motion-math-cupcake-app-review/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2015 20:00:55 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51253 I am not a math person. But I am a cupcake person, so math about making and selling cupcakes is far more appealing. Motion Math: Cupcake! (Motion Math, April 2015) allowed me to enact my cupcake-bakery (cupcakery?) daydreams. As the app opens, you set up shop with a one-oven bakery facility, a cute sea-green Vespa […]

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cupcake titleI am not a math person. But I am a cupcake person, so math about making and selling cupcakes is far more appealing. Motion Math: Cupcake! (Motion Math, April 2015) allowed me to enact my cupcake-bakery (cupcakery?) daydreams.

As the app opens, you set up shop with a one-oven bakery facility, a cute sea-green Vespa for making deliveries, $50 for supplies, and a forty-day selling season. Scoot over to the store and pick out some ingredients; then whip up two custom cupcake flavors and set their prices based on cost of production.

cupcake flavors

Six or so customers in a row make purchases — with requests ranging in complexity from “I’d like two chocolate cupcakes” to word problems such as “I have two children and three cats, and I want my cats to each have four vanilla cupcakes” — and give you their addresses (coordinates on a numerical grid). Hop on your Vespa and deliver the goods, earning tips for speediness. After each batch of deliveries, charts break down the day’s profits (after deducting overhead expenses, of course) and most popular flavor as well as growth over time.

As your profits increase, both the math and business concepts increase in complexity. On the math side of things, you comparison shop for ingredients and buy in bulk. The grid of customer addresses gradually expands, introducing fractions and negative numbers.

cupcake customer

On the business end, you begin upgrading equipment and delivery vehicles, hiring staff, adding ingredients, purchasing advertising, and refining pricing. Customer interactions begin to include complaints, comments (“I’d pay anything for those black forest cupcakes”), and indecision to guide your choices. Thought balloons of the customers you spot around town give you an idea of what flavors will be popular next. Even the complexity of the driving part increases with more obstacles on the road — there’s no chance to get bored with this app, just a steady addition of new concepts introduced and new options to select.

The user avatars and customers are pleasantly diverse. Your cupcake creativity is constrained only by your imagination and your ingredient budget. Upbeat surf-guitar music plays in the background of your deliveries, and silly sound effects add to the fun of this educational and entertaining math app.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later); $4.99. Recommended for intermediate users and up.

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Caldecott by the numbers: Brooklyn edition (math is fun!) http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/caldecott-by-the-numbers-brooklyn-edition-math-is-fun/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/caldecott-by-the-numbers-brooklyn-edition-math-is-fun/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 17:00:36 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51248 Inspired by Stephen Savage’s article on Brooklyn children’s book folks, Barbara Genco, special projects manager for our sister publication Library Journal — and a proud Brooklynite — sent us her “very unscientific spreadsheet” of Brooklyn-connected Caldecott Medal winners and Honor winners from 1960-2015. W-O-W. By our back-of-the-envelope calculation (based on an already admittedly unscientific number, […]

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math_funInspired by Stephen Savage’s article on Brooklyn children’s book folks, Barbara Genco, special projects manager for our sister publication Library Journal — and a proud Brooklynite — sent us her “very unscientific spreadsheet” of Brooklyn-connected Caldecott Medal winners and Honor winners from 1960-2015.

W-O-W. By our back-of-the-envelope calculation (based on an already admittedly unscientific number, but just go with it for the big payoff) that’s about 30% of total Caldecott honorees over the past fifty-five years with a Brooklyn connection. Not even counting 2015 winner Dan Santat who, we know from his editor Connie Hsu’s Caldecott profile, was born there and moved when he was three (Brooklyn’s loss!).

What’s more, again looking at Barbara’s spreadsheet, there are only a handful of years in which a Brooklynite wasn’t recognized — just about fifteen — which means 73% of the past fifty-five years include a Brooklyn Caldecott honoree.

Something in the water indeed! Or maybe they’re just drinking that artisanal pickle juice.

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Brooklynite cover gallery http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/brooklynite-cover-gallery/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/brooklynite-cover-gallery/#respond Thu, 30 Jul 2015 16:14:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51211 In 2010, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted “Drawn in Brooklyn,” an exhibit of art by Brooklyn-based children’s book illustrators. We have a gallery of our own: the Horn Book Magazine covers below were all created by Brooklynites. How do you like them apples? Click on the Brooklyn tag for more from The Horn Book.

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In 2010, the Brooklyn Public Library hosted “Drawn in Brooklyn,” an exhibit of art by Brooklyn-based children’s book illustrators. We have a gallery of our own: the Horn Book Magazine covers below were all created by Brooklynites. How do you like them apples?

Click on the Brooklyn tag for more from The Horn Book.

September/October 2003 cover by Paul O. Zelinsky

November/December 2003 cover by Maurice Sendak

September/October 2005 cover by Maurice Sendak

November/December 2006 cover by Leo and Diane Dillon

May/June 2008 cover by Christopher Myers

July/August 2008 cover by Brian Selznick

March/April 2010 cover by Brian Selznick

March/April 2013 cover by Paul O. Zelinsky

July/August 2014 cover by Brian Floca

January/February 2015 cover by Peter Brown

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We got your Brooklyn booklist right here. http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/we-got-your-brooklyn-booklist-right-here/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/out-of-the-box/we-got-your-brooklyn-booklist-right-here/#respond Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:27:39 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51132 A quick and handy search on the Horn Book Guide Online (keyword search: “Brooklyn”) brings up 167 reviews of books published since 1989 that are about, in, or around Brooklyn. (Plus, we’ve heard a tree grows there.) Here’s a selection of favorites to consider while enjoying Stephen Savage’s article about the People in His (Brooklyn) […]

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A quick and handy search on the Horn Book Guide Online (keyword search: “Brooklyn”) brings up 167 reviews of books published since 1989 that are about, in, or around Brooklyn. (Plus, we’ve heard a tree grows there.) Here’s a selection of favorites to consider while enjoying Stephen Savage’s article about the People in His (Brooklyn) Neighborhood.

 

Picture Books

cooney_hattie_and_the_wild_wavesCooney, Barbara Hattie and the Wild Waves
40 pp. Viking 1990 ISBN 0-670-83056-9
A portrait of an unconventional, questing child who quietly determines the course of her own future. Exquisite paintings reflect the solid comfort and cultivation of turn-of-the-century affluent life in Brooklyn.

water in the parkJenkins, Emily Water in the Park: A Book About Water & the Times of the Day
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-87002-6
LE ISBN 978-0-375-97002-3
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin. Just before six a.m., a city park starts to stir: dogs arrive, owners in tow, for an early-morning swim in the pond. Next, a few kids and their caretakers show up; at eight, the sprinklers are turned on, and by mid-morning the playground is mobbed. And so the day goes. Graegin’s pencil-and-ink-wash illustrations beautifully reflect the changing light and the shifting population.

nargi_honeybeeNargi, Lela The Honeybee Man
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-84980-0
LE ISBN 978-0-375-95695-9
Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker. Beekeeper Fred’s busy daily round, beginning with a cozy cup of tea, makes an appealing frame for the main event: tending his “tiny city” of three hives on his Brooklyn roof to harvest enough honey to share with neighbors. Textured details in the collage illustrations — and a cheerfully upbeat main character — enhance the story. The accurately detailed text is nicely supplemented by clear endpaper diagrams.

pinkwater_Beautiful-YettaPinkwater, Daniel Beautiful Yetta: The Yiddish Chicken
32 pp. Feiwel 2010. ISBN 978-0-312-55824-6
Illustrated by Jill Pinkwater. Beautiful blue-eyed chicken Yetta, being trucked to slaughter, escapes her fate and lands in Brooklyn. After saving a wild parrot, she’s adopted by its Spanish-speaking green-feathered colony. Jill Pinkwater’s hues squawk off the pages with riotous energy. In addition to straightforward lines of text, the narrative plays out with ballooned dialogue in English and Yiddish (later, English and Spanish), with phonetic pronunciations.

takabayashi_I live in brooklynTakabayashi, Mari I Live in Brooklyn
32 pp. Houghton 2004. ISBN 0-618-30899-7
Takabayashi (I Live in Tokyo) takes on Brooklyn in this pictorial tour led by six-year-old Michele. After describing her daily life at home and at school, she then provides a season-by-season description of her favorite activities. While the structure isn’t as tight as in Tokyo, the colorful, detailed scenes provide a lot to pore over.

willems_knuffle_bunnyWillems, Mo Knuffle Bunny
40 pp. Hyperion 2004. ISBN 0-7868-1870-0
When Little Trixie (too young to “even speak words”) leaves her beloved stuffed bunny at the Laundromat, she does her best to get Daddy to understand. Daddy is clueless until Mommy greets them at home with the obvious question: “Where’s Knuffle Bunny?” The playful retro-style illustrations, in which cartoon characters are digitally incorporated into sepia-toned photos, complement the simple, satisfying story.

 

Younger Fiction

Invisible InklingJenkins, Emily Invisible Inkling
156 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-180220-1
Illustrated by Harry Bliss. Fourth-grader Hank Wolowitz has a very special imaginary friend: an invisible, squash-loving, almost-extinct bandapat named Inkling, whose attempts to help Hank with a bully go spectacularly wrong. Children will find this cranky bandapat tale (enhanced with Harry Bliss’s droll illustrations) hilarious and heartwarming. It’s a perfect choice for an early school year read-aloud: straightforward, zippy plot, likable characters, and believable family.

sternberg_like-pickle-juice-on-a-cookie-222x300Sternberg, Julie Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie
122 pp. Abrams/Amulet 2011. ISBN 978-0-8109-8424-0
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Eight-year-old Eleanor is bereft when her babysitter moves away; Eleanor’s new babysitter sensitively gives her room to grieve. Sternberg uses short sentences spaced on the pages in very short lines, like poetry, and keeps the twenty-seven chapters very brief. The first-person narration and the details of Eleanor’s emotional journey will draw readers in, while Cordell’s line drawings add humor.

 

Intermediate Fiction

gidwitz_grimmconclusionGidwitz, Adam The Grimm Conclusion
354 pp. Dutton 2013. ISBN 978-0-525-42615-8
From the beginning, when their wicked stepfather tricks Jorinda into thinking she has decapitated Joringal (A Tale Dark & Grimm; In a Glass Grimmly), this is gruesome, grisly fun. It’s not until the siblings visit the narrator in his Brooklyn classroom that they learn the importance of telling their stories. Despite the gleeful horror, this is ultimately a warm and empathetic novel.

giff_water+streetGiff, Patricia Reilly Water Street
164 pp. Random/Lamb 2006. ISBN 0-385-73068-3 LE ISBN 0-385-90097-X
The story begun in Nory Ryan’s Song continues: it’s now 1875, and Nory is a hardworking healer/midwife; her thirteen-year-old daughter Bird aspires to be just like her. The barely nascent Brooklyn Bridge serves as a metaphor for Bird’s coming of age — and for the fortunes of her family and friends. Though the plot in this optimistic novel is tidily symmetrical, Giff sidesteps predictable situations.

gratz_brooklyn-nineGratz, Alan The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings
308 pp. Dial 2009. ISBN 978-0-8037-3224-7
Interlinked short stories set between 1845 and 2002 offer snapshots of nine generations of a New York City family of German Jewish immigrants and their involvement with America’s favorite pastime. With an impressively cohesive mix of sports, historical fiction, and family history, Gratz has crafted a wonderful baseball book that is more than the sum of its parts.

hess_brooklynbridgeHesse, Karen Brooklyn Bridge
232 pp. Feiwel 2008. ISBN 978-0-312-37886-8
In 1903 Brooklyn, fourteen-year-old Joe dreams of Coney Island. Interspersed throughout the story of Joe’s family (based on Russian Jews who created the first teddy bear) are third-person segments that poetically describe homeless children living under the Brooklyn Bridge. The narrative includes tightly interwoven elements of multiple genres — adventure, romance, comedy, drama, ghost story — without compromising authenticity of plot or character.

margolis_girlsbestfriendjpgMargolis, Leslie Girl’s Best Friend
261 pp. Bloomsbury 2010. ISBN 978-1-59990-525-9
Maggie Brooklyn Mystery series. When dogs start disappearing from her Park Slope neighborhood, Maggie Sinclair, seventh-grader and part-time dog walker extraordinaire, is on the case. Maggie aspires to be Nancy Drew (“old-fashioned” but “way gutsy”) and shrewdly puts together seemingly unrelated events. While the well-crafted mystery is foremost, it’s the relatable, witty protagonist dealing with everyday middle school tribulations that makes this novel stand out.

Liar & SpyStead, Rebecca Liar & Spy
185 pp. Random/Lamb 2012. ISBN 978-0-385-73743-2
LE ISBN 978-0-385-90665-4
Brooklyn seventh-grader Georges’s family has just moved, his best friend has ditched him, and he’s endlessly bullied. So when his new neighbor offers to train him as a spy, Georges figures, why not? Spare and elegant prose, wry humor, deft plotting, and the presentation of complex ideas in an accessible way make this novel much more than just a mystery-with-a-twist.

p.s. be elevenWilliams-Garcia, Rita P.S. Be Eleven
276 pp. HarperCollins/Amistad 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-193862-7
LE ISBN 978-0-06-193863-4
Delphine and her sisters have returned from their mother’s (One Crazy Summer), but home in Bedford-Stuyvesant has become tricky. Pa has a new “lady friend”; their uncle returns from Vietnam greatly changed; and Delphine’s sisters have learned to stand up for themselves. Williams-Garcia brilliantly gets to the very heart of Delphine and each of her family members, creating complex, engaging, and nuanced characters.

woodson_LocomotionWoodson, Jacqueline Locomotion
102 pp. Putnam 2003. ISBN 0-399-23115-3
Like Jack in Creech’s Love That Dog, fifth-grader Lonnie has a teacher who introduces him to poetry and makes him believe in his writing. Woodson, however, more ably convinces us that her protagonist really does have a gift. The sixty poems are skillfully and artfully composed — but still manage to sound fresh and spontaneous. The accessible form will attract readers; Woodson’s finely crafted story won’t let them go.

 

Young Adult Fiction

Brooklyn, BurningBrezenoff, Steve Brooklyn, Burning
202 pp. Carolrhoda Lab 2011. ISBN 978-0-7613-7526-5
Tossed out by a narrow-minded father, sensitive narrator Kid finds an alternate family with the street kids of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Kid falls hard for entrancing Felix, a junkie living in an abandoned warehouse. When fire destroys the building, Kid becomes an arson suspect. A moving, personal story of friendship, loss, and love, Brezenoff’s novel is also a tender tribute to all LGBTQ youth.

elliott_shipofsoulsElliott, Zetta Ship of Souls
121 pp. Amazon 2012. PE ISBN 978-1-61218-268-1
New foster child D rescues what he thinks is a bird in Prospect Park. It’s really a spirit who wants his help in gathering the restless dead of Manhattan’s African Burial Ground and taking them on to another realm. Elliott’s story is quick, clean, and briskly paced, and engages some interesting content.

lamarche_like no otherLaMarche, Una Like No Other
347 pp. Penguin/Razorbill 2014. ISBN 978-1-59514-674-8
Devorah and Jaxon meet in an elevator and come away with that love-at-first-sight feeling. It’s complicated; Devorah is a Hasidic Jew, Jaxon is black. Devorah, whether agonizing over her love life or sharing informative details about Hasidic daily life and religious philosophy, is believable and engaging. Her struggle between tradition and modernity, filial duty and personal fulfillment, is complex and realistic.

reynolds_when i was the greatestReynolds, Jason When I Was the Greatest
232 pp. Atheneum 2014. ISBN 978-1-4424-5947-2
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-5949-6
Affable narrator Ali, his best friend Noodles, and Noodles’s brother Needles live in Brooklyn’s tough Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Ali’s thing is boxing; Noodles’s is comic books; and Needles’s is…knitting, as a way to keep his Tourette syndrome under control. The book’s violent climax occurs at a party that the boys discover they’re too young for. Reynolds demonstrates a gift for conversational tone and sly humor.

williams-garcia_everytimearainbowWilliams-Garcia, Rita Every Time a Rainbow Dies
166 pp. HarperCollins 2001. ISBN 0-688-16245-2
LE ISBN 0-06-029202-4
Despite its gritty milieu and violent central motif, this is a love story. Sixteen-year-old Jamaican-born Thulani’s only friends are the pigeons on the roof of the Brooklyn brownstone he shares with his brother and sister-in-law. He witnesses a rape from the roof; after he intercedes on the victim’s behalf, he becomes obsessed with her. Well-observed and subtle, this novel artfully interplays harsh urban realities with adolescent innocence.

 

Nonfiction

curlee_brooklynbridgeCurlee, Lynn Brooklyn Bridge
40 pp. Atheneum 2001. ISBN 0-689-83183-8
(Gr. 4–6) The Brooklyn Bridge receives handsome tribute here as a great accomplishment of engineering and human labor. Full-page paintings provide impressive views of the underwater excavation of foundations, the construction of the anchoring towers, and the suspension of cables. While the text explains the technical aspects of construction, it also recounts the costly efforts of the Roebling family and the laborers. Bib.

lewin_stableLewin, Ted Stable
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Flash Point 2010. ISBN 978-1-59643-467-7
(Gr. K–3) Using firmly drafted paintings with saturated colors and muted edges, Lewin pictures first the historical roots and then the present-day incarnation of a riding stable in Brooklyn. In natural and unobtrusive narration, he describes the equine and human characters inhabiting the stable and the special circumstances of city-dwelling horses. A final question looks to the future of this community landmark.

mann_brooklynbridgeMann, Elizabeth and Witschonke, Alan The Brooklyn Bridge
48 pp. Mikaya 1996. ISBN 0-9650493-0-2
(Gr. 4–6) Wonders of the World series. This brief, informative history effectively conveys the human drama of the fourteen-year construction of the magnificent suspension bridge and provides lucid explanations of the technology and the building phases. The handsome pictorial format employs historical prints and photographs as well as original paintings and diagrams. Two fold-out diagrams and a concluding aerial view of the finished bridge emphasize the dimensions of the immense project.

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Review of Tommy http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-tommy/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-tommy/#respond Wed, 29 Jul 2015 15:00:57 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51147 Tommy: The Gun that Changed America by Karen Blumenthal Middle School, High School     Roaring Brook     223 pp. 6/15     978-1-62672-084-8     $19.99     g In this biography of a gun and the times in which it lived, Blumenthal traces the Thompson submachine gun, a.k.a. the Tommy. After the Spanish-American War, an Army officer, John […]

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blumenthal_tommyTommy: The Gun that Changed America
by Karen Blumenthal
Middle School, High School     Roaring Brook     223 pp.
6/15     978-1-62672-084-8     $19.99     g

In this biography of a gun and the times in which it lived, Blumenthal traces the Thompson submachine gun, a.k.a. the Tommy. After the Spanish-American War, an Army officer, John Thompson, believed that America needed a lightweight, automatic, hand-held rifle in order to be prepared for the next conflict. The Army did not share his opinion, so he left the service and developed his own weapon, completed with superior bad timing on Armistice Day in 1918. Without a ready military market Thompson found other avenues for disbursement, and an open market (along with a few robberies) put the Tommy in the hands of the crooks and bootleggers terrorizing the next two decades in American history. At this point Blumenthal turns her attention to these criminals as well as the lawmen trying to stop them. Although short-lived, the Tommy finally realized its creator’s dream, becoming a valuable weapon during World War II, but one replaced at war’s end. In a third thread of her narrative, Blumenthal also examines the history of gun laws in America. With thorough research and impeccable documentation, the author shows the complexity of gun culture, leaving more questions than answers concerning contemporary use and misuse of firearms and the future of Second Amendment battles. Appended with an extensive bibliography and source notes; index not seen.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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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Review of The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-the-accidental-afterlife-of-thomas-marsden/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/choosing-books/review-of-the-week/review-of-the-accidental-afterlife-of-thomas-marsden/#respond Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:00:46 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51144 The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne Intermediate, Middle School     Simon    247 pp. 7/15     978-1-4424-9882-2     $16.99     g e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9886-0     $10.99 While out grave-robbing with his father one night, Thomas Marsden digs up a corpse that looks exactly like him, down to the birthmark on his cheek. In his […]

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trevayne_accidental afterlife of thomas marsdenThe Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden
by Emma Trevayne
Intermediate, Middle School     Simon    247 pp.
7/15     978-1-4424-9882-2     $16.99     g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9886-0     $10.99

While out grave-robbing with his father one night, Thomas Marsden digs up a corpse that looks exactly like him, down to the birthmark on his cheek. In his hand the dead boy is holding tickets to a performance by the famous spiritualist, Mordecai, along with a note bearing the corpse’s name, Thistle, and the instruction Tell no one! Deadnettle, the elder faery who left the note, wants to break the news slowly to Thomas  that his parents are not his real parents; that his true people, the faeries, are enslaved by Mordecai to contact the spirits of the dead for his wealthy clients; and that, as the last surviving member of the royal line, Thomas is the only one who might break Mordecai’s enchantment. Trevayne plays her cards close to the vest, supplying pieces of the book’s puzzle with maddening slowness, but the central drama — Thomas’s decision whether to help the faeries despite having been rejected by them at birth, and despite the danger of their current request — makes it worth the wait. Reassuringly human, realistically self-interested Thomas is a solid foil for the ethereal faeries, whose whimsical magical abilities and characteristic fear of iron, church bells, and telling lies are trademark fey, though here freshened up enough to escape banality. By the end, Thomas’s humanity holds the key to the faeries’ salvation, leading to a resolution that satisfies all stake-holders, including, most gratifyingly, his readers.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The People in My Neighborhood: One Author/Illustrator’s Rambles Around Brooklyn http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/authors-illustrators/the-people-in-my-neighborhood-one-authorillustrators-rambles-around-brooklyn/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/authors-illustrators/the-people-in-my-neighborhood-one-authorillustrators-rambles-around-brooklyn/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=51060 The Place Brooklyn: home to skinny jeans, artisanal pickles, that famous bridge, and yes… one of the biggest children’s book communities in the world. And I’m one of those authors that ends his jacket flap copy with “…lives and works in Brooklyn.” Here’s a brief history, as well as an insider’s guide, to this kid-lit […]

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With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown.

With apologies to Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd. Illustration by Stephen Savage.

The Place

Brooklyn: home to skinny jeans, artisanal pickles, that famous bridge, and yes… one of the biggest children’s book communities in the world. And I’m one of those authors that ends his jacket flap copy with “…lives and works in Brooklyn.” Here’s a brief history, as well as an insider’s guide, to this kid-lit mecca.

The Rise and Fall (Again) of Brooklyn

Brooklyn rose to prominence at the end of World War II. Many of the country’s artistic and intellectual elite from the last century hailed from the borough. One of these famous sons changed the course of children’s books forever. His name was Maurice Sendak.

Brooklyn, like many urban centers in the middle of the twentieth century, soon went into decline. People fled the city for the suburbs, crime spiked, and Brooklyn store owners put gates over their shop windows. Nothing symbolizes the decline more sharply for Brooklynites than the exodus of their beloved Dodgers baseball team and the subsequent demolition of Ebbets field in the late 1950s. 1970s Brooklyn was the broken-down backdrop for movies such as Dog Day Afternoon and The French Connection. Artists and performers (like John Travolta’s Tony Manero character in Saturday Night Fever) hopped the train for Manhattan and never looked back. Despite this, a group of Pratt Institute and Parsons graduates (Ted and Betsy Lewin and Pat Cummings of the former, Leo and Diane Dillon the latter) decided to settle here.

A second wave of children’s book artists, along with authors and magazine and book editors, followed in the ’80s and ’90s. And the last ten years has seen an explosion in the number of book artists settling in the borough.

The Old Guard

Jon Scieszka arrived in Brooklyn in 1977 and is one of the children’s book community’s oldest (and most esteemed) members. Back then, Brooklyn was hardly the bustling, prosperous borough that it is today. “I used to hit golf balls on the empty Great Lawn in Prospect Park on Saturday afternoons,” he recalls. Later, in the 1980s, Scieszka befriended fellow pioneers Jacqueline Woodson, Mo Willems, and Tony DiTerlizzi. “We would all kvetch over beers at Jackie’s 5th Amendment” (a local watering hole that was on 5th Avenue). Eventually, Willems and DiTerlizzi “defected,” moving north to that other kid-lit enclave, Western Massachusetts.

The Power Couples

Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney arrived in the borough in 1990 and were delighted to discover that Brooklyn was home to two other prominent children’s literature couples: the Lewins and the Dillons. “We belonged to the same gym as the Dillons, where on any given day they’d be waving hello from the treadmill,” Davis Pinkney remembers. The Lewins were just as welcoming. “They invited us to brunch at their brownstone,” said Davis Pinkney, “where we dipped healthy crackers in pots of hummus and munched on lentil salad.” It was during this visit to the Lewin digs that the Pinkneys discovered the secret to kid-lit couple harmony: separate floors, separate work spaces. “We went home that night and rearranged our house accordingly.” Other Kid-Lit Power Couples here include Selina Alko and Sean Qualls, as wells as Tad Hills and children’s book publishing executive Lee Wade.

The Collective

John Bemelmans Marciano, Brian Floca, Sophie Blackall, Edward Hemingway, and Sergio Ruzzier share studio space in a former warehouse. Cram five artists into one room and, typically, it isn’t long before they’re stabbing each other in the back with X-ACTO knives. Not so with this group. There are genuine feelings of affection and mutual admiration filling this loft space. “We all cheered when Brian won the Caldecott for Locomotive,” says Blackall. “We were invested in that book. We helped pose for it. We gave our input on all the dummies and drafts. It was our book, too.”

The Writers’ Group

The aforementioned isn’t the only group of Brooklyn artists who enjoy working together in the same room. E. Lockhart, Robin Wasserman, Libba Bray, and Gayle Forman routinely get together for lattes and lap-swimming, followed by lengthy writing sessions at a local Park Slope cafe. Lockhart admits that the fellowship is motivating: “You’re less likely to waste time on Twitter when the person across the table from you is cranking away on their novel.”

The Internationals

The Brooklyn children’s book community is largely a melting pot…so much so that Sergio Ruzzier laments, “my charming Italian accent doesn’t seem to impress anyone here.” Third-generation Brooklynite Daniel Salmieri notes, “It’s rare to meet someone in Brooklyn who’s from Brooklyn.” South Korean artist Hyewon Yum was attracted by the art and book culture in Brooklyn. “In Seoul, people look at you funny if you don’t have a day job.” Other Brooklyn immigrants include Laura Ljungkvist, a Swede; Fiona Robinson, a Brit; and Paul Hoppe, a German.

The Support Group

“Kid Lit Group Therapy” meets twice a month — members new and old get together at Floyd on Atlantic Avenue to discuss reviews and royalty statements over pints of Brooklyn micro-brew. Organizer Peter Brown says he can always spot a new inductee. “They stumble into the bar like wide-eyed toddlers.” Mike Curato was one of those star-struck newbies. He moved to Brooklyn in 2013 to be part of the children’s book community. “I felt like an island, living in Seattle,” he says.

Old-timers at the bar include Paul Zelinsky and Michael Buckley, who have been KLGT regulars for years. “I enjoy the camaraderie with younger artists,” says elder statesman Zelinsky. And Buckley, out of sight of editors, publicists, and librarians, relishes the chance to toss one back and let off steam with his Brooklyn colleagues. “We’re all in the same war,” he says.

The Brooklyn “Thing”

Brooklyn artists, like artists everywhere, draw inspiration from their environment. Brian Pinkney used the brownstone-lined street in Cobble Hill where he lived at the time as the setting for his book Max Found Two Sticks. Dan Salmieri notes that the organic forms in his art are inspired by daily visits to Prospect Park. “I go up there to get away from right angles,” he says. And the docks, bridges, and warehouses in Brooklyn’s industrial waterfront show up in my own books Little Tug and Supertruck.

And then there’s “the attitude of Brooklyn” (as Peter Brown puts it). “Many of my stories are about acceptance, and that comes from living in such a diverse place,” he observes. Selina Alko says that her books “are all about the mix of people” and are inspired by the Brooklyn melting pot. Alko, the daughter of Canadian immigrants, and her husband, illustrator Sean Qualls, are themselves the parents of biracial children.

The Caldecott, Newbery, and CSK Club

Sendak. Selznick. Zelinsky. Myers. Brown. Lewin. Floca. Pinkney. Woodson. And others. ‘Nuff said. Is it something in the water?!

The Lifers

Brooklyn rose, then fell, and has risen again. Rents are skyrocketing and condo towers are going up everywhere. Sadly, young artists are finding it difficult to live here. Despite the borough’s rapid gentrification, “There’s still something kinda vital here,” says Scieszka. Judi Barrett, author of the classic Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, who’s been here since the days of the Dodgers, says she loves the community and has no plans to leave. “Where else would I go?”

The Celebration

Every November we all flock to the Brooklyn Museum Children’s Book Fair to sign books for the neighborhood fans. Last year I thought I’d share the glory with my wife and six-year-old-daughter. But as soon as we stepped into the Rubin Pavilion, the two of them quickly lined up at Oliver Jeffers’s table. Next they ran over to see Naoko Stoop. An hour later, I spotted them chatting with Abby Hanlon.

Sure, Brooklyn is overrun with some of the best and brightest children’s book creators in the world. But there’s always room for more.

Click on the Brooklyn tag for more from The Horn Book.

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