What Makes a Good Fractured Fairy Tale?

The Stinky Cheese Man

Primary school–age children are ripe for enjoying literary parody, and fractured fairy tales are a great introduction. By this time, 
ideally at least, kids have listened to or read many of the classic old tales: “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” et al. It’s that familiarity with the original that makes reading or […]

What Makes a Good Math Storybook?

burns_greedy triangle

Owen giggles with glee as he pokes his eighteen-month-old fingers through the caterpillar holes; Ashley, age five, and Ryan, six, diligently work to stuff as many lima beans as possible into a child’s mitten; Matthew and Haley carefully measure the perimeter of their fifth-grade classroom while their classmates are online researching the sizes of various […]

What Makes a Good Book Cover?

Splendor's Gloom

We have all seen book covers we don’t like. Some suffer from unfortunate aesthetics, being too busy, poorly rendered, or just plain dull, deterring readers with their intimations of boredom within. Others misrepresent the text they introduce, unintentionally or deliberately promising a book they can’t deliver. The offense of a bad book cover feels especially […]

What Makes a Good Horse Book?

lawrence_winter pony

Black Beauty. The Black Stallion. My Friend Flicka. National Velvet. Add in basically anything written by Marguerite Henry (Misty of Chincoteague), and you’ll see that horses hold a beloved place in 
classical children’s literature. But what qualities make a contemporary horse book stand out? For children who long to own a horse but can’t have […]

What Makes a Good YA Urban Novel?

make lemonade

Poverty. Violence. Racism. Gangs. Drugs. Crime. When people think of the inner city, these are the issues that tend to come to mind — the reasons many avoid urban areas altogether and lock their car doors should they happen to take a wrong turn and end up in a “bad” neighborhood. Unfortunately, these are not […]

What Makes a Good Picture Book About Loss?

nana upstairs

The three-hankie middle grade novel is a literary tradition as old as time (or at least as old as Charlotte’s Web). Some of these novels consider the sorts of grief, such as the death of a grandparent or the family dog, that children are likely to experience. Others explore very particular situations: the complicated aftermath […]

What Makes a Good “Bad” Book?

twilight_book_cover-7168

Trashy books: they’re the ones that cause young patrons to avert their eyes from a librarian (or, better yet, use the self-scan) and hide the dust jackets from their parents. They almost always contain steamy stuff (sex, or at least lust) and, often, controlled substances (booze, drugs, human blood, poisoned donuts…). Wish-fulfillment is common; escapism […]

What Makes a Good Picture Book Biography?

abe lincoln crosses

What is a picture book biography? Its simple title gives us everything we need to know: it is a picture book and it is a biography, and it is both of those things simultaneously and symbiotically. Imagine two spotlights on a stage. One light illuminates picture books, where story and style and the turn of […]

What Makes a Good Graduation Gift?

brave irene

Since you know you can count on somebody else to purchase Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and Chicken Soup for the Soul for the new graduate, the Horn Book staff and reviewers thought we might offer some alternative suggestions, based on personal experience — both what we’ve given and what we’ve received — and on […]

What Makes a Good YA Love Story?

the Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

It’s a simple formula. Boy meets girl (or, more often, girl meets boy. Or, less frequently, boy meets boy or girl meets girl). Boy and girl fall in love. One loses the other, or some other conflict arises. Then comes the happy ending. This plot, or some variation of it, is one we’ve read over […]