What Makes a Good YA Dystopian Novel?

HungergamesCover-web

Dystopias are characterized as a society that is a counter-utopia, a repressed, controlled, restricted system with multiple social controls put into place via government, military, or a powerful authority figure. Issues of surveillance and invasive technologies are often key, as is a consistent emphasis that this is not a place where you’d want to live. […]

What Makes a Good Picture Book App?

Children playing with book apps in the Horn Book office

With the digital literary world ever-expanding and evolving, picture book apps are multiplying like Wanda Gág’s cats. In this rapidly changing climate, what gives a book-based app staying power? A successful picture book app… Is interactive — but not too interactive What distinguishes a picture book app from a traditional picture book or an e-book […]

What Makes a Good Rock-and-Roll Book?

shakerattleturnnoise

Every time critics and writers declare rock-and-roll dead, it rises again; re-tuned, rebranded, and repackaged for a new generation. Signs of life abound: Green Day’s Gen Y suburban angst, captured in their mini rock opera American Idiot, has sold 14 million copies internationally and became a smash adaptation for the Broadway stage. Folk singer Elizabeth […]

What Makes a Good Space Book?

scott_space, stars, and the beginning of time

The vastness of the universe, explored and unexplored, presents possibilities for all of us to imagine new and different (and perhaps better) worlds, technological feats, and ourselves as active participants in the quest for knowledge beyond our own planet. A good space book captures this melding of anticipation and discovery that lies at the heart […]

What Makes a Good Book about Sharing?

martha doesn't share

It doesn’t take long when working in a bookstore or a public library to realize that many parents are after one thing in a picture book — they want it to make their child better. Parents want children who are polite, cooperative, and kind. They want them to be good listeners who easily relinquish the […]

What Makes a Good Newbery Novel?

from the mixed-up files

My quest to track down the Newbery began a long way from this country. I had been asked to speak at the Mubarak Library in Cairo to a group of Egyptian writers on “The Heartbeat of Children’s Literature.” A gentleman named Yacoub el-Sharoni, one of Egypt’s most famous writers of children’s books, was waiting for […]

What Makes a Good Baby Shower Book?

read-aloud handbook

When the invitation comes, it’s soft-pastel-sweet or super cheery with bright primary colors. But, in either case, the summons to a baby shower signals a great event and a need for a great present. There are so many possible gifts from which to choose: all those darling little outfits, soft warm blankets, and cuddly stuffed […]

What Makes a Good Sports Novel?

center field

“Mike backed up at the ping of the ball against the metal bat, sensing a long, high fly. He felt a flush of joy. He was exactly where he wanted to be, in the center of the universe, racing a baseball, sure he was going to win.” Robert Lipsyte’s recent novel Center Field starts with […]

What Makes a Good Book for All Ages?

mouse and his child

My many years of book reviewing have taught me that most books labeled “for all ages” are anything but. Such books are generally big and richly illustrated (and expensive); they tend toward the parabolic, offering “life lessons” of one sort or another. In short, they are books for adults with a weakness for cheap piety. […]

What Makes a Good YA Road Trip Novel?

bray_going bovine

“All I wanted was to go somewheres; all I wanted was a change.” And with this simple statement, the chain of events leading to Huck Finn’s trip down the Mississippi River begins. Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn one hundred and twenty-five years ago this February, but Huck’s adventures with Jim — the […]