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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 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 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 […]

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 Board Book?

color zoo

Before launching into any venture, whether it be conducting a meeting, planning a toddler story time, or simply making a trip to the grocery store, I take a cue from my inner two-year-old and ask why. Why am I doing this? What do I hope will happen? Thus, when faced with the task of assessing […]

What Makes a Good Read–Aloud for Middle Graders?

cleary_ramona the pest

Back in the fifties, in my crowded parochial elementary school, the highest form of good luck landed you in Mrs. Sheeran’s fourth-grade class. The fact that Mrs. Sheeran wasn’t a nun marked her instantly as different. But more significant than her street clothes and married name were two admirable practices. First, every day at 10:30 […]

What Makes a Good Pop-Up Book?

couper_universe

Those of us who work with kids, be it with reading, swimming, or Wii-ing, know one important rule of thumb: first we have to get their attention. In the book world, in addition to the word underwear or the newest installment in a hot new series, movable books — with tabs to pull, wheels to […]