Sexed: What Makes a Good Sex Ed Book?

harris_it's not the stork

Growing up Catholic, I was always afraid of something: unconfessed sins; demonic possession; Sister Alice, my grade school principal, who once clamped her talons on my shoulder and marched me to her office for having a boy’s name magic-markered across my palm while receiving Holy Communion. But the one thing that gave me recurring nightmares […]

Beyond Barney: What Makes a Good Dinosaur Book?

jenkins_prehistoric actual size

Step into the science section of any library or bookstore (you know — the section way in the back) and you are guaranteed to find plenty of dinosaur books. Few science books written for children get star treatment of the kind reserved for these creatures. You’ll likely find grisly stories of death and destruction, heartwarming […]

What Makes a Good Gift Book? Step Aside!

gift book

I find it hard to give children’s books as presents. First, because I’m afraid my friends and family will think I’m just unloading surplus copies from the office, but mostly because it seems completely impossible to know just which book to give. How was I to know that “everybody” had already read Holes in fifth […]

Special Effects: What Makes a Good Fantasy?

stewart_edge chronicles

“Fantasy is our imaginary life’s blood,” Tamora Pierce told me recently. “It is simply an extension of our myths and legends, our fairy tales and our folktales. It is the stories we tell ourselves to give shape to our dreams and desires, and the forces that we suspect are working beyond where we can see […]

Working with Fear: What Makes a Good Thriller?

werlin_killer's cousin

For years, while my publisher tried to call my books mysteries, I’ve insisted that no, they’re thrillers. It’s a lowbrow term, connoting blood, guns, and nefarious activities. Basically, thrillers tend to be about nasty people doing bad, illegal, and/or unethical things, although usually there’s also a blameless individual around as protagonist who is endangered body […]

It Takes a Multicultural Village: What Makes a Good Translated Book?

anno_anno's counting house

What makes a good translated book? When Roger Sutton asked this question of me and Cheryl Klein, the editor with whom I work on our imprint’s translation efforts, it seemed that our answer might possibly be unacceptably short: it’s the writing that makes a good translated book. What more could we say? What more is […]

In the Beginning: What Makes a Good Beginning?

peck_teacher's funeral

Before the War . . . … the evenings lingered longer, and it was always summer when it wasn’t Halloween, or Christmas. Long, lazy light reached between the houses, and the whole street played hide-and-seek, called only by olly-olly-oxen-in-free and supper time. Before I could keep up, I rode my brother’s shoulders, hung in the […]

Don’t Tell the Ending! What Makes a Good Ending?

rathmann_10 minutes till bedtime

We hear a lot about how stories should end: the ending should be inevitable, and yet we shouldn’t be able to guess exactly how it will occur (see Macbeth). It should be consistent with the story’s other elements (see Romeo & Juliet). It should make us cry without embarrassment (see King Lear). It should make […]

Judging a Book by Its Cover (Because Sometimes That’s All We Get): What Makes a Good Bookstore Book?

giver

As an independent bookseller, I have both the luxury and the responsibility of actively choosing every title on the shelves of my store. It’s a source of great pleasure but also much soul searching, because in order to keep my doors open I have to carry certain books that are not at all to my […]

A Letter to Parents: What Makes a Good Second-Grade Book?

captain underpants

Dear Parents, Reading is a big part of every second grader’s life. But reading can be fraught with anxiety for these new readers. Most seven- and eight-year-olds in my classroom can read, but their reading levels vary widely, and they are not yet very good at finding books for themselves. They often notice what everyone […]