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>Add ’em up, Bobby

>Sorry to be so long away; I’ve been submerged in writing an article for the September issue about book review stars. The short version is that the decision to star a review has larger consequences than I had thought, and I can see why authors really, really want them, and the more the merrier.

In arts news, we had a Tony Kushner weekend, seeing the Peter Eotvos’s opera of Angels in America on Saturday, and Caroline, or Change on Sunday. As with the play, I found the first half of the Angels opera meatier than the second, which is here so fragmentary as to be incomprehensible to those who haven’t seen Kushner’s original drama. The music is engrossing and attentive to the story, spikily modern in a way that almost seems old-fashioned now. All I knew of Caroline was Barbara Bader’s reference to it in a Horn Book article (“Echoes of the Old Plantation,” March/April ’05), where she compared it favorably to a recent clutch of picture books (Mr. George Baker, The Friend) about white children and black adults: “with the psychological insights and the social awareness of a thinking adult, Kushner has escaped the shadow of the plantation. Would that the others could, too.” Not really a fan of Angels in America‘s baroque show-offiness, I found Caroline surprisingly direct and involving, helped by the small theater and lack of miking, with great singing from all. I’d star it.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Oh, Roger, there’s no one like Sondheim, is there.

    You know, the whole star thing reminds me of grades in school, which I feared and loathed. When my editor called to tell me about my first starred review, I was devastated, for I assumed that it was a five-star system, and getting only one meant my book had bombed.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    >(with apologies to Cole Porter)

    Oh give me stars, lots of stars
    From the journals that I love
    Just give me stars

    Let me praise them for days
    To the CEO above
    Just give me stars

    I want to put them in ads where reviews are quoted
    And call up the authors upon whom I’ve doted
    We need the ammo when awards are voted!
    Just give me stars

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >Totally brilliant, E. But let me toss back at you the words of another tunesmith, if not quite in Cole’s league:

    “Stars, they come and go . . .”–Janis Ian

  4. >Yeah, but we still want ’em. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, in the words of those tunesmiths you call ABBA.

  5. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yes, but weren’t ABBA asking for “a man after midnight?” THAT you can have!

  6. Anonymous says:

    >Honey, sometimes it’s harder to get a good man than a starred review.

  7. >Love the Sondheim quote (Love Sondheim. A recent rumor of a Tim Burton movie version of Sweeney Todd has me in a tizzy)!

    I look forward to the article. This is an oft-discussed topic among writers, how sometimes, a book touted as “unforgettable” by the reviewer can escape unstarred, while another book in the same journal issue, deemed merely “appealing,” gets a star. Not that this has ever happened to me or anything . . . .

  8. Elizabeth says:

    >I think the Sweeney Todd film is more than a rumor. My friends in the movie business tell me Dreamworks has greenlit it, scripts are in (being reworked, I’m sure) and I’ve been told Sam Mendes is a producer…the questions real Sonheimites want answered are 1) will the film use the complete score, including Judge Turpin’s self-flagellation (hard to imagine Burton leaving that out) and 2) who are they going to cast? Could we have come full circle to Roger’s Marnie Nixon post…if they get movie stars for the leads, will they be dubbed?

    Roger, sorry to go off-topic on you.

  9. >I keep worrying that if another movie musical (Dreamgirls) tanks, as did The Producers, Rent, etc., it won’t happen. Johnny Depp is who I heard for the lead. So the question is: Can he sing? I mean, I know he sang in Crybaby, but that wasn’t exactly “Epiphany.” I can’t imagine who they’d cast as Mrs. Lovett, though.

    And, oh, I know this is horribly OT, but I honestly believe that seeing the musical at age 12 changed my entire worldview and made me the writer I am today, so for me it is all inter-related. Roger may not see it that way, though, as it is his blog.

  10. JeanneB says:

    >”Hats off, here they come!
    Those beautiful stars!”

    See, we CAN tie it all together.

  11. Roger Sutton says:

    >Jeanne, you get TWO stars for that. But surely you mean we can PUT it all together . . . bit by bit . . .inch by inch . . .

  12. >Well, of course, there was the song, “Stars” from Les Miserables but that wasn’t Sondheim. Still, I’d like to have:

    In your multitudes
    Scarce to be counted
    Filling the darkness
    With order and light
    You are the sentinels
    Silent and sure
    Keeping watch in the night
    Keeping watch in the night

  13. JeanneB says:

    >Roger, I would have gotten back to you sooner, but I was … finishing the hat.

  14. rindawriter says:

    >I seem to remember a line from a song I can’t quite place…might be a refrain for hopeful stars…

    “Starry, starry night..angels watching over me..”

    Just having a bit of fun in the sandbox late, late at night….anyway, what I want to know if the stars are going to have colors???

  15. >Oh, that’s the Don McLean song about Vincent Van Gogh, and I think it’s called “Vincent.”

    Roger, I done got me a man after midnight! Because he stays up till about 1 a.m. watching “Star Trek: Voyager.” Such is my life.

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