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>Think before you write.

>”The red liquid was wine, but it shimmered like blood.”–from The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. I’m sure Stephenie Meyer could be trusted to rearrange this simile into its proper order.

And can we talk about that title for a minute? In my opinion, “The Lost Symbol” is right up there with “When You Reach Me” for unmemorability, and by that I mean my inability to remember it correctly. The Secret Symbol? The Lost Code? When I Reach You? When You Get Here? Some years ago I had similar trouble with the beautiful picture book Night Driving by Jon Coy and Peter McCarty. In the space of one issue of the Horn Book I think I referred to it as Night Ride, Drive at Night and Night Drive Home (oops, that’s Joni Mitchell).

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. >I'm just wondering how long it will be before someone mistakenly refers to the book as "The Lost Cymbal"?

    That misplaced metaphor made me shudder. I haven't read either book, they're not in a genre that is my usual genre of choice, so I shouldn't pass judgement. And yet…

  2. Rebecca Cook says:

    >As an accident-prone person, I must say that I have never seen blood "shimmer" no matter which way the simile is arranged.

  3. Gregg Armstrong says:

    >Actually the Joni Mitchell song is "Night Ride Home," but I guess that just reinforces your point about hard to remember titles.

  4. >I can never remember the title The Higher Power of Lucky.

    I always want to say The Patron Saint of Lucky. Which doesn't even make any sense.

  5. >My problem this year was with Anything But Typical. Took me a good 4 months before I could beat it properly into my own brain.

  6. >That title sounds like the work of a committee. Like, what's the dumbest, most obvious thing we can call the next Dan Brown novel?

  7. >I have trouble with Looking for Normal, Waiting for Normal, etc. Also with Long Way Home, Long Way Round, All the Way Home. Too many similar titles!

  8. Lyle Blake says:

    >My personal bete noir with regard to titles is the short, non-distinctive title; I particularly dislike two-word titles, and John Grisham is a longtime repeat offender: The Firm, The Client, The Testament. I mean, really. Give me a title like Stand on Zanzibar or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (famously changed to Blade Runner for the movie, but even that is distinctive and has pizzazz.

    Lyle Blake Smythers, feeling like a curmudgeon

  9. >I did not agree that When You Reach Me is an unmemorable title (probably because I loved the book, and now just thinking about the phrase "the journey is a difficult one" makes me teary), until I started thinking about the title of a favorite adult novel, Then She Found Me. When You Reach Me. Then She Found Me. When You Reach Me. Then She Found Me. It's all over for me, as far as remembering EITHER title.

    I was just thinking about Madeleine L'Engle's titles. She was a master, sort of, of long, convoluted titles, but mostly I can keep them straight. And I'm sure we all agree that A Wrinkle in Time was a perfect title and a practically perfect book. But I still remember trying to explain to a librarian, when I was a teen, that her new book was called An Acceptable Time, not Unacceptable Time. (I didn't know yet, of course, that I need not have bothered trying to get that particular L'Engle novel.)

  10. >It reminds me of that brief time when the television shows "Now and Again" and "Time and Again" were both on the air. Not that I watched either show, but still. Aaaugh.

    As for children's books, A Year Down Yonder was the one that my brain refused to cotton to. I think I've mentally referred to it as "A Year Down Around," "Around Down Yonder" and "A Year Down Under" and "A Year Down There." Aaaugh.

  11. >I kept on mixing it up to "When I Come To Get You", or "When You Come To Get Me", etcetera. The notes that feature in the plot confused me into changing the way the title was structured.

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