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>Make it new!

>Marc Aronson takes on challenges, particularly a substantial critique by Jim Murphy, to his article “New Knowledge,” which appears in the current issue of the Magazine. In his post Jim says he wishes we had a way for readers to comment on articles we post on the site and SO DO I. Until we figure out how to do that, you can comment here or in our Letters to the Editor column, reachable at Magazine at hbook dot com.

(Oh, and that thing Marc blames on us? Totally him. But he is still among our beloved.)

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 but it is so satisfying to blame your editor — isn't that your job, to take the heat for author's gaffes?

  2. Deborah Heiligman says:

    >Those of us who are working in children's nonfiction now owe so much to those who came before us. I think there was great and innovative work in the past. And we are trying to expand on that now, bringing new approaches to nonfiction for today's children. I am honored and excited to be working in this field. (Even if I have to hit lots of research brick walls in my current project as I wrote about in this issue.)
    Oh– a few of us are going to be talking about what's new in narrative nonfiction in at Boston College on Tuesday night. Drop by and join the discussion.

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >Marc: not unless we also get to take credit for your successes.

  4. Laurie Thompson says:

    >Here, here, Deb! I totally agree. Wish I could be there Tuesday!

  5. Anonymous says:

    >I am sorry to say that I think that what Marc Aronson calls "speculation" I would call "slant." All writing has a slant; it's inevitable. But we used to pretend that we could be neutral in our non-fiction books for children. The new NF seems to be all about embracing the slant and deliberately writing non-fiction from a specific viewpoint. Whether I agree with the author or not, I think it's perilously close to propaganda and I don't like it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    >We embrace theme — even want it to be subtle — in fiction. So why not nonfiction? Does it go back to the old adage that "fiction is 'not true' and nonfiction is 'true?'' If we want kids to be critical readers, shouldn't we expect them to question what's on the page, whether or not it's an illustration in a picture book that shows something out of kilter (maybe the character's hair color changes) or the improbable in realistic fiction or a slant in nonfiction? Brett Ashbranner once wrote about author's bias, couching his argument around authors who knew a lot about their subjects and with that knowledge inevitably came a point of view. I see lots of authors putting that point of view, slant, bias (you choose) in their books, sometimes in the introductions. Perhaps we should work on those critical reading skills and have kids try and determine that bias.

    And, just for a personal bias: Miles is about the cutest two year old I've ever seen.

    Betty Carter

  7. >I don’t think “speculation” nor “slant” is the right word for what nonfiction authors are doing these days. Nonfiction authors who write for young people are increasingly asked to dig deeper than they perhaps have been required to before. They are being asked to bring new information and new perspectives to their subjects. I think this is a noble cause. As Aronson points out, many new facts have come to light only in a book for young readers. This kind of writing requires incredibly careful research. Authors are expected to conduct personal interviews, dig through boxes of original documents, and visit the places the events in their books happened. Have you noticed how much longer the back matter has gotten for these books?

    All narrative nonfiction includes the perspective of the author. The author gathers information (from secondary or primary sources) and synthesizes it for readers. The author always must choose which facts to include and which to leave out. But these are well-informed perspectives. I think Betty Carter said it so eloquently when she said we must encourage young readers to use their critical thinking skills as they read any text. Why not invite readers to look at some of the authors’ primary sources themselves? The exciting thing about the kind of nonfiction Aronson speaks about is that it brings readers along on the research journey. These authors do their research and thinking in full view of their readers. In that way, readers are active participants in the uncovering and understanding of history. What better way to engage 21st century readers?

    -Laura W.

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