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Editorial: Over and Above

Greetings, readers! Happy New Year to all!

If this sounds like the opening of one of those annual roundup letters tucked inside holiday cards, it kind of is. We’ve got a lot to celebrate at the Horn Book — much of it reflected in this issue, and beyond.

The Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards were presented in late September, on a gala Friday night event that was followed by a one-day colloquium featuring most of the honored authors and illustrators — a double whammy of a celebration. Formal acceptance speeches on Friday were expanded and deepened during Saturday’s informal panel conversations, breakout sessions, visual presentations, and art demonstrations. Our BGHB coverage here in the magazine tries to capture the energy of the weekend with a selection of excerpts from speeches, photos, and judges’ commentaries. In a break from tradition, we have not reprinted the complete texts of the winners’ acceptance speeches in the issue — but here’s where we get to the next thing the Horn Book is excited about: our online content.

You may have noticed a surge in original material published on the increasingly dynamic, from the interactive Horn Book KidLit Election coverage on our Out of the Box blog to the remarkable articles marking Picture Book Month in November, including Crescent Dragonwagon’s moving tribute to her mother Charlotte Zolotow (“Over and Over”). This month, the website doesn’t merely support the magazine; it’s an equal partner. Want to read the BGHB winners’ acceptance speeches in full? They’re available on the site—along with video of all of the speeches. I strongly urge you to visit: you won’t want to miss, for instance, picture book award winners Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s very funny stories (Mac’s is about a first date gone sadly wrong, while Jon’s is about a conversation with his mother — but they both fundamentally concern the state of the picture book); or the direct line fiction winner Vaunda Micheaux Nelson draws from her great-uncle’s Harlem bookstore to her parents’ love of reading to her own career as a writer. (Illustrator Klassen also contributes our cozy magazine cover — thanks, Jon.)

The print/online link continues with the first of Kathleen T. Horning’s series of columns recognizing seventy-five years of the Caldecott Medal. In the coming 2013 Horn Book magazines, scholar-librarian Horning will examine one winning book per decade, focusing each time on a title that spotlights the developing identity of the American picture book. Her inaugural column appears in this issue, beginning with the 1930s and Thomas Handforth’s now nearly forgotten Mei Li. In print, Horning focuses on how Mei Li helped the nascent children’s book field answer the question, “What is a picture book?” Online, you will find her fascinating research into the background of author-illustrator Handforth, the China he discovered on his world travels, and the real little girl who became the inspiration for the character Mei Li. Again, you won’t want to miss it.

Finally, both in print and online we celebrate our choices for the best children’s and young adult books of 2012. There is a distinct lack on our “Fanfare” list of the generic and imitative; or, as Mal Peet put it in his acceptance speech for the BGHB–honored Life: An Exploded Diagram, the “literary equivalent of the McDonald’s Number One Combo.” No novels in which the kick-ass, snarky-witted, yet vulnerable heroine is so interchangeable she could be dropped into dozens of similar titles with nary a ripple. Nor any books in which the elaborately constructed fantasy world is really just an artifice to support the Harlequin-romance plot. (I could go on.) What you will find instead are twenty-seven individually excellent books — diverse in form and genre, character and setting, voice and intended reader — that remind us why our field is such a vibrant and rewarding one. Why we all work so hard creating, publishing, reviewing, promoting, teaching, selling, and sharing children’s books. Why we care so much — last year, this year, next year.

And that is perhaps the best reason to celebrate of all.

From the January/February issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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