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Editorial: The First Rule of BGHB

We were pleased to celebrate in October the fiftieth anniversary of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, coverage of which can be found in this issue, on pages 24–45 and at hbook.com/bghb17. I’ve always loved the literal offbeat-ness of this award: its consideration year is June 1 to May 31, making of its eligible contenders a completely different group from those assembled for the Newbery, Caldecott, National Book Award, etc. And even more, I’ve always loved the here-comes-everybody inclusiveness of the awarding. You don’t have to be a citizen or resident of the United States to win. You don’t even have to speak English, as long as your book is published in English in this country. And if a book has more than one person’s name on the title page, as in a picture book with an author and an illustrator, you both win.

The judging, too, is different. There are just three BGHB judges. They are selected (by me) to complement one another and are wholly independent in their choices, dependent neither on the Horn Book’s (or the Boston Globe’s) take on a book nor on any kind of pre-screening or nomination process or — as with the National Book Awards — entry fee. The only thing the judges have to keep themselves in line is the criterion, the singular used advisedly: to honor excellence in books for children and young adults. While I appreciate the care with which ALA enumerates and defines the criteria and procedures for its book awards (e.g., “A book must receive at least 8 first choices at four points per vote for a total of at least 32 points, and it must have an 8 point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points”), the anarchist in me enjoys even more the freewheeling charge to simply honor the best books you can find. (I’m guessing this is easier with a jury of three rather than of fifteen.) I’d like to thank this year’s judges and all of their predecessors for embracing the search for excellence.

As is true of any annual award, some winners fade (The Spring Rider, 1968) while others endure (A Wizard of Earthsea, 1969). We shall see what happens with the BGHB class of 2017 (authors, illustrators, and judges pictured below), but that’s up to readers.

2017 judges and winners, back L-R: Judge Pauletta Bracy, Matthew Cordell, Nikki Grimes, Steve Sheinkin, Angie Thomas, Judge Sheila Geraty, Deborah Heiligman, Melissa Sweet, Sydney Smith, Chair Julie Roach, Richard Peck, Joanne Schwartz. Front: Ashley Bryan. Photo: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

From the January/February 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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.

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