A Note from Me (Dec 4, 2020)

Dear friends:

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. Ours was quiet but did not lack for fellowship (Lori and Cooper were here and we Zoomed with the kids) nor for turkey (which I think I’m supposed to turn into soup today) nor for TV (Endeavour and The Crown, which in retrospect does not seem to have been very patriotic of us).

Our Calling Caldecotters Jules and Martha are joined by eternal FOTHB Julie Roach in choosing a mock-New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books list (in this year’s absence of that) for a top-twelve list of picture books, focusing, as does the NYT/NYPL, on the pictures. Martha rightly says the inclusion of an illustrator in the NYT/NYPL’s three-person committee makes a difference; in my opinion that difference is compounded by the fact that the illustrator is generally seeing the contenders for the first time at the judges’ meeting (at least, that’s how we did it in my day), making the evaluation of the books heavily dependent on the evaluation of their pictures qua pictures. Here at the Horn Book, we look at the whole book of course, and you can see our choices for the best of 2020 when we announce the Fanfare list next week. All I will tell you today is that there are thirty books on the list.

If you think I’m wading into the Twitter drama about the “classics,” you’re nuts, but from here in my safe space I will make two observations I hope won’t set anybody off. First, it’s funny to someone my age that one would dismiss The Catcher in the Rye as a classroom classic, because back then, Catcher was something you had to swipe from your big sister, a Forever of its day, and was kept out of school libraries, never mind classrooms. Second, the tension between contemporary YA and the English-class canon is as old as YA itself. “Better a book they will read than one they won’t” quipped Richard Peck to a skeptical me almost forty years ago about why teachers needed to start teaching young adult novels rather than The Scarlet Letter. I LOVE The Scarlet Letter, never would have read it but for Miss Baker in my junior year, and hope today’s curricula can find room for both in its heart.

Love,

Roger

Roger Sutton
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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