A Note from Me (Nov 20, 2020)

Dear friends:

I can still hear Carla Hayden’s voice, forty years ago, as she was describing the allure of Flowers in the Attic to the era’s younger teens. “Because of all the forbidden stuff,” she said to me, giving the word all the mystery and danger it deserves. Kids (who love to read) love to read books they aren’t supposed to, with V. C. Andrews in particular getting extra points for all the forbidding that goes on in those books. So I was happy that our Horn Book Family Reading advice columnist Sarah Howard Parker told “Justine*” not to over-worry about her ten-year-old’s immersion into Neal Shusterman’s scary Arc of a Scythe trilogy. In arguing for the child’s reading choices to be unimpeded, Sarah writes: “What more sublime pleasure is there than browsing the stacks and picking up whatever strikes your fancy? How could we not want that for our children? It’s a tiny step towards some of the freedoms that adulthood offers. Perhaps it’s the literary equivalent of walking home from school by yourself. Just the right amount of adventure, punctuated with maybe a couple of things you don’t understand.” (I was similarly heartened by a recent tweet from @jenreadsromance recommending the same thing: “Let your kids read whatever the fuck they want. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.”)

MY Ted Talk this week is to tell you that the nicest person who ever worked at the Horn Book is now on the cover of the Horn Book. Welcome back, Liza!

Publishers, take note: I have finally appointed the 2021 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards judges, and you should feel free to send them books you think might be candidates. Remember, BGHB has that strange June-through-May calendar, so this fall’s and next spring’s books are eligible. I was just looking at draft layouts for our January/February Magazine coverage of the 2020 Awards and was once again so grateful to our winners and judges (and now to our editors and designers!) for giving us such great material for Magazine readers.

But speaking of great material, and maybe this is a question for our advice columnist: how do we feel, ethically, about hate-reading? I’m not talking about books you have to read for work or something, but books you read for the pure pleasure of condescending to them. Laughing not with them but at them, and sometimes aloud. It’s such a cheap and low and dirty and mean response. Asking for a friend.



*Not her real name. But coincidentally also the name of a novel by the Marquis de Sade I read when I was far too young.

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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