Editorial: Effin' Jeez (September/October 2020)

Welcome to the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine, with, among other riches, 120 book reviews blowing the horn for the best new books. This issue is also the second one whose reviews are the result of a completely digital process, with nary a hand to physical book or even paper. What difference does it make? Plenty.

Book reviewing has been a largely digital enterprise for many years now — the writing, editing, and publishing of them. But the genesis of all that work largely had a physical substance; we’d review from finished books or ARCs or F&Gs — and...stop. I can’t think of any time better than to mention Madison, Wisconsin, first-grade teacher Margaret Jensen’s true if now fabled story about the time she got into big trouble with a parent after their child came home from school — and a lesson on bookmaking — with a new swear: “effin’ jeez.” Anyway, they were all things printed on paper, all reviews of things that were going to be printed on paper.

Since March, no paper. Paper books and the print Magazine itself are being produced, but nobody in this (virtual) office has touched a physical copy (okay, Elissa says she touched one) of a book-for-work since March. Instead, we use a variety of publisher-supplied PDFs and NetGalley and Edelweiss galleys, reading on Kindles and laptops and phones to review the books we do. In toto, it’s a pain in the effin’ jeez, from attempting to download books that don’t want to be downloaded to riding electronic herd on the hundreds of titles that will be in play at any given time (thank you, Shoshana!) and getting them to reviewers, trying to figure out just which words are being obscured by the publisher’s watermark, figuring out just where that sidebar is supposed to go, counting back pictures to see if you’re looking at a single-page image or a spread. Then, when you’re writing a review, flipping between windows and programs to check quotes and colors. (Shoshana adds: “But at least you can search the text! Checking quotes is the one thing I’m finding easier with e-books.”)

I’m really not whining about work. God knows that we are lucky to have jobs, of course, and almost any job today has been made more complicated by COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions. Librarians and teachers, we salute you: as I write this, a schoolteacher friend from the Bronx is visiting, and her descriptions of teaching through social distance overwhelm me secondhand. (And as far as students go, I don’t think it’s any easier for them.) My point is that any Horn Book review, and those of our sisters and brothers in the biz, is currently being produced at a further remove from the finished book than it used to be and must be read with that understanding. For my review of Eric Carle’s Halloween board book on page 47, for example, I didn’t really lift any flaps, and is it actually a board book, anyway?

As someone whose vision is fading with age, I have been reading-for-pleasure from a Kindle for years because I can blow the type up to a size I can see without squinting. I suppose I could argue that reading a novel electronically (compared to a picture book, say) is closest to reading print, but it’s still many miles away. You can’t flip, and flipping is more important than the devil-may-care sound of the verb would suggest. Just as turning the page is more than an action, more than a metaphor. It’s what keeps you going. Keep going!

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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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Tisha George

I would like a t-shirt with those words: "In toto, it's a pain in the effin' jeez" to sum up this Covid year...

Posted : Sep 09, 2020 04:16

The Horn Book

Yes please!

Posted : Sep 09, 2020 04:16


Thank you for this peek into what its like to be an active participant in the world of children's book publishing. Its quite daunting for us outsiders and your lighthearted information helps me understand some of why that might be.Kindly,Linda Sparkman

Posted : Sep 04, 2020 02:48


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