Roger Sutton's 2019 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Opening Remarks

The 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards ceremony took place on Friday, October 4, at Simmons University. The opening remarks, below, were delivered by Horn Book Editor in Chief Roger Sutton. For more about the history of the Boston Globe-Horn Book awards, and about this year's winners and honorees, visit the new BGHB landing page.

Photo: Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe.

Watch the video here:

Roger Sutton:

"Welcome to Simmons College and the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, I am so glad you are here — again or for the first time — with us tonight.

Do any of you remember Lettice and Lovage? It’s a Peter Shaffer play about a tour guide at an old English country house, starring Maggie Smith. My beloved Richard and I saw it on Broadway in 1990, and one of the funniest of the Dowager Countess’s running bits was demonstrating how over the years she had her routine and anecdotes and patter down cold. My point being: I will keep this brief in hoping not to bore you with yet another iteration of the twenty-three times I’ve given these remarks, because I know some of you have been here every single time. Thank you for your faith in The Horn Book.

But as always, let me thank Cathie Mercier, with whom I now go back thirty years. And while I am honoring the Horn Book and Simmons connection, let’s all take a moment to remember Susan Bloom, the former Director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature and great Friend of the Horn Book. Susan died this past June and we all miss her, but The Horn Book is proud to host this evening at her university and with the Center, directed since 2005 by Susan’s friend and colleague Cathie. We are very happy to be here.

From the Boston Globe, we welcome Jane Bowman, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, and Meredith Goldstein, the Globe’s Lurrve advice giver and columnist.  We truly appreciate the Globe’s ongoing interest in and support of these awards.

From Long Island, please welcome The Horn Book’s director of advertising and my dear friend, Al Berman. I — usually — look forward to our semi-weekly phone calls, which begin with me answering the ring with “Hello, the Horn Book” and Al responding, “Roger? I’m the only person who calls you. Who else do you think it’s gonna be?” As Arthur Yorinks once memorably wrote, “Hey, Al.” Hey, Al, The Horn Book loves you.

From our New York office I see Alex Perrera, our Chief Information Officer and the second tallest person in the company. Well, NOW you are…

Don’t forget to stop by the room just outside this one where Terri and Amy have set up stakes to sell you copies of tonight’s prizewinning books. Our authors will be available for autographing at the reception on the first floor that will follow the ceremony. Terri and Amy, thank you for bringing The Children’s Book Shop to us tonight.

The Horn Book ladies: Shoshana Flax, Elissa Gershowitz, Katrina Hedeen, Katie Bircher, Martha Parravano, Cindy Ritter, and Lolly Robinson, along with our cherished interns K.P. and Natalie. Odd fact: now that Katrina is working out of her new home in Oregon, I am the only person in the Horn Book offices who is not a graduate of Cathie’s program. I’m surrounded but very happily. Also welcome Cassie Sheets, who manages the BGHB doings for us (also? Simmons grad). Thank you for everything you put into this award all year round and especially during the busy last couple — and next couple! — of months. All the months.  Any of these great people can help you if you have any questions about tonight’s event.

Now to the awards. The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards have one criterion: to honor excellence in books for young people. I’ve never been a member of this committee nor been privy to any of the discussions, but I wonder how that talk goes: “Well, what do you mean by excellence?” It is a radically simple criterion.  The awards are given in three categories: Picture Book, Fiction, and Nonfiction. (Poetry hops around. Doesn’t it?) The award year is a little peculiar, running from June 1st of one year to May 31st of the next, encompassing the two seasons of what used to be the traditional publishing year. All books published for young people in the United States are eligible; in the case of a picture book, author and illustrator are honored equally. The three judges must select one winner and up to two honor books in each category. Each winner gets a modest check and an engraved shiny silver bowl suitable for candy, mail, or Chex mix; the honor recipients each get an engraved silver plate suitable for calling cards or loose change.

This year’s three judges, appointed by me, worked hard.  It’s a lot of reading. They met by phone and email throughout the past year and convened here at Simmons in May to make their choices. Our judges this year are Cindy Ritter, Co-editor of The Horn Book Guide, and Dr. Kimberly Parker of the Shady Hill School, which is a lovely place but whose name sounds to me like something from Jon Scieszka. Thank you both for your hard work in giving us such an exemplary roster of books.

There is a third judge, the chair of the committee in fact, who could not be here tonight, Monica Edinger of the Dalton School in New York. Monica suffered a stroke in July and is now in a rehabilitation center and getting better. I’m not privy to the judges’ meetings but all reports say Monica did a tremendous job guiding the committee through making its choices in May. We are very sorry she could not be here. But as Chris Haughton once wrote: "We have a plan." Monica’s birthday was earlier this week and we — yes, I mean you — are going to have a group sing and wave to Monica which will be recorded by Cassie right there and taken to her bedside by her friend and colleague (and Simmons grad) Roxanne Feldman. Ready?

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday dear Monica
Happy birthday to you!

After the award ceremony, which will begin as soon as I stop talking, Simmons and the Horn Book have arrayed a wonderful reception for our awardees and our guests down in the Common Grounds café on the first floor of this building. There will be beverages, snacks, dessert, and fellowship. There will also be autographing and the chance for any of you to personally congratulate our 2019 BGHB authors and illustrators. But I need you to stay in this room until I have taken our honored guests down the aisle and down to the café. So DON’T RUSH THE DOOR. Let us leave, talk amongst yourselves for three minutes, and then join us downstairs. Thank you for your attention to this memo and thank you for being with us tonight.

Cindy and Kim, let’s begin!"

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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