Editorial: My Friend Susan Bloom (September/October 2019)

I have my own version of the Anthony Browne story Cathie Mercier tells on page 26 in commemorating her great colleague and friend Susan P. Bloom, who died on June 7th at the age of eighty. In my version, it is the summer of 1989 and I am at Boston's Logan Airport, having come to teach a course at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature on that summer institute’s theme, “Masquerade.” Susan and Cathie are supposed to meet me at the gate (those were the days), but instead I see, slowly approaching the spot, two giant-sized Wild Things who I know must be there for me. 

Susan and Cathie have been there for me ever since. Both heirs to the great New England traditions of children’s literature, Susan particularly seemed to thrive as an exemplar of those women — educators, librarians, editors, authors — who kept the sacred flame lit. Whether teaching, or speechifying, or hosting a (fabulous) party, Susan had an air of ceremony that conferred upon those present the sense that what was happening in that place and at that moment was important. 

Back when I was in library school, Ellin Greene taught us the New York Public Library tradition of the story hour candle, a potent ritual and a potent metaphor as well. All of us with a calling (a term I wish would come back into fashion, unembarrassed and unironic) to work with children and books hold this candle; in fact I have seen Susan Bloom hold this candle, literally, during the 1993 Simmons summer institute “Acts of Light.” To return to metaphor, Susan received it from the great children’s book thinkers at Simmons (Barbara Harrison, Gregory Maguire, Paul and Ethel Heins, et al.) and in turn passed it on to her own students, now editors and writers and librarians and teachers who keep the flame lit. You know what to do. 

•   •   • 

Please have a look at our spiffed-up websites for the Horn Book (hbook.com) and the Horn Book Guide (hornbookguide.com). If you are a subscriber to either the Magazine or the Guide, you should have received login instructions to access subscriber-only content. (If you didn’t, the sites will tell you how.) Both sites are works in progress, and I hope you will let us know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s missing. Poke around!

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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