Editorial: Once Upon... (March/April 2024)

This is like no issue of the Horn Book you’ve ever seen. Just look at that cover! The last time we featured photography on the cover was May/June 2016, for our “Collaborations” special issue. Here our centennial mini-theme is “Poetry & ­Folklore,” with collaborations, serendipitously, running all the way through.

See page 22 for Patricia Lee Gauch’s remembrance of the late, great Ed Young. Among his one hundred or so titles, Young was known for both fairy tales (Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China) and poetry (illustrator of Cats Are Cats). Gauch was the longtime editorial director of Philomel Books, and their collaborative work occurred over the course of a storied career that saw Young going from Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator to Caldecott Medal and Honor–winning author-illustrator, so encouraged by his astute editor: “Do I believe using his own voice changed Ed’s use of and belief in words? Yes, I do.”

When we asked Noah Van Sciver and Marlena Myles to contribute to this issue, fresh off their entertaining and informative 2023 graphic novel Paul Bunyan: The Invention of an American Legend, they took “collaboration” to another level. We love to receive original art, and I believe this is our first-ever comic-format interview. See page 28 for a revealing dialogue about their stories, their creative inspirations, Indigenous land-based education, and invented mythologies.

We also love an original poem, and this issue, spanning National Poetry Month in April, boasts three: by multi-award-winning writer Marilyn Nelson; our own in-house wordsmith, Associate Editor Shoshana Flax; and father-daughter collaborators Bob and Erin Odenkirk. Lesléa Newman’s “The Writer’s Page” column on page 31 is about poetry. And Horn Book history buffs will enjoy a bit of doggerel “by” Alice-Heidi, the resident doll of the former Bookshop for Boys and Girls. See #HB100 #TriviaTuesday to learn more about Alice-Heidi, her idiosyncratic ­dwelling, and speculation about her whereabouts today.

Fast-forwarding to a more contemporary Horn Book past, please turn to page 38 to read a reminiscence by “Horn Book baby” Kari Brabander. Now in her twenties(!), Kari is the daughter of Jennifer M. Brabander, a longtime Horn Book reviewer and former senior editor of the Magazine. While Kari’s piece on ­“Growing Up at the Horn Book” may make a person feel of a certain age, it so beautifully encompasses our best aspiration: “How special it is that I was lucky enough to experience a small part of The Horn Book Magazine’s hundred-year tenure of being a comforting home for readers.”

Everyone deserves that feeling of comfort and belonging that comes with seeing themselves in a story, and another mother-daughter pair close to my heart appears in the issue to help readers “reimagine familiar stories with different faces.” I first met Kristen Joy Emack in her role as educator and soon learned of her complementary role as visual artist. Her photographs of daughter Apple, then five years old, in fairy-tale settings and garb were eye-catching, adorable, and full of significant meaning. When planning this special issue with a fairy-tale focus, I asked Kristen — named a 2022 Guggenheim Fellow, thank you very much! — if she might revisit the theme from teenagers’ perspectives. She said yes; and, well, just turn to page 10 and luxuriate in and contemplate her artwork alongside thoughts and commentary from some very brilliant, poised, and eloquent teenage girls.

On March 13, we celebrate what would be the one-hundred-forty-second birthday of the Horn Book’s founder, Bertha Mahony Miller. I’ve put in for a proclamation by the City of Boston to make that date “The Horn Book Day.” Here’s hoping that by next issue — our annual May/June special special issue — I’ll have some good news to report…though of course we’re celebrating either way.

From the March/April 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. For more Horn Book centennial coverage, click here.


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Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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