Editorial: "What a Gift That Is" (July/August 2023)

Greetings, fellow inhabitants of the world of children’s literature! And welcome to our annual special issue covering the ALA Awards — the umpteenth one I’ve helped shepherd through, and my last. Here you’ll find the usual lineup of acceptance speeches, profiles of award winners, and our own analysis of the year in books. I say “the usual lineup,” but of course it’s different every year. New authors and illustrators offering insights into their work and our world; new issues and trends to identify. This constant renewal and regeneration is part of what makes our field so endlessly rewarding. We are all so lucky.

I wrote my first Horn Book editorial for the January/February 1996 issue. Editor in Chief Anita Silvey had left for her new position as head of children’s books at Houghton Mifflin, and Lauren Adams and I were waiting for Roger Sutton, her successor, to arrive. In that gap I wrote (and Lauren supported me by signing on as co-author) an editorial about the lack of diversity in terms of genres, age ranges, and representation among writers from “parallel cultures” (a term coined by Virginia Hamilton, in use then) to be found amongst Newbery Medal winners. The editorial called for “A Wider Vision for the Newbery” and was, in my naive opinion, fairly inoffensive. Today, that editorial wouldn’t cause a ripple (though it did at the time!).

Three decades later, I can hardly believe my luck that my last Horn Book editorial comes as we celebrate this year’s spectacularly diverse and deserving slate of ALA Award–recognized books…including the Newbery Medal going to Amina Luqman-Dawson, a Black woman — only the third time in the award’s history; all Newbery Honors being won by women — and women of color, no less. That’s just for starters; see inside the issue for in-depth coverage of the awards.

Perhaps it’s because I myself am so thankful for my time working at the Horn Book that I particularly noticed the thank-yous offered by this year’s awardees. Luqman-Dawson (and hallelujah, Freewater won both the Newbery and the CSK Author Award) gets right to it: “I’ll begin with gratitude.” James E. Ransome is grateful to the late Jerry Pinkney, who “opened a world” for him, and dedicates his Children’s Literature Legacy Award to Jerry. The wonderful CSK–Virginia Hamilton Award winner Claudette S. McLinn thanks the mentors who “encouraged me to mentor the next generation of librarians, and I am doing just that.” And Caldecott Medalist Doug Salati thanks the “brilliant, supportive, encouraging mentors, teachers, and friends [who] noticed what I was attempting to do, or to become.” Hot Dog itself can be seen as a story of a symbiotic relationship in which two friends help each other on the “journey to being yourself”: “[You] find the space you need to enjoy and appreciate this beautiful and overwhelming world. Then give back to it. What a gift that is.”

Truly, that’s all I can think of when I look back on my career here. What a gift it has been. To become my true self through the opportunity to follow my passion for children’s literature, through collaboration with others who share my sense of purpose. To start every day with the mission of “blowing the horn” for good books for children. To engage with contributors, discover new books, collaborate with valued colleagues, and contribute to the consequential work of the Horn Book. I am thankful beyond words that I have been part of it, and grateful to all my mentors, colleagues, and family.

This magazine has been resolutely and passionately following its mission to promote fine children’s books for almost a hundred years. As Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton wrote in his parting editorial (“The Best Job in the World,” January/February 2022), “May it go on for another hundred years.” Well, have you all met Elissa Gershowitz? I know that under her leadership — as dedicated, brilliant, and committed to justice as she is — the Horn Book will thrive and prosper. So watch this space! I know I will. I can’t wait to see what comes next as we all keep widening our visions — for everyone.

From the July/August 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: ALA Awards.

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Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is a contributing editor to The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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