Horn Book Reminiscences: Growing Up at the Horn Book

The author, in red sweater, in the Horn Book office circa 2012.
Photo: Cynthia K. Ritter from her March/April 2012 Horn Book Magazine
article "When the Name of the Game Is a Children's Book."

I hated school as a child. I always earned good grades, but classrooms were like hell for a young introvert. My favorite parts of elementary school were reading time and library class when it was required for everyone to just be quiet. So the Horn Book office was basically heaven for a nerdy child who wanted nothing more than to be left alone to read. As such, there were many days in the early 2000s that I was out of school (fake) sick and accompanied my mom to work, where I would curl up on a spinning chair and occupy myself with loads and loads of books.

The characters in the books that I read at the Horn Book became my best friends, and I found myself returning to the same ones again and again. I read Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee until I knew the story by heart. I devoured When You Reach Me until I noticed every clue Rebecca Stead had woven into the plot. (I was recently on the phone with my mom while procrastinating on a work project and asked her, “Do you ever just think about ‘book, bag, pocket, shoe’?”). I found comfort in Raina Telgemeier’s dentistry disaster in Smile during the time I had to get my own teeth pulled. Additionally, my mom would ask for my opinions on all the books I read: “What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? What was your favorite part?” It made me feel important to know that she might use my reactions for her reviews, and I liked feeling as though I were a part of a greater book community outside of my own preteen life.

Now, clearly, I was not a “cool kid” in school (there was a period when my friend and I dedicated ourselves to building the entire world of Narnia in the sandbox), but one thing that made me feel like the coolest and most lucky girl in the world was every time I got my hands on an advance review copy (ARC). They were (and are) the best things ever to me. Rather than waiting for the spinoff of Yee’s “Millie Trilly,” Warp Speed, to hit the bookstores and libraries, I snatched up the ARC the second my mom brought it home. I read the Horn Book’s ARC for Telgemeier’s Drama more times than I could count, and then later I read my own copy a million times more. It felt so special to read my favorite books before anyone else. It was like being in a secret club that earned me just a little bit of prestige amongst my other nerdy friends. I think that my biggest claim to fame is my Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ARC.

The author's coveted ARC of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Photos courtesy of Kari Brabander.

Mostly, my ARC obsession made me learn to appreciate the pre-publication life of literature. It was a unique experience to see a glimpse of what goes on before a book is finally published. And now I work as an editor, which is quite fitting considering that I fully believed I was Claudia Kincaid of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. (At least these days I’m paid to correct other people’s grammar, as Claudia loves to do.) I grew up at the Horn Book, and I’ve come to feel grateful that I was never without a book as a child. 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.

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

Kari Brabander

Kari Brabander is a freelance editor in Northampton, MA. She also works for a sustainable women's clothing brand. Her mother, Jennifer M. Brabander, is a longtime Horn Book reviewer and former senior editor of the Magazine.

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Lisa Yee

Kari, honored that Millicent Min, Girl Genius was part of your childhood.

Posted : Apr 25, 2024 01:33



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