Blowing the Horn: A Gathering of Excellence

M. T. Anderson: The first time I went to the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, I was overwhelmed. I was a young man with only a couple of novels out, which had sold only a handful of copies, mainly to wincing relatives. This was back when YA was still considered the embarrassing side-door of the publishing industry, a dead-end genre that could never match the literary heights of Knopf novels about dreary infidelities in Connecticut.

Then I arrived at this Horn Book awards event at the Boston ­Athenaeum — a storied library that includes not only George Washington’s­ private library, but also a book bound in human skin — and there were gathered all the luminaries from my field, all these editors and creators swirling around in an echoing, thirty-foot-tall, neo-Classical gallery with brooding portraits on the walls and statues and busts of — I don’t remember who — emperors or senators or New England transcendentalists or Roger Sutton or Anita Silvey. It was intoxicating. I met the person who’d reviewed my first novel [Ed. note: Lauren Adams], and she was wearing leather pants. I felt smacked by the august history and legacy of children’s books, a history of excellence and care for good words and a deep reverence for the child reader. This is what the Horn Book represents.

A hundred years! A century. That history includes so many of the books I loved as a child; and I think part of why I loved those books from what seemed to me like a misty, distant past (The Velveteen Rabbit or The Runaway Bunny or Homer Price, or even things like the Hardy Boys or Alfred Hitchcock and the Three ­Investigators) was that as children, we are new to time, and we are just first receiving the impress of a new age, the age that shall be ours. We are blank humans being dressed up as people from the present. And so these books connect us outside of time with children of the past, when our parents were teens or our grandparents were toddlers. And at the same time, as the Horn Book celebrates those echoes, it also celebrates the books of the new generation, the books that shall define our own age. The books that shall build us as new people.

And so it made sense for the awards to take place in that hall that was a library and that spoke so strongly of a long past and a bright future. I watched my fellow writers and illustrators go up to receive their medals, and though I was just a guy in the audience, I began to feel like I was part of something.

A year or two later, Kevin Hawkes and I won an honor for a picture book about the composer George Frideric Handel. We decided to sing our acceptance speech as a round. (“We give you thanks, Horn Book and Globe / Most deep-felt thanks from Kev and Tobe / for honoring young Handel’s tales. / We hope that this increases sales.”) Sure, it was a cheeky song. But what we weren’t kidding about was how moving it was to be given a chance to have our voices echo in that gallery, in a gathering of excellence and curatorial care convened by the Horn Book.

Afterwards, there were fancy cheeses.

Illustration (c) 2024 by Kevin Hawkes. From the May/June 2024 special issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Our Centennial. For more Horn Book centennial coverage, click here. Find more in the "Blowing the Horn" series here.

Single copies of this special issue are available for $15.00 including postage and may be ordered from:

Horn Book Magazine Customer Service

Full subscription information is here

M. T. Anderson

M. T. Anderson's recent novel Elf Dog & Owl Head (Candlewick, 2023) was a 2024 Newbery Honor Book. He is the winner of a 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Nonfiction Honor for Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad; a 2009 BGHB Fiction Honor for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves; the 2007 BGHB Fiction Award for The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party; a 2003 BGHB Fiction Honor for Feed; and a 2002 BGHB Nonfiction Honor for Handel, Who Knew What He Liked (all Candlewick).

Kevin Hawkes

Kevin Hawkes recently illustrated Luigi, the Spider Who Wanted to Be a Kitten! (Candlewick, 2024).

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.