Blowing the Horn: Gratitude and Hopes

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Roger Sutton.
Photo courtesy of Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

My most personal memories of the Horn Book began in 2012 when Andrew Karre, my editor at Lerner Books, called with news that No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller had won the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for Fiction and Poetry. It took my breath away.

I had been a children’s librarian for more than twenty years, so I already loved and relied on the Horn Book. The award took things to a new level. The ceremony at Simmons brought together not only my library and publishing families, but also surprise attendees — college buddies from the 1980s; longtime friend and mentor Marilyn Hollinshead; even one of the real people featured in No Crystal Stair, Rodnell Collins. My husband and biggest fan, Drew, was by my side. My heart was full.

No Crystal Stair has special meaning for me because it’s based in family history. Little did I know Lewis ­Michaux’s story would connect me with new extended family, including the kind folks at the Horn Book.

In 2014, Roger Sutton invited me to deliver the keynote for the Horn Book at Simmons “Mind the Gaps” symposium. I was hesitant at first but, with Roger’s encouragement, I faced my fears and was stretched beyond what I believed I could do. The passing years brought more opportunities to contribute and grow. Thank you, Horn Book, for these gifts and for serving the children’s literature community for one hundred stunning years!

Looking ahead, here are some of my hopes for the future:

I hope books that I can hold, turn the paper pages of, stick a bookmark in, and fill my shelves with are always available in stores and libraries, that they never succumb to the e-world.

I hope independent brick-and-mortar bookstores not only survive, but thrive.

I hope our classics, even those that may challenge us, remain available despite the number of copies that sell or how often they circulate in the library.

I hope there will always be publishers eager to print astounding literature regardless of the artist who brings it forth.

I hope the Horn Book flourishes for at least another century. I hope.

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:

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Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s book No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller (Carolrhoda Lab), illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, was the winner of the 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for fiction. Her latest books are Small Shoes, Great Strides: How Three Brave Girls Opened Doors to School Equality (Carolrhoda, 2023), and Ready? Set. Puppies! (Random, 2024).

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