Blowing the Horn: the Benevolence of Crickets

As a wide-eyed debut author in the century before this one, I had a kind of breathless regard for The Horn Book Magazine. It was partly the trim size, which somehow gave it a booklike heft and purpose. It was also the infrequency of its appearances — just six times a year, making it rare and desirable. And of course, the quality of its content, including ­literature-themed acrostics by Natalie Babbitt!

In the cloudy, doubt-riddled space between completion of a manuscript and ­publication of a book, I was possessed by ambivalent feelings about reviews. I wanted them desperately, and I dreaded them even more. Both angsts were ­especially true when it came to the Horn Book.

The Magazine published kind reviews of my first two books. For the third? Crickets. (An aside: I had to look up why crickets as slang means silence. Because crickets make a lot of noise, y’know? I discovered that it means you can’t hear anything *except* crickets. Oh.)

Crickets. Dismay. Gnashing and rending. Eventually I was told that my book had been bypassed for review in the Magazine and sent to The Horn Book Guide instead. The Guide?? Only then did I learn of the Magazine’s sibling publication: the Guide took up the slack, publishing brief capsule reviews of far more titles than could be covered in the Magazine.

I could be wrong, but back then I was given to understand by insiders that one of the only times in its history the ­Magazine did not review the ­Newbery Medal title was for the 2002 winner. A Single Shard — my crickets book.

The things I learned from that ­experience have proven invaluable throughout my career. For one thing, the importance of focusing on the things I can control. For another, that the wide range of opinions about books is precisely what enables creators to produce an even wider ­variety of them.

And that the chirp of crickets might sometimes be followed by applause.

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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Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park is the best-selling author of children’s books including the Newbery Medal–winning A Single Shard (Clarion). Her next book, Gracie Under the Waves (Allida/HarperCollins), will be published in September 2024.

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