Blowing the Horn: The Gold Issue: (and why a glow-in-the-dark Horn Book is NOT a good idea)

It was a glistening gift that sparked an unforgettable celebration. In 2019, as the Coretta Scott King Book Awards approached their ­fiftieth anniversary, I called Horn Book Editor in Chief Roger Sutton with an idea: to create a commemorative issue solely devoted to the history, legacy, and future of the awards. It sounded simple enough — an undertaking fueled by enthusiasm and commitment. Roger graciously agreed, and invited me to serve as co–guest editor, alongside children’s literature scholar and industry legend Rudine Sims Bishop. From the very beginning, we lovingly dubbed our passion project, “The Gold Issue.”

Like so many, I savor every Horn Book edition, drawing inspiration from its articles and reviews, so I was familiar with the Magazine’s format and editorial mission. Also, I had enjoyed working as a magazine editor early in my publishing career. But the impact of this important commemoration came with a unique responsibility.

Though I’m an avid Horn Book reader, I didn’t know the full scope of what goes into creating each issue. I soon ­wondered what I’d gotten myself into, and I’m sure Roger and his team did, too, as I ­bombarded them with a trillion ­out-of-the-box ideas — everything from using gold ink on the pages to tying each issue with a metallic foil ribbon. The only thing I never dared to suggest was creating a special volume that could somehow light up or glow in the dark. Every time I emailed or called Roger and Book Reviews Editor Martha V. Parravano, they listened kindly, and diplomatically talked me off the ledge of some outlandish brainstorm.

Soon, we got to work. Along with the Horn Book team, Rudine and I focused intently on planning the ultimate fiftieth-anniversary party — on the page. And what a celebration it would turn out to be!

As Rudine and I noted in our opening editorial that appears in the May/June 2019 issue, the wisdom of Coretta Scott King served as our guidepost. One of Coretta’s most inspiring quotes lit our path: “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

As our compassionate community came together to plan the ultimate anniversary keepsake, we kept Coretta’s words front-and-center. It was important to create a memorable volume for all of us who care deeply about children’s books from, and about, the Black experience, and that illuminated the highest ideals for everyone.

Over the course of more than a year, Rudine and I gathered with the Horn Book’s stellar editors and creative director by phone. As we drew a roadmap for the issue, we weighed countless considerations. We carefully planned how to best convey the Coretta Scott King Book Award’s significance over half a century, and how this anniversary issue would influence future generations of those devoted to the joy and power of children’s literature. The issue needed to be one that would serve as a testament to fifty years of award-winning books and their creators and honor the award’s tradition of excellence. To make this happen, we called on the best-of-the-best — the gold standard of voices, perspectives, and vision —  to contribute to the issue and its creation. It soon became apparent that distinction doesn’t need ­glow-in-the-dark special effects, gold paint, or a shiny ­ribbon. True brilliance is revealed through the ­expression of Coretta’s belief in the power of community.

The issue included “Let Our Rejoicing Rise,” an overview of the award’s history by Rudine Sims Bishop; a Horn Book exclusive by Toshi Widoff-Woodson, daughter of then–National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature ­Jacqueline Woodson, an insightful piece on growing up as the daughter of a multiple Coretta Scott King Author Award ­winner; an interview by Roger Sutton with George and Bernette Ford, icons of Black children’s literature, and with a sidebar by Cheryl Willis Hudson about the founding of Just Us Books; a dialogue between bestselling author Kwame Alexander and poet Nikki Giovanni; a piece I wrote with behind-the-book memories from my father-in-law, Jerry Pinkney, about how he created the paintings for his ten Coretta Scott King Award–winning titles.

Inspirational reflections on the road to winning the Coretta Scott King Award were penned by an all-star lineup of past and present award winners. As a crowning glory, The Gold Issue features a first — a spectacular fold-out frameable broadside cover by artist Kadir Nelson, whose exquisite painting of Coretta Scott King serves as a dazzling tribute to the award’s expansive power. The Gold Issue is a singular treasure that still glistens today. And not one light bulb, battery, or extension cord was needed to make it shine!

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

Andrea Davis Pinkney
Andrea Davis Pinkney

Andrea Davis Pinkney's recent title is Hey, Baby Girl! (Scholastic, 2023). She is the winner of the 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Award for Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, illustrated by Brian Pinkney, published by Disney-Jump at the Sun, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

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