Editorial: A Book of One's Own (March/April 2021)

March is Women’s History Month, and although we didn’t plan it this way, it turns out that our book review section has a mind of its own, including no fewer than thirteen new nonfiction titles devoted to the achievements of a diverse ­gallery of women, heroes every one.

Historically, they range from the sixteenth century to the present. Ten are Americans who are white, Black, Asian American, or American Indian; the other three are from, respectively, Iraq, what is today Iraq, and Italy. These are all relevant, even affirming facts to be sure, but come on: these women are the subjects of books not because of when or what they were/are (two are still alive, Claudette Colvin and Darlene Arviso) but because of what they did/do. That’s how you get a book of your own.

You can read the book review section for yourself to match ’em up (it’s a game!), but here’s a list of what they did. Abolitionist. Aerospace computer. Architect. Astronomer. Bicyclist. Civil rights activist. Conservationist. Folklorist. Lighthouse keeper. Pilot. Rabbi. Telephone operator. Water provider.

To this list I would like to add another occupation, Teacher, in honor of the iconic Ms. Frizzle, whose latest field trip is reviewed on page 109. The Friz may be fictional (and let us be thankful for her gifted author Joanna Cole, who died last summer), but her place in informational books for children is lofty and secure. And see The Teachers March!, reviewed on page 127, for just one of the myriad contributions of her real-life colleagues.

Going beyond the “useful for school reports” review tagline Betty Carter warned me off of decades ago, why do kids read biographies? If a reason for reading ­fiction is to see oneself, surely it’s reasonable to suggest that biography (and ­nonfiction in general — see pages 12 and 18 for perspectives from Marc Aronson and Carole Boston ­Weatherford, ­respectively, on that fertile topic) offers an ­opportunity to see what one could become. In the latest (and last, alas) Ivy + Bean, reviewed on page 81, the girls are disappointed that the career fair offers options limited to whatever adults the school could drag in for the day, leaving Ivy (who wants to be a witch) and Bean (an ­arborist) at a loss. Somebody should have pointed these two toward the library, where, thanks to the richness that has been picture-book biography publishing for the last two decades, they could find girls, like themselves, who went on to do many great things. Why, just this week (as I write), Newbery, Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, and Sibert awards all went to women. Congratulations to Tae Keller, Michaela Goade, Jacqueline Woodson, and Candace Fleming. Who do you think they were reading about back in the day? ROGER SUTTON

P.S. And let us add Illustrator to our list of wish-worthy careers as we thank LeUyen Pham for this issue’s cover picture, taken from her book Outside, Inside, reviewed on page 70. Yes, the Horn Book editors remain working from inside our respective homes during the pandemic but are still eager to connect with you and, by extension, the young people you bring to books. I hope we are serving you well.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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