Editorial: History in Motion (March/April 2022)

As of this writing, we are two weeks past the Youth Media Awards announcement at ALA’s newly refigured midwinter-time offering, LibLearnX. Saving the specifics for our May/June special issue commemorating the Newbery’s centennial and, as is customary, our July/August special issue featuring the Newbery, ­Caldecott, Coretta Scott King Book Award, and Children’s Literature Legacy speeches, profiles, and other ALA-themed goodies — suffice to say, there’s plenty to appreciate about this year’s history-making awardees. You can find the list on page 111, and visit hbook.com and our Calling Caldecott and Family Reading blogs for reviews, recaps, and ruminations. Our fingers are crossed to see you in person in DC this summer (if not, onscreen). In award news that is not ALA-related, learn all about the ­Margaret Wise Brown Board Book Award — named for the Goodnight Moon author, to be administered by the Center for Children’s Literature at Bank Street College of ­Education — on page 108.

March is Women’s History Month, and we are celebrating in this issue and also online with articles, reviews, interviews, and more. In his editorial in last year’s March/April Magazine, Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton pointed to the number of excellent picture-book biographies being reviewed; here, too, we ­highlight books about women of all backgrounds who are “revolutionary,” “stellar,” “­barrier-smashing,” and “extraordinary,” among other superlatives. Browse our Nonfiction section, and see especially the biographical titles receiving stars on page 4 — about a Boston social reformer, a sci-fi/fantasy writer, an early motion-picture animator, and a contemporary Wuhanese American cartoonist. Over the past few years we’ve seen a proliferation of books about notable and less-well-commemorated figures — a very welcome trend that highlights those who have previously been unacknowledged, taken for granted, or “lost to history.”

In her article on page 10, nonfiction author and poet Jeannine Atkins — whose own body of work centers women in STEM — spotlights the life of Annie Watters McPheeters, a mid-twentieth-century Black librarian who worked exhaustively toward access and equity in public libraries (special thanks to the archive at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, Fulton County Library System, for invaluable research and photo assistance). “History is made up of what’s lost as well as saved,” Atkins reminds us, as today, too, we’re living through a history-making era. Whose work is currently being lost? What’s being saved? How will our time be viewed by the generations to come? Please contemplate Mildred Pitts Walter’s call to action to white writers on page 25. At age ninety-nine, the CSK Award winner and civil rights activist was compelled to share her own experiences and observations in order to address the pressing issues of today and assist in shaping a better future for all.

Being able to see the day-to-day details of another person’s life can be key to ­helping raise awareness and boost empathy, argues Sylvie Kantorovitz in her article on page 14. “An insatiable desire to know more about my fellow human beings” (plus an aversion to “lengthy descriptions”) makes graphic memoir her genre of choice. “By being exposed to the personal voices of so many who feel or have felt different, more and more children, even if they are accustomed to homogenous environments, will increase their understanding of just how normal differences are.”

This normalization of difference is an aim of middle-school teacher Dean ­Schneider, which he accomplishes through shared reading and writing prompts using the short-story collection Flying Lessons & Other Stories (see page 20). The anthology, published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, celebrates its fifth anniversary, and on page 22 compiler Ellen Oh reflects on the state of diverse books today. At a time of renewed efforts to censor, ban, and otherwise restrict much-needed access to touchstone titles, Oh makes the point that when progress is real, backlash can be ­inevitable — an invaluable reminder, and a somewhat ­reassuring one.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is acting editor in chief / executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University and a BA from Oberlin College.

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