Editorial: Safe at Home (January/February 2023)

What do you see on the cover of this issue of the Magazine? According to its creator, Jason Griffin, there are many “right” answers. Do you see a house up in the sky and above the clouds, or is it on the ground and behind them? Or is that fog? Does the scene give Wizard of Oz vibes? Is the building frighteningly untethered or floating safely above the fray? Is that the family home from Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Griffin, winner of the 2022 Boston Globe–Horn Book Picture Book Award? (And is that nearly-four-hundred-page tome really a picture book?)

Home is a central theme of many of the BGHB winners that we’re celebrating in this issue (starting on page 22) and on hbook.com. Sabaa Tahir, winner of the ­Fiction and Poetry Award (and the National Book Award for Young People’s ­Literature) for All My Rage, writes about the hope and promise of the word home, along with its painfully conflicting usages. Nonfiction Award winner for Black Birds in the Sky Brandy Colbert describes her dawning awareness of the racial violence that shaped her own Midwestern hometown before turning to the horrors of 1921 Tulsa, “a town I’d always felt safe visiting.” Nonfiction honoree The Waiting Place is set in a refugee camp and poignantly subtitled When Home Is Lost and a New One Not Yet Found. Fiction honoree Borders focuses on members of a nation dismissed and disrespected by non-Native governments; while Rez Dogs finds the protagonist sheltering-in-place in a place that’s away from home but is comfortingly homelike.

Home also features prominently in many of our Fanfare selections, our annual “best books” list, which starts on page 8. From a luminous American farmhouse to small-town Fawn Creek, contemporary Nigeria, and the “land of books” that was ancient Mesoamerica, these settings and others can be immersive and transportive for readers. This year’s Fanfare list is longer than usual (don’t tell editor emeritus Roger Sutton!) and, as always, was a painstaking and stimulating group effort. Weeks of preparation, careful close readings, stealth library and bookstore visits, ­vigorous debate (trip trap v. clip clop), cooperation, occasional wheedling, and entertaining read-alouds all led up to this selection of superlative titles.

Then comes time to categorize them. This year we’ve put fifteen books in the Picture Book section, twenty-two in Fiction, one in Folklore, three in Poetry, and ten in Nonfiction. But most every section could be plus-or-minus. For example, H Is for Harlem is a gorgeously illustrated ABC concept picture book and an impressively informative work of nonfiction. We put it in Picture Book, but it’s certainly at home in both places. Barnett and Klassen’s picture book of The Three Billy Goats Gruff is just close enough to traditional, in our opinion, to keep it in Folklore.

And back to Ain’t Burned All the Bright: the Horn Book originally put our review in Poetry, after discussion and debate, and we’ll leave it there for Fanfare. But the BGHB Picture Book designation is compelling — and you can see how the Jasons feel about it in our interview at hbook.com/bghb22.

This year the Horn Book turns ninety-nine! Yes, we are feelin’ fine, but next year — our centennial in 2024 — is when the real fun begins. Be sure to watch this space; and don’t blame fact-checker Anita Burkam for my mistake here in the last issue. (I’m the eighth Horn Book editor in chief: Bertha, Jennie, Ruth, Paul, Ethel, Anita, Roger.) More to come, including lots of goodies from our archive (we take requests!) and favorites, old and new.

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is editor in chief 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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