Editorial: Selfless Acts (September/October 2022)

Back in the fall of 2016 many of us were together, in person, at the Linda K. Paresky Conference Center of Simmons University, celebrating the winners of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards. Yuyi Morales, previously an honoree for ­Georgia in Hawaii (and subsequently for Dreamers), received a Picture Book Honor for her illustrations in Thunder Boy Jr. At the time, she was unable to attend the award ceremony in Boston. That sometimes happens with BGHB winners, who might then ask their editors or publishers to accept the award on their behalf or send remarks for the judges to read aloud. Morales, however, filmed a video to be shown during the ceremony.

Her speech was brief but unforgettable. See hbook.com/morales-thunder-boy to read it, and then picture (or remember) its delivery, centering on her love of ­libraries and of The Horn Book and on the reason for her absence. She was ­recovering from donating a kidney (to a stranger!) — an experience she went on to tie into her creative life and values. “My kidney, like all of me, has been read to a lot, because I love to read. I’m hoping that wherever my kidney goes next, it gets read to a lot…So I’m going to ask you something: if you meet a person with a new kidney, I hope you read them a book. Because then we will meet in person, you and I.”

Needless to say, it was a powerful message then; and what a message, too, for our time. This spring Morales again delivered a virtual speech — the Zena Sutherland Lecture — which begins on page 10 of this issue. Her talk was about constructing community, asking difficult questions, acknowledging privilege, and putting forward the voices of others. In an era marked by loss, her words are a welcome reminder. “This is a moment when we gather together, just like the friends, like the ­collective, like the community, that we are.” Being together is wonderful, but not being together doesn’t preclude meaningful, memorable connection. The ways we are ­connected can be profound and unpredictable—and, who knows? Maybe one of us has read to Yuyi Morales’s kidney.

If so, odds are it was a librarian, and on page 26 we’re reminded just how fraught these times can be for the profession. Adrienne L. Pettinelli, in sharing a story of attempted book banning in her community, takes a cool-headed approach. As a library director, she welcomes discourse around books — “Conversation and inquiry around collection choices is healthy for a library” — making it that much more perplexing (and maddening) when accusations fly. See also Amy Sarig King’s novel Attack of the Black Rectangles, reviewed and starred on page 88, for a timely middle-grade take on book banning and censorship, based on actual events in King’s school community. If the reverse is more your thing — real-life events that read like stories — see Tanya Lee Stone’s article (page 20) about long-form narrative nonfiction, in which she thrills to the rewards and challenges of the collaborative book-design process.

If you missed the Back-to-School issue of our monthly e-newsletter Notes from the Horn Book (sign up at hbook.com/newsletters — it’s free!), our ­thirty-plus recommendations, grouped by age range and theme, are available online, ­including several titles from this issue of the Magazine (back-to-school puppies!). The highly searchable and browsable online Guide/Reviews Database is another great resource for the school year. Teachers, librarians, parents, and other caregivers know that finding just the “right” book can pique curiosity, provoke thought, and prompt discussion — all ways of helping young people gain new perspectives and/or ­validate their experiences; and all keys to helping construct strong, vibrant, respectful, and dynamic communities.

From the September/October 2022 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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