Five questions for new Horn Book Editor in Chief Elissa Gershowitz

After twenty-five years as editor in chief, Roger Sutton semi-retired from the Horn Book at the end of 2021. Earlier this month, Elissa Gershowitz, who had been acting EIC, was named the Horn Book's eighth editor in chief. Roger asks Five Questions of his longtime (since 2006) fellow Horn Booker:

1. Growing up, what was your favorite kind of book?

Elissa Gershowitz: What wasn't my favorite kind of book?! (Answer: horror; I'm a scaredy cat!) I loved realistic fiction, historical fiction, and mysteries the best. I also had to read every night before bed — otherwise I couldn't fall asleep; and that continues to this day. 

2. What is the most challenging part of the job for you?

EG: Picking favorites. There are so many great new books to be excited about, and we only have so many pages available — and so much time between deadlines — for "blowing the horn" about individual titles. In a perfect world, we'd have one long, never-ending book discussion, with lots of participation and many different perspectives — and of course snacks. 

3. How did you get into this business, anyway?

EG: My undergraduate thesis, at Oberlin College, was on seventeenth-century French feminist fairy tales, so my academic entry into children's literature was through fairy tales and folklore. The Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons University, where I earned my master's degree, broadened my perspective and brought me into the twenty-first century (barely; I graduated in 2000). I started freelance reviewing for The Horn Book Guide in 2001 while working full-time for an academic journal publisher. It wasn't the dream — but it taught me how to run a magazine. I've also worked in trade and education publishing and have volunteered in and obsessively frequent libraries. That sort-of-circuitous early career path (oh, also copyeditor at an architecture firm) uniquely prepared me for the Horn Book — where I've been since Halloween Day 2006.

4. We haven’t had a parent running the Horn Book for something like forty years. How does having children help and hinder you in this job?

EG: How long do you have? It helps enormously in that I have built-in test subjects to consult, and that they're fairly patient and sometimes even eager to read one of my "work books." But we've all heard the "Well, MY child..." method of review and critique, which is at best limited and at worst contributes to the culture of book bans and challenges. Kitty Flynn and I launched the Horn Book's Family Reading blog to try to grapple with some of these contradictions, and to be able to anecdotally share some of the "Well-my-child" type examples without that being the final word. 

Early in the pandemic, when we were all at home doing work and school, and the push-and-pull seemed (and often was) near-impossible, and deadlines were looming, and I had to focus and concentrate and read...I'd sometimes remember to remind myself that the business is children's books, and being surrounded by kid-chaos can sometimes be useful to the big-picture process. 

And anytime over the years when I've heard myself saying, "Stop reading and...get ready for school/clear the table/put away your laundry," it always gives me pause. 

5. What do you like to read when no one is watching?

EG: In the time-honored Horn Book tradition — People magazine (usually on my phone while waiting for the kids to fall asleep). I just finished Randy Rainbow's memoir, which I checked out of the library. I'm a huge library browser, so I'll come away with a big stack of somewhat random selections and then start and stop reading them at will. My nightstand is the classic tower of books.

[At left: The current nightstand lineup.]


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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