Monday, March 15, 2010

Battle of the Books

SLJ's Battle of the Books begins with Jim Murphy deciding between Charles and Emma and Claudette Colvin. Was this random? I mean, is it chance that a noted nonfiction writer is choosing between two nonfiction books? I do agree with his choice.

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Honor Books or Runners-Up?

Until I read Time magazine this morning, I hadn't noticed that the Academy Awards had changed "and the Oscar goes to . . ." to "and the winner is . . . ," a phrasing not heard on the show since 1989. In our own world, ALSC changed the designation runner up to Honor Book for, er, runners-up for the Newbery and Caldecott Medals in 1971. I've been assured by several people that the change was not just euphemistic and that the terms mean different things but damned if I can figure out what the difference is. Does anyone know? K.T., Nina, Peter, are you out there?

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Would we get more love from advertisers

. . . if we worked the way Yelp is accused of doing?

"Oh, we can make that 5-in-the-Guide totally go away, no problem. A star, you say? Well, let me tell you what I can do . . . ."

I remember some years ago my friend Mary K. Chelton raising a ruckus in the Letters column of SLJ, implying that positive reviews (in SLJ and elsewhere) bore an interesting relationship to advertising in the same pages. And I myself have pondered the practice of book award committee members being wined-dined-and-sixty-nined by publishers. While I know of no instance where a review or an award has been even attempted to be bought or sold outright, it behooves us all to keep the lines as bright as possible. At the risk of boring you with this anecdote for the tenth time, I remember a BBYA committee I was on arguing about what Gary Paulsen might have meant by some ambiguous turn of phrase or plot, I forget just which. One member brightly announced that she knew exactly what was meant because "Gary told me while we were dancing last night." It's not the dancing I minded so much as its bumping into the evaluation process.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New Notes, awards edition

The February issue of Notes from the Horn Book is out, featuring parent-friendly takes on the ALA winners and an interview with O'Dell winner Matt Phelan. See if HE thinks The Storm in the Barn is historical fiction.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Great minds

Our Fanfare choice Button Up: Wrinkled Rhymes by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Petra Mathers has been awarded the 2010 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award. Congrats, Alice!

And now, to paraphrase Nicki Grimes on Jerry Pinkney, just give Petra Mathers the damn Caldecott medal, already.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

How to fix BBYA

Liz Burns and Marc Aronson have been keeping an eye on the Best Books for Young Adults drama. That list is going to become strictly YA fiction; the Alex Awards (adult books of potential interest and value to teens) and) list will get bigger, thus picking up the adult book slack; and the new YALSA nonfiction award will publicize its list of nominations, thus theoretically increasing the visibility of nonfiction.

The reason given for the change is that too many books get nominated for BBYA and committee members feel overburdened by the reading. But if I have this right, only one committee member (or YALSA member) needs to nominate a book to get it onto that big list. When I was on BBYA back in dinosaur times, this nomination process produced some true stinkers, books that were only nominated because someone felt bad about not doing something for a book he or she got free in the mail. (Let's hope the nonfiction award contenders are going to be nominated with a bit more rigor if they are going to be publicized as recommended books.) Why not simply increase the number of nominations needed to, say, three? A book that has only one nomination for a choice made by a committee of fifteen is not going to make the list, so why waste everyone's time?

I also worry that the decision is shortsighted. The money in children's publishing right now is in YA fiction, aided by a now-passing boom in the teen population and an adult crossover readership, which will also pass once adult publishing figures out how to make even more money from these readers. At its best, the BBYA list displays the intersection at which YA librarianship is supposed to live: fiction and nonfiction, adult and juvenile, words and pictures (graphic novels are also banished from the new list and relegated to their own.) I think what the new system gives us is a bunch of bitty lists whose individual and collective power will be considerably diminished. It's similar to what happens when you have give out too many awards--whoops, that's another post.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Awards page

Kitty, Lolly and intern Shara have worked indefatigably to bring you the ALA Awards page, which lists all the winners announced on Monday and includes links to our reviews where available.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Nikki Grimes said it best

Give Jerry Pinkney the damn medal, already!" and I have to say I was never so happy to not be surprised. We are working on the awards webpage, with a listing of all the winners and links to our reviews, right now; in the meantime you can read my interviews with Medalists Jerry Pinkney and Rebecca Stead.

Our "Five Questions for . . ." series at Midwinter on Saturday went really well, good answers and large audiences and (except for a glitch when I interviewed the most tech-savvy of all, Mitali Perkins, so embarrassing) a working sound system. I'll post pictures tomorrow after I figure out how to get 'em out of the camera.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Jenny from the Block feels your pain

People all over the Internet are making of fun of Jennifer Lopez for the remarks reproduced below, but to me she sounds like just about every author or illustrator of children's books I know. Especially this week.

I feel like I had that [Oscar worthy role] in El Cantante, but I don’t even think the academy members saw it. I feel like it’s their responsibility to do that, to see everything that’s out there, everything that could be great. Well, it is a little bit frustrating. It was funny; when the Oscars were on, I had just given birth on the 22nd, and the Oscars, I think, were a day or two later. I was sitting there with my twins—I couldn’t have been happier—but I was like, ‘How dope would it have been if I would’ve won the Oscar and been here in my hospital bed accepting the award?’ ‘Thank you so much! I just want to thank the academy!’ But we joked about it. It’s all good. Things will happen when they’re supposed to happen. I have the utmost faith and no doubt that it will one day, when and if it’s supposed to. You can’t get all crazy twisted over it.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

More than words can say

Prompted by the announcement that The Storm in the Barn had won the Scott O'Dell Award, there's been a question asked over at Twitter about the eligibility of a graphic novel for a prize for historical fiction. I can't speak for the other judges but it never occurred to me to think otherwise. As far as I'm concerned, historical fiction is an invented tale which not only takes place in the past but proposes to shed some kind of light on an actual event or situation of historical import. The Storm in the Barn has all the ingredients of great fiction--astute characterization, evocative atmosphere, a compelling story, a theme rewarding consideration--and gives us a unique vision of the Dirty Thirties. How is it not historical fiction? Yes, it mostly tells its story through pictures, but it's still a book, still a narrative, still fiction. While the criteria for the O'Dell Award do require that a winning book be published and set in the Americas, they say nothing about judging an entrant on the basis of words alone. (This is different from the Newbery Medal, which is specific about being solely for text. Unfortunately.)

Book awards are always comparing apples to oranges, even in a genre-specific award like the O'Dell or the Edgar or the numerous prizes for science fiction and romance. You are always comparing different stories told in different ways to different ends, thank goodness. And why shouldn't we look at the pictures?

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

One question or two?

So, what does it mean--if anything--that Phillip Hoose's National Book Award winning Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice is ineligible for the Coretta Scott King Award (because Hoose is white) and Jerry Pinkney's Lion & the Mouse is in the same position because it isn't about black people? Does it not matter, or have the CSK awards painted themselves into a corner?

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How many words would it take?

Inspired by our Martha, Jonathan Hunt has a good post up over at Heavy Medal about the possibility of a picture book ever winning the Newbery Medal.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Horn Book reviews of NBA finalists

Kitty has posted 'em. One is still forthcoming and another will not be reviewed as its publisher decided rather late in the game that it was in fact a book for young people.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

NBA Nominees, Young people's division

from Publishers Lunch:

Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)

I'm a little surprised by the Small in this category as I don't think it was published as a children's book and was not sent to us for review.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

BGHB Awards, pictures and video

The indefatigable Lolly Robinson and Katrina Hedeen have posted photos and video from the 2009 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards held last Friday evening. Check it all out. (In this pic l. to r. are Harper editor Anne Hoppe, judge Jonathan Hunt, winner Candace Fleming, judge Ruth Nadelman Lynn, and me.)

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Shh! The movie's started!

Over at SLJ's excellent Heavy Medal, Nina Lindsay and the Horn Book's own Jonathan Hunt are playing Siskel and Ebert with A Season of Gifts, a debate I predicted (or precipitated--my working theory about FlashForward) a couple of weeks ago.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

I agree with everybody

Pirate Pete asked my thoughts on the Almagor/Flake debate. I was unable to post while it was at its height and did not want to stomp in at the end, but I felt like they were both right, a situation made possible because they weren't talking about the same thing.

It's the same dilemma we see presented by the Coretta Scott King Awards. Why is there not more overlap between the CSK Awards and the Newbery and Caldecott? While some have speculated, evidence be damned, that the Newbery and Caldecott committees sometimes pass over books by African Americans because they figure the CSK committee will fill in the blanks, I think it is because the committees have radically different criteria for their choices.

Where the terms for both the Newbery and Caldecott specifically say that those awards "[are] not for didactic intent," here is the CSK explicitly endorsing didacticism: "Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream of a pluralistic society."

The current dominant mode of children's-book evaluation at least nominally disdains "didacticism," by which it means preachiness or sermonizing. But the provision of explicitly uplifting messages (and, in picture books, the explicitly sermon-structured text) is a prevailing, if by no means absolute, characteristic of contemporary African American literature for young people. Whether this is because of the CSK criteria or whether the criteria and the literature spring from the same aesthetic, I don't know, but I think that the arguments on the Debating Black Books thread demonstrated more than anything an underlying disagreement of terms.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blast from the Past

Jen Robinson alerted me to the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award for YA fiction, new to ALAN/NCTE but not to me. Years ago, Walden offered this award to YALSA, which turned it down because of her insistence that the winning book demonstrate "a positive approach to life." We (I was on the board then) didn't want to get into the position of deciding somebody else's road to happiness. That said, it's nice to see Walden get some recognition again--back in the 50's-60's she wrote several crypto-lesbionic sports novels notable for their fearless female main characters and basketball play-by-plays as exciting as anything penned by the boys.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Go boys, go!

Eric Carle and Walter Dean Myers are USBBY's nominees for next year's Hans Christian Andersen Awards. The complete list of nominees is here.

The disproportionate number of men, worldwide, nominated for this award this year reminds me to link to Editorial Anonymous's current discussion of the CSK Who-Can-Win-What question. My thoughts on that have already been documented*; let me also remind you that the Horn Book will this July be publishing the speeches by the winners of the CSK Author and Illustrator Awards along with those by the usual Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder crowd.

*But let me just add: after a year in which two of the biggest buzzed books, Kingdom on the Waves and Chains, were by white people writing in the voice of African Americans, let me just say that EA is NUTS to think white writers are excluded from publishing about blacks by virtue of their exclusion from the CSK.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

She has a really good point.

I like Jill Wolfson's dissent about SLJ's upcoming Battle of the Books, for which I am the Decider between Ways to Live Forever and Octavian Nothing II. Jill is right--the BOB provides more publicity for books which have already received plenty, and as a series of apples-and-oranges decisions, it doesn't have a whole lot of critical weight. I think, though, you have to look at it as a game in which the spectators are the most important part, making their own predictions and choices and laughing at the judges. It wouldn't work if the books in contention were worthy but little(r)-known. I'm in fact a little surprised that Ways to Live Forever is in there--it doesn't have nearly the profile of the others.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Tweet this.

I interview Neil Gaiman in the March SLJ.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Put It Where You Want It

Debra Lau Whelan's SLJ article on where librarians are shelving The Graveyard Book is classic shit-stirring. The article's lead asks a question ("Where does the book belong—in the children’s area or in the teen section?") and then goes on to give selective anecdotal evidence to conclude that any decision to put the book in YA consists of internal censorship. "And that's against professional ethics."

Nonsense. If you're classifying a book that you think appeals primarily to fifth-through-eighth graders (SLJ's estimation; Horn Book coded it as sixth-grade up), you are going to shelve it where you think most likely readers will most likely find it. Putting it in the YA section is not necessarily (or even probably) an act of censorship, if that's where you put all your other middle-schoolish books. (Hell, putting it in adult because that's where your Gaiman fans are is all right, too.) The fact that a book wins a Newbery Medal does not give it some kind of free pass into the children's room; remember, the Newbery goes through age fourteen, which, by the ALA definition, includes the first two years of the young adult age range. (The ALA turf war over the twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds is ever with us.) Different libraries serve different populations and make different decisions. I like Pat Scales' suggestion--multiple copies--but if you're only buying one, don't let SLJ's admonitory finger force you into putting the book where it doesn't belong.

I agree with Whelan that if you put The Graveyard Book in YA because you're trying to keep it out of younger readers' hands, then, sure, that's censorship. But the article--like her piece with Rick Margolis about the "controversy" inspired by Gaiman's fuck-filled Twittering--doesn't give us the whole picture, instead only citing evidence that supports a sensationalized angle. That ain't reporting.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Who Can Win What?

Esme Codell takes Marc Aronson's part in this perpetual debate. One historical point--Esme cites Ouida Sebestyen's Words By Heart as one book that "makes an outstandingly inspirational and educational contribution to an African-American audience and to everyone else as well," thus making the Coretta Scott King Awards suffer for its ineligibility. But I remember the intensity with which the Council on Interracial Books for Children tore into that book for what they saw as its obliviously blinkered whiteness, which is just what the CSK Awards are trying to avoid. But the main argument, as made by Andrea Davis Pinkney and others in our pages, is that the point of those awards is to bring black writers and illustrators into the field and reward them for uplifting books. Ten years on from that debate, I have more problems with the second half of that equation than the first. Good messages do not always a good book make and frequently are the cause of its shortcomings.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

ALA Awards

All hail designer Lolly, Twitter-tracker Claire, copy editor Jen and fact-checker Martha, who bring you our webpage on the ALA awards in record time.

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What Happened to . . .?

We have been very busy this morning pulling together our webpage of the ALA Awards, which should be available for your viewing pleasure in fairly short order. Scrutinizing what won always reveals a shadow--what didn't? Of course we all have favorites that don't go the distance (like Melissa Leo last night at the SAG Awards--sob!), but what's really interesting are those books you thought, based on buzz and chatter, were sure bets for something but failed to make an appearance. Like, last year, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. And, this year, The Hunger Games. And Chains. And The Way We Work. There are a few walls I'd like to have been a fly on.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

The other good thing about Newbery/Caldecott short lists

would be that we would get a day for children's books like today is for the movies, all cries, whispers, anguished moans and unexpected surprises. A lot of talk focused on a bunch of good books would not be such a bad thing.

My favorite surprise was the nomination of Melissa Leo for Frozen River. Go see it.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

But tell Carole King to get out out out of my head

I'm pleased to announce that Laurie Halse Anderson has won the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for her novel Chains, published by Simon & Schuster. Congrats, Laurie!

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Still, it's not like a book can give you polio.

From the would-be author who insists to his would-be editor that "my grandkids love this story" to the award committee member who says "my ten-year-old thought this book was boooorrrring," the children's book world is replete with those who use their own children as test subjects. Expanding the notion of "my kids" to those children with whom we have professional contact (as teachers or librarians) gives us an even bigger pool of lab rats even while the scientific validity of the test population remains questionable.

I'm all for writers, award committee members, reviewers, teachers, and librarians "trying out" books with kids, but I think we need to be watchful of what they tell us. My colleague Anne Quirk talks about the "Steve and Daphne Show" she witnessed one year at a Best Books for Young Adults committee, where, as dutifully supplied by a committee member, opinions from these two teens from a single high school library seemed to be providing the pivotal swing vote. I myself like to use the fact that the two-year-old from downstairs loves to scream "ROAR ROAR ROAR" as evidence that Bob Shea's Dinosaur Vs. Bedtime should win the Caldecott Medal.

But talk about experimenter effect! Zena Sutherland used to quote Ursula Nordstrom as saying that kids will enjoy the telephone book if it means they're getting their mother's attention, just as politicians know not to say that Harold Robbins is their favorite writer. Everybody wants to make somebody happy. And just because your kids like or don't like something doesn't mean that other kids will feel the same way. Proximity does not an expert witness make.

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Demography and the Newbery

Here's a link to that Bloomberg article we were discussing in yesterday's post.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not since . . .

For those of you lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, the Oakland Public Library is again sponsoring its Mock Newbery discussion, this year at the Golden Gate branch. (I would love to be able to tell people I worked at the "Golden Gate Library.") Librarians Sharon McKellar and Nina Lindsay have assembled a discussion list of eight titles (seven novels and one biography) of which I think five are ringers.

All the recent kerfuffle about the Newbery . . . well, it just makes me feel old. As I told a Boston Globe reporter on the phone yesterday, his was at least the third phone call I've had from his paper in the last twelve years on the very same topic. What galled me most about Anita Silvey's original premise was the idea that her observation was something new, that the Newbery had been going downhill only since 2004 (possibly the fakest statistic I've seen since the one that allegedly demonstrates that Goodnight, Moon causes bed-wetting.) Way to take the long view, Anita. It reminded of me of the way sportscasters whip up excitement by proclaiming that so-and-so hadn't hit such-and-such since, oh, last month. For people who think whining about the child appeal of the Newbery began with Kira-Kira, I have four words: A Gathering of Days. Oh, look, four more: A View from Saturday. And it wouldn't be a party without Onion John.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Got the Horse Right Here

What interests me most about the new William C. Morris award for new YA writers is the presentation of a shortlist from which the winner will be chosen. While standard procedure for some children's book awards in other countries and for our own National Book Award, this is a new twist for ALA.

I'm of two minds but mostly I like it. The announcement of contenders allows librarians--and kids--the chance to invest themselves in the process and thus the award. It also allows for two chances of outrage, joining "they didn't even nominate X" to "they picked Y?!," that second chance currently the only one available to Newbery, Printz, etc. watchers. Outrage is good for an award and has kept the Oscars going for decades. (Go see Slumdog Millionaire, by the way.)

On the other hand, I've talked with NBA finalists and winners who hate the whole horse race aspect of the thing, disliking being put into competition with their peers and, frequently, friends. The thinking seems to be that literature is meant for better things and finer feeling. We all know that the Oscars are essentially a sham, driven by politics and money as much as by sincere regard for a film's achievements, and are happy that, whatever their failings, the ALA book awards are largely free from such pressures. (Yup, they are.) The knowledge that one of a certain five books is going to win an award makes the whole publisher's-dinner drama (that's not a post in itself, it's a chapter. Of my memoir.) at ALA more suspect than usual, yes? Luckily, the stakes are small.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Would you care?

The legal wrangling over Project Runway has prompted the jilted network Bravo to start another fashion show:

Last week Bravo completed a four-city casting tour for a new series tentatively titled “The Fashion Show,” whose winner will be chosen by viewers rather than a panel of fashion experts, as it is on “Project Runway.”

Color me not excited. While it's true that American Idol similarly involves its audience in choosing a winner, I don't think anyone would tune in were it not for the hijinks of Randy, Paula and Simon, whose cutups and comments prompt as much of the voting as do the contestants themselves.

This is why no one gets as excited about children's choice book awards as they do about those chosen by "experts." There's no arguing with popularity--something is or it isn't. But when a committee of alleged authorities does its bestowing, a conversation is started, even if the opening salvo is What Were They Thinking?

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Which would YOU rather have?

Forthcoming from the Spring 09 Horn Book Guide, we've posted our review of NBA winner What I Saw and How I Lied.

I've noticed that the recent panels of judges for the award have been composed exclusively of writers. When I judged it back in 1999 (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town was the winner), the panel was three critic-librarians (Hazel Rochman, Zena Sutherland, me) and two writers (Veronica Chambers and Mary Ann McGuigan). I wonder what difference it makes? There is rarely overlap between the ALA awards and the National Book Awards, and I wonder if it is a difference between expert readers and expert writers. Not to say that one cannot be both.

I'm reminded, though, of those winners of the Screen Actors Guild awards who gush that the SAG award is way more gratifying to receive than an Oscar because it's given by "the actors." In the words of the immortal James Marshall, "oh, sure."

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

More NBA

We've added a page linking to the reviews we've published thus far of the National Book Award finalists.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

National Book Awards

Finalists in the Young People's Literature category include:

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (Hyperion)
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum)
Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon and Schuster)
What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Scholastic)
The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp (Knopf)


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Going for the Gold

Horn Book veteran Anita Silvey puts herself in the hot seat this month over at School Library Journal, where, to sum up, she complains about the lack of broad appeal of the last four winners of the Newbery Medal. Anita has been around for a long time and she knows just how stirred the dragons get when their precious gold and silver is disturbed. This could be very entertaining.

But--to quote one former SLJ editor speaking of another former HB editor--I think she is all wet. The main problem with Silvey's argument is that she's comparing the popular appeal (which is in any case not part of the Newbery's criteria) of current winners with that of winners from earlier decades. But the question before each committee is not "how does this book stack up with the great books of the past?" but "how does this book stack up with the others published in the same year?" It's easy to compare, say, Kira-Kira with The Giver and find the first book wanting in terms of wide resonance, but what book published in 2004 should have won instead? To make this argument work, Silvey needs to name names, and not those cherry-picked from the Newbery's long and (sometimes) illustrious past.

Silvey writes:

In the humble beginnings of the Newbery Award, its founders clearly sought a book that would have broad appeal. As children’s book historian Leonard Marcus reminds us in Minders of Make Believe (Houghton, 2008), back in 1922, when the first Newbery was awarded, ALA allowed any librarian who worked with kids—even part-time librarians—to nominate one title. The Story of Mankind (Liveright, 1921), nominated on 163 of the 212 ballots, won that year. Obviously, the founders cared deeply about the opinions and needs of those who worked directly with children.

But librarians are still allowed--encouraged--to nominate books for the Newbery, and the awarding committees still largely comprise librarians working with children. What has changed? One thing that hasn't: complaining about the winners.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cast your vote for the future

over at Nina Lindsay and SLJ's new mock-Newbery blog, "Heavy Medal." Lots of titles are being suggested, including the two BGHB Honor Books Savvy and Shooting the Moon. I'll be meeting authors Ingrid Law and Frances O'Roark Dowell this Friday at the BGHB Awards, held as usual in the swank confines of the Boston Athenaeum. I hope to see some of you there, too.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

I'll have to remember this argument come January.

From the NYT report on the Emmy Awards, interviewing David Shore, executive producer of House:

“There are awards for [popularity]; they’re called ratings,” Mr. Shore said. “There are really good shows on cable, and even if only 10 people are watching them, if they’re good they should be recognized.”

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

July/August Horn Book Magazine

Get your collector's edition now! While the limitations of technology (and the absence of a thrilling soundtrack and a screaming crowd) means that the tour de force with which Brian Selznick opened his Caldecott speech won't have quite the same effect on paper, those same images can still be yours for as long as the acid-free paper holds out. Likewise, you won't get the same dramatic impact of Laura Amy Schlitz's bravura performance, but you will get every single word she rather breathtakingly memorized for a notes- or paper-free delivery. (As I've noticed about prior speeches, the thing on the page can be astoundingly different from the thing as written--what drew laughs in Schlitz's speech Sunday night often provokes a more meditative response in print.)

You will only find the speeches in the printed Magazine, (which can be ordered from khedeen at hbookdotcom) but we have uploaded a selection of other articles, including profiles of Selznick and Schlitz by their editors, Simmons prof Amy Pattee on Sweet Valley High (and reflections by several authors on their own adolescent "guilty pleasure" reading) and my editorial on just why Newbery girls and the swingin' teens of Sweet Valley are sisters under the skin.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards 2008

Here they are, the winners of the 2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards.

Nonfiction: The Wall, by Peter Sis, published by Foster/Farrar.
Honor Books: Frogs by Nic Bishop (Scholastic) and What to Do about Alice? by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)

Fiction: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Ellen Forney (Little, Brown)
Honor Books: Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell (Atheneum) and Savvy by Ingrid Law (Walden/Dial)

Picture Books: At Night by Jonathan Bean (Farrar)
Honor Books: Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt, illustrated by Tricia Tusa (Little, Brown) and A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever by Marla Frazee (Harcourt)

Special Citation, for excellence in graphic storytelling: The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Levine/Scholastic)

Read the press release for complete details.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Catching Up

Cruising through Bloglines to see what I've been missing over the past ten days, I was stopped by Colleen's post about blog tours wherein the author ponies up cash to a third party who then alerts its squad of bloggers to review the author's new book. Holy crap. I share the outrage but feel that this concept is going to thrive just about well as the just-announced Progressive Book Club, which will fail not because America has been taken over by benighted republicans but because book-of-the-month-type book clubs are an anachronism. The blog-squad concept will fail because buzz-generating reviewers won't join in and will make mock of those who do. Jeanne duPrau, pull out now.

Then there's Frank Cottrell Boyce's comments about YA publishing, but I think the worthy arguments advanced against them are missing the funnier semi-scandal of one Guardian children's fiction award longlister (Boyce) queering (albeit probably obliviously) the chances of another (Patrick Ness) by saying his really isn't a juvenile book at all!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Be funny for money

Britain's children's laureate Michael Rosen announces a new award, the Roald Dahl Prize, for funny children's books.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Many Mysteries of Children's Choices

Huh? seems to be the main question directed at the Children's Book Council's just-announced Children's Choice Book Awards, an Internet election for "Favorite Books," "Favorite Author," and "Favorite Illustrator." The five nominees, "compiled from a review of bestseller lists, including those prepared by BookScan, The New York Times and USA Today," for each of the latter two categories include the expected names (Rowling, Horowitz, Willems, Brett, etc.). But the "favorite books," with five nominees for each of three age categories are more surprising in that they include no books from any of the favorite authors or illustrators, nor, as Betsy Bird points out, any novels at all among the nominees for the Grades 5-6 category. Maybe the Horn Book really is an ivory tower, but I confess no more than a passing acquaintance with a dozen of the fifteen nominated titles, all 2007 books.

According to the CBC, these fifteen "finalists were determined by the IRA-CBC Children's Choices Program." Watch out for the passive voice, it bites you in the ass almost every time. The Children's Choices program has been around since 1975, enrolling children in schools around the country in a system of book discussion of several hundred books (nominated by their publishers) that results in a list of 100 titles each year. As far as I know, this list has no "top fifteen," so we don't know how these "finalists" were chosen. I suppose it could be that these books are the ones the Children's Choice children did like best, but their relative obscurity prompted the CBC to supplement those choices with ballots for the authors and illustrators who were unaccountably ignored. Ya got me.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hard books and awards

Australian Sonya Harnett has won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, an honor that speaks to the discussion we're having about Nina Lindsay's comments about "shelf-sitters." Completely deserving of the many awards her writing has won, Hartnett is, however, no crowd-pleaser. While as a culture we are used to the fact that adult fiction with a small audience routinely beats out bestsellers at awards time, we don't seem to like it so much when something similarly "literary" for children competes for shelf space, attention and awards alongside books that have wider appeal. "No kid is going to read this" is something we have all said. That can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, if the person who says it therefore decides not to review it or buy it for a library.

This is a situation as old as libraries but has become more prominent as a) libraries have become less elitist and more responsive to popular taste and b) book budgets have shrunk, making it more attractive to purchase something that will circulate twenty times rather than twice. It's hard to imagine it now, but there was a time when juvenile hardcover fiction was only found in libraries. Expectations were smaller, so were print runs, and thus smaller books had a chance. Is this still true? Could Sonya Hartnett thrive in America?

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Forget Celebrity Writers . . .

. . . for Oscar Day, I present you with a celebrity reviewer, movie actress Saffron Burrows in the Guardian. Good job, too.

My Oscar hopes: No Country for Old Men, Coen brothers, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, none of them*, Amy Ryan, Persepolis; don't care about the rest but think the un-nominated Eastern Promises shoulda won for Best Score.

My predictions: No Country for Old Men, Coen Brothers, Daniel Day-Lewis, Javier Bardem, Julie Christie, Ruby Dee (Richard's pick because I can't decide), Ratatouille. Atonement for Best Score although it sucks big bombastic rocks.

*I know this isn't an option. It's like the Newbery and Caldecott: once you've decided that "choosing the best" is a defensible activity, then something has to win. We're talking comparatives, not superlatives, a distinction not observed in Zadie Smith's recent short-story contest. So I guess I'll go with Julie Christie. She makes me go misty.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

You can buy a printer, but can you buy a clue?

We got a call last week asking if the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards accept submissions of print-on-demand books. Editorial Anonymous explains why not.

Clueless wannabes will always be with us but what confounds me more are stories that indulge in all the sentimentality, preachiness, lame rhyming and anthropomorphism we say never, ever to indulge a manuscript in, and yet they somehow get published, by a real publisher, anyway. (Yes, Peach and Blue, I'm thinking of you.) Let's make an award for that. (Anyone remember SLJ's Billy Budd Button and Huck Finn pin?)

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Cybils Speak

The winners of the 2007 Cybil Awards have been announced. A group project of the children's-book blogosphere, the Cybils attend to both literary quality and child appeal. Losers I'm most interested in hearing the gossip on: Shaun Tan's The Visit [ed: OOPS, The Arrival] and Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I thought they'd be shoo-ins.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Why Can't a Woman?

On Saturday March 1st at 1:00PM, I'll be at the Eric Carle Museum, moderating a panel discussion inspired by our earlier conversation about why women don't win the Caldecott Medal as often as they might. The panelists for "Read Roger Live" will include illustrator Jane Dyer, children's-books sexpert Robie Harris, Viking publisher Regina Hayes, and critic Leonard Marcus. I know the discussion will be lively, and the museum is beautiful, so come on over.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Does size matter?

Motoko Rich reports that Hugo Cabret is the longest Caldecott winner ever. (Boy, is she sharp or what?) I wonder if any Newberys are longer. Although the neater parallel record would be the shortest Newbery: A Visit to William Blake's Inn?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

At least they didn't give it to Mittens

Here's the SLJ article asking if Orson Scott Card's beliefs about homosexuality should have been taken into account when YALSA awarded him the Margaret Edwards Award. I dunno if this is a real controversy; has anyone heard it brought up elsewhere?

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Caldecott shout-out

Relive the excitement and hear the applause-o-meter for yourself on our Press Conference Podcast.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's Following Me!

I'm home from ALA and the Caldecott considerations only to bump back into the Newbery: Gary Schmidt and a gaggle of his Calvin College students are currently navigating their way to our offices. They are all in town this month for a course on "The New England Saints," (Hawthorne, Dickinson, etc.) so I'm guessing this afternoon's visit must be a very extracurricular activity. Or maybe Gary sees us as his lucky charm--the last time he did this was the day his Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy was named a Newbery Honor.

I did a little bit of podcast reporting from the awards press conference we hope to have up for you by the end of the week.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The Winners

Here's a link to our website with information about all the 2008 ALA winners, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine or The Horn Book Guide.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2008 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

From Hazel Rochman:

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis (Scholastic Press) is the winner of the 2008 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The award is presented to a children’s or young adult book published in English by a U. S. publisher and set in the Americas. The members of the Award committee are Ann Carlson, Hazel Rochman (chair), and Roger Sutton.

With comedy and anguish, Curtis tells the gripping story in the voice of smart, funny Elijah, 10, the first child born free in the Buxton Settlement established for escaped slaves in Ontario, Canada, over the border from Detroit. Elijah loses his innocence when he crosses the border on a dangerous mission to the U. S. and encounters the horrifying cruelty his parents have escaped from. Curtis now lives near the Buxton Settlement, and, based on his careful research, he tells of ordinary people who are heroes.

Established by the late writer Scott O’Dell in 1984 and administered by his wife, Elizabeth Hall, the award comes with a $5000 prize. More information about the award and past winners can be found at

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Picking a (Prize) Fight

This report on the Ratatouille producers' dilemma about whether to promote the film for a Best Animated or Best Picture Oscar slot reminds me of our children's book also-rans, the Coretta Scott King Awards, the Sibert, and the Geisel. Before anyone gets huffy, what I mean is to question whether the existence of these awards makes it less likely that books eligible to receive them become subconsciously marked-down by the Newbery and Caldecott judges because they can win "something else." After all, wasn't it the relative lack of award attention for books by black authors and illustrators, for nonfiction, and for easy readers, respectively, that brought these new awards into existence in the first place? (Personally, I'll give an award to anyone who can diagram that last sentence.)


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Congrats to Sarah!

(photo courtesy of CNW Group)

Longtime Horn Book contributor (I swear, she must have started writing the "News from the North" column when she was twelve) Sarah Ellis has won the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award for Odd Man Out. And, in an oh-let's-be-vulgar shout out to any civic-minded U.S. banking corporation, she gets 20,000 smackers. Canadian, which is like a million in our money, right?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The '07 National Book Award finalists

. . . have been announced and we've got reviews of the Young People's Literature choices. The judges were Elizabeth Partridge (chair),Pete Hautman, James Howe, Patricia McCormick, and Scott Westerfeld; the nominees were announced by Camille Paglia, whose legendary battle via fax with Brit critic Julie Burchill is available for your enjoyment here.


Monday, September 17, 2007

Why we 'see' movies and 'watch' TV

Watching the Emmys last night (and was Sally Field cut off because she spoke out against the war or because she said "goddamn"?) I idly queried why the Oscars have more prestige and glamor when more people watch more TV than they do movies. Richard had a ready, comprehensive answer: in an impulse hearkening back even unto the Greeks, film is public ceremony that demands respectful attention, and it's bigger than we are. While we may eat during a movie (Twizzlers for me, thanks) we may not talk and the film cannot be paused by the audience or the sponsors. We watch it in the dark, all eyes on the screen.

The way we read is practically the opposite: we do it alone, in the light, and hold a book in our hands. But the status of the act of reading is greater than either seeing movies or watching TV, both despite and because of the fact that books have the smallest audience of the three. This may explain why censors go after books: they're both bigger than us and easier to bully.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Romper Stomper Bomper Boo

Yes, I saw lots of my friends at work and play over the weekend at ALA, although my own presence felt circumscribed: mornings in the booth, afternoons at the Caldecott meetings, dinner with a friend, Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder banquet, over and out.

I met a lot of you at the Horn Book booth, and I thank you for stopping by. The exhibit hall traffic seemed less busy than usual, at least in our neck of the woods, but not so quiet that I could wander the floor for candy and swag. The only juicy thing I heard was that Jailbird Hilton had successfully shopped a children's book proposal to HarperCollins, a rumored denied by one Harper editor who stopped by. Otherwise, all was peace. I did sign up a few more boys, including Leonard Marcus, Bob Lipsyte, and Ken Roberts, to write for our upcoming special issue on Boys and Girls; my job this week is to remind them of their perhaps rash promises.

I'd tell you all about the Caldecott meetings, but then I'd have to kill you.

Seeing the Big Banquet from the other side of the lights was fun. The food is exactly the same, with the only perk being that the waiters are more wont to refresh your coffee, perhaps anticipating the ripple effect of a sleepy speaker. As the Wilder winner was not on the dais, Susan Patron had to graciously divide her attention between me and Newbery Chair Jerri Kladder. It was fun--Susan and I went to the same college, albeit in different years, so we got to reminisce a bit. Susan is a native Los Angeleno, something that became apparent when the dais began unaccountably shaking during her speech, and she said something like, "oh, earthquake" and continued unperturbed with her prepared remarks. Both she and David Wiesner spoke well: he's an old pro at this now, of course, while Susan has the storyteller's gift of being able to make eye contact with two thousand people. Me, not so much--as I was awarding the Wilder Medal to James Marshall, my attempts to look between my speech and the audience were continually being interrupted by a photographer at my feet, who raised his lens every time I looked up until I finally told him to stop. It worked, less because of my commanding presence than because he got the giggles.

The thing I didn't know about being an award committee chair was that at the reception following the banquet you have to stand in a receiving line, shaking hands with everyone who had not had the good sense to run for the cab line. I don't care if I do live in Massachusetts, never, never will I marry if this is part of the deal.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"We Are All Winners"

opined Karen Hesse in her Newbery-Medal acceptance speech (yeah, I know, easy for her to say) but I am stoked, not to mention contractually obligated, to announce the winners of Mother Reader's 48 Hour Book Challenge. The Most Books Read Prize goes to the Midwestern Lodestar blog, and the Most Time Spent Reading Prize to the blog Finding Wonderland.

Congratulations to you both. I remain unsure about why my mentioning these winners is supposed to be some kind of prize and have a sneaking suspicion MR is expecting me to make fun of their reading choices or something, but I would never do a thing like that where you could see me. Now shoo, earnest readers. Go outside and play.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Just announced:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

So now will I have to read it? It's not like they did.

A fifth-grade class in Pittsfield, MA has joined in a legislator's effort to name Moby-Dick the Commonwealth's official State Book. Melville wrote the book while living in Pittsfield, but that's about as much as the kids know--none of them have read it. And we wonder why lobbyists get a reputation for cynicism.

Besides, I remember attending a ceremony at the State House, in tow with Elizabeth Law, where I thought we were naming Make Way for Ducklings the State Book or something. Oh, wait, I just checked and that was the Official Children's Book. Jeez, this field is getting more crowded than the Grammys.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What gets 'em going

In preparation for the Horn Book Board of Directors annual meeting tomorrow, I've been going through this blog's entries for the past year to remind myself of what I actually spent my time doing. I was pleased to notice that reader participation has gone way up, and thank you for that. A year ago it was five comments here, six comments there--but then I came across a short, unopinionated and completely fact-based post announcing the winners of the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards. Sixty comments? Really? Whatever for? And then I open up the comments box and remember that if there's one thing besides itself that gets the children's-book blogosphere chatting, it's Kate DiCamillo.

Good times. Now: on to cleaning my office!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

With apologies to Velma

Varner, who played no part in the story I was vaguely remembering on yesterday's blog comments. Varner succeeded May Massee as the children's book editor at Viking, and did many good things, not least of which was suggesting to the young Susie Hinton that she go with the initials S. E. for her first book, The Outsiders.

Here's the story, which is from an interview Leonard Marcus conducted for the January/February 1995 issue of the Horn Book. Leonard was interviewing HarperCollins's library marketing wizard Bill Morris, who was clearly in the mood to spill:

I don't know that this is true, though I've been told it is, that during the years when Miss [Anne Carroll] Moore was chair of the Newbery-Caldecott committee, the committee would never actually meet. The other members would just send in their ballots to her, and she and Miss Massee would get together to count them! If you look at the list of medal winners, there was a period when Viking won something almost every year! It's a marvelous story, whether or not it's true.

That, my friends, is gossip (for those of you who opined that children's book blogs did not traffic in same).

Thanks to all of you who participated in yesterday's ferocious discussion. I learned a lot--mostly that what I was looking for in blog book-reviews was perhaps a case of missing the oranges for the apples. Someone has just asked in the comments there that I address the question "why do you [meaning me] write book reviews?" to which I have a long answer and will try to address after I've gotten a virtuous amount done on the book I am allegedly here at home writing. So it might be tomorrow.

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