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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Friday, March 05, 2010

A mystery solved

So now I know why she calls it Fuse #8. And how much money they're we're paying her. Good on you, Betsy!

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Monday, March 01, 2010

Many men have tried to mix us up but no one can

Today we welcome editorial director Brian Kenney (with me above; photo taken by Mitali Perkins at Midwinter), publisher Ron Shank, and the rest of School Library Journal and Library Journal to Media Source, our parent company. Here's the press release:

Ohio-based Media Source Inc. announces today that it has acquired Library Journal and School Library Journal from Reed Business Information-US. The acquisition includes all print and Web products, services, supplements, and newsletters, including Library Hotline. With this purchase, Media Source, best known for its ownership of Junior Library Guild and The Horn Book, Inc., adds substantially to its product offerings in the library market.

“Library Journal and School Library Journal are valuable magazines that deserve a corporate home focused on libraries,” said Randall Asmo, CEO of Media Source. “We respect the history and contribution of LJ and SLJ. Our goal is to build upon those strengths to provide a vital and comprehensive service to the librarian community.”

The Editorial and Advertising Sales groups of the acquired publications will continue operations in New York City. Asmo continues, “Editor-in-Chief Brian Kenney and Publisher Ron Shank are important to the success of SLJ and LJ, and they will remain in their current roles. We believe that the combined businesses of SLJ, LJ, Junior Library Guild, and The Horn Book will create a myriad of new opportunities in the marketplace. At the same time, our plan is to have each business unit continue to operate with complete editorial independence.”

About Media Source Inc.: Media Source, with headquarters just outside Columbus, Ohio, is the parent company of Junior Library Guild (JLG) and The Horn Book, Inc. JLG is a review and collection development service that provides new release children’s and young adult books to more than 17,000 school and public libraries. The Horn Book, Inc. reviews children’s and young adult books in two print publications, The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide.

About School Library Journal (SLJ): Each monthly issue of SLJ includes reviews of children’s and young adult books, audio, and multimedia products, as well as news, features, and columns that deliver the perspective, resources, and leadership tools necessary for its readers to become indispensable players in their schools and libraries. More than 100,000 librarians who work with students in public and school libraries read School Library Journal.

About Library Journal (LJ): Founded in 1876, Library Journal is the oldest and most respected publication covering the library field. Over 100,000 library directors, administrators, and staff in public, academic, and special libraries read LJ. In its twenty annual issues, LJ reviews nearly 7000 books and provides coverage of technology, management, policy, and other professional concerns.

About Reed Business Information-US: Reed Business Information-US ( is a leading business-to-business information provider of publications and web sites, as well as custom publishing, directories and research. Reed Business Information-US is part of Reed Elsevier (NYSE: RUK and ENL), a world leading provider of professional information and workflow solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal, Risk Management and Business sectors.

Reed Business Information-US and Reed Elsevier were represented by The Jordan, Edmiston Group, Inc., a New York City-based investment bank that specializes in the media and information industries.

Media Contact:
Andrew Thorne, VP Marketing, Media Source Inc.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

"Now we had both done what we both swore we'd never do."

Simon & Schuster has reissued V. C. Andrews' notorious Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind in an omnibus edition that screams "if you liked Twilight . . ." But oh how it brings me back.

I began my career as a library journalist with Flowers in the Attic. SLJ editor Lillian Gerhardt had asked me in 1983 to become their YA columnist, and the first thing I wrote about was Andrews, in the essay (named by Lillian), "Passion Power." As with Twilight, the Andrews books were all about forbidden and forestalled love. (Although less forestalled than Meyer: Chris and Cathy do the deed on page 337 of this new edition, and I would like to thank Elissa Gershowitz for her help in determining this fact.) Flowers in the Attic, although putatively aimed at the adult market, reached precisely the same demographic as Twilight, females aged 10 and up. Through the time of the series' height, I worked in two very different libraries, a conservative exurb of Chicago and then a poor neighborhood in the inner city, but the craze respected no boundaries--we could not buy enough copies. I wrote then that girls sought these books out because they acknowledged something girls knew--sex was exciting, scary and dark--in a way that the hygienic sex-is-a-wonderful-expression-of-love themes of the the YA problem novels of the day did not. Plus, it's really hard to miss--probably because reading is generally a solitary act--with a book about secrets.

This was of course all pre-Internet. I wonder how the craze would have played out today?

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Step away from the bar, ladies

So SLJ is in trouble with some of its readers over their cover photo of some boozin' bloggers. Honestly, you never know what's going to bring in complaints--and Letters to the Editor are far more frequently objections than compliments. As Monica Edinger (first reprobate to the left) points out, you might expect objections to the Sex and the City cast of the cast (all good-lookin' white girls) but who expected this? And too often, when you want to start a discussion--as I did with the Nikki Grimes article about black people and the Caldecott Medal--you get zip.

But here is one of the treasures from our archive, ripped from a subscriber's magazine, label carefully removed (coward), and mailed to me in an anonymous envelope:

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

More Meta

In Betsy Bird's SLJ article "This Blog's for You" (and I thank her for including Read Roger in the list of "Ten Blogs You Can't Live Without"), she asks a bunch of swell questions:

Do kids' lit bloggers influence publishing decisions? Are library systems basing their purchasing decisions on our recommendations? Should they? And to what extent is a blog about literature for youth a reliable source of information?

My short answers to the first three are not a lot, ditto, and no. As to reliability: while I don't see a lot of misinformation on children's lit blogs and am in fact impressed by the care which with bloggers source their facts, we first need to ask what we mean by information--and it's the answer to this question that tells us why blogs are not, generally, as useful to librarians as Betsy's first three questions would have them be. The glory and the bane of book blogging is its variety. Glory because lots of talented people are saying lots of different things about different topics in different ways to different audiences. Bane because this same riotous abandon confounds any but the most limited usefulness. While an individual can pick up the odd book-buying tip from reading the blogs, a library can't--it needs more systematic information than the blogosphere provides. A library collection based upon blog recommendations would be a mess.

If somebody needs a master's thesis, I wish he or she would take a look at whether or not there is such a thing as a blog-friendly book. We've had lots of discussions about bloggers all pushing the same books at the same time (a phenomenon exacerbated by blog tours) but I wonder if this is less a result of publishers pushing certain titles than it is that some books more than others will appeal to people who like to blog about children's books. Many bloggers are emphatic about their desire to write about books they personally love (and again, if a youth services librarian built a collection on the basis of what he or she loved, the library would be useless to the actual kids allegedly being served). There's a whole sub-genre of children's literature that has found its best audience among the adults who serve children (The Wednesday Wars, for example); does the same thing go on among bloggers?

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Not quite the Myracle it seems

While Scholastic has gotten a lot of press these last couple of weeks about censoring its book club selections, this is not new; the company has been cleaning up its club editions ever since dirty words started appearing in children's books. Six Boxes of Books has the best analysis of the controversy I've seen yet.

Props to SLJ for getting this story out in the first place, but I have to note one thing that skeeved me out about the lede in the original article: "Don't expect to see Lauren Myracle's new book Luv Ya Bunches (Abrams/Amulet, 2009) at Scholastic school book fairs this year. It’s been censored—at least for now—due to its language and homosexual content." Calling the presence in a children's book of a couple of lesbian mothers "homosexual content" is gross unless the two of them are totally going at it.

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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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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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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last one standing, again.

I'm late announcing this but Lois "Shoelace" Lowry has made her BoB choice, and Suzanne Collins totally owes me.

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Poor Lois

I don't envy Lois Lowry her BoB choice between Kingdom on the Waves and The Hunger Games. According to SLJ's poll, public opinion is hardly divided: ol' Octavian has eleven votes while Katnip has 157 and is the top vote getter by far in the pool of sixteen.

I'd go with Kingdom (to short-title a short title), but then I got used to the Roger-Hates-Kids meme back when I was SLJ's YA columnist and let slip that I thought library-sponsored YA kissing contests were stupid. Be strong, Lois!

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Monday, April 20, 2009

I didn't see this coming.

Round 2 of the BoB has begun, with Tim Wynne Jones choosing Kingdom on the Waves over Trouble Begins at Eight. The judges do not have all appeared to get my memo: in this round it was supposed to be Kingdom v. Graveyard Book, Chains v. Tender Morsels, Frankie Landau-Banks v. Hunger Games and Graceling v. Nation.

Everybody except jester-under-the-table Jonathan Hunt is being soooo polite. This makes the competition look a lot less random than it actually is. Think about it: the winner will be chosen via a sequence of fifteen decisions that operate under no common principle, leading in the end to a choice that means nothing. (Go, Lois.) While I'm enjoying the judges' explanations, we each employed criteria exclusive to us and to the two books we were comparing. The winning book will be one that four people liked better, for different reasons, than one other book. A few commenters here and elsewhere have sniped that the BoB is really "all about the judges." As far as I can tell, it's not really about anything else.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Reading Fun with Goofus and Gallant

Okay, handed an easy walk, I politely stepped around the bases, shaking hands with each player as I made my way home.

Goofus, on the other hand . . . .

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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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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

No, I have not twatted,

unlike Stephen Colbert, but I see from Monica that SLJ has set up a Twitter feed for their Battle of the (Kids') Books. As you will see there, I am a first-round judge for this thing but I'm not allowed to tell you anything else just yet. Okay, let me just say this: Girls, you're both pretty.

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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, 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, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Darlings

Hey, I finally made it.

I hope everyone gets some nice uninterrupted recreational reading time over the holidays. I've started my own off with The Exception by Christian Jungersen (Talese/Doubleday), a hugely engrossing mystery/thriller/black comedy (I think) about the employees of a Danish genocide documentation center. The women who work there have been receiving threatening emails and they're all a little bit crazy already, especially Anne-Lise, the center's librarian who thinks the others are Out to Get Her. And they May Be.

To follow up I have some Sarah Waters, Denise Mina, James Lee Burke . . . it's going to be good times in P-town this week.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bounced Back

As a few people have noted on last week's crankypants post, the SLJ site (and the unstoppable Fuse) are rid of the tawdry bijoux that decorated them. It's safe to go back.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blow THIS.

While it was nice to see my picture in the pages of School Library Journal this month, I really need to whine about their over-generous application of quotation marks. Hell would freeze over before I would say, as I am quoted as doing in the March SLJ, "If we didn't have a blog and Web site at Horn, I'd feel threatened, too." The sentiment, I'll take full credit for. But Horn? Horn?? The only people I have ever heard call the Horn Book Horn are overambitious young publicity assistants trying desperately to show how intime they are with the whole, you know, biz.

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