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If you aren’t completely burned out on dystopian fiction, do go see* Snowpiercer, a big, violent, gorgeous, baroque movie about the end of civilization, its last remnant perpetually traveling the ice-covered globe in a nonstop great big train. There is NO love triangle, with eros limited to a couple of crypto-gay warrior-bonding types, and plenty to thrill your (mine, anyway) inner ten-year-old, like an exciting shootout between cars as the train curves around an enormous bend. There’s high camp, too, supplied by Tilda Swinton and Alison Pill as the banality of evil and a gun-toting schoolteacher, respectively. (Wait, did I just repeat myself?) And Ed Harris is on hand, playing–spoiler alert–the very same part he played in The Truman Show.
But best of all is the look of the thing, from the icy landscapes and ruined, empty cities the train charges through to the train itself, from the squalid cars at the back where the slave labor lives to the sleek sushi bar, spa, and disco for the more privileged passengers at the front. One of the more subversive elements of the film is the way it gets you to think “why, yes, I could totally enjoy watching from the dome car as the world freezes to death. Waiter!”
The ending–spoiler alert again–is beautifully and starkly ambiguous. Life or death. I understand that the French graphic novel on which the movie is based has a sequel, but truly: none needed.
*In a movie theater, if you can. While the film is available on TV as an on-demand feature, you really want the big screen and sound for this one.
The post A winter’s tale appeared first on The Horn Book.
I was very sorry to read that Nancy Garden died on Monday. While she wrote in just about every children’s-book genre there is, it’s Annie on My Mind that made her immortal, and led to her parallel, equally admirable, career as a defender of intellectual freedom in libraries and communities across the nation.
The first starred review I ever wrote was for Annie, for SLJ back in 1982. I revisited the book twenty-five years later for the Horn Book.
The post Thanks for Annie, Nancy. appeared first on The Horn Book.
Off to New York tomorrow for a little 70s nostalgia (Richard is such a good sport), some modern dance (I am such a good sport), love and murder, and, oh yes, the announcement of the 2014 winners of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. I’ll be revealing the fated few at 1:00PM on Saturday at a press conference in the Librarians’ Lounge at BEA in the Javits Center, booth #663. You are all cordially invited but for those who can’t make it, Katrina will be tweeting @HornBook as we go, and the whole shebang will be up on the website Saturday afternoon.
The post Not so far away appeared first on The Horn Book.
from the English National Opera production of The Death of Klinghoffer
The Metropolitan Opera’s cancellation of the announced HD broadcast of The Death of Klinghoffer is galling for a number of reasons. The Met’s decision to stage the opera (albeit with a note in the program by Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, who have condemned the work as anti-Semitic) but not broadcast it will please nobody. It is also alarming to see Met General Manager Peter Gelb cave so easily, especially in light of his reaction to those who, because of Russia’s anti-gay antics, protested the Met’s opening night performance last year of Eugene Onegin, featuring Putin supporters Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev:
We stand against the significant human rights abuses that take place every day in many countries. But as an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.
He was right then and therefore he’s wrong now. But if you are still with me and not wondering when this blog turned into Parterre Box, the cynical and specious reasoning Gelb gives for the cancellation of the broadcast is exactly what libraries hear every damn time somebody challenges a book:
I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “But I’ve also become convinced that there is genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.
Censors are almost never worried about the dangers poised by a book to themselves, or to their own invariably brilliant children. They worry about other children. Even leaving aside Gelb’s attempt to grease himself out of the argument and blame it on the Jews, the idea that somehow unthinking anti-Semitic hordes were going to attend an HD broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera across Europe and then–well, and then what, exactly? Censors are also never very clear about just what they expect to happen to people upon reading or viewing an objectionable work. But apparently Americans with enough cash to attend a live Met performance of this opera will be fine; it’s those Other People we have to worry about. It’s ALWAYS the Other People they’re worried about.
The post This is not just about opera appeared first on The Horn Book.
My old Chicago pal Ilene Cooper and I are interviewed by my other old Chicago pal Elizabeth Law at Elizabeth’s new blog, Into the Words.
The post Small world, isn’t it? appeared first on The Horn Book.
See some of you in Las Vegas, I hope. My friend Ruth is taking me to see Nature and the Hoover Dam on Friday but I’ll be bouncing around the exhibit hall on Saturday and Sunday, with periodic stops at the Horn Book booth, #829. Martha P. will be there too, so do say hello if you see one of us.
(I see that Danny Ocean over there needs a little help with his Newbery-Caldecott Banquet bow tie, so if you’ll excuse me . . . .)
The post ALAs Vegas appeared first on The Horn Book.
Elf on the shelf. Her nephew told me I was making Bertha laugh in Heaven, so that’s something.
The post Moving moment No. 12 appeared first on The Horn Book.
I hope you jumped on those Sutherland Lecture tickets yesterday because they are gone baby gone–I understand that even the waiting list is full. A big fan of John Green’s books, I am nevertheless nervous about being in an auditorium filled with John Green Girls, beautiful, complicated and ka-razy creatures that they are. Or do I infer too much? Come say hello–I’ll be the flustered chaperone in the corner.
In the meantime I am off to White Plains today to visit Brian Kenney’s library and speak to the Youth Services Section of NYLA tomorrow morning. Then a weekend with our lovely Dutch friends in Rye, taking the adorable Julia, Mads, and Lizze to see Matilda on Broadway, for what else are fee peetvaders for?
The post A true Dutch treat appeared first on The Horn Book.
I feel like the Fisherman’s Wife here–now that I have a window in my office, I want sunshine.
But we are getting accustomed to our new quarters, scary warnings in the cafeteria about noroviruses notwithstanding. We even managed a star meeting! The following books will receive starred reviews in the May/June issue of The Horn Book Magazine:
The Baby Tree; written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Paulsen/Penguin)
Gaston; by Kelly DiPucchio; illus. by Christian Robinson (Atheneum)
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom; by Angela Johnson; illus. by E. B. Lewis (Simon)
The Last Forever; by Deb Caletti (Simon Pulse)
We Were Liars; by E. Lockhart (Delacorte)
West of the Moon; by Margi Preus (Amulet/Abrams)
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker; by Patricia Hruby Powell; illus. by Christian Robinson (Chronicle)
The post May/June Horn Book Magazine starred books appeared first on The Horn Book.
Twice in the past week I’ve been asked to opine publicly about the future of books and libraries for children, first at the NYLA conference in White Plains and then at the investiture of Eileen Abels as the new dean of the Simmons GSLIS. I had far fewer answers than questions, which I present to you for possible mastication:
Whenever I worry about the future of publishing and, in particular, the demand for professional book reviews in an increasingly Amazoned world, I think, “well, I could always go back to being a librarian again.” I’m twenty-five years out from the Chicago Public Library but I still hold my union card in the form of an MA from Chicago’s Graduate Library School (itself gone for almost a quarter century as well).
But then I think, could I? My library school curriculum included no courses in electronic reference, never mind the web, which did not yet exist. In Don Swanson’s required computer class, we learned assembly language and how to program IBM punch cards. As a children’s librarian in the early 80s, I worked at a branch that boasted the first public-access microcomputer in a public library, the brain child of branch manager Patrick Dewey. Adults used it to access BBS networks; kids used it to play Pong-like games and use very elementary, black-and-white, educational programs. For story hours, our idea of high-tech was a filmstrip projector.
Still I tell myself that the basics of library work with children remain the same as when I was working in the 80s and in fact when Anne Carroll Moore and Alice Jordan, cheered on by the Horn Book’s Bertha Mahony Miller, were establishing children’s librarianship as a profession a century ago: Library service based in book collections and storytelling, presided over by librarians with deep knowledge of literature and methods of bringing children and books together. Last week I was at the White Plains Public Library in New York and while the place was so high-tech that I expected lasers to shoot from the ceiling, books—regular old print books—were everywhere.
How long will this remain true? As reading becomes increasingly at one with the ether, will librarians have a place? As even reader’s advisory becomes more automated and egalitarian, to whom do we give advice? If there is no physical collection of books to maintain and promote, what do our jobs become? I would like to believe that there are 21st century Alice Jordans ready to colonize and civilize the brave new digital world, and I hope that our library schools are getting these pioneers packed and ready.
The post What’s a children’s librarian to do? appeared first on The Horn Book.
So the Rialto, CA, school district has decided that maybe it’s NOT a good idea to have eighth-graders debate the existence of the Holocaust. I’m of two minds (Opposing Viewpoints: In My Head). While I see the chance for much mischief in such an assignment and believe middle school is too early for the kind of fact- and viewpoint-evaluation the topic requires, I also think this is a great focus for teaching high school students how to navigate truth, history, and propaganda. It could provide what the Common Core–at its best–asks students to do: “to use cogent reasoning and evidence collection skills that are essential for success in college, career, and life.”
Just so we’re clear: I’m not asking schools to “teach the controversy,” allowing students to decide for themselves in an all-viewpoints-are-respected-here kind of way about the historical reality of the Nazi genocide. What this lesson should instead teach them is how to distinguish facts from the ravings of racist whackjobs. The Anti-Defamation League’s L.A. office called the assignment dangerous, citing “the large volume of misinformation” on the internet, but doesn’t that volume also mean that people need to learn how to recognize pernicious claptrap when it’s presented to them?
The post P.S. Evolution is real appeared first on The Horn Book.
I was jawing on the radio yesterday about Common Sense Media’s latest report on the woeful state of young people reading for pleasure. I dunno–kids have been reported to be reading less than they used at least ever since I got into this business thirty-five years ago. If this were in fact true, you’d think we wouldn’t have any readers at all left by now and yet we do. (In fact, one of the most enlightening things about the Common Sense report is that way down at the bottom they point out how much reading surveys contradict each other, becoming, like a fourth-grader’s report about Uruguay, “a study in contrasts.”)
The post I see you’re still reading appeared first on The Horn Book.
I can’t decide if the p.r. disaster that was the Children’s Choice Awards last night is exacerbated or ameliorated by the fact that the Children’s Book Council website is down this morning (and, according to Facebook) has been offline since the announcements last night.(Edit 11.45AM:It’s back up.) I do know that the CBCBook Twitter account went silent for what were supposed to be the big announcements of the night: Author of the Year (Rush Limbaugh) and Illustrator of the Year (Grace, uh, Lee).
Predictably, there’s a lot of social media outrage about Rush’s win–accusations of inaccuracy in his book, Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims; accusations of stacking the deck and/or ballot fraud–but really, it’s just people being mad that Rush Limbaugh won. Any inaccuracies are beside the point, because the winner of this award is determined by popular vote. It really is a popularity contest. And if Rush had his Dittoheads auto-voting through the wee hours–well, welcome to the Internet. In the case of the Illustrator prize (for Sofia the First: The Floating Island, a Disney TV-tie-in product), I’m guessing that little kids presented with the webpage of the nominees (all chosen by virtue of being bestsellers) pointed their little fingers at Sofia, screeching “Da one wid da pwincess, Daddy! DA ONE WID DA PWINCESS!!” (I really am guessing here, as the marketing departments for Simon & Schuster (Rush Revere) and Disney chose not to send these books to us for review.)
The Author and Illustrator of the Year Awards were piled on top of the IRA-CBC Children’s Choice Awards some years back because those winners weren’t usually very sexy and did not attract sponsorship money or media attention. Now they have a glam, pricey event and lots of attention. These awards worked exactly the way they were supposed to. But I bet they won’t work this way next year.
The post The elephant was in the room appeared first on The Horn Book.
The Boston Globe-Horn Book Award judges will be meeting in Boston this weekend to make their decisions. Anyone have any inside dirt? I’ll be announcing the winners on Saturday, May 31st at BEA, 1:00PM in the Librarians’ Lounge at Javits.
The post They ARE judging you appeared first on The Horn Book.
If you’re coming to BEA, please join 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner Rebecca Stead and me on Thursday as we announce the winners of the 2012 BGHB Awards, live with champagne, in the Librarians’ Lounge (booth #2148), 1:00PM, at the Javits Convention Center. If you can’t be there, we (fingers crossed and prayers sent aloft) will be showing a video of the announcement Thursday afternoon (threeish? fourish?) at www.hbook.com. All I’m gonna tell you NOW is that our judges did a GREAT job.
I was out for a run the morning of the 4th when a squadron of Blue Angels came zooming across the sky in formation. The contrast between the Olmsted-ordered beauty of my surroundings (see above, near Ward’s Pond in Jamaica Plain) and the high-tech menace above made me feel like I was in The Giver. So then my thoughts wandered to Lois Lowry’s latest novel, Son, fourth and presumably last in what the publisher is now calling the Giver Quartet.
I like the book (it will be reviewed in the September issue of the Horn Book Magazine) but I do wonder about the wisdom (aesthetic if not commercial) of going to the same well too often. Any time I speak to an audience that includes library students, I plead with one of them to make a master’s thesis (do library school students still write master’s theses? Masters’ theses?) of the intersection of Newbery attention and sequel publication. There are tons of variables, including the fact that no fewer than five Newbery Medals have gone to books that were sequels to books that had previously won Newbery Honors. At least fifteen Newbery winners have spawned sequels, sometimes where you would expect (as with Susan Cooper’s ongoing Dark Is Rising series, or Cynthia’s Voigt’s further adventures of the Tillerman kids) but often where you would not, as with Julie of the Wolves or The Giver or Shiloh. None of these stories needed to keep going, and one thing I like about all those books is the way they end. Here’s hoping Dead End in Norvelt is true to its title.
As we (WE?, the staff snarks) pack up the offices for our move at the end of this month, it’s just one madeleine after another as old toys and treasure unveil themselves from the shadowed recesses, bringing with them the little joies and horreurs of années passées.
Martha uncovered this copy of Magid Fasts for Ramadan, a pleasant little chapter book we reviewed back in 1996. This was my first object lesson in the necessity of careful proofreading, as it was not until the final pass through the July issue blues that we saw that somewhere along the line the title in the review had been changed to “Magid FEASTS for Ramadan.” So much for cultural sensitivity!
The post Moving moments No. 1 appeared first on The Horn Book.
Cindy found this one, The Light at Tern Rock by Julia Sauer, a Newbery Honor Book in 1952–and originally published in the Horn Book Magazine in 1949. This would seem to break the award’s rule about “original work,” that the “text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form.” But maybe the rule was different then? Or perhaps here as so often, he says, drawing his emeralds warmly about him*, the Horn Book was above any such petty restrictions as criteria.
K.T. Horning, do you know?
The post Moving moments No. 2 appeared first on The Horn Book.
A good writer and a good friend, taken too soon.
The post Moving moment No. 5 appeared first on The Horn Book.
SLJ’s Battle of the Books is underway, and let me just say how glad I am that the judges are being (relatively) tough.
The post BoB appeared first on The Horn Book.
Ooh, who remembers this one? In 1982, the library systems of Chicago, Milwaukee, and San Francisco banned Margot Zemach’s Jake and Honeybunch Go to Heaven from their collections (Chicago, from where I followed the whole story avidly, did include it in its two regional research libraries). Unlike the headlines, still popular today, that too-loosely use the term “censorship” to describe any effort to remove a book from a library (it ain’t censorship unless the effort succeeds), this was the real thing: local governments, through their libraries, actively refusing to stock a book because of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This was the book that made me realize that librarians could be their own worst enemies: I recall one librarian interviewed in an NPR story about the flap who actually said, “when WE do it, it’s selection, not censorship.” That is exactly backwards.
The post Moving moment No. 6 appeared first on The Horn Book.
One of the best friends the Horn Book has.
The post Moving moment No. 7 appeared first on The Horn Book.
A literary genius–I do not use the word lightly–a gifted painter, and she had PERFECT PENMANSHIP.
The post Moving moment No. 8 appeared first on The Horn Book.
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Block that metaphor!
The post Moving moment No. 9 appeared first on The Horn Book.