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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Notes from the Horn Book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Oh look, another newsletter

WMAG_narrative_nonfiction_728x144Look for The Horn Book’s new quarterly newsletter, WHAT MAKES A GOOD…? debuting on August 26th with “What Makes Good Narrative Nonfiction?” The issue features Five Questions for Steve Sheinkin, an essay about how to select NNF by the Junior Library Guild’s Deborah Brittain Ford, and brief reviews of our choices for the best narrative nonfiction published for kids and teens in the last few years. If you are already a subscriber to any of our newsletters you will receive this one automagically; otherwise you can sign up here. It’s free!

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2. From the Editor – August 2015

Roger_EdBriant_191x300I’m happy to announce that Susan Cooper will be keynoting “Transformations,” the 2015 Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, to be held at Simmons College on October 3rd, following the presentation of the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards the evening before. Susan, who won the BGHB Fiction Award in 1973 for The Dark Is Rising (and wrote about transformations in the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine) will be joined by Candace Fleming, Marla Frazee, and others in consideration of the theme, and we would love for you to join us. You can sign up for early-bird registration here; your ticket will also secure you a spot at the invitation-only BGHB ceremony on October 2nd.

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Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

From the August 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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3. This is my life

Memoirs capture moments in time, those events that are formative or emblematic or otherwise meaningful for their subjects. Surprising, intimate, cathartic — Brown Girl Dreaming, El Deafo, Becoming Maria (see Randy Ribay’s interview with Sonia Manzano), the new books below, and these recommended by the Horn Book Guide, for example — memoirs offer glimpses into the larger picture of a life.

gantos_trouble in meFourteen-year-old Jack Gantos was a “drifty kid who was lost at sea…easily led off course.” Bored with his own life, he tried to be somebody else and fell into the orbit of juvenile delinquent neighbor Gary Pagoda. In The Trouble in Me, Gantos effectively narrates his own story, reviewing portions of his life to identify what led him to abandon his “better self” in favor of later becoming a drug smuggler who ended up in a federal penitentiary. As explained in the afterword, this volume acts as a preface to Hole in My Life, and readers who read both will experience the full arc of Jack’s wild behavior, severe consequences, and, ultimately, redemption. (Farrar, 14 years and up)

jimenez_taking holdIn Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University — the fourth volume of Francisco Jiménez’s memoir series (starting with The Circuit) — the author delivers a moving account of his graduate school years at Columbia University during the turbulent 1960s, paying particular attention to those friends and mentors who helped shape his intellectual pursuits and academic career path. He also relates his courtship and marriage to his college sweetheart, Laura, and the birth of their two children. Throughout it all, Jiménez never forgets his beginnings as the child of migrant farm workers, frequently alluding to and briefly recapitulating events from earlier volumes. His ingratiating storytelling—who else could make these years of adulthood such a compelling read for teens?—makes us root for him to succeed. (Houghton, 14 years and up)

engle_enchanted airAuthor and poet Margarita Engle explores her own past in Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, a collection of emotionally rich memory poems. The daughter of a Don Quixote–obsessed American artist of Ukrainian Jewish descent and a beautiful homesick Cuban émigrée, Engle describes joyful visits to her mother’s homeland as a child. She then vividly contrasts the smoggy air of sprawling Los Angeles with the enchanted air of that small, magical-seeming island, and at first going between the two cultures is fairly seamless. But then there’s the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and suddenly all is different. Engle’s personal reverie gives young readers an intimate view of a complicated time and life. (Atheneum, 12–16 years)

From the August 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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4. From the Editor – July 2015

Roger_EdBriant_191x300I’m just back from ALA in San Francisco (conveniently also home to my two adorable grandchildren), where the term I kept hearing throughout the exhibit halls was narrative nonfiction (last year it was bullying). As is so often true of these trends, the term meant different things to different people, with definitions ranging from “like Steve Sheinkin” to “informational books with a beginning, middle, and end” to “Core Standards–ready with a story besides.” Me, I just kept thinking of Henrik Van Loon’s The Story of Mankind, but I suppose reinvention is what keeps us young!

Van Loon won the first Newbery Medal in 1922, too early for us to have included his acceptance speech in the Horn Book Magazine‘s pages. But this year’s winner’s speech (by Kwame Alexander, along with those for the Caldecott, Wilder, and Coretta Scott King awards) are all in our current July/August issue, itself graced with a cover created by 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat. I think it’s quite one of the most spectacular issues we’ve published; go here for information about how to get a copy for yourself.

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Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

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5. Books mentioned in the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Ann Bausum
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum, Viking, 11–15 years.

Lives and times
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer, illus. by Anna Hymas, Dial, 9–12 years.
March: Book Two by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell, Top Shelf Productions, 11–15 years.
March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illus. by Nate Powell, Top Shelf Productions, 11–15 years.
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose, Farrar, 11–15 years.
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal, Roaring Brook, 11–15 years.

Hoppy for Poppy
Tad and Dad by David Ezra Stein, Penguin/Paulsen, 2–5 years.
The Big Princess by Taro Miura, Candlewick, 3–6 years.
The Tiny King by Taro Miura, Candlewick, 3–6 years.
Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illus. by Suzy Lee, Houghton, 3–6 years.
Emu by Claire Saxby, illus. by Graham Byrne, Candlewick, 5–8 years.

In summer
Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure by Nadja Spiegelman, illus. by Sergio Garcia Sanchez, colors by Lola Moral, TOON, 5–8 years.
Lulu and the Hamster in the Night by Hilary McKay, illus. by Priscilla Lamont, Whitman, 5–8 years.
Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr, trans. from the Norwegian by Guy Puzey, illus. by Kate Forrester, Candlewick, 6–9 years.
Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb, illus. by Eliza Wheeler, Candlewick, 6–9 years.

Listen, laugh, and learn
The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, read by the author, Listening Library, 8–11 years.
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, read by Noah Galvin, Recorded Books, 8–11 years.
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins, read by Jessica Almasy, Recorded Books, 9–12 years.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm, read by Georgette Perna, Listening Library, 10–14 years.

From the June 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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6. Bad company

Conspiracy theory or everyday life? These new YA novels — three thrillers and one dark comedy — star teen protagonists finding their places in worlds manipulated by not-so-scrupulous corporations.

myers_on a clear dayWalter Dean Myers’s posthumously published On a Clear Day takes place in 2035. The Central Eight (C-8) companies rule everything, enriching themselves while the rest of society suffers. Millions are starving, schools have closed, and everyone seems to ignore the collateral damage caused by the seductive “marvelous gadgets” the companies sell. Hope lies in small bands of resistance such as the one joined by sixteen-year-old math whiz Dahlia Grillo. Dahlia is an appealing protagonist in a troubling world not far removed from our own. (Crown, 14 years and up)

bacigalupi_doubt factoryMoses Cruz, leader of a diverse group of orphan teens, has targeted Alix Banks in order to destroy his real objective: her father, whose PR firm defends harmful products sold by Fortune 500 companies. Moses shatters Alix’s sheltered, privileged existence — stalking and kidnapping her — in hopes that she’ll help expose her father’s corruption. In his compelling thriller The Doubt Factory, Paolo Bacigalupi excels at creating two fully rounded narrators: Alix, who transforms from naive rich-girl to activist, and Moses, enigmatic, dangerous, yet somehow likable. (Little, Brown, 14 years and up)

rubin_denton little's death dateIn seventeen-year-old Denton’s world, AstroThanatoGenetics makes it possible — and the U.S. government makes it mandatory — to know the date of a person’s death at the time of their birth. On the morning of his funeral, Denton wakes up in his best friend’s sister’s bed, unsure of whether he’s cheated on his girlfriend. He then spends his deathdate (also the day of his senior prom) wondering how he’ll go — and there are plenty of possibilities. Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin has dark humor in spades, plus fully developed relationships and a mystery that will keep pages turning. (Knopf, 14 years and up)

lippert-martin_tabula rasaIn Kristen Lippert-Martin’s Tabula Rasa, Sarah is one of several young patients in a remote state-of-the-art hospital, living in isolation while doctors surgically remove their memories. Before her final treatment can be completed — and after Sarah has taken a covertly delivered pill that may release her damaged memories — soldiers attack the hospital, killing patients and doctors alike. Sarah taps into a forgotten cache of strength, agility, and tactical instinct to evade the intruders, but to escape the hospital she must ally herself with friendly-but-cagey hacker Thomas. Mysteries stack upon mysteries in this gripping, multifaceted thriller. (Egmont, 12–16 years)

From the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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7. ABC, easy as 123

Who says ABC books are just for babies? Why can’t you mix up some colors using just your finger, no paint? The following concept books defy conventions — and expectations.

tullet_mix it upIn Mix It Up!, Hervé Tullet follows the same format as in his hugely entertaining Press Here, but this time the play is focused on colors and what happens when you mix them. Children are directed to press on color splotches or to shake or tilt the book to make the colors “mix” or “run.” Turn the pages to see the results. For example, “If you rub the two colors [red and blue] together really hard…then what happens?” (Page-turn: purple!) Lots of fun, with no messy cleanup. (Chronicle/Handprint, 2–5 years)

carter_b is for boxThat bright, friendly cube from David A. Carter’s The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites is back in B Is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box. This time it’s taking a trip through the alphabet, encouraging children to use pull-tabs, lift-the-flaps, and other interactive features every step of the way. The white text and chalklike drawings on black backgrounds introduce multiple upper- and lowercase letters per page. The bold color contrasts and carefully engineered surprises make for a high-energy alphabet book. (Little Simon, 2–5 years)

jeffers_once-upon-an-alphabetEach letter of the alphabet gets its own little four-page story in Oliver Jeffers’s Once Upon an Alphabet. The tales are clever, silly, and thought-provoking; some of them overlap, with characters making their way in and out of one another’s stories. Jeffers’s loose-lined illustrations include lots of visual humor that will appeal to older children who already know their ABCs but can still appreciate a good alphabet book. (Philomel, 5–8 years)

ramstein_before afterThe wordless Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui presents before-and-after sequences: night to day, acorn to oak tree, etc. As the book progresses, some of the sequences become longer (sheep to wool to knitting to sweater), as simple transitions make way for more complex or philosophical ones. Clean, subdued-palette digital illustrations help pave the way for thoughtful discussion. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

From the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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8. Five questions for Lucy Cousins

lucycousinsIf you know any little girls named Maisy (or Tallulah; or, for that matter, any little boys named Cyril), chances are good that it’s because of Lucy Cousins. Her indomitable little-girl-mouse is beloved by toddlers and their grownups the world over, making Cousins one proud mama.

1. Your latest Maisy book — Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep! (Candlewick, 2–5 years) — is a large-format, lift-the-flap book. You’ve also done Maisy board books, hardcovers, cloth books, Maisy First Science and Arts-and-Crafts books, books with stickers, etc., etc. How do you decide? Does form follow content?

LC: I like to try out any new ideas for Maisy that I can think of. Maybe it’s because she is quite a graphic character, she seems to work well in many different formats. Because the age range for Maisy is so wide, from a young baby who is just grasping things and looking intently to a child who enjoys stories and details, it means there is such a variety of book styles to create. A chunky book is great for a tiny child who might put the book in the mouth and drop it on the floor, whereas an older child will enjoy sitting quietly and studying the pictures and following a story. Whatever the age, I like there to be a choice of Maisy books, some just for fun, some for learning, some for stories. So I aim to create pictures and ideas or stories that are relevant to the format of the book.

2. You’ve introduced American children to some unusual-to-them names (Maisy, for one; also Tallulah, which is very cute to hear toddlers try to say!). How do you name your characters?

LC: I find naming characters a very difficult thing. I have a few dictionaries of names, which are usually for naming babies, and initially go through all the names starting with the same letter as the animal I’m trying to name. Or I think of names that sound nice phonetically. When I named Maisy, the name was familiar, but only really used by people of my grandparents’ generation. I just loved the sound of it, a soft and friendly name. Now it has become quite a popular name, and I sometimes meet children called Maisy and Tallulah when I am signing books. I was quite excited when my son came home after his first term at university and told us that his new girlfriend’s name is… Tallulah!

cousins_count with maisy cheep cheep cheep3. You’re well known for your work in those bright, bold colors. Have you done work in other styles, or using different media?

LC: I developed my style of illustration using bright blocks of color and a bold black outline while I was studying at art college. It feels very comfortable and natural to paint like that, so I enjoy mostly working in that style. Occasionally I have tried a slightly different approach. For example, my book I’m the Best (Candlewick, 2–5 years) was created with colored inks and a chunky graphite pencil. In the early days of Maisy, I had quite a lot of creative input into the developing of the TV series and merchandising, and I enjoyed working in those different mediums. I love doing creative things for fun, almost anything, from pottery to photography to knitting. But life has been so busy bringing up my four children and creating my books, that I haven’t had much time for experimenting.

4. Maisy is a toddler icon. Do you hear much from nostalgic ten-year-olds?

LC: Yes, it’s always lovely to hear memories of people enjoying Maisy. Especially from six-foot-tall teenage friends of my children. Parents sometimes tell me heartwarming stories about how a Maisy book has been very special to their child during a difficult time, like a hospital visit, or starting a new nursery school. I work in a solitary way, for weeks and months on my books, and sometimes it can be quite a struggle, so it means a lot when I hear about a child who loves Maisy.

5. Following Hello Kitty-gate, do you think of your character as a girl-sized mouse? Or a mouse-shaped girl? Or neither?

LC: I have to say that it is not something I think about, or am inclined to try and understand. For me, she is just Maisy, in Maisy’s world, and it’s completely separate from our world. When I did the very first drawing of Maisy about twenty-five years ago, I could picture her character and her world, and it’s always seemed to me that it’s best not to question that vision. If I start to think about why she is a mouse who behaves like a child, has no parents or family, can do things only adults can do, and is completely independent, it all seems rather confusing. Even her sex is rather ambiguous to me. She is officially a female, but that is a very unimportant part of who she is. She likes wearing trousers and mucking out pigs as much as dancing and baking.  So, Maisy is just Maisy. Simple.

From the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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9. From the Editor – February 2015

Roger_EdBriant_191x300The ALA has spoken, and this year’s roster of awards for children’s and young adult books is impressively diverse and Diverse. The forthcoming issue of The Horn Book Herald includes all the lowdown about the Newbery, Caldecott and other book awards announced earlier this month in Chicago — and 2015 Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander gets the Horn Book’s five-question treatment. Look for the Herald in your inbox next week.

roger_signature

Roger Sutton,
Editor in Chief

From the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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10. Books mentioned in the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Lucy Cousins
Count with Maisy, Cheep, Cheep, Cheep! by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick, 2–5 years.
I’m the Best by Lucy Cousins, Candlewick, 2–5 years.

ABC, easy as 123

Mix It Up! by Herve Tullét, Chronicle, 2–5 years.
Press Here by Herve Tullét, Handprint/Chronicle, 2–5 years.
The Happy Little Yellow Box: A Pop-Up Book of Opposites by David A. Carter, Little Simon, 2–5 years.
B Is for Box: The Happy Little Yellow Box by David A. Carter, Little Simon, 2–5 years.
Once Upon an Alphabet: Stories for Each Letter by Oliver Jeffers, Philomel, 5–8 years.
Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthais Aregui, Candlewick, 5–8 years.

Be-bop-a-skoodley!
Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryne Russell-Brown, illus. by Frank Morrison, Lee & Low, 5–8 years.
Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century by Carole Boston Weatherford, illus. by Raúl Colón, Knopf, 5–8 years.
Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan, illus. by John Holyfield, Amistad/HarperCollins, 5–8 years.
Bird & Diz by Gary Golio, illus. by Ed Young, Candlewick, 5–8 years.

(Not-so) long ago or far away
Bo at Iditarod Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill, illus. by LeUyen Pham, Holt, 8–12 years.
Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill, illus. by LeUyen Pham, Holt, 8–12 years.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, Dial, 8–12 years.
Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper, Atheneum, 8–12 years.
The Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine, Putnam, 8–12 years.

Bad company
On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers, Crown, 14 years and up.
The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi, Little, Brown, 14 years and up.
Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin, Knopf, 14 years and up.
Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin, Egmont, 12–14 years.

These titles were featured in the February 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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11. Books mentioned in the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Nikki Grimes
Poems in the Attic by Nikki Grimes, illus. by Elizabeth Zunon, Lee & Low, 5–8 years.
A Pocketful of Poems by Nikki Grimes, illus. by Javaka Steptoe, Clarion, 5–8 years.

Versatile verse
Wonton and Chopstick by Lee Wardlaw, illus. by Eugene Yelchin, Holt, 5–8 years.
A Poem in Your Pocket by Margaret McNamara, illus. by G. Brian Karas, Random/Schwartz & Wade, 5–8 years.
Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown, Ottaviano/Holt, 7–10 years.
The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Chris Raschka, Candlewick, 7–10 years.

The early bird
You Can Do It, Bert! by Ole Könnecke, trans. from the German by Catherine Chidgey, Gecko, 2–5 years.
Smick! by Doreen Cronin, illus. by Juana Medina, Viking, 2–5 years.
You Nest Here With Me by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illus. by Melissa Sweet, Boyds Mills, 2–5 years.
P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis, Peachtree, 4–7 years.

Fearless females
Moonpenny Island by Tricia Springstubb, illus. by Gilbert Ford, Harper/Balzer + Bray, 9–12 years.
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, Knopf, 9–12 years.
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Susan Vaught, Simon/Wiseman, 9–12 years.
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, Dial, 9–12 years.

Life, death, and football
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Penguin/Dutton, 14 years and up.
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith, Penguin/Dutton, 14 years and up.
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds, Atheneum, 14 years and up.
When I was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds, Atheneum, 14 years and up.
The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner, Houghton, 14 years and up.
Hit Count by Chris Lynch, Algonquin, 14 years and up.

These titles were featured in the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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12. From the Editor – April 2015

Roger_EdBriant_191x300The Academy of American Poets chose wisely back in 1996 when they designated April as National Poetry Month. A book of poetry is the perfect choice for outdoor reading in spring. You can open to one page and put your hands back in your pockets to warm while you read. You can pay attention to all the tiny things popping up about you without losing your place. You can stop reading and just look at the shape of the words on the page while you take in some bird talk. While poetry is often compared to (and paired with) music, I think its artistic equivalent is more like sculpture: the poem stays in one place while you wander around it, taking in not just its shape but how it sits in the world that surrounds it. So pick up a poem and find a bench.

roger_signature

Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from Horn Book.

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13. Versatile verse

National Poetry Month (better known as April) celebrates a form that can be used in myriad ways to explore any topic imaginable. Here are two collections of poems with themes in common, and two books that use poetry to help tell a larger story.

wardlaw_won ton and chopstickA kitty named Won Ton makes his second appearance in Lee Wardlaw’s Won Ton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku. Won Ton’s first-person haiku narrate his adjustment to the arrival of a new puppy. At first things do not go well — “Ears perk. Fur prickles. / Belly low, I creep…peek…FREEZE! / My eyes full of Doom.” — but eventually the two find common ground in their mutual love of their little-boy owner. The interrelated haiku together create a story of gradual friendship, but each can also stand alone, capturing Won Ton’s quintessential felineness (“Nap, play, bathe, nap, eat, repeat.”). Eugene Yelchin’s graphite and gouache illustrations contrast the sleek gray cat with the roly-poly brown puppy; pastel backgrounds highlight the pets’ expressive faces and body language. (Holt, 5–8 years)

mcnamara_poem in your pocketElinor, star of the picture book A Poem in Your Pocket, initially feels confident in her poetry-writing ability, but her firm grasp of terms like simile and metaphor doesn’t mean she can write great poetry herself. She gets more and more worried as the class prepares for a visit by a famous poet. Author Margaret McNamara slyly works in a lot of information about poetry while keeping the focus on Elinor’s dilemma. Examples of poetry the kids come up with may inspire young readers to attempt their own writing, especially since G. Brian Karas’s gouache, acrylic, and pencil pictures make the diverse group of classmates look like they’re having a great time. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 5–8 years)

brown_hypnotize a tigerCalef Brown’s collection Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything ends with an invitation to write your own poetry, but the whole book is such an invitation. Brown takes several kids’-book conventions — such as the celebration of the outlier, weird animals, and complaints about school — and gives them fresh energy. He even infuses the yucky-foods trope with original twists (the Loofah Torte is particularly startling). From the bottom margin, a peanut gallery of creatures much given to puns comment on the poems and offer their own. Black-and-white drawings add to the jauntiness and the welcoming, joyous mood. (Holt/Ottaviano, 7–10 years)

janczko_death of the hatIn their fourth collaboration, The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects, selector Paul B. Janeczko and illustrator Chris Raschka offer readers fifty poems whose origins range from the early Middle Ages to the postmodern and contemporary eras. The poems are unified by a common theme — each is about an object — and organized chronologically. Raschka’s soft, impressionistic watercolors showcase each poem, visually encouraging readers to keep reading. Expect variety in the selections, from old favorites such as “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stevenson to “Grainfield” by Ibn ‘Iyād to Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to a Stamp Album.” (Candlewick, 7–10 years)

From the April 2015 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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14. April’s Notes issue

In our April edition of Notes from the Horn Book, we’re celebrating National Poetry Month by chatting with poet Nikki Grimes about her new picture book, Poems in the Attic. Other goodies in this issue:

  • more poetry books for primary and intermediate readers
  • spring-y picture books about birds
  • grrl-power intermediate and middle-school fiction
  • YA about teen boys facing tough challenges

april 15 notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — and its supplement Nonfiction Notes — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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15. May Notes

The May edition of Notes from the Horn Book is on its way! An interview with Last Stop on Market Street illustrator Christian Robinson kicks it off, followed by

  • more picture books celebrating grandmas
  • picture-book musician biographies
  • intermediate fantasy with a hint of creepiness
  • historical fiction for teens

may 2015 notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — along with Nonfiction Notes and Talks with Roger — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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16. Books mentioned in the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Julie Berry
All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry, Viking, 14 years and up.
The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry, Roaring Brook, 11–14 years.

Eerie places
Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf, trans. by John Nieuwenhuizen, Enchanted Lion, 9–12 years.
Greenglass House by Kate Milford, illus. by Jaime Zollars, Clarion, 9–12 years.
Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, trans. by Lucia Graves, Little, Brown, 10–14 years.
The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief and Sinister by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Clarie Legrand, and Emma Trevayne, illus. by Alexander Jansson, Greenwillow, 10–14 years.

Off-the-wall picture books
Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, illus. by the author, Roaring Brook/Porter, 3–6 years.
Ninja! by Aree Chung, illus. by the author, Holt, 3–6 years.
What There Is Before There Is Anything There by Liniers, illus. by the author, trans. by Elisa Amato, Groundwood, 3–6 years.
What If? by Anthony Browne, illus. by the author, Candlewick, 3–6 years.

YA supernatural baddies
Jackaby by William Ritter, Algonquin, 12–16 years.
The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters, Abrams/Amulet, 12–16 years.
Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan, Candlewick, 12–16 years.
Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen, Candlewick, 14 years and up.

Atmospheric audiobooks
Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison, Listening Library, 10–14 years.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, Listening Library, 12–16 years.
The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, read by Olivia Mackenzie-Smith, Listening Library, 14 years and up.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, read by Ariadne Meyers, Listening Library, 14 years and up.

These titles were featured in the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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17. Eerie places

A creepy space can go a long way in creating the tone for a scary story. These novels all transport readers to places that are likely to give them the willies.

lindelauf nine open arms Eerie placesA building is the main character in Benny Lindelauf’s Dutch import Nine Open Arms. A family of nine moves into the titular rundown brick house in 1930s Holland and tries to figure out its mysteries, including the tombstone in the cellar, a forbidden room, and the homeless man who moves into the hedge. Halfway through, the tale travels back to a doomed 1860s love story and starts to reveal the origins of the steeped-in-sadness Nine Open Arms. In a return to the main narrative, kindness, courage, and truth-telling partly redeem the house’s tragic past. This is a strange, somber, and oddly compelling narrative. (Enchanted Lion, 9–12 years)

milford greenglass house Eerie placesIn Kate Milford’s Greenglass House, protagonist Milo expects a quiet winter holiday week with his adoptive parents at the “smugglers’ hotel” they run. But then strange visitors begin to arrive, and a mysterious document Milo finds is stolen before he and Meddy, the cook’s daughter, can figure out what it means. Smugglers, folktales, stolen objects, adopted children, and ghosts each play a part in this eerie (but not scary) tale. Milford cunningly sets up clues and gradually reveals their importance, bringing readers to higher and higher levels of mystery. (Clarion, 9–12 years)

zafon marina Eerie placesIn Spanish import Marina, Carlos Ruiz Zafón takes readers to the outskirts of late-1970s Barcelona, where fifteen-year-old Oscar investigates what he thinks is an abandoned home and finds himself entangled — with its inhabitant Marina — in a series of events set in motion at the turn of the twentieth century. The quickly paced adventure involves an eccentric scientist and his quest to unravel the mystery of mortality through the reanimation of dead tissue, his doomed romance with a famous but damaged actress, and ultimately his descent into madness. Zafón weaves a twisted tapestry of gothic horror with frequent allusions to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Little, 10–14 years)

bachmann cabinet of curiosities Eerie placesFour “curators” — authors Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, and Emma Trevayne — travel to bizarre lands and send back objects of wonder and the often unearthly tales behind them in The Cabinet of Curiosities: 36 Tales Brief & Sinister. The table of contents lists the “rooms” and “drawers” of the Cabinet of Curiosities museum, each with a theme (cake, luck, tricks, flowers) and four or five tales to explore. The stories are remarkable both for their uniformly high quality and for their distinctness from one another; the abundant atmospherics, including occasional stark black-and-white illustrations by Alexander Jansson, provide a unifying sense of dread. (Greenwillow, 10–14 years)

From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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18. Five questions for Julie Berry

JulieBerry 500pxTall 242x300 by Bruce Lucier Five questions for Julie Berry

Photo: Bruce Lucier

Julie Berry’s 2013 book All the Truth That’s In Me (Viking, 14 years and up) is a dark, claustrophobic — and beautiful — novel set seemingly out of time and narrated (in her own head) by a young woman whose tongue was cut out by a captor she escaped. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook, 11–14 years) could not be more different in tone or content. A Victorian-set, girls’-school, murder-mystery farce with seven distinct young-lady main characters (with names such as Dour Elinor, Stout Alice, and Smooth Kitty), the book is light as air (well, except for all that murder).

1. This book is so different from All the Truth That’s In Me. Where did it come from?

JB: In some sense, from a lifelong love of Agatha Christie mysteries and a deep infatuation with farcical plays and films such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Arsenic and Old Lace. The real catalyst, though, was an audio lecture by Professor John Sutherland, who contrasted the regiments of soldiers in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the large number of unmarried young ladies in the novel. He called them a “regiment of maidens.” It was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew I needed to write about a regiment of innocent maidens who were, perhaps, not so innocent. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was the almost immediate result.

2. How did you keep all the voices straight? Did the girls “talk” to you as you were writing?

JB: It is a handful of voices to keep track of, to be sure, but they were very distinct in my mind. I grew up in a family of seven children so, to borrow from the title of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s beautiful book, I was well accustomed to “counting by sevens.” My five sisters and one brother and I are very different people, with lots of practice living, teasing, eating, working, squabbling, and angling for the last molasses cookie, all in one space. It felt natural to me to let my seven pupils talk to one another, and to me. Their conversations took more playful, naughty, and intriguing directions than I could have planned for them if I were in charge.

berry scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place Five questions for Julie Berry3. Which came first: the characters’ names or their descriptors? (My favorite is “Disgraceful Mary Jane.”)

JB: Me too! She is always stealing the scene. She was tons of fun to write.

Both the girls’ names and their monikers appeared hand in hand from the very first page of writing. That same day when I had my “regiment of maidens” light-bulb moment, I sat down and wrote the first scene. When Disgraceful Mary Jane first appeared, she was just that: Disgraceful Mary Jane. It was not a device I had ever used before, but it felt right, so I ran with it. As I explored it more, it felt Victorian to me, and fitting for my little farce, since farces are all about exaggerating, and thus challenging, stereotypes.

4. Did you do a lot of research about the time period?

JB: Oh, for a Tardis! What I could do with a time machine.

I did a great deal of research into the Victorian era, and this was one of the chief pleasures of the project. Fortunately, the Victorian era is extremely well documented. We have access to volumes upon volumes of books, journals, magazines, fiction, art, photographs, and moving pictures of this vibrant window of history. The project offered me a delicious cocktail of inquiries: fashion, cosmetics, manners, teacakes, candies, and girls’ schools, alongside poison, murder, police procedure, burial, and grave-robbing. Fun stuff.

Part of my research included a visit to Ely, Cambridgeshire, the setting of the novel. Incidentally, Prickwillow Road is a real place. I did not make it up. I spent a week in the UK, both in Ely, touring the small city and its rambling country roads, and in visits to several marvelous London museums to learn more about travel, banking, schooling, dress, food, crime, and home life during the late nineteenth century. It was great fun, and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

5. Is a strawberry social a real thing?

JB: Indeed it is. In Jane Austen’s Emma, most of the characters gather on a sunny day to enjoy an outdoor strawberry-picking party and picnic. Closer to home, in my childhood haunts in upstate New York, a church strawberry social is a regular fixture of small-town life. Mounds of biscuits, great tubs of berries, troughs of whipped cream, and plenty of neighborly gossip — I highly recommend them.

From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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19. From the Editor – October 2014

roger right2 From the Editor – October 2014When it comes to spooky stories, it’s always hard to know just how scared any given person wants to be. Maurice Sendak always said that children sent him drawings of Wild Things that terrified him; I, one the other hand, once drove a little girl screaming from a story hour with “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” We hope everyone will find just the right amount of fear factor in one of the choices reviewed above or in our annual Halloween list — “Horn BOO!” — being sent to you next week.

Richard and I are having the pleasure this year of escorting our grandchildren on their October 31st rounds, which brings up the scariest question of all: What will I wear?

halloween 2013 From the Editor – October 2014

Halloween 2013. Appearances are deceiving.

roger signature From the Editor – October 2014

Roger Sutton,
Editor in Chief

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20. From the Editor – November 2014

Roger EdBriant 191x300 From the Editor   November 2014Please permit me to highlight two of the titles reviewed in this issue of Notes from the Horn Book, alike only in their consideration of the friendship possible between the old and the young, and — refreshingly — their resistance of current splashy publishing trends. That The Farmer and the Clown is wordless is the only on-trend thing about Marla Frazee’s latest picture book, and unlike so many of that ilk it is not about solving a puzzle or decrypting a mind-bending meta-plot. It is instead about caring and connection between human beings, with powerful emotions evoked, through posture and gesture alone, on every page. In contrast, Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman could, I suppose, be called wordful, and like Nye’s wonderful poetry, this novel sneaks up on you. Its story and characters are soft-spoken, and there’s no grand galloping plot, just the unconditional friendship between a boy and his grandfather as they prepare to say goodbye for a while. As with The Farmer and Clown, you finish the book knowing that even when the characters part, each will keep the other in his heart — and you won’t forget them, either.

roger signature From the Editor   November 2014

Roger Sutton,
Editor in Chief

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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21. Around the world

Reading can take children on journeys outside of their everyday realms. The following stories — some humorous, some tender — allow independent readers to spend time with characters from all over the globe.

nye turtle of oman Around the worldWhen Naomi Shihab Nye’s The Turtle of Oman opens, Aref and his mother are preparing to leave their home in Muscat, Oman, to join his father in Michigan, where they’ll live temporarily while Aref’s parents attend graduate school. Though unhappy about the move, Aref is thrilled to spend his last few days in Oman going on adventures with Sidi, his grandfather. The setting is so affectionately portrayed, with descriptions of colorful sights, mouth-watering tastes, and friendly interactions with fellow countrymen, that even when Aref is ready to say goodbye, readers may not be. Nye’s story, with spot art by Betsy Peterschmidt, is both quiet and exhilarating. (Greenwillow, 7–10 years)

tak mikis and the donkey Around the worldPhilip Hopman’s illustrations set the stage on the island of Corfu in Bibi Dumon Tak’s Mikis and the Donkey (translated from the Dutch). Mikis befriends Tsaki, his grandfather’s new donkey, and advocates successfully for Tsaki’s welfare. There’s a lovely simplicity to this affecting portrait of a close-knit Greek community, where a teacher’s boyfriend can give her class motorbike rides to general contentment. The generous number of loosely drawn illustrations capture windswept landscapes and village life with equal aplomb. (Eerdmans, 6–8 years)

lagercrantz my heart is laughing Around the worldFirst grader Dani, of My Happy Life, returns in Rose Lagercrantz’s My Heart is Laughing (translated from the Swedish). Classmates Mickey and Vicky both like the same boy, Cushion, and they ostracize Dani because Cushion likes her. When they start sneakily pinching Dani’s arm at the lunch table, she fights back, inadvertently causing a food fight and getting herself into trouble. Eva Eriksson’s line drawings brilliantly portray facial expressions and body language — Cushion’s tentative approach to Dani; her teacher’s big, solid, comforting hand enclosing her shoulder. Salty and sweet, this is umami for the emerging reader. (Gecko, 6–8 years)

lloyd murilla gorilla and the hammock problem Around the worldThe titular primate in Jennifer Lloyd’s Murilla Gorilla and the Hammock Problem lives in the rainforest of an unnamed African country. Okapi (an indigenous central African mammal) hires Murilla to figure out who put a hole in the hammock she’s selling. This accessible book is easy to read without looking babyish, and the mystery is easy to solve without being too obvious. Jacqui Lee draws with muted tones, highlighting Murilla’s pink cheeks and prehensile feet and Okapi’s gray-striped legs and arms. (Simply Read, 6–8 years)

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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22. Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Flake Sharon © Richard Kelly Photography Five questions for Sharon G. Flake

Photo: Richard Kelly

Is Mr. Davenport a vampire, as Octobia May insists? The answer is not so cut-and-dried in Sharon G. Flake’s Unstoppable Octobia May, a historical-fiction-cum-mystery-novel with more than a dash of social commentary (Scholastic, 9–12 years). From the 1950s boarding house setting to the vivid characters — some plucky, some humorous, some downright sinister — the story is thoroughly, enthrallingly unique.

1. Were you a mystery reader as a kid?

SGF: Oh my goodness, no. When I was young, I was afraid of my own shadow. I preferred stories with few surprises, where nothing out of the ordinary happened. Since childhood, however, I’ve become more emboldened. I like to tour graveyards, for instance, something my protagonist Octobia May also enjoys. I imagine who the people buried there were, how they may have lived, and what might have caused their deaths. It’s a hobby that gives some people the creeps, I know.

2. Why did you decide to set the book in 1953?

SGF: I’ve always wanted to write a book set in the fifties. It was, I think, the best of times and, simultaneously, the worst of times for many African Americans. As a nation we were feeling optimistic about a lot of things, and our music, dances, modes of dress, and outlooks often reflected that. Blacks were no different from whites in that respect. Yet so much injustice still plagued the nation — much of it around race, gender, equity, and access to power.

I wanted to capture both the optimism of the times as well as the complex nature of race relations in our country — along with the promise, and challenge, America still held for both African Americans and women. A tall order, but one I believe I’ve accomplished.

flake unstoppable octobia may Five questions for Sharon G. Flake3. What kind of historical research did you do?

SGF: I spent months at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh (where I live) poring through newspapers, the Courier especially. The black press played a critical role in dismantling Jim Crow; galvanizing the black vote; exposing the inequity of segregated schools; reporting on the valiant role black soldiers played during War World II; and pushing America to end segregation in the military. Because of the black press, America is a better nation — I never understood that more fully than I did while researching this book.

Next I came across an exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History (in Philadelphia) about Jewish professors who taught at historically black colleges during and after WWII. I created the character of Mrs. Loewenthal’s husband, who fled Germany and became a professor at Lincoln University. An expert in the field of Jewish studies helped ensure the accuracy of what I’d written — from Mrs. Loewenthal’s name, to what she ate, to her experiences in Germany.

Finally there was my family. My parents often recalled the fifties with both fondness and frustration. From what people wore, to the jobs African Americans could and couldn’t get, they remembered it all and shared eagerly. My mom has since passed, and the time I spent talking to her, my sister, and my dad about this era means even more to me.

4. Aunt Shuma is such a great character. Is she based on someone you know?

SGF: No, she isn’t. But as I was writing Unstoppable Octobia May, what became clear to me was how determined Aunt Shuma was to be her own woman, and to raise a girl with similar values. It’s the fifties, so women were expected to be polite, have children, obey their husbands, and take care of the home. Aunt Shuma makes it clear that this sort of life is not for her. When she tells her entrepreneurial dreams to women who hold more traditional values, she is met with opposition and dismay. Nonetheless, she is bent on changing the face of acceptable womanhood by enhancing the opportunities for her niece, Octobia May. It was a radical idea for many women in 1953.

5. Just how unstoppable is Octobia May? Will there more be books about her?

SGF: I am already hearing from readers who love Octobia and are very excited about reading more of her adventures. I have also come up with Aunt Shuma’s rules for raising unstoppable girls (of any age) and will share them with folks who message me at my website, sharongflake.com.

From the November 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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23. Books mentioned in the December 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Picture books
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
My Bus written and illus. by Byron Barton, Greenwillow, 2–4 years.
The Baby Tree written and illus. by Sophie Blackall, Penguin/Paulsen, 3–7 years.
Draw! written and illus. by Raúl Colón, Simon/Wiseman, 5–8 years.
Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Christian Robinson, Atheneum, 3–7 years.
The Farmer and the Clown written and illus. by Marla Frazee, Simon/Beach Lane, 3–7 years.
Once Upon an Alphabet  written and illus. by Oliver Jeffers, Philomel, 6–9 years.
Viva Frida written and illus. by Yuyi Morales, with photos by Tim O’Meara, Roaring Brook/Porter, 5–8 years.
Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors written and illus. by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash, Roaring Brook/Porter, 2–4 years.

Fiction
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic, 9–13 years.
The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos, Farrar, 8–11 years.
My Heart Is Laughing written by Rose Lagercrantz, illus. by Eva Eriksson, translated from the Swedish by Julia Marshall, Gecko, 5–8 years.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Delacorte, 13 years and up.
Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, Candlewick, 12–14 years.
Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Feiwel, 8–11 years.
The Turtle of Oman written by Naomi Shihab Nye, illus. by Betsy Peterschmidt, Greenwillow, 8–11 years.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus, Abrams/Amulet, 9–13 years.
This One Summer written by Mariko Tamaki, illus. by Jillian Tamaki, Roaring Brook/First Second, 12–16 years.

Folklore
Little Roja Riding Hood written by Susan Middleton Elya, illus. by Susan Guevara, Putnam, 5–8 years.

Poetry
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illus. by Melissa Sweet, Candlewick, 3–7 years.
How I Discovered Poetry written by Marilyn Nelson, illus. by Hadley Hooper, Dial, 12–14 years.

Nonfiction
Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth written by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illus. by Molly Bang, Scholastic/Blue Sky, 8–11 years.
El Deafo written and illus. by Cece Bell, color by David Lasky, Abrams/Amulet, 9–13 years.
The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant, illus. by Melissa Sweet, Eerdmans, 5–8 years.
The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond written by Patrick Dillon, illus. by Stephen Biesty, Candlewick, 12–14 years.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, Random/Schwartz & Wade, 12–16 years.
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell, illus. by Christian Robinson, Chronicle, 9–13 years.
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands written and illus. by Katherine Roy, Roaring Brook/Macaulay, 8–11 years.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Penguin/Paulsen, 9–13 years.

These titles were featured in the December 2014 special Fanfare issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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24. Fanfare 2014 Notes

Da-da-da-daaaaaa! It’s here: the Fanfare special edition of Notes is arriving in subscribers’ inboxes right now.

We began with a long longlist, then fought it ou— er, cordially discussed the options until we whittled it down to twenty-nine favorites of 2014. With picture books, fiction, folklore, poetry, and nonfiction, there’s something — probably several things — for everyone.

Notes (and its occasional supplements Nonfiction Notes and Talks With Roger) will be back to regularly scheduled programming in January.

fanfare notes 14 Fanfare 2014 Notes

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter. For more recommended books plus author and illustrator interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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25. The first Notes of the year

In January’s issue of Notes from the Horn Book, Jennifer Brabander asks Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future author A. S. King about that bat and lots more. You’ll also find:

  • more fierce female YA protagonists
  • snowy-day picture books
  • intermediate series
  • graphic-novel memoirs

notes jan 2015

Read the issue online or subscribe to receive the monthly Notes from the Horn Book newsletter — and its supplement Nonfiction Notes — in your inbox. For more recommended books and interviews, check out the newsletter archives.

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