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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Notes from the Horn Book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. 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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2. 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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3. 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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4. 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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5. 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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6. 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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7. Middle-grade BFFs

The friends you make in childhood can be the best ones of your life. The following books highlight unlikely friendships that are made to last.

curtis madman of piney woods Middle grade BFFs   Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Madman of Piney Woods (companion to Newbery Honor Book Elijah of Buxton) takes place in 1901, with the American Civil War a not-so-distant memory for Buxton’s elders. For thirteen-year-old black Canadian Benji Alston, though, daily life involves coping with two irritatingly gifted younger siblings and dreaming of becoming a newspaper reporter. Benji befriends Alvin “Red” Stockard, an Irish Canadian boy who lives in nearby Chatham, and the two uncover the mystery and tragedy surrounding the supposedly mythical Madman of Piney Woods. A profoundly moving yet also at times very funny novel about family, friendship, community, and the power of words. (Scholastic, 9–13 years)

hahn where i belong Middle grade BFFs“How come some kids are lucky and others aren’t?” asks Brendan, the (unlucky) protagonist of Where I Belong by Mary Downing Hahn. Abandoned at birth by his mother and now, on the verge of failing sixth grade, living with an apparently unloving foster mom, Brendan finds refuge in a secret tree house he builds in the woods, and in tentative friendships with a girl named Shea and with an old man in the woods, whom Brendan initially believes is the “Green Man.” This is quintessential middle-grade realistic fiction, with an unvarnished depiction of the miseries that can be visited upon a quiet sixth grader and the succor that can be found in the hard-won friendship of peers and the attention of understanding elders. (Clarion, 8–11 years)

french my cousins keeper Middle grade BFFsWhen his cousin Bon comes to live at his house, eleven-year-old Kieran is mad: Bon is “weird.” He has a long braid and tattered clothing; smells of sweat and pee; and talks in an unnaturally precise manner, all of which make Bon a target of the cool-kid bullies at school (and ruining Kieran’s chance of hanging out with the cool kids himself). Bon’s only friend is another newcomer, Julia, and Kieran is jealous of their friendship: he wants to be friends with Julia. Bon keeps a notebook filled with fantastical drawings and tales of Bon the Crusader, Kieran the Brave, and Julia the Fair; as the protagonists grow into Bon’s roles for them, My Cousin’s Keeper by Simon French becomes a story of kids who dare to imagine worlds and become who they need to be. (Candlewick, 8–11 years)

turner circa now Middle grade BFFsIn Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner, main character Circa’s father is killed by a tornado while delivering an old photo he’s restored. Then Miles shows up on her family’s doorstep, a boy with amnesia whose only clue to his past is the photograph he’s holding — the very one Circa’s father was delivering when he died. As Circa and her mother care for Miles they uncover a strange series of coincidences, and Circa begins to think the digital changes she and her father made to photographs have come to exist in real life. Does this mean she can bring her father back? Gentle quirkiness and light humor appear throughout Turner’s tale of grief, healing, and friendship. (Disney-Hyperion, 9–13 years)

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

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8. Nature lovers

Back-to-school blues? Give kids these engaging science books — which introduce primary readers to intriguing animals, habitats, natural processes, and conservation causes — to pique scientific curiosity and fuel imagination.

roy neigborhood sharks Nature loversKatherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands examines the sometimes chilling, always fascinating details of what makes the great white shark an effective predator. The dramatic main narrative describes a shark swimming and hunting; well-integrated, information-rich sections tell more about the biology and ecology of these sharks and about the scientists who study their role in the Farallon Island ecosystem. The explanations are thorough and even, incorporating excellent analogies (in both text and images) to elucidate such topics as sharks’ streamlined bodies and visual acuity. Roy’s illustrations masterfully employ perspective and color: blood-reds flow through the ocean’s blues and grays. (Roaring Brook/Macaulay, 5–8 years)

bang buried Nature loversMolly Bang and Penny Chisholm have previously coauthored two excellent books (Living Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight) on the role of the sun’s energy in powering life processes on Earth. In Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth, Bang and Chisholm explore the production and consumption of fossil fuels, as well as the sobering evidence for the consequences of all that energy use: climate change. The sun itself narrates the “Cycle of Life” — the relationship among photosynthesis (plants), respiration (animals), and energy that results in the fossil fuels so dear to modern civilization. Bang’s illustrations brilliantly represent the chemistry with bright yellow dots of energy and tiny black-and-white molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide. (Scholastic/Blue Sky, 5–8 years)

davies tiny creatures Nature loversIn Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, author Nicola Davies introduces an intriguing concept: that there are vast quantities of living things (microbes) that are smaller than the eye can see. She does it through creative, relatable analogies and itchy-but-cool facts about the microbes that live on and in us (“Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth”). The tone is light and inquisitive yet also scientifically precise, covering topics such as the shape and variety of microbes, their function, and their reproduction. Emily Sutton’s colorful, friendly illustrations accurately render the microorganisms’ shapes. (Candlewick, 4–7 years)

duke in the rainforest Nature loversKate Duke’s In the Rainforest, a Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science series entry, welcomes readers to a unique habitat as two youngsters pack for, travel to, and walk through a tropical rainforest. The main text and the children’s tour guide (in conversational speech balloons) cover the rainforest’s physical features and its abundant diversity of plants and animals. Cheerful mixed-media illustrations show the children enjoying climbing trees, journaling, and learning. When leaving, the visitors encounter a vast wasteland where trees and wildlife have been destroyed, which prompts a matter-of-fact discussion of the repercussions of such destruction. Rather than end on a negative note, however, the guide and the children return to the rainforest — as the guide says, there’s “lots more to show you.” (HarperCollins/Harper, 4–7 years)

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

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9. From the Editor – September 2014

roger right2 From the Editor   September 2014I hope you will join us for the fifth annual Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, “Mind the Gaps,” on October 11th at Simmons College in Boston. This year’s program will examine the various diversity gaps in children’s book publishing, whether they be underrepresentation of nonwhite perspectives or the decreasing proportion of nonfiction titles. The colloquium takes place the day after the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards (for which a ticket will be provided to all HBAS attendees), and speakers will include all three winners as well as librarian and 2012 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, who will give the keynote address. For more information about the colloquium and to register, please visit http://www.hbook.com/bghb-hbas/.

roger signature From the Editor   September 2014

Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

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

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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. Books mentioned in the August 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

Five questions for Judith Viorst
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day written by Judith Viorst, illus. by Ray Cruz, Atheneum, 4–7 years.
And Two Boys Booed written by Judith Viorst, illus. by Sophie Blackall, Farrarr/Ferguson, 4–7 years.

Back-to-school basics
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea, Disney-Hyperion, 3–5 years.
Dinosaur vs. School by Bob Shea, Disney-Hyperion, 3–5 years.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, Little, Brown, 3–5 years.
My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown, Little, Brown, 3–5 years.
Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) written by Barbara Bottner, illus. by Michael Emberley, Knopf, 4–7 years.
Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome) written by Barbara Bottner, illus. by Michael Emberley, Knopf, 4–7 years.
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, 6–8 years.

Not-rotten readers
Rotten Ralph’s Rotten Family written by Jack Gantos, illus. by Nicole Rubel, Farrar, 5–8 years.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up written by Kate DiCamillo, illus. by Chris Van Dusen, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway, Candlewick, 5–8 years.
Quinny & Hopper written by Adriana Brad Schanen, illus. by Greg Swearingen, Disney-Hyperion, 5–8 years.

Beyond biographies
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, Penguin/Paulsen, 11–14 years.
Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business — and Won! by Emily Arnold McCully, Clarion, 11–14 years.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, Random/Schwartz & Wade, 13–16 years.
Stories of My Life by Katherine Paterson, Dial, 13–16 years.

Go your own way
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith, Simon, 15–17 years.
Beetle Boy by Margaret Willey, Carolrhoda Lab, 15–17 years.
Schizo by Nic Scheff, Philomel, 13–15 years.
Skink — No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen, Knopf, 13–15 years.

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

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20. Beyond biography

With storytelling ease and pitch-perfect pacing, the following works of narrative nonfiction for older readers bring their subjects to brilliant life, elevating the sometimes-staid genre of biography to literary art form.

woodson brown girl dreaming Beyond biographyJacqueline Woodson’s memoir-in-verse Brown Girl Dreaming is so immediate that readers will feel they are experiencing the author’s childhood right along with her. Born in Ohio in 1963, Jackie moved with her family to Greenville, South Carolina, to live with her maternal grandparents. We see young Jackie grow up in historical context alongside the contexts of extended family, community (Greenville, later Brooklyn), and religion — and we trace her development as a nascent writer to her realization that “words are [her] brilliance.” The poetry sings in this extraordinary portrait of a writer as a young girl. (Penguin/Paulsen, 10–14 years)

mccully ida m tarbell Beyond biographyEmily Arnold McCully creates a multilayered biography of a crusading early-twentieth-century journalist in Ida M. Tarbell: The Woman Who Challenged Big Business — and Won! Readers meet young Ida growing up in Pennsylvania oil country. A curious child, Tarbell’s lessons learned from scientific inquiry led to her dogged determination to get to the bottom of an issue. McCully engagingly re-creates the era’s social context for women (famously, Tarbell didn’t believe in women’s suffrage) as well as the culture and importance of print media, allowing readers to draw their own conclusions about Tarbell’s positions and her times. (Clarion, 10–14 years)

fleming romanov Beyond biographyCandace Fleming’s riveting book The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia appeals to the imagination as much as the intellect. Her focus is not just the Romanovs (the last imperial family of Russia), but the Revolutionary leaders and common people as well, showing how each group was the product of its circumstances and how they all moved inexorably toward the tragic yet fascinating conclusion. An epic, sweeping historical narrative. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 12–18 years)

paterson stories of my life Beyond biographyDemonstrating warmth, ease, and a sense of humor about herself, Katherine Paterson relates tales from her life, and from her parents’ and grandparents’, too, in Stories of My Life. The author gently ambles from story to story, looping through her youthful experiences in China and Japan, her marriage and children, and her writing. Throughout all there is a strong connection to Paterson’s childhood: “By the time I was five I had been through war and evacuation, but nothing had prepared me for the American public school system.” (Dial, 12 years and up)

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

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21. Go your own way

Teen boys go on journeys both physical (road trip!) and psychological in these affecting YA novels.

smith 100 sideways miles Go your own wayFinn Easton, protagonist of Andrew Smith’s 100 Sideways Miles, has unusual scars on his back, products of the freak accident that also killed his mother when he was a kid. He has a pretty good life otherwise: his sci-fi novelist father loves him; his best friend Cade makes him laugh; and he has recently met Julia, the girl of his dreams. After Julia moves away, crestfallen Finn embarks on a college visit with Cade, a trip that turns the boys into heroes. Finn has a funny, fluid narrative voice, and his banter with Cade is excellent — and often hilariously vulgar. (Simon, 14 years and up)

willey beetle boy Go your own wayAs Charlie Porter convalesces from a ruptured Achilles tendon, his past — years of being paraded around in a beetle costume by his opportunistic father as the child author of the Beetle Boy series — resurfaces in nightmares in which he’s tormented by a giant beetle. Charlie wrestles with anger regarding the exploitation and abandonment he suffered as a child, guilt for escaping that suffering while leaving his little brother behind, and gratitude toward the crotchety children’s book author who cared for him. In her relentlessly honest but hopeful novel Beetle Boy, author Margaret Willey crafts a delicate psychological landscape through carefully timed flashbacks. (Carolrhoda Lab, 14 years and up)

sheff schizo Go your own wayTwo years ago a family outing to the beach ended in trauma when fourteen-year-old Miles experienced a psychotic break. While recovering in the psych ward, Miles received a life-changing diagnosis of schizophrenia along with some devastating news: during the commotion of his episode, Miles’s little brother went missing and is presumed drowned. Miles begins a risky investigation into his brother’s disappearance shortly after ditching his cocktail of medications. Some readers will guess the twist ending of Nic Sheff’s Schizo, but will nevertheless hope for Miles to find peace with his life and with his illness. (Philomel, 12 years and up)

hiaasen skink no surrender Go your own wayAs Carl Hiaasen’s farcical Skink — No Surrender opens, teen narrator Richard’s cousin, Malley, runs away from home, and Richard is certain that she’s with a chat-room acquaintance almost twice her age. He tells Clint Tyree, a.k.a. Skink (the unkempt and unwavering former Florida governor who stars in several of Hiaasen’s adult novels), and the pair immediately takes off on an event-filled road trip to rescue Malley. Hiaasen smoothly integrates Skink’s vulnerabilities with his larger-than-life behaviors — including eating roadkill and wrestling an alligator — and Richard’s naiveté plays nicely against Skink’s extremism. (Knopf, 12–15 years)

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

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22. From the Editor – August 2014

sutton roger 170x304 From the Editor   August 2014I hope you can join Horn Book Executive Editor Martha V. Parravano and me at Fostering Lifelong Learners, a one-day conference the Horn Book, along with School Library Journal and the Cuyahoga County Public Library, is sponsoring on September 19th at the Parma-Snow branch of the CCPL in Parma, Ohio. Martha and I will be discussing great new books for preschoolers; other speakers include Dr. Robert Needlman of Reach Out and Read, and Kevin Henkes, hero of preschoolers everywhere. The conference is free but preregistration is required.

And do not forget the annual Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, held this year on October 11th at Simmons College. “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers” is the theme, and featured speakers include our three Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winners as well as a keynote address by librarian and author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, winner of the 2012 BGHB Award and the SLJ Battle of the Books Award for No Crystal Stair. More information about HBAS can be found at www.hbook.com/bghb-hbas/.

roger signature From the Editor   August 2014

Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

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

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23. Back-to-school basics

Kids going back to school — or just starting out there? Here are a variety of picture books, from imaginative and funny to historical and serious, to help ease the transition from the lazy days of summer.

shea dinosaur vs school Back to school basics“Roar! Roar! Roar!” The diminutive red dinosaur from Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs. Bedtime faces its newest foe in Dinosaur vs. School. The new kindergartner romps and stomps its way through the day, making new friends, playing dress-up, and creating “monkey snacks.” In each case, “Dinosaur wins!” The fun comes to a halt at clean-up time: “OH, NO! It’s too much for one dinosaur!” But there’s a valuable little-kid lesson to be learned: “When everyone helps… EVERYONE WINS!” The mixed-media illustrations contain lots of color and motion, with real-life objects incorporated humorously into the digital collage. (Disney-Hyperion, 3–5 years)

brown my teacher is a monster Back to school basicsFrom the author-illustrator of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild comes another funny and perceptive picture book, My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.). To young Bobby, his rule-enforcing teacher Ms. Kirby looks like a monster, with green skin and sharp claws and teeth. But when the two meet unexpectedly outside of school one day, he begins to see her as more human, and gradually Ms. Kirby begins to look decreasingly monstrous. In watercolor, gouache, and India ink illustrations on thick paper, Peter Brown employs a cartoon-type format (with panels and speech bubbles) to tell a story that students and teachers will enjoy equally. (Little, Brown, 3–5 years)

bottner miss brooks story nook Back to school basicsSince we last saw her in Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), narrator Missy has developed a newfound appreciation for books. Now, in Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome), she eagerly anticipates being read to each morning, though a neighborhood bully makes it hard to get to school on time. Then the power goes off, and the class must tell stories rather than read them. Missy makes up a story about an ogre, which helps her solve her bully problem. Michael Emberley’s pleasingly detailed pencil-and-wash illustrations give the characters distinctive personalities. (Knopf, 4–7 years)

tonatiuh separate is never equal Back to school basicsSeparate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh uses a child’s viewpoint to tell the remarkable story of how, seven years before the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education, a Mexican American child and her family fought for — and won — the desegregation of schools in California. Illustrations reminiscent of the Mixtec codex, but collaged with paper, wood, cloth, and brick, accompany the straightforward narrative. This story deserves to be more widely known, and now, thanks to this book, it will be. (Abrams, 6–9 years)

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

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24. Five questions for Judith Viorst

judith viorst by milton viorst Five questions for Judith Viorst

Photo: Milton Viorst

Judith Viorst, creator of Alexander (he of the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), writes about another little boy who might just wish he could curl back up in bed. The young protagonist of And Two Boys Booed (Farrar/Ferguson, 4–7 years) is excited to perform in the school talent show… until it’s almost his turn. With equal parts realism, reassurance, gentle humor, and inventive wordplay, Viorst sets up a familiar stage-fright scenario and gives her main character an ingenious way to get himself out of it.

1. What was your inspiration for this multilayered book?

JV: My inspiration was my granddaughter Olivia, daughter of Alexander, who came over to my house one afternoon after a talent show at her summer day camp. When I asked how her portion of the talent show had gone, she replied, “Two boys booed.” To my shame I didn’t immediately offer her a hug and sympathy. Instead, my first response was, “Great book title!” I then had to figure out a story to go with the title.

2. Who thought of those terrific flaps?

viorst and two boys booed Five questions for Judith ViorstJV: I believe it was Sophie Blackall, the amazing illustrator of the book, who came up with the brilliant idea of doing flaps. But her brilliance is evident in all kinds of other ways as well: in the richly detailed double-page spread of our narrator’s many, many varied activities during the course of which he practiced singing his song; in the delicious specificity of every child in the story; and in the depiction of our narrator shrinking deeper and deeper into his shirt as his stage fright mounts.

3. Those two boys: were they jealous? Mean-spirited? Or just acting like boys?

JV: The two boys were being rather unkind, booing a kid because he was too scared to do what he was supposed to do, and then continuing to boo even after he did it. I wish they had been more sympathetic, and I hope their teacher had a little talk with them after the talent show.

4. Would your Alexander be onstage with the narrator? Or in the peanut gallery with the boys? (Maybe it would depend on the day!)

JV: Alexander could be fierce, frustrated, grumpy, but I don’t think he’d be either scared to perform or unkind to those who were.

5. Do you get stage fright?

JV: I had terrible stage fright all the way through college. I remember being told I had to stand in front of one of my history classes and read a paper I had written and offering to write a second paper if I could just please hand them both in and not read them aloud. I now give talks to large audiences without the slightest flicker of stage fright, but don’t ask me how that happened.

From the August 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book

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25. For not-rotten readers

Following your dreams and dealing with family: these topics get hilarious treatment for primary readers in the following early chapter books. An added bonus? Some familiar faces from popular series.

gantos rotten ralphs rotten family For not rotten readersIn Jack Gantos and Nicole Rubel’s Rotten Ralph’s Rotten Family, the titular kitty finds a family photo album and, nostalgic for his childhood, decides to visit his kin. His mother treats him well, but other relatives humiliate him — and poor Ralph realizes that he’s so rotten because his family was rotten to him! After a few Rotten Ralph picture books, the return to the longer early-chapter-book format leaves room for a more sophisticated story line to emerge. Never fear; Ralph’s rotten behavior, sure to bring a chuckle to fans old and new, is still front and center in Gantos’s freewheeling text and Rubel’s energetic illustrations. (Farrar, 5–8 years)

dicamillo leroy niker saddles up For not rotten readersIn Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, Leroy (the “reformed thief” from Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen’s Mercy Watson books) makes ends meet serving popcorn at the drive-in, but dreams of being a cowboy. Sporting a cowboy hat, lasso, and boots, he watches raptly the Wednesday night Western double-feature but makes little progress otherwise. When he receives the advice that “Every cowboy needs a horse,” Leroy purchases “very exceptionally cheap” Maybelline and throws himself into horse-ownership — but acquiring a horse and keeping one turn out to be two different challenges. This entertaining tale balances comically exaggerated details and true heart. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

milway pigsticks and harold For not rotten readersPigsticks Pig — star of Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey — comes from a long line of august ancestors. But a young pig has to make his own mark, and Pigsticks decides on an expedition to the Ends of the Earth. He engages anxious, cake-loving hamster Harold as an assistant, and, in three generously illustrated chapters, we follow the explorers as they survive swamps, deserts, rickety rope bridges, malevolent mountain goats, and more. Alex Milway’s tongue-in-cheek text and slapdash-goofy pictures provide much humor. (Candlewick, 5–8 years)

schanen quinny and hopper For not rotten readersThe eponymous brand-new next-door-neighbor kids in Quinny & Hopper couldn’t be more different: quiet, analytical loner Hopper is initially baffled (and a little appalled) by Quinny’s cutesiness and high volume. But in battling Hopper’s bullying brothers on his behalf, Quinny wins him over, and the two become friends — until snooty new girl Victoria barges her way between them. Debut author Adriana Brad Schanen nicely balances the alternating perspectives of Quinny and Hopper and paints a comically exaggerated but essentially truthful picture of life with siblings. Illustrator Greg Swearingen deftly captures each child’s emotions. (Disney-Hyperion, 5–8 years)

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

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