What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'article')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: article, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 281
1. Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine


From FUNNY BONES, by Duncan Tonatiuh

The following books will receive starred reviews in the November/December issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Tiptoe Tapirs; written and illustrated by Hanmin Kim; trans. from the Korean by Sera Lee (Holiday)

I Used to Be Afraid; written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Porter/Roaring Brook)

Flop to the Top!; written and illustrated by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing (TOON)

Hereville:How Mirka Caught a Fish; written and illustrated by Barry Deutsch (Amulet/Abrams)

Calvin; by Martine Leavitt (Ferguson/Farrar)

Written and Drawn by Henrietta; written and drawn by Liniers (TOON)

All American Boys; by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Dlouhy/Atheneum)

The Emperor of Any Place; by Tim Wynne-Jones (Candlewick)

My Seneca Village; by Marilyn Nelson (Namelos)

Breakthrough!: How Three People Saved “Blue Babies” and Changed Medicine Forever; by Jim Murphy (Clarion)

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras; written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams)

The post Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Starred reviews, November/December Horn Book Magazine as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
2. Review of Out of the Woods

Out of the Woodsstar2 Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event
by Rebecca Bond; illus. by the author
Primary   Ferguson/Farrar   40 pp.
7/15   978-0-374-38077-9   $17.99

Bond relates a story from 1914 Ontario, during her grandfather’s childhood, when he lived at a lakeside hotel run by his mother. Art and text describe young Antonio wandering the hotel, intrigued both by the “travelers” and “outdoor sportsmen” and by the loud, lively “men who worked in the forest” — trappers, lumberjacks, silver miners. Antonio also roams the woods, catching only disappointing half-glimpses of wild animals. One day, a forest fire breaks out, 
driving everyone toward the only safe place — the lake. As people stand in the water watching the fire rage, animals, too, make their way out of the woods and into the lake. It’s a dream come 
true for Antonio, who gets a close-up look at every forest creature imaginable as they slowly parade by. Like a woodland version of Hicks’s Peaceable Kingdom, “wolves stood beside deer, foxes beside rabbits. And people and moose stood close enough to touch.” Bond vividly conveys the nearness and wonder by describing what Antonio experiences: he “smelled the steam 
rising off the animals’ wet fur, saw their chests lifting and falling in steady rhythm, and felt their hot animal breath.” As the fire subsides, all creatures leave the water — and “miraculously,” the hotel has escaped untouched. The endpapers feature realistic drawings of forest animals against a sepia background, the vintage-children’s-book vibe setting the tone for this historical tale. Throughout, Bond’s detailed sketches tinted with muted browns, greens, blues, and oranges create a dreamlike mood, a fine match for the mesmerizing story. An appended note includes a photo of the author’s grandfather as a child.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Out of the Woods appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Out of the Woods as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
3. Review of Sunny Side Up

holm_sunny side upstar2 Sunny Side Up
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; 
illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien
Intermediate   Graphix/Scholastic   218 pp.
9/15   978-0-545-74165-1   $23.99
Paper ed. 978-0-545-74166-8   $12.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-74167-5   $12.99

Set largely during the summer of 1976, this semiautobiographical graphic novel from the brother-and-sister team behind the Babymouse series includes an amiable grandfather, U.S. bicentennial festivities, and a trip to Disney World — but it is much more than a lighthearted nostalgia piece. Ten-year-old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin had been looking forward to spending August at the shore as usual, but her parents have suddenly sent her to Florida to stay with “Gramps” instead. Her less-than-thrilling days at the retirement community, complete with early-bird specials and trips to the post office, improve after she befriends the groundskeeper’s son, comics-obsessed Buzz. The two spend their time doing odd jobs for spending money and mulling over age-old superhero dilemmas (“But they’re heroes. Why can’t they save the people they love?”). These discussions, and the series of flashbacks they often elicit, ultimately lead readers to the truth surrounding Sunny’s visit: back home in Pennsylvania, her teenage brother is struggling with substance abuse, and Sunny is convinced that she made the problem worse — a misconception Gramps lovingly corrects. Matthew Holm’s loose, less-is-more cartooning is easy to read and expressive, if occasionally unpolished. Straightforward dialogue, captions establishing time and setting, and extended wordless scenes swiftly propel the narrative and will be appreciated by Raina Telgemeier fans. An affirming author’s note delves further into the Holm siblings’ personal experience with familial substance abuse and encourages young readers sharing a similar struggle to reach out (as Sunny eventually does) to the responsible adults in their lives.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Sunny Side Up appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Sunny Side Up as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. From the Guide: YA Horror

alameda_shutterThis year’s “Horn BOO!,” our annual roundup of Halloween-y books, will satisfy the spook-loving picture-book set. Teen readers — those with a more mature taste in fright, greater immunity to fear, and, in some cases, seriously strong stomachs — should check out these horror novels from the spring and fall 2015 issues of The Horn Book Guide.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Alameda, Courtney Shutter
373 pp.     Feiwel     2015     ISBN 978-1-250-04467-9

YA Micheline Helsing (of Van Helsing lineage), a tetrachromat, can see the undead, and with her Helsing Corps crew and camera, she exorcises them. But then a powerful ghost defeats the group and leaves them all cursed; they have seven days to break the curse or be damned. Alameda’s alternate–San Francisco setting is vivid, the horror gruesome, and the story action-packed.

Brooks, Kevin The Bunker Diary
260 pp.     Carolrhoda Lab     2015     ISBN 978-1-4677-5420-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-7646-2

YA In a fictitious diary, sixteen-year-old English runaway Linus tells of his kidnapping and imprisonment in an underground bunker, where he, along with five other captives that gradually fill the other cells, endures evil punishments. Gripping, terrifying, and full of abominable actions, this provocative contemporary-set Carnegie Medal–winner is not for the faint-hearted, but thrill-seekers and realistic-horror enthusiasts will find the sharply written narrative compelling.

Delaney, Joseph A New Darkness
344 pp.     Greenwillow     2014     ISBN 978-0-06-233453-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-06-233455-8

YA The first in an unillustrated follow-up trilogy to the Last Apprentice series shows Tom taking over the late Spook’s work. The narration alternates between Tom’s voice and his would-be apprentice Jenny’s; Tom resists the idea of a female Spook. Last Apprentice fans will find the same creepy imagery and a few surprises, and the backstory is clear enough for those new to the series.

Garcia, Kami Unmarked
387 pp.     Little, Brown     2014     ISBN 978-0-316-21022-5
Ebook ISBN 978-0-316-21023-2

YA Legion series. In Unbreakable, Kennedy, love interest Jared, and their ghost-and-demon-fighting team, the Legion, accidentally released the powerful demon Andras. Now they must locate the final Legion member and the Vessel that will contain and bind Andras again — ASAP, because Andras has possessed Jared. With a tighter focus and a tension-heightening nonlinear structure, this second volume is even stronger than its predecessor.

Higson, Charlie The Fallen
535 pp.     Hyperion     2014     ISBN 978-1-4231-6566-8

YA Enemy series. Higson’s fifth zombie apocalypse series entry focuses on survivors quartered in London’s National History Museum. One group sets out to retrieve medical supplies; others struggle to trap a traitor working among them. Followers of this violent series about kids battling endless horrors will relish the moment-by-moment action and cameo appearances by characters featured in previous volumes (those still alive, that is).

Monahan, Hillary Mary: The Summoning
250 pp.     Hyperion     2014     ISBN 978-1-4231-8519-2

YA At the insistence of ringleader Jess, a group of friends attempts to summon urban legend Bloody Mary — and succeeds. The violent spirit attaches herself to narrator Shauna, who desperately seeks to rid herself of the ghost, discovering Mary’s tragic history, another haunting victim, and Jess’s secret motives along the way. Readers of supernatural horror are in for a gory, fast-paced thrill ride.

Pillsworth, Anne M. Summoned
320 pp.     Tor Teen     2014     ISBN 978-0-7653-3589-0

YA At an arcane bookstore in (fictional) Arkham, Massachusetts, Sean finds a clipping directing him to a reverend seeking an occult apprentice. But when Sean attempts the reverend’s test, he mistakenly summons a Lovecraftian monster that threatens Sean and his family. A deliberative pace keeps the action at a slow boil, but fans of Lovecraft and his grotesque chthonic horror will enjoy the dark atmosphere.

Stolarz, Laurie Faria Welcome to the Dark House
368 pp.     Hyperion     2014     ISBN 978-1-4231-8172-9

YA After submitting their darkest personal nightmares to a writing contest, Ivy and six other teens win a chance to meet famed horror movie director Justin Blake. Ivy hopes that dredging up those haunting memories will help her process a significant trauma. But the contest quickly turns deadly. Truly terrifying plot twists unfold at a breakneck pace, shifting quickly from character to character. Impressively fearsome.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

The post From the Guide: YA Horror appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on From the Guide: YA Horror as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
5. Rumpeta-ing through Reading: Picture Books for the Very Young

My daughter Emily has always been a reading omnivore: we have photos of her poring over books from the time she could first sit up. Everything was of interest: catalogs featuring photographs of children; books verging on toys, with flaps or holes or even wheels; concept books; story books. Gradually, certain authors and books became favorites, and through a curious alchemy of interactions — child and parent with the book, and child and parent with each other — they seemed only to get better and better over time.

We read books by Eve Rice, especially Sam Who Never Forgets and Benny Bakes a Cake. Rice’s world in these books is immensely reassuring, with small disasters (Did Sam the zookeeper really forget to feed Elephant? What will happen now that bad dog Ralph has eaten Benny’s birthday cake?) transformed into hugs, birthday parades, and other expressions of love. Rice’s books surprise when read out loud: her prose has a tendency to form itself into meter and rhyme, appropriate for these structured stories.

We read Anne Rockwell, one of the best at reflecting and celebrating a child’s own world. Her pictures are perfectly ordered, whether crammed full of detail (an entire town busy with seasonally appropriate activities, in First Comes Spring) or rivetingly simple (a close-up of a sled, in The First Snowfall). Rockwell is also spectacular on that other topic of perennial interest to toddlers, machines and vehicles. Big Wheels is a modern preschool classic.

And we read Shirley Hughes, a master at inhabiting the minds and emotions of small children. Particularly appropriate for the very young are her Alfie and Annie Rose books (Alfie’s Feet and Alfie Gets in First being our personal favorites), her small-format concept books Bathwater’s Hot, Noisy, and When We Went to the Park, and her “doing” books (Giving, Chatting, Bouncing, etc.). Hughes’s specific, urban British settings add to her books’ believability: her child characters are so rooted in their home places that the child reader feels at home as well.

But the two creators most consistently on Emily’s hit parade were Donald Crews and Byron Barton. Crews’s Freight Train is a spellbinder; it creates such a strong mood that the words — like the smoke of the train that’s “going, going, gone” — quite literally seem to hang in the air for a few minutes after you finish reading. Crews’s strong graphics are perhaps the most appealing aspect of his other books; in School Bus two-year-old Emily developed a ritual of pointing out all the vehicles of interest: school buses, city buses, taxis, and the particularly exciting garbage truck (and each time we found the cameo of the author-illustrator himself, on a street corner, portfolio tucked under his arm, Emily would croon, “Donald CROOOOZ!”).

Byron Barton is a guaranteed success with his direct, no-nonsense texts (“Hey, you guys! / Let’s get to work. / Knock down that building. / Bulldoze that tree”); his bold typefaces; his black-outlined, color-blocked pictures of machines, astronauts, construction workers, dinosaurs (hear any bells going off in your toddler-interest geiger counter?). There wasn’t a detail Emily wasn’t fascinated with, from counting how many construction workers were girls and how many boys in Machines at Work (quoted from above) to carefully tracing the Diplodocus’s “long, long neck” and “long, long tail” in Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs.

There were many other individual favorites, as well. In addition to high-interest subjects, these books shared three other characteristics. First, a pacing appropriate for the material and for the age group. Successful books take into account the young child’s attention span. The length of the text per se is not a guarantee of success. Some of our favorites had quite a lot of words; however, these books had zesty texts full of repeated phrases and a lot of broad action. Other books contained few words, but the field of action was limited, and the pictures carried much of the story.

Second, a use of repetition, whether in repeated words or in story structure. We saw this in almost every book we read and loved. Some of our favorites were the Provensens’ Old Mother Hubbard, with a page turn before the dog’s nonsensical reaction to each Mother Hubbard action is revealed; Blueberries for Sal, with its parallel stories of Little Sal and Little Bear and its chantable kerplink kerplank kerplunk sounds; and Sue Williams’s I Went Walking, similar to Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? but with a satisfying and child-pleasing story framework.

Third, a construction that allowed for (but did not demand) some kind of reader participation. Many of the best books for small children seem to be constructed with some room in them — space that lets the child and the adult expand the reading experience. For instance, one of the first things we all seem to teach our children are the sounds different animals make, and many books seem to tacitly encourage mooing and meowing simply by picturing cows and cats. (See Nancy Tafuri’s Early Morning in the Barn for an ingenious, overt animal-sounds book.) These books are complete in themselves, and work perfectly well when read aloud without embellishment. But they also seem to promote participation — whether it be points in the narrative art that call for comment; strategically placed wordless spreads that provide a chance to recap action or to prepare for what comes next; words or phrases in the text that call for gestures or actions; or situations that call for something as simple as added sound effects (like animal sounds). And some of them provide opportunities to carry over some of the delights of baby-play (such as “This little piggie” or “Trot, trot to Boston”) into the comparatively new experience of reading.

Nancy Tafuri’s minimalist The Ball Bounced was one of our earliest favorites — a perfect transition from board book to picture book. With its brief (33 words), verb-heavy text, its homey, familiar setting, and its satisfyingly circular plot full of surprise and action, it affords a short but complete reading experience, and mirrors the adventure small children find in the most mundane of activities. As a baby is being carried out the back door in Mother’s laundry basket, he jettisons his ball, and off it bounces. “The cat jumped. / The water splashed. / the dog ran / the door slammed,” etc., until the ball stops — right next to the baby. “And the baby laughed.” (The ball’s eventful and entertaining journey is baby’s to enjoy alone, by the way: Mother has her back turned, hanging out the laundry — a shared secret between book character and child reader.) Tafuri’s pictures are bold, in extreme close-up; they held Emily’s attention completely. But the active verbs encouraged me to add a kind of fingerplay to the already-satisfying experience of the book: I would walk my two fingers along the pages as the dog ran, flap my hand up in flight along with the bird (and land with a tickle), and “slam” the book with my arm in imitation of the door. She never failed to laugh at the end, along with the baby.

In John Steptoe’s Baby Says, the story is all in the two brothers’ faces. Baby — who, plump and cuddly in his molten-sunshine pajamas, is the epitome of babyhood, both nuisance and pure joy — wants out of the playpen, and pesters his big brother until that softy lets him out. Then, parroting brother’s words — “Okay. Uh, oh. No, no” — he heads straight for the irresistible tower of blocks brother has laboriously constructed, and knocks it down. Then follow two glorious spreads, one wordless, with brother glowering at mischievous baby, the next showing brother won over by baby’s spontaneous kiss. “Okay, baby. Okay.” By supplying just seven words in different combinations, the author forces the adult reader to pay close attention to this small home movie of a picture book. Intonation is everything. Knowledge of who is saying what is everything. But whether it was the emotion-filled pictures, the repeated words (with someone else being told “no”), or our own narration, Emily loved it. And since she called it “Uh-oh,” she could ask for it before she could talk.

A more recent beautifully-paced-for-toddlers book is Peggy Rathmann’s sweet and sly Good Night, Gorilla. What will your child like most about it? Following the progress of the released balloon? Eagerly awaiting that cartoon-like sequence of big and small goodnights followed by a pair of very surprised eyes popping open in the dark? It will probably vary from night to night, but there will always be something to keep a small child’s attention.

Two of our all-time favorite books raised the use of repetition to high art. Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs’s brilliant Elephant and the Bad Baby begins with a deceptive innocence: “Once upon a time there was an elephant.” We see a massive elephant standing still — though it soon will prove itself very light on its feet (and equally light-fingered) — dwarfing the airplanes buzzing about it like mosquitoes. The elephant meets up with a “bad baby,” and they soon become the Thelma and Louise of the picture-book set, rampaging through town lifting goodies from this shop and that. Though it looks like it has far too many words for young children, in fact it is the ideal two-year-old book: a romp so full of action and choice repetition and so perfectly paced that it is more like an exhilarating amusement-park ride than a picture book. Much controversy has arisen over the plot (we are talking rampant shoplifting here) and over calling the baby “bad” (though he does learn to say please); all that went right over the head of Emily-at-two. She loved the refrain, which virtually repeats as is on each page, with only the scenes of the crime changing: “Soon they met an ice cream man. And the Elephant said to the Bad Baby, ‘Would you like an ice cream?’ And the Bad Baby said yes. So the Elephant stretched out his trunk, and took an ice cream for himself and an ice cream for the Bad Baby. And they went rumpeta rumpeta rumpeta, all down the road, with the ice cream man running after.” She loved those galloping rumpetas, the contrast between the immense elephant and the small baby, the angry merchants going “bump into a heap,” and the reassuring ending to the wild adventure, as the elephant rumpetas off into the night, “but the bad baby went to bed.” Here is a perfect last sentence: the alliteration and the rhythm and the droning emphasis of those one-syllable words winding down the book like a worn-out baby.

John Burningham’s Mr. Gumpy’s Outing was practically Emily’s mantra as a small child (she used it, rather than the traditional blanket or stuffed animal, as her so-called “comfort object”). Here the repetition is in story structure, as two children and then a succession of animals, each larger than the last, politely ask to join Mr. Gumpy on his boat ride. “‘Can I come along, Mr. Gumpy?’ said the rabbit. ‘Yes, but don’t hop about.’” Never mind that the average one- and two-year-old doesn’t know enough animal behavior to be able to anticipate the inevitable disaster. The introduction of each personality-rich animal in close-up on the righthand page (as the left page shows the ever-more-crowded boat) and Mr. Gumpy’s unheeded warnings allow for the incorporation of a variety of sounds and actions (the most fun is the pig “mucking about” and chickens flapping: the mucking about calls for some creative interpretation, and the flapping calls for a lot of energetic exercise). The two double-page spreads — of the capsize and the tea party — provide plenty of time and space to locate and identify all the characters. (It was of particular interest to the pre-verbal Emily that the little girl’s hair flew straight up as she fell into the water; Emily would always make her own hair stand straight up as well.) The book’s pacing is impeccable, from the introduction of Mr. Gumpy and the build-up of the appealing animal cast, to the exciting, kersplashing climax, to the reassuring resolution. Again, the book has a remarkably satisfying last line: an open-ended, inclusive, circular “come for a ride another day.”

Two more recent examples of books using repetition with great success are Ashley Wolff’s Stella and Roy — a wonderful, toddler-empowering tortoise-and-the-hare variant, in which slow and steady wins the race for younger brother Roy on his little four-wheeler (“and Roy rolled right on by”) — and Minfong Ho’s Hush!: A Thai Lullaby, with its humorously overzealous mother trying to hush all the animals in the jungle in turn so that her baby can sleep.

These are just a few examples of what’s out there for the youngest reader. There is much more to recommend and share — whether you read books straight through or make them, when appropriate, into more participatory experiences. (Obviously, how much embellishment you add depends on the material, the situation, and the child. You wouldn’t add train sounds or quiz your child on color identification if you were reading Freight Train at bedtime to a sleepy toddler.) For us, the books in which we participated — the ones in which that curious alchemy took place — are the ones we both remember best. We’ve moved on now, to books for older picture-book readers — and Emily has long since outgrown the need for those transitional moos and bounces. But at age one, and at two, such participation helped make reading into something active, something she helped make happen. And that seems like the first step toward the more internal but just as participatory activity of independent reading — and toward a lifelong love of books.

From the March/April 1997 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Rumpeta-ing through Reading: Picture Books for the Very Young appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Rumpeta-ing through Reading: Picture Books for the Very Young as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
6. Review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

sheinkin_most dangerousstar2Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret 
History of the Vietnam War
by Steve Sheinkin
Middle School, High School   Roaring Brook   361 pp.
9/15   978-1-59643-952-8   $19.99   g

Without a wasted word or scene, and with the timing and prowess of a writer of thrillers, Sheinkin takes on a spectacularly complex story—and makes it comprehensible to teen readers: how Daniel Ellsberg evolved from a committed “cold warrior” to an antiwar activist, and why and how he leaked the Pentagon Papers—“seven thousand pages of documentary evidence of lying, by four presidents and their administrations over twenty-three years”—which led to the Watergate Scandal, the fall of the Nixon administration, and, finally, the end of the Vietnam War. From the very beginning of his account, Sheinkin demonstrates the human drama unfolding behind the scenes; the secrecy surrounding White House and Pentagon decisions; the disconnect between the public and private statements of our nation’s leaders. Throughout, readers will find themselves confronted by large, timely questions, all of which emerge organically from the book’s events: Can we trust our government? How do we know? How much secrecy is too much? The enormous amount of incorporated primary-source documentation (from interviews with Daniel Ellsberg himself to White House recordings) means not only that readers know much more than ordinary U.S. citizens did at the time but that every conversation and re-enacted scene feels immediate and compelling. Sheinkin (Bomb, rev. 11/12; The Port Chicago 50, rev. 3/14) has an unparalleled gift for synthesizing story and bringing American history to life; here, he’s outdone even himself. Meticulous scholarship includes a full thirty-
six pages of bibliography and source notes; judiciously placed archival photographs add to the sense of time and place.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
7. Review of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin Bomb: The Race to Build — and Steal — the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
While comprehensive in his synthesis of the political, historical, and scientific aspects of the creation of the first nuclear weapon, Sheinkin focuses his account with an extremely alluring angle: the spies. The book opens in 1950 with the confession of Harry Gold — but to what? And thus we flash back to Robert Oppenheimer in the dark 1930s, as he and readers are handed another question by the author: “But how was a theoretical physicist supposed to save the world?” Oppenheimer’s realization that an atomic bomb could be created to use against Nazi Germany is coupled with the knowledge that the Germans must be working from the same premise, and the Soviets are close behind. We periodically return to Gold’s ever-deepening betrayals as well as other acts of espionage, most excitingly the two stealth attacks on occupied Norway’s Vemork power plant, where the Germans were manufacturing heavy water to use in their own nuclear program. As he did in the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winner The Notorious Benedict Arnold (rev. 1/11), Sheinkin here maintains the pace of a thriller without betraying history (source notes and an annotated bibliography are exemplary) or skipping over the science; photo galleries introducing each section help readers organize the events and players. Writing with journalistic immediacy, the author eschews editorializing up through the chilling last lines: “It’s a story with no end in sight. And, like it or not, you’re in it.” Index.

From the November/December 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
8. Reviews of selected books by Jonathan Stroud

stroud_amulet of samarkandThe Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book One
by Jonathan Stroud
Middle School      Miramax/Hyperion     462 pp.
9/03     0-7868-1859-X      $17.95

The magicians ruling the British empire in this anachronistic modern fantasy derive their powers from demons — marids, afrits, djinn, imps — who, though summoned to work the magicians’ wills, are always looking for a loophole through which to destroy them. Bartimaeus, a smart-mouthed bruiser of a djinni, called by a stripling magician to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, finds just such a loophole when he learns his master’s secret birth-name. Nathaniel, however, manages to regain the upper hand with a time-delayed spell: Bartimaeus must protect the apprentice magician long enough to get the spell removed or spend eternity in a tobacco tin. Through guile, teamwork, and dumb luck the ambitious but green kid and the “Spenser for Hire”-type djinni uncover and foil a coup attempt masterminded by  Simon Lovelace, the powerful and ruthless magician who is after them for stealing the Amulet. The pace never slows in this wisecracking adventure; chapters in Bartimaeus’s lively first person (with indulgent explanatory footnotes) alternate with third-person chapters on Nathaniel’s adolescent insecurities and desires. Stroud has created a compelling fantasy story in a well-realized world, but it is the  complementary characters of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel that will keep readers coming back for the rest of the projected trilogy. ANITA L. BURKAM

stroud_golem's eyeThe Golem’s Eye: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Two
by Jonathan Stroud
Intermediate, Middle School     Miramax/Hyperion     556 pp.
9/04     0-7868-1860-3     17.95      g

This second book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy focuses more on the politics and society of the corrupt, magician-ruled London posited here and less on the personal stories of the orphan Nathaniel and the  djinni Bartimaeus, with a noticeable drop in the entertainment quotient. Oh, there’s action and intrigue aplenty — the now-adolescent Nathaniel, with Bartimaeus’s reluctant help, must overcome two seemingly unstoppable villains: a golem activated by an unknown traitor in the government and an insane, murderous afrit encased in Gladstone’s skeleton. As if that weren’t enough, Stroud adds a new major character to the mix — Kitty Jones, commoner and Resistance member. Kitty’s story as oppressed, brave rebel is compelling, and readers will find her admirable, balancing out the increasingly unlikable Nathaniel, who, as “John Mandrake,” power-hungry junior minister, is amoral and self-important. But pages spent with Kitty and Nathaniel/Mandrake mean fewer spent with Bartimaeus, and that’s a loss: the djinni’s dryly humorous, supercilious, often rude persona is one of the books’ strengths; also, it’s his voice that gives readers that insider’s view of the book’s highly inventive magical world. With most — but not all? — of the villains vanquished, Stroud brings Kitty and Bartimaeus together and spells out the similarity of their lots: both commoners and magical beings suffer at the hands of the all-powerful magicians. The potential for a Bartimaeus-Kitty partnership, plus one or two loose ends left untied, will leave readers eager for book three. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

stroud_ptolemy's gatestar2 Ptolemy’s Gate: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Three
by Jonathan Stroud
Middle School, High School     Miramax/Hyperion     503 pp.
1/06     ISBN 0-7868-1861-1     $17.95

This closing installment is the best yet, as the fates of the djinni Bartimaeus, the magician John Mandrake (true name: Nathaniel), and the commoner Kitty Jones grow ever more tightly entwined. The  situation in Stroud’s alternate-universe London has gone from bad to worse, with an unpopular overseas war draining men and resources; the ruling magicians corrupt; and the populace increasingly desperate. Now in hiding, Kitty is secretly learning all she can about Ptolemy, an ancient-Egyptian scholar whom Bartimaeus served — and loved — who aspired to break the cycle of enslavement between spirits and humans. Meanwhile, Bartimaeus, his essence sadly diminished by two years’ continual service in the material world, seeks his release; Nathaniel, now a cynical top minister, needs him to investigate a plot to overthrow the government. When the attempted coup goes horribly wrong and powerful demons ravage the city, Nathaniel, Bartimaeus, and Kitty find themselves fighting on the same side—and, in the case of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, even in the same body. Stroud is a masterful storyteller, balancing touching sentiment with humor, explosive action scenes with philosophical musings on human nature. He ties up the loose ends from previous installments (the identity of the government traitor, etc.) early on, freeing the book from the usual duties of a wrap-up volume and allowing it considerable momentum and power. Skillfully intertwining the various plot strands, Stroud builds to a thrilling, inventive climax. The final scene manages to take the reader completely by surprise and yet seem, in retrospect, inevitable: a stunning end to a justly acclaimed trilogy. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

stroud_ring of solomonstar2 The Ring of Solomon: A Bartimaeus Novel
by Jonathan Stroud
Intermediate, Middle School     Disney-Hyperion     398 pp.
11/10     978-1-4231-2372-9     $17.99

Bartimaeus, the wisecracking djinni, returns in a prequel to his earlier adventures that began with The Amulet of Samarkand (rev. 11/03). Th is time he is bound into slavery to one of the evil magicians in King Solomon’s court. Meanwhile, the queen of Sheba refuses Solomon’s marriage proposal and, in retribution, the apparent tyrant threatens her kingdom with immediate destruction. Asmira, the queen’s most trusted guard, is sent to Jerusalem on a desperate errand: to assassinate Solomon and capture his legendary ring, the source of his enormous power. As the plot wends its way to the end, Asmira comes to realize that her blind obedience to the queen is just as confining as any form of slavery. Stroud has crafted a worthy companion to the Bartimaeus trilogy, keeping what worked (the snarky first-person voice, the labyrinthine plotting) but adding enough new elements (the world of the ancient Hebrews and the characters that populate it) to keep it as inventive and satisfying as the previous books. So rarely do humor and plot come together in such equally strong measures that we can only hope for more adventures. JONATHAN HUNT

stroud_heroes of the valleystar2 Heroes of the Valley
by Jonathan Stroud
Middle School, High School     Hyperion     483 pp.
1/09     978-1-4231-0966-2     $17.99     g

Will the descendants of the “heroes” — long memorialized in bloodthirsty legend — abandon their peaceable recent traditions to turn their ploughshares into swords? Will protagonist Halli, the short, stumpy younger son of Svein’s House, survive nonstop action to realize his true nature? To Stroud’s credit, he keeps readers guessing — about plot turns, character revelations, and the novel’s philosophical implications — through many a deftly choreographed conflict. Counterpointing the main narrative are legends of progenitor hero Svein, a Beowulfian figure known for harshly subduing his own people as well as the fearsome, feared (but not seen for generations), troll-like Trows. Despite the valley’s long-ago decision to eschew weaponry and abide by the decisions of peace-preaching women, it’s Svein who inspires Halli’s journey to avenge a murdered uncle. Halli’s actions, clever and well-meaning though they are, tend to have unintended consequences, causing commotion all over the valley and propelling the plot. Pursued, he takes refuge at Arne’s House, where Aud — equally intelligent and rebellious — hides him, becomes his valiant friend and bickering partner, and shares her family’s thought-provokingly different versions of the legends. She assumes a key role in a well-earned denouement, first during a siege involving some nicely inventive improvisation and again when the question of the Trows’ existence finally comes into play — with surprising results. Much fun. JOANNA RUDGE LONG

stroud_screaming staircaseThe Screaming Staircase [Lockwood & Co.]
by Jonathan Stroud
Intermediate, Middle School     Disney-Hyperion     374 pp.
9/13     978-1-4231-6491-3     $16.99     g

With a morbidly cheery tone and sure-footed establishment of characters and setting, Stroud (the Bartimaeus trilogy; Heroes of the Valley, rev. 1/09) kicks off a new series that is part procedural and part ghost story, with a healthy dash of caper thrown in for good measure. No one knows how the “Problem” began, but ghosts have become the world’s worst pest infestation, causing rampant property damage and personal injury, even death. Protagonist Lucy’s extreme psychic sensitivity (a talent found only in young people) is rivaled only by her dislike of obeying stupid orders, so she joins Lockwood & Co., a scrappy independent agency run by teenage operatives who scorn the usual requisite adult supervision. After a job goes awry, the agency is forced to take on a high-profile, high-paying haunting from a client who is, of course, not telling them everything. The setup is classic and is executed with panache. Lucy’s wry, practical voice counterpoints the suspenseful supernatural goings-on as she, agency owner Anthony  Lockwood, and dour associate George attempt to stiff-upper-lip their way through the ultimate haunted house. Tightly plotted and striking just the right balance between creepiness and hilarity, this rollicking series opener dashes to a fiery finish but leaves larger questions about the ghost Problem open for future
exploration. CLAIRE E. GROSS

stroud_whispering skullStroud, Jonathan The Whispering Skull
436 pp. Disney/Hyperion 2014. ISBN 978-1-4231-6492-0

(3) 4-6 Lockwood & Co. series. The ragtag juvenile ghost-hunter agency, Lockwood & Co., takes on its second big-ticket case, this one involving sinister artifacts with possible links to the genesis of Britain’s ghost “Problem.” Stroud unfolds an intricate plot that inches readers closer to the central supernatural mystery, offering a cozy, creepy tale that balances ghostly peril with hefty helpings of stiff-upper-lip snark. Glos. CLAIRE E. GROSS

The post Reviews of selected books by Jonathan Stroud appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Reviews of selected books by Jonathan Stroud as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
9. Review of Lair of Dreams

bray_lair of dreamsLair of Dreams: A Diviners Novel
by Libba Bray
High School   Little, Brown   691 pp.
8/15   978-0-316-12604-5   $19.00   g
e-book ed. 978-0-316-36488-1   $9.99

Seventeen-year-old flapper Evie O’Neill (The Diviners, rev. 11/12) and friends confront another supernatural threat. As before, Bray follows multiple characters, many of them also paranormally gifted; while Evie (now a radio star known as the “Sweetheart Seer”) is still a focal point, here dream walkers Henry DuBois and Ling Chan also come to the fore. Several plot threads intertwine when Ling and Henry begin dream-walking together (Henry hopes to communicate with Louis, the love he left behind in New Orleans; Ling meets another dream walker, a Chinese girl named Wai-Mae) and a frightening “sleeping sickness” descends on New York City, sending people into comas, then death. As the sleeping sickness spreads, Henry and Ling start to notice disturbing things about the dream world…and about Wai-Mae. Bray’s vividly detailed descriptions, which take readers from glittering high-society parties to claustrophobic tunnels filled with ghastly creatures, give the novel a sweeping, cinematic quality. Sweet relationships (romantic, platonic, and familial) and snarky banter filled with period slang balance and accentuate the suspenseful horror. Through it all, new questions arise as mysteries from the previous novel deepen. What is the connection between the Diviners and the government’s ominous Project Buffalo? Who is the man in the stovepipe hat lurking at the edges of all this supernatural violence? Despite its considerable length, fans will barrel through this second installment and emerge impatient for the next.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Lair of Dreams appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Lair of Dreams as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
10. Review of Flutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido

paschkis_flutter and humFlutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido: Animal Poems / Poemas de Animales
by Julie Paschkis; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Holt   32 pp.
8/15   978-1-62779-103-8   $17.99

A turtle hides treasures in its shell. Whales dance with the ocean. A cat sleeps on a map and wakes to stretch across the world, from Arequipa to Zanzibar. These are just a few of the creatures that populate Paschkis’s animal poems. Written first in Spanish then translated into English by the (non-native Spanish speaker) author, each poem is intricately connected to its corresponding painting, with additional, thematic words found throughout the pictures. For example, the snake in “Snake / La Serpiente” slithers through blades of grass imprinted with English and Spanish words that begin with the letter S: serpentine, swerve; sombra, sorpresa. In “Fish / El Pez,” a boy sleeps on a boat that floats above fish swimming in a sea of lulling words: linger, flow; luna, burbuja. The colors and line-work of each gouache illustration vary somewhat according to the subject: the playful dog is all bright colors and curving, bouncy balls, while the crow is dark with sharp edges and straight lines. Readers will find themselves carefully studying every little detail of the illustrations while being charmed by the poems.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Flutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Flutter & Hum / 
Aleteo y Zumbido as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. YA Meets the Real: Fiction and Nonfiction That Take On the World

It began with hot summer nights.

It was on hot summer nights — when it was far too hot to go outside, when all I wanted to do was sit under the throttle of a noisy air conditioner — that I got my best reading done as a teenager.

There were two kinds of books I was most addicted to: young adult novels such as Paul Zindel’s My Darling, My Hamburger, and those slightly racy, edgy dog-eared adult paperbacks that sat on the shelf in the dining room: Up the Down Staircase, Down These Mean Streets, Black Boy, anything by James Baldwin. I was looking for books that felt urgent, because I was growing up in urgent times — the Vietnam War, school integration battles, assassinations.

These conflicts did not feel far away. They felt as if they were right in my home. And they were. Not just through the TV and Life magazine but through books and the nighttime conversations in our living rooms, out on the concrete porches in our garden apartment complex in Queens. The war, for me, was my older brother’s friends marching or getting arrested at a protest or getting in trouble at school for being too radical. Assassination threats breathed right through our nylon curtains, where I could see the windows of my neighbor, Roy Wilkins, the head of the NAACP, whose own life was threatened by radical black separatists. During the balmy days of autumn 1968 I went to school at a neighbor’s apartment since the NYC teachers’ strike, sparked by racial tensions, had shut down the schools.

The world was in tumult, with problems, particularly urban problems, festering and boiling over. My feed was the TV news and weekly newsmagazines but also the private space of reading and novels. This fluctuation — between journalism and imagination, nonfiction and fiction — would become my pulse, my muse as a writer.

Thus, even when I was writing and publishing in the adult world, there was a moment when I knew I wanted to try my hand at young adult literature. I wanted to recapture that earlier, purer reading experience. I wanted to shed some of the “adultisms” I’d picked up studying in my MFA program, which had made my style a touch too self-conscious and mannered. I wanted to reach back to the love of story, along with an urgent sense of what matters, out there. I was just waiting for the right YA story to come to me.

budhos_remix2Not surprisingly, that story came to me through journalism. My first foray into writing for young adults was a nonfiction book called Remix: Conversations with Immigrant Teenagers, a series of profiles. Even then I knew I was interested in melding this intimate sense of teenagers themselves with the bigger story of which they were a part — in this case, immigration. How did coming of age feel to those who were coming to a brand-new country? What were the echoes across stories, between, for instance, a teenager from the Dominican Republic and one from the former Soviet Union? It was both variety and similarity that interested me. It was the first step, in my mind, of mixing it up in the YA world, showing the vast range of experience that young people can — and do — face. Like a lot of people who start to write YA, I wanted to write the books I did not see on shelves, to show characters and young lives that were not yet portrayed.

The idea for my first young adult novel, Ask Me No Questions, came out of a similar instinct. When 9/11 happened, I began to think about some of the young people I’d interviewed for Remix, especially Muslim girls who had been so affected by the Gulf War. So I began to track stories about the impact of 9/11 on Muslim communities — the Patriot Act, the panic as undocumented families began to flee to the border. My first idea was to do a magazine profile of an undocumented teenager at this moment in time. Yet the more I spoke to people, and poked around, the more I knew I didn’t want to do a journalism piece. I wanted to tell this story from the inside, to explore what such a quandary might be like for a young teenager. I wanted to fuse that external world situation with the internal dynamics of a family, with all of its own private dramas. That fusion between the outside and the inside is what most animates me as a YA writer. It harks back to my own growing up, stretched out with newspapers and Life and my paperbacks, trying to make sense of the tumult around me, both within my family and out there, in chaotic and angry times.

I’ve come to trust this dual instinct in myself, the confluence of nonfiction and fiction, journalism and imagination. It’s a hunch, a gut feeling, using a journalist’s eyes and ears to notice the stories of teenagers who are often not seen; young people confronted by something bigger than what they might be able to comprehend.

budhos_ask me no questionsFor me, what’s so interesting about writing this type of fiction is that it’s a kind of helix you’re turning back and forth in order to reveal the private and the public — and where those two overlap. In the case of Ask Me No Questions, I had the chance to illuminate the circumstances of those who live in secret, undocumented. At the same time, I would turn the helix and dwell on a dynamic that is not culturally specific, that of two sisters who don’t actually like each other. In doing so, I’m hoping to strike an emotional chord with readers on a personal level, then widen their perspective to strike an emotional chord on a more global level.

One of the characteristics of YA is that these are vulnerable young characters, getting buffeted with emotions and experiences, perhaps for the first time. The impact of politics, or an endangering situation, or the discomfort of class, hits these characters with a kind of raw and unfiltered punch. That doesn’t necessarily mean the writing itself should be raw and unfiltered, but it does allow for a kind of directness that is more often muted in an adult novel.

There’s another aspect of YA that I find exciting: the cleanness of the form, the clarity with which you need to see and speak of the world. Writing YA is often about pace, about moving forward through the use of voice and story, perhaps a bit more quickly and straightforwardly than one might do in adult books. It’s almost cinematic for me. Voice brings you into the interiority of the character, while the more visual, cinematic part propels you forward with a rhythm that is true to a teenager’s experience.

And yet here’s the dilemma when writing about “the world” for YA: unlike an adult reader, a teen reader does not necessarily come to a book — fiction or nonfiction — wanting to know about that book’s specific subject. How, then, to excite them, pull them in? Again, I believe it comes down to crafting a clean and pure voice, one that is naturally saturated with those details that start to fill in the world.

budhos_tell us we're homeWhen I was writing my second YA novel, Tell Us We’re Home, about three daughters of maids and nannies in a contemporary suburban town, I wanted to move away from the first person, even though I knew the “go-to” voice in YA is usually first-person or limited third-person. I wanted to do a touch of omniscience since, for me, the town is a character in the novel; a place these girls ache to feel as their home. But how to do omniscience that is also true to YA?

So I tried to employ a narrative voice that hovers, lightly, around my characters, affecting their mood, their acute sense of outsider-ness. To bring it back to the movies, the voice functioned as a kind of pan shot — nannies trundling up the hill with their Dunkin’ Donuts coffees, day-laborers lining up in a parking lot and other people grumbling about them. Then I would zoom in on the things that a teenager would pick up on, such as what my character Maria notices when she steps into an upper-middle-class home for the first time. It’s the small details — the posed, pseudo-moody black-and-white photographs of a boy, placed staggered up a wall, symbolized the feeling that their son was so important that his parents had given him a narrative of himself, his childhood, through these pictures. That was true entitlement—far more powerful than an expensive knapsack or other conventional symbols of affluence.

There again I found the fluctuation between the reader and the story: what I wanted to show the teenage reader, expanding his or her view and sense of the world, while also paying close attention to how a teenage character might experience those very same tensions. Whether I succeeded or not, I’m proud of my impulse to try — to open up some of the more limiting narrative methods that are commonly used in young adult literature; to suggest that teenagers are imbedded in a social context that goes beyond and outside the voice and frame of what they’d normally find in a YA novel. It’s this challenge that excites me — pushing the edges of YA and our expectations of the teen reader.

There are real hazards, of course, in writing fiction that is topic-based. For one thing, there’s nothing more boring than an inert fictional narrative that’s torn from today’s headlines. We will sense its hastiness, its impermanence on the page. One way to caution against this, for any writer, is to strip away the dilemma and headline moment and see if the characters still exist in your mind as vividly as they did before. Can you imagine these characters not in this crisis or situation? If you can, if you are as interested in them as you had been, then you know you may have a real seed; the world does not define your characters, but rather the world and its events are organic parts of who they are.

Another hazard is the imposition of the adult agenda, which, while well-meaning, might stifle the teenage character, how he or she sees events. Teenagers love nothing better than to poke fun at the piety of adult concerns about them. That’s what I try to keep in mind as I craft my forthcoming young adult novel, Watched, a follow-up to Ask Me No Questions, about a Muslim boy who becomes an informant on his community. My character is anything but a victim or an angel — he’s a slacker, a liar, a yearning wannabe, and he has few articulated thoughts about Islam or politics or terrorism. Yet he’s smack in the middle of those issues, like it or not.

Real-life teenagers are notoriously solipsistic. And in some ways, I would fault the YA world for too long dwelling on characters that were defined by what we think of as “typical” problems for a teenager. For one teenager — such as my own son, for instance — that life experience consists of being ferried to and from his activities and sports. For another teenager it might mean translating for her mother when she interviews for a cleaning job, or coming home and doing the housework for all her relatives. It’s thrilling to expand the notion of what makes up a teenager’s experiences, or to try and give teens a wider context for their own lives.

Teenagers can be subversive, rash, unformed, unpredictable. They can be dreamy and spacey. In one moment they’re screaming like four-year-olds, and in the next they have all the wisdom of a grandparent. They’re pointy and rough. That’s what makes them so interesting as protagonists. Don’t shave that away or sand them down in the interest of a larger point you’re trying to make. Teenage characters are not wish fulfillments of our adult concerns; they’re not there to correct the crimes and misdemeanors of a prior generation.

What we’re talking about is a mutability of perspective. The world, its events, may be unnamed, inarticulate, half understood by your characters. Whatever it is you wish to communicate, make sure it is in tune with the character. Don’t put words in her mouth; don’t make him more composed and formed than he could ever be.

The world — its urgencies — are being worked out by teenagers. Allow that working out to be part of the story. Allow them to discover what they make of the world, and your reader — young and adult — will come along for the ride.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post YA Meets the Real: Fiction and Nonfiction That Take On the World appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on YA Meets the Real: Fiction and Nonfiction That Take On the World as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
12. Not. So. Fast.

chickensThose of you who follow @rogerreads might have seen my occasional cranky #authoraskyourself (#editoraskyourself, #revieweraskyourself…) tweets in which I turn whatever crime against language and/or literature that has crossed my desk that day into a blind item for an anonymous public spanking. I keep them anonymous because a) I’m not that mean, b) they’re often examples of promiscuous horrors rather than being singularly egregious, and c) I don’t want to taint any official opinion that  the Horn Book might subsequently proffer in a review.

I have learned not to offer premature word on what the Horn Book might or might not say about a particular book. Years ago, a close friend published a novel that had been submitted for review. I stayed out of the discussion about whether to assign the book to a Magazine reviewer and which reviewer to send it to, but later when I heard that the reviewer and the editor loved it, I felt safe in telling my friend that the book would be recommended in an upcoming issue. Not. So. Fast. The reviewer had second thoughts and convinced the editor that the book should in fact not be reviewed. Ouch.

Wincing, I remembered this little learning experience when I saw that a Facebook acquaintance posted a sad lament that the review her new book had been “promised” by another publication several months ago had not yet appeared. While I have no way of knowing just what was promised by whom to whom, I’d advise concerned parties to neither offer nor expect a review until it’s ready to print. A Horn Book Magazine review goes through several editors and stages before we think it’s fit to print, and it changes all along the way. And sometimes it disappears–one or another of us will look askance at a book or its review, conveniently claim amnesia for the mistake of assigning it in the first place, and query our fellows as to whether to drop it from the Magazine (#Ijustdidthistoday). For a selective review source like the Magazine, the toughest decisions involve those books that are good but not great, and by those that our partners in crime at SLJ, etc., are raving about while we’re thinking, “this? THIS? Really?” The challenge posed by this latter kind is deciding whether to publicly demur or just keep quiet.

Don’t even get me started on stars.

The post Not. So. Fast. appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Not. So. Fast. as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
13. Review of Rhythm Ride

pinkney_rhythm rideRhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through 
the Motown Sound
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Middle School   Roaring Brook   166 pp.
9/15   978-1-59643-973-3   $19.99   g

As related by an irrepressible narrator Pinkney names “the Groove,” this history of Motown Records manages not only to smartly place the company and its hit records in the context of (mostly) 1960s America but to have a great time doing so: “Put your hand up like you’re halting traffic. Really flick your wrist, kid. Because stopping in the name of love needs to be strong.” Pinkney traces the success of Motown from founder Berry Gordy’s initial drive and doggedness through early success among African American audiences to the breakout worldwide fame of acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and the Jackson 5. While the tone is generally peppy, the book gives due attention to the racism the company and its artists faced, and how Motown both reflected and contributed to — as in Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” — the dramatic social changes of its heyday. “The Groove” (based, says Pinkney in an afterword, on the voice of a deejay cousin) is an energetic and amiable guide, but better at pumping enthusiasm than providing musical insight; there’s not much here on what made “the Motown sound” uniquely recognizable and distinct. That said, Pinkney provides an excellent discography that will lead young readers to the classic tracks, and, my goodness, they are many. Photographs throughout capture backstage moments as well as the full Motown glamour; appended material includes a timeline, thorough source notes and a reading list, and an index.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Rhythm Ride appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Rhythm Ride as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
14. Horn BOO! 2015

Don’t be frightened. The ten (not-so) terrifying tales reviewed by the Horn Book staff in our annual Halloween roundup are only make-believe. (Wait, what’s that behind you?)

horn boo_day_carl's halloweenCarl’s Halloween
by Alexandra Day; illus. by the author
Preschool   Ferguson/Farrar   32 pp.
8/15   978-0-374-31082-0   $14.99

When Mom blithely announces that she’s going over to Grandma’s for a while and that Rottweiler Carl and his girl (Good Dog, Carl and sequels) can hand out the candy to trick-or-treaters, well, you can see from the September/October Horn Book’s cover illustration that things don’t go exactly like that. Carl and the little girl take over the action in a series of wordless, sumptuous double-page spreads, donning the most minimal of costumes (a necklace for Carl; a hat for the girl) to join the Halloween festivities. Gratifyingly, Carl never looks anything but doglike, although his facial expressions belie his care for the girl as he gently guides — and eventually carries — her about the neighborhood. Per usual, the watercolor illustrations are gloriously hued, the red feather in the girl’s hat gorgeous against the October evening sky. ROGER SUTTON

horn boo_kimmelman_trick arr treatTrick Arrr Treat: A Pirate Halloween
by Leslie Kimmelman; 
illus. by Jorge Monlongo
Primary   Whitman   32 pp.
9/15   978-0-8075-8061-5   $16.99   g

Six young swashbucklers — including Toothless Tim, Rude Ranjeet, and “pirate chief” Charlotte Blue-Tongue — plunder their neighborhood for candy on Halloween. The digital palette of oranges and purples grows darker as the evening advances and the trick-or-treaters’ imaginations grow. The young pirates continue “a-romping” until a mysterious shadow that may or may not be a “big black monster, sly and cunning” gets “the frightened pirates running.” With its kid-friendly rhymes and abundance of pirate lingo (“TRICK ARRR TREAT!”), this appealing mash-up of Halloween and pirate themes captures the lighthearted fun of the holiday. Nothing can deter a band of pirates…as long as those pirates are home before dark. MOLLY GLOVER

horn boo_lester_tacky and the haunted iglooTacky and the Haunted Igloo
by Helen Lester; 
illus. by Lynn Munsinger
Primary   Houghton   32 pp.
7/15   978-0-544-33994-1   $16.99   g

Tacky the Penguin and pals (Happy Birdday, Tacky!, rev. 7/13, and others) get into the Halloween spirit by decorating their igloo and preparing trick-or-treat goodies. Actually, his penguin friends do all the work while “Snacky Tacky sampled the treats,” etc. On Halloween night, the haunted igloo is a spooky success, until three hunters dressed as ghosts arrive and demand “all yer yummy treats / Or we do something skearies.” Not a problem, if there were any treats left. But wait! Who’s this “skeary” hunter at the door? Is he the biggest hunter’s “twin brudder”? Tacky’s fans will recognize the odd-bird hero, but it’s enough to scare off the real hunters. The affectionate text and nonthreatening illustrations play up the absurdity of the situation. KITTY FLYNN

horn boo_long_fright clubFright Club
by Ethan Long; illus. by the author
Primary   Bloomsbury   32 pp.
8/15   978-1-61963-337-7   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-61963-418-3   $9.99

The first rule of Fright Club: don’t talk about Fright Club. The next rule? Only the truly scary can be members. Discrimination! cries a bunny, who wastes no time seeking representation, then organizing a demonstration. “HISS, MOAN, BOO! WE CAN SCARE TOO!” chant a butterfly, ladybug, turtle, and squirrel. And scare they do, disrupting the Fright Club meeting and proving their fearsome bona fides just in time for “Operation Kiddie Scare.” It’s a funny Halloween concept that delivers, through Long’s spry text — Ghost: “What are we going to do?!?” Vampire Vladimir: “NOTHING! If you ignore cute little critters, they eventually go away!” — and cartoony digitally colored (but very sparely, it’s mostly all shadowy grays) graphite-pencil illustrations. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

horn boo_masessa_scarecrow magicScarecrow Magic
by Ed Masessa; illus. by Matt Myers
Primary   Orchard/Scholastic   32 pp.
7/15   978-0-545-69109-3   $16.99   g

Stripping off his layers of straw and clothing, a skeleton finishes his workday as a scarecrow and meets up with “ghoulies and ghosties” to “dance under the moon.” A large cast of monsters (furry, scaly, two-headed, or giant) spend all night with the scarecrow, playing games (including hide-and-seek and jacks) and fighting mock battles until the sun starts to rise. Myers’s inventive “troublesome” creatures and ecstatically animated skeleton are depicted through strong black outlines and thick, bold strokes. The rhyming (though occasionally stumbling) text and playful illustrations make this a festive read-aloud. SIÂN GAETANO

horn boo_mcgee_peanut butter and brainsPeanut Butter and Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale
by Joe McGee; 
illus. by Charles Santoso
Primary   Abrams   32 pp.
8/15   978-1-4197-1247-0   $16.95

While the rest of the horde demands “BRAINSSSSS” for “breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” all zombie Reginald wants is a good ol’ PB&J. After striking out at the corner café, the school cafeteria, and the grocery store, Reginald lurches toward a little girl and her paper-bag lunch — sending the townspeople into a panic. But this humorous story ends happily for everyone once the other zombies get a taste of the classic sandwich. The illustrations’ rounded shapes and pastel watercolor washes portray zombies who are more cute than scary, and full of personality. Signs and balloons with images of brains inside cleverly communicate the zombies’ food preferences in a nonverbal way — after all, zombies aren’t very articulate. KATIE BIRCHER

horn boo_munsinger_happy halloween witch's catHappy Halloween, Witch’s Cat!
by Harriet Muncaster; 
illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Harper/HarperCollins   32 pp.
7/15   978-0-06-222916-8   $15.99

In I Am a Witch’s Cat, readers first met the imaginative little girl who enthusiastically maintains, “My mom is a witch, and I am her special witch’s cat.” In this outing, Halloween approaches, and the mother-daughter team heads to the costume shop, where the girl gives an array of options a whirl: “Maybe a silver skeleton? / Too bony! How about a pink ballerina? / Too frilly!” Her final decision is a satisfying, gentle twist on the story’s premise. This book’s standout feature is Muncaster’s unique, endlessly perusable art: three-dimensional scenes combined with mixed-media flat illustrations and textured fabrics, photographed and digitized. KATRINA HEDEEN

horn boo_patricelli_booBoo!
by Leslie Patricelli; illus. by the author
Preschool   Candlewick   28 pp.
7/15   978-0-7636-6320-9   $6.99

In this board-book treat, Patricelli’s diapered baby picks a “just right” pumpkin, helps Daddy carve a familiar-looking jack-o’-lantern (a pumpkin selfie, if you will), and chooses a scary costume: “W-w-what’s that? Oh. It’s only me.” Trick-or-treating with Daddy is a bit spooky, too, until the little ghostie discovers there’s candy involved. The lively color-saturated illustrations play off the simple, direct text, adding humor and silliness to the mix. Two interactive double-page spreads — “How should we carve our jack-o’-lantern?” and “What should I be?” — involve young listeners in the fun and prep newbies for these holiday highlights. KITTY FLYNN

horn boo_stine_little shop of monstersThe Little Shop of Monsters
by R. L. Stine; 
illus. by Marc Brown
Primary   Little, Brown   40 pp.
8/15   978-0-316-36983-1   $17.00   g

Two children’s literature icons team up to create this funny-scary adventure. “If you think you’re brave enough, then come with me” to the Little Shop of Monsters. Two children — a boy, reluctant; and a younger girl, more daring — view the shop’s merchandise, from the Snacker (whose favorite treat is hands) to the Sleeper-Peeper (who hides under kids’ beds). The litany of introductions settles into a predictable pattern — until the clever twist at the end, which will have readers quickly turning the last page (“Phew! You just escaped!”). Stine’s direct-address text is pitched for delicious thrills and chills, while Brown’s cheery palette and over-the-top depictions of the monsters offset the terror just enough. MARTHA V. PARRAVANO

horn boo_ward_there was an old mummy who swallowed a spiderThere Was an Old Mummy 
Who Swallowed a Spider
by Jennifer Ward; illus. by Steve Gray
Preschool, Primary   Two Lions   32 pp.
7/15   978-1-4778-2637-9   $16.99   g

“There was an old mummy… / who swallowed a spider. / I don’t know why he swallowed the spider. / Open wider!” Anyone familiar with the original folksong can guess what happens next in this twisted twist: the mummy’s belly (or what used to be his belly) is soon full of things that go bump in the night. The new rhymes have a few bumps, too, but this mummy tale is wrapped up perfectly. (Ironically, the macabre ending of the original would be redundant here.) Cartoonish digital illustrations use lots of wide, fearful eyes and luminous backgrounds to make the graveyard and haunted-castle settings glow with Halloween anticipation. SHOSHANA FLAX

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Horn BOO! 2015 appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Horn BOO! 2015 as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
15. Review of Waiting

henkes_waitingstar2 Waiting
by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author
Preschool   Greenwillow   32 pp.
9/15   978-0-06-236843-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-06-236844-7   $18.99   g

Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes uses a light touch to address the topic. Five toys wait on a windowsill. An owl waits for the moon; a pig holding an umbrella waits for rain; a bear with a kite waits for wind; and a puppy on a sled waits for snow. The fifth toy, a rabbit head on a spring, “wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. He just liked to look out the window and wait.” Henkes’s five friends are drawn with confident brown outlines filled in with a muted palette of light greens, blues, and pinks in colored-pencil and watercolor. A straightforward text sets up predictable patterns, while the design is varied, with horizontal and oval vignettes and full pages showing the entire window — including an especially striking sequence of four wordless pages. Time passes slowly, day to night, through wind, rain, and seasons, while small changes in the characters’ body positions and eyes show a range of emotions, from dismay (at lightning) to curiosity (at small trinkets added to the sill). Near the end, a large, rounded toy cat joins the quintet and waits for — what? Suddenly, we see that she has four smaller nesting cats inside. The book ends as quietly as it began, with welcoming acceptance of the five new inhabitants on the now-crowded windowsill. Henkes provides no deep meanings and sends no messages; he’s just showing what waiting can be like. Perhaps listeners will find a model for making long waits seem less tiresome: be still and notice what’s around you.

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of Waiting appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Waiting as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
16. Review of The Skunk

barnett_skunkstar2 The Skunk
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Patrick McDonnell
Primary     Roaring Brook     32 pp.
4/15     978-1-59643-966-5     $17.99

A skunk shows up on the narrator’s doorstep and begins to tail him. Try as he might, our narrator just can’t seem to shake the skunk — “When I sped up, the skunk sped up. When I slowed, the skunk slowed” — despite dodging in and out of an opera house, a graveyard, and a carnival. Ultimately, however, our narrator does lose his unwelcome shadow, crawling down a manhole in an alley and establishing a new life in a new house in a new part of the city (the heretofore low-toned palette now bursting with blue and yellow). It’s not long, though, before he realizes everything’s not what it’s cracked up to be, and he leaves his own party to go off in search of the skunk, vowing to keep an eye on him to “make sure he does not follow me again.” McDonnell’s graceful and simple cartoonlike illustrations mitigate the notes of paranoia and obsession in Barnett’s deadpan text, particularly in their rendering of the posture, gestures, and expressions of the main characters. Barnett has had the good fortune to collaborate with illustrators — Rex, Santat, Klassen — who share his oftentimes offbeat sense of humor; his pairing with McDonnell seems as natural as any of them.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of The Skunk appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of The Skunk as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
17. Review of Playful Pigs from A to Z

lobel_playful pigsstar2 Playful Pigs from A to Z
by Anita Lobel; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary     Knopf     40 pp.
7/15     978-0-553-50832-1     $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-50833-8     $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-50834-5     $10.99

Twenty-six pigs wake up in their pen and decide to explore the countryside, running down the road and finding a field of “magical surprises”: brightly colored, freestanding letters of the alphabet. Lobel’s soft early-morning watercolors give way to bolder pages on which each pig is now clothed and standing upright. The entire alphabet, set in a distinctive condensed typeface, runs along the top and bottom borders while each pig interacts happily with a single tall, thin letterform (all are upper-case but i). Lobel uses a name-verb-letter structure (“Amanda Pig admired an A. Billy Pig balanced on a B”), with rolling hills below and plenty of white space behind the pig and letter. Repeat readers will spot an extra object beginning with the letter in question tucked into a lower corner. Gender roles are satisfyingly relaxed: Greta, a female soldier, guards the G, while on the  opposite page Hugo tenderly hugs an H. By the time Yolanda yawns and Zeke zzzs, evening has arrived and the pigs return to their pen in a mirror image of the opening spreads, once again unclothed and running on all fours. Dinner is followed by bedtime, with all twenty-six snuggled together cozily. This playful treatment creates a humorous, easygoing book that should relieve any anxiety about learning the alphabet.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Playful Pigs from A to Z appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Playful Pigs from A to Z as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
18. Review of Firefly Hollow

mcghee_firefly hollowFirefly Hollow
by Alison McGhee; illus. by Christopher Denise
Intermediate   Atheneum   292 pp.
8/15   978-1-4424-2336-7   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-1-4424-9812-9   $10.99

A kindred spirit “understands the deepest dream of your heart,” Vole says to Firefly and Cricket. This trio of friends has big dreams: Vole dreams of sailing down the river to rejoin family and friends lost in a flood years before; Firefly dreams of flying to the moon; and baseball-loving Cricket yearns to be the best catcher since Yogi Berra. Vole has no community, and Firefly and Cricket feel like outsiders in theirs. The affectionate third-person narration follows each friend’s preparations for his or her quest, and when the time comes, Firefly does indeed shoot for the stars, Cricket makes the big catch, and Vole realizes he has not lost everything after all. McGhee has so ably created a believable world where dreams can come true that the entwined fates of a firefly, a cricket, and a vole (and their “miniature giant” friend Peter, a human boy) will move readers with its rightness. Where once they had sung “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with abandon, Firefly now says, upon returning from her aerial adventure, “It’s not true, you know…That part in the song that says you don’t care if you never get back…I cared.” Fifteen full-color plates (only three seen) will embellish the finished edition.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Firefly Hollow appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Firefly Hollow as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
19. Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book

FireEngineThe following books will receive starred reviews in the September/October issue of The Horn Book Magazine:

Fire Engine No. 9; written and illustrated by Mike Austin (Random)

The Nonsense Show; written and illustrated by Eric Carle (Philomel)

Waiting; written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow)

Two Mice; written and illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Clarion)

Crenshaw; by Katherine Applegate (Feiwel)

Sunny Side Up; by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien (Graphix/Scholastic)

I Crawl Through It; by A. S. King (Little, Brown)

The Nest; by Kenneth Oppel; illus. by Jon Klassen (Simon)

The Hired Girl; by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick)

Out of the Woods: A True Story of an Unforgettable Event; written and illustrated by Rebecca Bond; illus. by the author (Ferguson/Farrar)

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans; written and illustrated by Don Brown (Houghton)

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear; by Lindsay Mattick; illus. by Sophie Blackall (Little, Brown)

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War; by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook)

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement; by Carole Boston Weatherford; illus. by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick)



The post Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Starred reviews, September/October Horn Book as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
20. Review of My Cousin Momo

ohora_my cousin momoMy Cousin Momo
by Zachariah OHora; illus. by the author
Primary     Dial     32 pp.
6/15     978-0-8037-4011-2     $16.99

Two squirrel siblings excitedly await a visit from their cousin Momo. Unlike them, he’s a flying squirrel — and once he arrives, they learn that the differences don’t stop there. Everything about Momo is foreign to the squirrel pups, from his perspective on superheroes (his costume: “Muffin Man!”) to the way he plays hide-and-seek and spoils their game of Acorn-Pong by eating the equipment. When the children make it known that they think Momo is no fun, Momo lets loose the waterworks. Feeling guilty, the kids apologize and learn the benefits of trying things “Momostyle” (even if they still like their way better sometimes). Once all is right in the world of cousinhood, Momo soars home, and the three squirrels can’t wait to see one another again soon. With thick lines, bold colors, pitch-perfect sound effects (“PUNT!”), and generous white space, OHora’s illustrations are vibrantly kid-centric. For example, the children’s conversations appear in speech bubbles, while the parents’ dialogue is only in the printed text. The squirrels’ tree-house décor, along with Momo’s striped sneakers and his tritoned athletic bands, emit a retro vibe, and OHora’s talent for capturing emotional facial expressions through seemingly simple brushstrokes is evident, loud and clear. Young readers will enjoy the silly culture clash; librarians and parents will delight in the lightly played theme of approaching the unfamiliar with an open mind.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of My Cousin Momo appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of My Cousin Momo as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
21. Review of First Grade Dropout

vernick_first grade dropoutFirst Grade Dropout
by Audrey Vernick; 
illus. by Matthew Cordell
Primary   Clarion   32 pp.
7/15   978-0-544-12985-6   $16.99

“I can’t stop thinking about it. How everyone laughed and slapped their desks and stomped their feet. And pointed. At me.” The narrator’s social infraction? “I. Called. My. Teacher. MOMMY!!!” It’s a typical-enough blunder among kids new to school (“Don’t worry. It happens every year,” tosses off the boy’s teacher), but what kid in any new situation feels typical? Having suffered what he perceives as landmark mortification, the narrator concludes that dropping out of school is his only option. At soccer practice, where he assumes a calculatedly laid-back persona (“I put my hand on my hip, like someone who doesn’t care if other people laugh”), he tests the waters, telling his best friend, Tyler, that he’s quitting school. Tyler has no idea why — so minor was the narrator’s transgression in everyone else’s eyes. An even more teachable moment comes later, when Tyler laughs at his own derision-worthy slipup. Tyler’s grace is a revelation for the narrator, who leaves the story finally capable of the same. The book is a riot as well as an analgesic: Vernick’s tightly wound, age-appropriately self-absorbed narrator is hugely relatable, but young readers will also get that he’s overdoing it. Cordell’s frugally tinted pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings have a Jules Feiffer–like looseness that captures the narrator’s downward thought-spiral, epitomized by a spread of an imagined all-classmate marching band chanting “Ha! Ha!” and wearing hats that read “Mommy.”

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of First Grade Dropout appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of First Grade Dropout as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
22. Review of Daylight Starlight Wildlife

minor_daylight starlight wildlifeDaylight Starlight Wildlife
by Wendell Minor; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Paulsen/Penguin   32 pp.
5/15   978-0-399-24662-3   $17.99

In his signature representational artistic style — detailed, luminous, and pristine — Minor compares and contrasts diurnal and nocturnal animals. The opening double-page spread establishes the pattern. The creatures introduced are shown in a meadow, with half of them appearing in the daytime on the verso and the others bathed in soft moonlight on the recto. On the following pages, Minor depicts an animal (a butterfly, for example) or group of animals (such as woodchucks) active during the daytime hours; a corresponding illustration, most often on the facing page, shows a related animal or animals (such as a lunar moth or skunks) active at night. Minimal text echoes the movements in each of the gouache illustrations: “Chubby mother woodchuck and her cubs waddle out to munch in the meadow,” while in the nighttime counterpart, “Fearless mother skunk leads her litter through the field to find a midnight snack.” Diurnal animals are depicted first, then their nocturnal counterparts, except on the final double-page spread. Here, a horizontal illustration of nocturnal raccoons faces right to close the book, while below, daytime turkeys travel in the opposite direction. Readers have two options: either follow the raccoons and cut off the lights for bedtime, or follow the turkeys back to the beginning of the book and read it again. A list of “Fun Facts” about the featured creatures is appended.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Daylight Starlight Wildlife appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Daylight Starlight Wildlife as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
23. Review of Boom Snot Twitty: This Way That Way

cronin_boom snot twittyBoom Snot Twitty: This Way That Way
by Doreen Cronin; 
illus. by Renata Liwska
Preschool   Viking   40 pp.
6/15   978-0-670-78577-3   $16.99   g

On the opening endpapers of this gentle story, the unfortunately named Snot (a snail) is happily gathering blueberries and putting them in a basket. The title page shows Boom (a bear) and Twitty (a robin) each preparing for…something; Boom is packing a beach bag while Twitty readies her hiking boots. By the first page they are all set to go, but Boom wants to go one way, and Twitty the opposite direction. “‘Hmmm,’ said Snot.” Boom had his heart set on the beach, and Liwska softens the edges of her delicate-colored illustrations to show that Boom is imagining the sand and sun, just as on the next pages Twitty is imagining hiking up a hill. Each is determined to get his or her own way; Snot, meanwhile, sets off to find someplace that will satisfy all of them. Liwska’s drawings give each creature and object a fuzzy quality that adds to the feeling of coziness. Cronin’s usual rollicking humor is less in evidence here than is her way with spare, child-friendly text. This story of friends disagreeing but finding compromise, through the zen-like wisdom of Snot, will satisfy and perhaps enlighten readers, too.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of Boom Snot Twitty: This Way That Way appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of Boom Snot Twitty: This Way That Way as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. (Very Eventually) The Zena Sutherland Lecture


Dear Readers,

This particular version of my Zena Sutherland Lecture is a fabrication or, at best, a fabulation. Either way it is entirely false. Yes, I did give the Zena Sutherland Lecture at the Harold Washington Library Center in Chicago on May 1, 2015, but it was not as properly cured and marbled as this updated edition. So, for the sake of the great Zena Sutherland, let’s pretend that every word you are reading is exactly every word I spoke on that lovely occasion. Thank you in advance for indulging me in this artifice.

But why this gussied-up version? Well, I am notorious for writing an entire speech on a Post-it note and then never even using that sticky scrap of paper as a guide while I extemporaneously rattle on, believing in some egomaniacal way that I’ll manage to connect the dots-of-thoughts and say something significant on the subject of children’s literature. One final statement: I have great respect for Zena Sutherland and her immense work (for years I taught my graduate students out of her Children and Books), and I do apologize if this effort has failed to properly honor her legacy.

(As you enter this portion of the speech you should brace yourself for some old-fashioned cursing. Very un-Piglet of me. Do forgive.)

Please engage your imagination to begin here, onstage with me in Chicago, where after a charming and generous introduction by Linda Ward-Callaghan, I took to the podium and thanked one and all. I had every intention of standing before the audience and delivering, in a proper professorial tenor, my thousand prepared words, but I got off on the wrong foot. To set the scene from my point of view, the podium surface before me was cluttered with an assortment of extraneous stuff: there was a backup hand-held mic, the jagged metal mount for an outdated stationary mic that had violently been kinked over to one side, a thumbnail volume of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a previous speech on the harmonics of the zither (which I declined to deliver), and a crushed paper cup, along with a tube of lipstick and a tissue with a lip print pressed on it that resembled the animated hand of Señor Wences. I held my mic in my left hand, and as soon as I placed my speech down on that uneven landscape of podium compost my few typed pages began to slide this way and that on the irregular surface. Right away I began fussing with the pages in an effort to stabilize them. From prior talks I knew this sliding speech would cause me to lose my place each time I lifted my eyes to address the audience and then I would look like a dunce as I constantly paused, standing like a bent-over question mark, to track down the next sentence as if I were sorting through a box of mismatched buttons. (I’m one of those who cringe while watching other people mime such an awkward, painfully self-conscious search for their next line — so there was no reason the audience should show me their mercy.) But worse, deep inside I honestly dislike giving a prepared speech because I prefer to look the audience in the eye and feel the crowd and surf their level of interest and their mood and then, like a drum major, I march around the stage while speaking off-the-cuff and riff on my PowerPoint images while trying to remain ever mindful of my theme and do my best to corral my thoughts and tie them all up neatly in the end. In this case my theme was based on “the self as double,” or how I take personal stories and facts and transform them into fictions so that I am both “Jack” the writer and “Jack” the character — the sort of chameleonic duality you might find in the art of Cindy Sherman/Frida Kahlo/Rembrandt van Rijn/Andy Warhol, which is intentionally self-absorbed for very resonant reasons.


Both “Jack” the writer and “Jack” the character.

Anyway, The Horn Book was going to publish my speech so I had dutifully written a short one (to spare them), but the moment I set my speech on the podium it slid off to one side and sailed across the stage floor. Right then I was struck with the gut feeling that I despised my speech. I didn’t trust it one bit—it was neither smart enough nor clever enough, and it represented me poorly. It was an insult to Zena Sutherland. So I stepped on a page of it and said to the audience, “I don’t care to deliver this speech, but I do like speaking to audiences.” Now, having been in the audience plenty of times, I have seen dozens of people who should not venture off of their prepared speeches and go rogue but should just keep their heads down, read at a reasonable rate of speed, take a few questions at the end, and leave the stage with their dignity intact.

But not me. Right away, and without a moment of pre-thought, I launched into a story about Jerry Lewis — so here it is.

* * *

Mr. Lewis was receiving an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Emerson College, and I was a professor at Emerson and chosen by the administration to be his handler for the occasion. I knew he wasn’t going to be easy because he showed evidence that he still had something of the Rat Pack in him: even though he was flying in from Los Angeles at around three in the morning, he had demanded that his hotel room at the Copley Plaza be supplied with eight cases of Heineken — just in case a wild party broke out. So the morning after he flew in I was in the back seat of a white limousine when we picked him up at the hotel. I hopped out and held the limousine door. He emerged from the hotel lobby, and the first thing I noticed was the color of his face — it was the earthy red color of a boiled beat. He looked as if he were going to have a stroke — an angry stroke. A tall man in casual dress got in the limousine as well. I noticed that the man was holding something in his hands that looked like a polished wooden shoebox.

“This is my man,” Jerry said loudly, and pointed toward him. The man nodded at me. I nodded back. I had not been told that Jerry would have a companion.

“See that box?” Jerry shouted. He pointed at it as if his finger were a dueling pistol.

“Yes,” I swiftly replied.

“Open the box!” Jerry snapped at the man. He was loud and impatient, and when his man didn’t move quickly enough, he snapped a second time, “Jerry said open the goddamned box!”

The man coolly removed the top and tilted the box toward me so I could see into it. A portable telephone, the size and heft of a brick, was held in place by a cushion of foam rubber.

“That’s my goddamned phone!” Jerry yelled in my ear. “And that’s my man whose only job is to carry my phone!”

I nodded. The man nodded. “Great,” I remarked in a small voice that I hoped would send Jerry a conversational volume clue.

I must have turned him down too low because he went mute and seemed to doze off for the short drive to the open stage door in the rear of the Wang Theater, where we exited the limousine and entered the green room.

I wasn’t sure how to start up a conversation with Jerry, but thought it was my job to do so. “The French think you are a genius” is all I could think to say, and knew I shouldn’t say. Just then Jerry bailed me out by hollering, “Would you like to see my heart-bypass scars?”

Before I could respond, he ripped his white shirt open like a superhero about to take flight. “Look!” he ordered. “Like fucking train tracks! Right?”

His chest looked as if it had been crudely sewn up after an autopsy.

“Right,” I confirmed in a whisper, then glanced over at Jerry’s man. Maybe he could give me some advice on managing Jerry because I sensed that Jerry was going to spin out and go to a bad place, and if he went bad then I’d be the target. But Jerry’s man showed no expression. He stood there as unmoving and quiet as one of those Easter Island statues — with the box, just in case Jerry got a call from some Rat-Packing party buddy.

Suddenly he shouted directly into my face, “I’m thirsty. Really fucking thirsty!”

“We have water,” I said delicately as I raised my arm like Vanna White and gestured toward the bottles of water on ice in a plastic punch bowl.

“That crap is only good for watering the lawn,” he replied loudly. “I want a beer! I have a fucking kink in my neck and I need a beer to unkink it.” He moved his neck around as if it were a universal joint between his head and his shoulders.

“It’s Sunday,” I meekly informed him. “Liquor stores are closed because of the blue laws.”

Blue balls!” he hollered back and tossed his head left and right while continuing to holler, “I said get Jerry a beer!”

I detected a little bit of the high-pitched, nasally voice from the Nutty Professor in his last demand. “Nothing is open,” I said calmly, wondering how he might respond.

Jerry swiveled to his right. “Man!” he cried out. “Open the door and kick this idiot professor out and only let him back in when he brings me a beer!”

His man opened the door and nodded toward the outside world.

I did as I was instructed and marched outside, where I found myself in a parking lot close to Kneeland Street, which borders Boston’s Chinatown. Right away I started running while putting together a crude plan. I was in a blue Armani suit, white shirt, and some kind of cat-scratch-looking Armani tie. In a moment my shirttail was flopping out and my tie was over my shoulder and my pant cuffs were catching on the toes of my wingtips and I could hear the seams ripping. I pulled my pants up and ran as if I were wading through a stream. I kept running. There was a cheap restaurant I ate at on Beach Street called The Golden Coin and a drunks’ bar across the street. The Golden Coin did not have a liquor license so I would stop at the drunks’ bar — buy a few beers and take them back with me.

But this was Sunday morning in Boston and the Puritan laws were still time-honored: no liquor sales on Sunday. I was panting when I arrived at the drunks’ bar door. It was propped open with a fetid mop head, and by the time I walked into the rank, yeasty darkness of that puke-palace I had my wallet out and cash in hand. The bartender was washing glasses and I yelled out, “I need a six-pack of beer for Mister Jerry Lewis.” I put forty dollars on the bar.

I left with the beer in one hand and reversed course and breezed like animated blue and white laundry across the road and parking lot. I know I was cursing worse than Jerry between gasping breaths. I was not a runner. I was rumpled. When I reached the back of the theater, to my surprise, there were three closed doors. I kicked them all. “Open up!” I shouted. “I’ve got the goods.”

Jerry’s man opened door number one, and looked me up and down as if I were a morals agent. Jerry stood in the back. His shirt was buttoned. His face was still boiled looking.

“I got it,” I said, still panting, and proudly held up the six-pack.

“Give my man a beer,” he ordered.

I did. The man twisted the cap, and the beer gave out its hissing death gasp. He handed it to Jerry. “I hate to drink alone,” Jerry announced. “Man, give him one too.”

“I can’t go onstage with beer on my breath,” I said. I was going up for tenure, and beer-breath was not a quality the tenure committee was searching for.

“Screw them!” he growled back. “I’m your boss now. So drink!” He nodded to his man and the man twisted a beer cap off.

“Cheers,” Jerry said. “To never drinking alone.”

I agreed with that and drank the beer straight down from being so thirsty and nervous. Jerry drank his back too.

“Tell me about yourself,” he asked in a voice that really was an order. “Go on. What do you do in this shit-hole school besides chase coeds?”

“I write books,” I replied. “Picture books.”

“Name one!” he shot back, as if I had been lying. His man handed us two more beers.

Rotten Ralph,” I replied, and before I could say another word, Jerry’s face went demonic, as if he was going to do a Linda Blair three-sixty.

“What kind of fucking shit is that!” he hollered. “Are you shitting me?”

“No,” I said, totally confused by his response. I looked at his man. He was back to his Easter Island pose. I was backed into a corner.

“Don’t you know I’m Ralph Rotten?” he shouted with beer spitting out of his mouth and sprinkling my glasses. “Did you steal my character? I swear if you did…” He swiveled his head as sharply as a hawk and hollered at his man. “Call my lawyer. I’m going to sue this bastard.”

The man opened the box and held the brick-sized phone to his ear.

I honestly didn’t know anything about his Ralph Rotten character. I’d never heard of it. I thought he was just pulling my leg in order to entertain himself and his man. But it was soon evident he was not faking it.

“Excuse me, Mr. Lewis,” his man said. “There is no signal.”

Jerry frowned. Then he stepped forward and poked me hard in the chest. He was like my angry doppelgänger come to life. “I’m Ralph Rotten! You got that?”

“Yeah,” I said, shaken, and stepped back.

“Did you make any money off your phony stolen book?” he questioned.

“No,” I replied. “Not really.” I had made seven hundred and fifty dollars from the advance and spent it all on rooming-house rent and pencils.

“Well, I’m going to crush you!” he said vengefully. He turned toward his man. “Two more beers,” he ordered.

I quickly finished my second and took the third as Jerry glared at me. His eyes pulsed with every beat of his laboring heart. How could I not know that Rotten Ralph was the double of Ralph Rotten? How was it possible that I wrote a book that was the mirror opposite of his character? Was I the Pauper to his Prince? The Jekyll to his Hyde? The saccharine Norman Bates to his evil Norman Bates? This serendipitous doppelgänger bond was all I could think about while Jerry snorted around in anger and I stood before him trapped in the vacuum of my own thoughts.

Then there was a rescuing knock on the door. “It’s show time,” announced the stage manager.

Jerry and I marched up a set of stairs and onto the stage, where we took our assigned seats. He turned to me and with an unexpected wistfulness whispered, “Dean Martin and I did this place decades ago. People were lined up around the block to get in. Those days of barnstorming a theater town are all gone,” he added sadly.

Right then I realized I knew nothing about how hard he had worked, traveling from theater to theater on a circuit as he built his reputation and his career. Even his Ralph Rotten television character must have been hard work, and through my embarrassing ignorance and arrogance I knew nothing about how he had become the growling, hollering, swollen-faced, unhappy Jerry. Maybe it was the beer working on my sympathies, but I now wanted to know him better. I kind of wanted to be his pal, and I figured he’d see the soulmate humor in me being Rotten Ralph to his Ralph Rotten.

In the meantime, administrators gave glib speeches. When it was our turn, Jerry and I stood up and solemnly walked to the podium. I said my lines, “By the power vested in me, I bestow this honorary degree upon you…” and I put the cheesy purple and yellow ribbon with the brass foil-over-plastic medal around his neck. We shook hands, then I returned to my seat. His man walked out and handed Jerry’s speech to Jerry, who set it on the podium. All he had to do was read it. But he got about three lines in and paused. He looked up from the page, made a few cracks about being a comedian in the golden age of comedy, and then looked back down at the speech as if it were a box of mismatched buttons he was sorting. He hesitated, and I knew right away he had lost his place on the page, and suddenly the great Jerry Lewis — France’s golden boy, my new friend, and the Ralph Rotten doppelgänger of Rotten Ralph — was adrift without a directorial cue. So he did what he probably always did and used his get-out-of-jail-free card. He threw his head back and popped his arms up into the air and let out that joyful, crazy Nutty Professor laugh. The crowd roared in recognition and approval and they stood and cheered and whistled and clapped, and he laughed some more, and then amidst the applause he waved goodbye and walked across the stage with his new Nutty Professor PhD toward a curtain that his man was holding aside. Then, just before he disappeared, he turned and pointed at me. He smiled and mouthed something. I couldn’t make it out, but I think he said, “I’m going to kick your rotten ass!”

I smiled back and tipped my flat cap to him, and then his curtain dropped. He went with his man out the back door of the stage to the white limousine and was gone. I never again heard from him, his lawyer, or his man, and I’m sorry I have not. As nutty as it sounds, I think I was destined to be his rotten double.

A year later I had James Earl Jones onstage for his honorary degree. He had a speech as thick as a sandwich and he started to give it. Then he lifted his eyes from the page and took off his reading glasses and went rogue. “Oh, no,” I thought as he went way off-road and into the deep woods and told some Hallmark anecdote about life lessons and then he looked down at his speech and there was that box of mismatched buttons before him. But did he panic? Nope. He raised his arms high and wide and sucked in a tremendous bellows of breath and roared with great resonance, “May the Force be with you!”

Everyone stood and cheered and whistled and he waved, walked off stage, and vanished into a white limousine. After the graduation ceremony I went to the podium and got the speech. It was some script his agent had sent him. Clearly, the entire “May the Force be with you” act was preplanned. That was the speech. Very clever, I thought. The Master was teaching me a lesson.

So, dear reader, I stood at the Zena Sutherland lecture telling these twin stories, and because I didn’t have a get-out-of-jail-free phrase I could holler to the rooftops (aside from “Can I get back to you on that?”), I had to get myself enthused to deliver what I knew was a dead fish of a speech.

“Well, let’s endure my prepared speech for a few moments,” I said reluctantly to the audience. I bent to pick it up off the stage floor. As I did so, I spied Roger Sutton in the front row, and he looked back at me with the Easter Island man gaze. I was dead in the water. The air had gone out of the room.

* * *

The (Real) Zena Sutherland Lecture
A Pair of Jacks to Open: Fact and Fiction

I will not talk tonight of what I don’t know, but of what I do know — which is me constantly talking about me, or all-me-all-the-time. As Thoreau said in his essay “Life Without Principle,” he is resolved to give the reader a good dose of himself. I find no argument in Thoreau’s insistence that he simply represent himself, and his own thoughts, and experience, instead of attempting in a lecture to tell people what they already know, and what they want the lecturer to confirm. Apparently, because he spoke his own mind, he was soon unpopular on the lecture circuit and took a handyman job for Ralph Waldo Emerson. Like Thoreau, as I continue to merely lecture on how I write what I’m thinking, and how I come to create books, I too may find myself spending more time weeding the garden.

There comes a time in a young person’s life when they look into a mirror and ask, “Who am I?” The moment that question is asked is when the young person pulls back a curtain and enters the stage where their life is played out…and the first attempt to define one’s character is to put on all the various costumes in your family, and after the family is exhausted, the costume shop radiates outward into infinity.

By this time in a young reader’s life, Pooh and Toad of Toad Hall and other characters that live in charming stories have begun to lose their influence on a young person who is suddenly aware that they are filled with self-inflicted complications and battles for independence that have to be sorted through. If the young person is optimistic, then they think there will be answers to the “who am I?” question. What they don’t realize yet is that the question of “who am I?” is only the reflective background chorus of life whose role is to constantly comment on the classic foibles and conflicts that appear as dramatic action in the foreground of life.

The “who am I?” question itself, confrontational as it may be, will always only be an echo to the dramatic action. Yet “who am I?” can be a solid citizen companion that helps us ponder and sort out our good actions from the bad, the moral from the immoral, and the gold from the lead. Good children’s literature is where a questioning young reader holds a sincere book in their trusting hands and reads with abandon in order to invent and define themselves, and to learn how to discover and reflect upon the infinite truths about themselves that they can trust and refine for the rest of their lives.

That said, the high bar of good literature makes my job as a writer for young, inquisitive readers a very demanding job — a challenge to be well considered — and for me it all begins with me: Jack on Jack. If I don’t read books that tunnel deeply into me to discover what is genuine, commanding, and emotive within myself, then I cannot write books that do the same for the best and most impressionable young readers. I often write about myself, or write invented variations of myself, using portions of myself as core characteristics from which I can then extrapolate. I attempt to write books that transform a piece of paper into some golem that comes to life. But first, I have to be the golem, and the tablet that brings me to life are the books I read. So here is a short list that over the years has contributed to transforming me from being an obdurate, unknowing creature to a human who asks the question, “who am I?”

(Everyone has their own list.)

Fahrenheit 451—Bradbury
The Catcher in the Rye—Salinger
Half a Life—Ciment
The Bell Jar—Plath
A Clockwork Orange—Burgess
Brave New World—Huxley
In Youth Is Pleasure—Welch
This Boy’s Life—Wolff
The Car Thief—Weesner
Sex and Death to the Age 14—Gray
Borrowed Finery and Desperate Characters—Fox
To Kill a Mockingbird—Lee
And, the bowsprit of American Literature, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale—Melville

And the list travels well beyond this very small sample.

It is said that you cannot serve two masters: the past self and the present self. It takes me a full day of reflection to understand an hour from the day before, and thus I fall behind each day, which is why I expect it will take a lifetime of effort to attempt to understand my own youth. It is difficult to live in the moment when so often I am either obsessing on the past, or drifting away on some reverie, or dreaming, or recalling and parsing something of great importance. It seems that life for me is structured in such a way that I only understand the punch line of a joke long after I’ve heard it.

A book is great if it strengthens the articulation of my inner life and is neither a mere accounting of facts nor a fantasy that appears like smoke and disappears like smoke. A great book, a book that adds to self-reflection and understanding, is different from an amusement: an amusement is meant to distract us from ourselves, where a great book is meant to open the honeyed cells of the inner life and freely nourish new thoughts.


Jack’s actual “black book.”

I know that it is politically correct to say that all books exist for a reason, and to that I reply with reason that for me all books are not gratifying, or uplifting, or reverie-inspiring — or even amusing in the most base way. In writing so often about myself it is the “exploration” and “reflection” that result in the greatest knowledge to me. In Dead End in Norvelt there are yards of historical facts larded with details, but these are the crumbs of the story (nutritious as they may be), just as it is crumbs that mark the way for Hansel and Gretel to find their way home. We all know that only when the crumbs are removed does the real story begin, and it is the characters whom we fear for, and not the crumbs. The same with Dead End in Norvelt. The boy, Jack, is taken with a collection of historical facts, which is valuable knowledge, but it is the vast humanity behind the facts, his friendship with Miss Volker, and the heartbeat of his family, and the community values that fill him and float him just as hot air fills a balloon and the wind takes it away.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us move on to all the Jack-on-Jack books, the double-shots and double-takes and doppelgängers, where I and my characters live as one.

My first pairing of Jacks was with the Jack Henry books. First, I never should have changed my last name to Henry for the five volumes of family short stories: Heads or Tails, Jack’s New Power, Jack on the Tracks, Jack Adrift, and Jack’s Black Book. But I was thinking of my family and friends who populate the books, along with my retooled action and invented dialogue (by this writer) that might offend them. So I shied away from using my own last name, and once Heads or Tails was released I regretted it immediately. What I like about the Jack books is that I can write as if I am the voice of the chorus — the “who am I?” — of the books. I have years of hindsight behind me, so Jack is teeming with articulate insights that I’ve allowed him to discover in the moment but that actually took the real Jack years to discover and refine. But both Jacks are me. Judge and Jury. Accused and Accuser. Captured and Released. The Action and the Reflection. I really enjoy my other Jack and turn to him whenever I feel a little dull. He always says or thinks something with a kind of insightful energy that reignites my own. When I write about my life in my journal, I’m always more interesting when I speak in his voice.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. I am not Joey Pigza. He is an invented character with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. I’m merely ADD, or attention deficit disorder. I can sit still in a chair all day and sideways-think of nothing but random thoughts. Writing a book, for me, is like trying to decode the Enigma machine as I sort pages of random notes into properly sequenced sentences and paragraphs. If Joey only had ADD there would be no action to reflect upon, so I added the hyperactivity so he can bring action to the surface of the book, and reflection can remain the chorus that comments on the action — enough action for four more Joey volumes, ending with The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza.

The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. Nature vs. nurture is the theme of this book based on my twin uncles, Abner and Adolph Rumbaugh, who, I was told, preserved (taxidermed) their own mother after her death. I am not a twin to them, but they are the twin stars in this novel. It was my aim in writing this book to write a gothic novel with the purpose of asking the reader to reflect on the question: “What is more frightening: truth or fiction?” The nonfiction center of the book is about the American eugenics movement and basically how white supremacy was taught in schools across America as part of the science curriculum. The eugenics movement introduced laws in this country against immigrants, endorsed the sterilization of women (especially on Native American lands), and spread their corrosive eugenics white supremacist creed with such effectiveness that Hitler was impressed by their ideals. And we know how his belief in a pure white Germany terrified and damaged the world.

So the core canvas of the book is about academic and applied racism in America, and then around that core canvas I built a gilt gothic frame of a story — the story of my uncles taxiderming their mother — and so the question posed to the reader is: Which is more gothic? Which is more inhuman? Taxiderming your mother, or the state-sanctioned suppression and hatred of nonwhite races in America? As it turns out, taxiderming your mother is pretty tame compared to Hitler’s Final Solution.

Imagine my surprise when so many people of all ages come up to me and say, “I really admire how you invented that eugenics movement.” They have the book’s central point all backward, which breaks my heart. The gothic fiction is about the uncles, and the eugenics movement is the horrific history and fact of the matter, and if you don’t know your history you will be destined to repeat it. Time and again. (Later, this lesson is echoed by Miss Volker in Dead End in Norvelt.)

I have yet to write a twin to Love Curse.

Hole in My Life. What can I say about this book, which is just an older me looking into the mirror and reflecting on my both naive and arrogant young self as I spill my guts talking about my drug-smuggler-to-prison-convict past? There is plenty of action on the front stage of this book, but the emotional torque is in the chorus as I recall my weakest moments. This is the epitome of the Jack-on-Jack theme because it is the most unrelenting and honest.


gantos_mugshotFrom The Trouble in Me to Hole in My Life.

The Trouble in Me. This is the most recent memoir-driven look-in-the-mirror book I’ve written about my young self (set in the summer before eighth grade). It has what I’d define as features of a gothic romance in that it is dripping with a primitive fixation on transforming the self by scrubbing away your true character in order to invent yourself afresh as another person — in my case I wanted to become my neighbor, Gary Pagoda, who was older, tougher, more romantic and commanding than I was. He was the model who, in both a comic and dramatically grotesque way, I became.

This story is me pointing a finger at myself and saying, “This is the beginning of the slippery slope that led to Hole in My Life. This is where I began to abandon my core morals, values, and ethics for a cheap thrill.” Only this story does not lead to prison, because it already takes place in a prison — the prison of my own skin — of who I was and who I wasn’t. I was imprisoned by my obsessive self-loathing, and the only escape was to become someone else.

One final remark: Please excuse the waterfront language in the first portion of this speech. It may be offensive to some, but when I rewrote it using more genteel dialogue, the entire incident fell flat without the grit of the curse words. Also, I admire Mister Jerry Lewis and think the French are correct in saying he is a comic genius. Get with it, America. The guy is brilliant!

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. Adapted from the author’s 2015 Zena Sutherland Lecture. For more from Jack Gantos click here (if you dare).


The post (Very Eventually) The Zena Sutherland Lecture appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on (Very Eventually) The Zena Sutherland Lecture as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
25. Review of The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the 
Fight for Civil Rights

Port ChicagoThe Port Chicago 50:
Disaster, Mutiny, and the
Fight for Civil Rights

by Steve Sheinkin
Middle School    Roaring Brook    190 pp.
1/14    978-1-59643-796-8    $19.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-59643-983-2    $9.99

Sheinkin follows Bomb (rev. 11/12) with an account of another aspect of the Second World War, stemming from an incident that seems small in scope but whose ramifications would go on to profoundly change the armed forces and the freedom of African Americans to serve their country. The Port Chicago 50 was a group of navy recruits at Port Chicago in California doing one of the few service jobs available to black sailors at the beginning of the war: loading bombs and ammunition onto battleships. “All the officers standing on the pier and giving orders were white. All the sailors handling explosives were black.” When, as seems inevitable given the shoddy safety practices, there was an explosion that left more than three hundred dead, fifty men refused to go back to work, occasioning a trial for mutiny. Sheinkin focuses the events through the experience of Joe Small, who led the protest against the dangerous and unequal working conditions, but the narrative loses momentum as it tries to move between Small’s experience and its larger causes and effects. Still, this is an unusual entry point for the study of World War II and the nascent civil rights movement. Photographs are helpful, and documentation is thorough. Picture credits and index not seen.

From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the 
Fight for Civil Rights appeared first on The Horn Book.

0 Comments on Review of The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the 
Fight for Civil Rights as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts