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1. Come fly with me

JupiterThis coming Saturday evening, I’ll be interviewing Gary Schmidt about his new novel, Orbiting Jupiter, at the Peabody School in Cambridge, sponsored by Porter Square Books. It’s a very different kind of book from this author, and I am eager to talk with him. I hope you can join us!

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2. Telling and choosing our own stories

For this year’s Boston University/Boston Green Academy Summer Institute (which I’ve blogged about before), we decided to change up our usual routine of reading one book, and this year we chose two – Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

Our essential question for our rising ninth and tenth graders was about how much we determine our own lives and how much they are determined by others’ expectations of who we will be. I wasn’t sure going into the two weeks how well our books would play together, but I needn’t have worried. These two books about writers were rich ground to explore in our time together.

myers_darius & twigOur students were anxious to find out what would happen to Darius and Twig, the writer and the runner, who face challenges as they navigate coming of age in a world that is far from perfect. (I miss Walter Dean Myers already so much and his wonderful stories of our imperfect world.) Even the most reluctant readers this summer had thoughts about these two characters and the choices they made. And our some of our students found that kinship that happens sometimes with characters whose backgrounds related to their own.

woodson_brown girl dreaming_170x258Then, we began to write our own stories, and we turned to Jacqueline Woodson to teach us how. And she’s a great teacher. Somehow, in her beautiful, sparse vignette poems, our students found inspiration and ideas. But it was more than that – I think her poems became a permission slip of sorts to tell their own stories and to experiment with images and tones to craft their memories into words. I’ve usually had experiences where students have been intimidated by poetry, but that didn’t happen with BGD. Instead, our writers dove right in to writing their own experiences as poems.

All in all, the two books we chose for this year’s essential question fit together after all, and I’ve gotten interested in book pairs that allow us to focus on a theme when reading and can also serve as writing models. I’d love to hear if others have tried this or have pairs that worked well!


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3. My Bike

my bikeAh, one of my favorite subjects: picture books for the very young. This year some of my most-loved books fall into that category, including several we’re talking about on Calling Caldecott this fallWe all know that these books face an uphill battle when it comes to Caldecott recognition. But that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it! So brace yourself for an impassioned plea for Byron Barton’s My Bike, the latest entry in his transportation series (which includes My Car and My Bus).

This book has everything a book for preschoolers needs: a kid-friendly topic; a clear trajectory from beginning to end; propulsive page turns; repetition in pattern and/or language; a close congruency between pictures and text; art that captures attention and that limits its details to those of interest to kids.

My Bike could not begin more directly or succinctly, or lead more efficiently into the action. First Barton introduces Tom with the simplest of three-word texts — “I am Tom” —  on the left hand page and a forefronted portrait of Tom himself on the right side: blue eyes, striped green and yellow shirt, purple pants. On the next spread, the four-word text says, “This is my bicycle,” and the picture shows Tom pointing at the bike (brilliant!). The next page turn shows the whole bike with all its parts labeled (a genius preamble, for vehicle-loving kids). And then we’re off — “I ride my bicycle to work” — into this clever, beautifully foreshadowed, predictable-then-not-so, kid-pleasing story.

Here are just a few of the things I appreciate about this book:

  • The bright neon rainbow palette is entirely appropriate for the subject, and varying the colors of the pages and the typeface (from yellow to purple to blue to red, etc) adds an enormous amount of energy and vibrancy.
  • Young readers are constantly propelled forward through the book, with Tom riding from left to right on every spread. Also, his presence on every spread — riding his bike, often waving to the people and animals he passes — anchors the events.
  • The rounded typeface echoes and reinforces the wheels on Tom’s bike and other vehicles, the round heads of the human characters, the balloons, the balls, and on and on.
  • The population of this book is diverse to the max. There is a spectacular mix of skin hues and genders and even species (in Barton’s transportation books, even cats and dogs ride the bus and go to the circus). And just FYI, Barton has been including brown faces and women in nontraditional gender roles in his books for 30 years. He’s no newcomer to a commitment to diversity.
  • Barton displays respect for his child audience through the foreshadowing — the unicycle handle just visible sticking out of his backpack; the slow unfolding of his eventual destination, with first the sight of the circus truck, then a glimpse of circus tents in the far distance, etc.
  • The humor (in the twist at the end) is matched perfectly to the audience. And I think kids will find the last view of Tom riding his bicycle while still WEARING HIS CLOWN’S NOSE hilarious.

Will others love My Bike as much as I do? Will the members of the Caldecott committee (and other committees as well — I’m looking at you, Geisel people) jump on the bandwagon…er, bandbike?

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4. A Frozen Heart, A Fairy Tale 2.0 Prize Pack Giveaway

Enter to win the Fairy Tale 2.0 prize pack; including a copy of A Frozen Heart (Disney-Hyperion, 2015). Giveaway begins October 12, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends November 11, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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5. Tricky Vic

tricky vicRobert Miller was known to everyone except his own family as Count Victor Lustig (or by any of forty-five other aliases). He was a con man, with a career full of ways to separate people from their money, including, believe it or not, selling the Eiffel Tower. He was “one of the most crooked con men ever to have lived.” Not your usual subject for a children’s picture book, but Geisel Award winner Greg Pizzoli pulls it off. Like any good picture book, Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower is written with a light touch, and the mixed media illustrations are gorgeously simple-seeming with plenty of visual play that will appeal to children and adults alike, and which complement and extend the text. Vic’s face, for example, is not a face at all, but a fingerprint, and one of his “marks” (victims) was Frenchman Andre Poisson (French for fish), his head replaced with that of a fish, with a speech bubble saying, “He took the bait.”

The beautiful design, the informative sidebars, and these amusing visual elements ought to play well with the Caldecott committee. These little touches are subtle but add up to a winning package. The muted color choices are a bit of a nod to the Elliot Ness era and allow the reader to feel as if he or she is in the middle of an old movie. A gray-green sensibility runs through the book, while the fingerprints and fish heads serve to keep the tone light. However, the committee may also consider one historical issue: Pizzoli says in his author’s note that he altered the actual timeline of Robert Miller’s story, placing Vic’s conning of Al Capone before the sale of the Eiffel Tower, when most accounts suggest he did that afterwards. Pizzoli felt he was giving precedence to character development over exact historical accuracy. Can he do that and have the book still be nonfiction? Will that matter to the Caldecott committee? As a former member of the Sibert committee, I can just picture the discussion through that Sibert lens. I think the Caldecott committee will see this as nonfiction: everything in the text is true — even if the sequence of events has been skewed — and it helps that Pizzoli points out what he did and why. It’s a bit of literary license in the service of good storytelling, which is what any book committee is looking to honor.

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6. Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials movie review

scorch trials posterMaze Runner sequel The Scorch Trials (Twentieth Century Fox, September 2015) reminded me of two very important Siân facts:

  1. I should never, ever drink anything before or during a movie.
  2. I am no hero.

If you’re looking to take a road trip in which you do not stop every 45 minutes for pee breaks, you probably don’t want to be traveling with me. Additionally, if you’re looking for someone to run toward the gun fight, carry you to safety as you slowly change into a zombie, or single-handedly storm a government-controlled facility of horror to save you, you definitely don’t want to be traveling with me.

A plane flew low over my apartment recently and my only panicked thought was, “THE END IS NIGH!”

No one can accuse me of excess courage.

Now that we’ve discussed my cowardice, let’s move on to how scared I was during the movie.

The Scorch Trials is thrilling. I have no idea how similar it is to the book (I’m guessing from the Wikipedia entry that the answer is “not at all”), but the movie was downright gripping. The Gladers, thinking they have been saved from the supposedly-good-but-actually-evil hold of WCKD, find themselves prisoners once again. Led by handsome, heroic, and utterly heedless Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), several boys and one girl, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario), escape from the facility and go storming into The Scorch (which appears to be the once-lush, now-barren-desert San Francisco) with little aim beyond “escape.”

What followed was 132 minutes of me hiding behind my knees, desperately thinking, “nonononononono this suspense has to let up sometime, right? RIGHT?”

The band of teens race through wind-blown desert, vacant and neglected cities, and into the mountains hunted by the WCKD doctors Ava Paige (Patricia Clarkson) and Janson (Aiden Gillen); attacked by horrifying zombie-like people infected with…something (the flare?); and harassed by healthy people who are just plain mean (like Alan Tudyk’s character, Blondie, who really should have had a cooler name than that).

James Dashner’s post-apocalyptic world is brought to terrifying life with some incredibly expansive and remarkably detailed settings whose stark monoliths are paralleled in a number of shots of the teens, standing backlit, brave, and alone. The special effects help highlight the sheer terror present in this world — awful thunderstorms, disgusting zombies — without pushing realism (too far) or diverting from the plot.

Clarkson and Gillen’s stoic adults are perfect bad guys: frighteningly calm and emotionally removed but motivated by red-hot moral righteousness. The boys are exactly the type of teen heroes we want to root for: O’Brien’s Thomas is all determined morality; Ki Hong Lee’s Minho is smart, sassy, and totally badass; Thomas Brodie-Sangster’s Newt is just the right mix of skeptical observer and dedicated friend; and Dexter Darden’s Frypan brings gentle humor and kindness to the daring crew.The only character who doesn’t add anything to the ensemble is, unfortunately, Teresa, the only female in the group. Through no fault of her own, Scodelario’s character speaks little and does even less, seemingly a character whose sole purpose is bringing about the emotional growth of the male protagonist. I will also add that, ideologically, I am angry with the character of Brenda (Rosa Salazar), who seems to exist only to tempt the sainthood of Thomas and thus suffer karmic repercussions because can we PLEASE stop using female characters as tools for male character growth? But that would be a digression. And we all know the internet is not the place for digression or outrage.

Overall, The Scorch Trials made me, as a viewer and consumer, very happy. It was exciting, visually stimulating, and fast-paced; the actors were engaging and likable (or perfectly detestable, which is also great fun); and the cliffhanger was intense but not brutal.

Bring on the third one, folks! I’ll bring my blankie for more effective hiding.

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7. When picture books bring on tears

At some point, it probably has happened to any teacher, parent, or caregiver of young children. You are reading a story to a child or group of children and something about the story hits you and makes you misty eyed. Other times you might read a story that causes a child to cry. Books that hit an emotional nerve in adults might not always do the same for young children and vice versa. Often, there are picture books with subtexts that make adults emotional, but young children may not pick up on them. In these cases, I would argue that asking the child/children open ended questions about the book can help us understand their perspective better than trying to explicitly tell the children your interpretation of the subtext.

heart bottleAn example of a book that has made me shed a tear is The Heart and The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers. This book deals with loss and grief in symbolic ways that young children may not fully comprehend. However, the lack of a clear direct theme or lesson can spark deeper thinking in individual children and interesting discussions when read in a larger group. The Heart and The Bottle is often surreal in its style which makes it easier to share in a group setting compared to books that deal with loss and other emotional topics in a more direct way.

knock knockUnlike Jeffers’ story, Knock Knock authored by Daniel Beaty and illustrated by Bryan Collier is grounded in realism. Knock Knock is based on a moving poem about Beaty’s absent father which he has often performed live. (Watch it here). It is hard for me to read this book without getting tears in my eyes. Parts of the story hit close to home for me and very close to home for children I have taught. I have recommended it to families of children dealing with absent fathers and read it to individual children — but not in a group setting. In an ideal world, group story times would be a place for healing where no topics would be taboo. However, it is important to respect individual families in the class and over the years many families dealing with issues like absent parents, divorce, or family problems in general have told me that they prefer we don’t read books that encourage their child to talk about these issues in a group setting. As a teacher, I believe that these types of discussions can be healthy, but I fully understand parents who don’t want their personal business potentially discussed in a classroom where other parents might find out and engage in gossip and shaming.

bad case stripesFinally, I would like to note that it is impossible to predict how children will react to stories. For instance, I never thought A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon would stir strong emotions in a child, but I once had a child burst into tears while reading it because their mom had food poisoning and they associated the book’s story about not eating Lima beans with their mom’s illness. On the other side, I know of many teachers and parents who tear up while reading The Giving Tree but the children hearing it have not had any emotional reaction to the book.

So now I will leave the readers of Lolly’s Classroom with some questions:

  1. What children’s books cause strong emotions in you? What books have caused your students to feel strong emotions?
  2. Do you read books relating to potentially emotional topics in the classroom? At what age do you think hard topics like death, loss, and divorce should be introduced in books you read? Should parents be consulted before reading emotional books? Should parents be given any sort of veto power or opt out mechanism for their child regarding certain books?


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8. #BGHB15 #HBAS15


Roger and Richard; photo by Elissa Gershowitz.

The Horn Book gang–Sharks AND Jets–has been busy posting photos and Tweets and quotes and stuff from our very successful Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards/Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium events of last weekend. We will be publishing coverage in the January/February issue of the Magazine, and look for a fabulous cover by Marla Frazee, who gives us a little more of the Farmer and the Clown story. (And, yes, for those who asked, Susan Cooper’s inspiring speech will be in the issue.) Thank you to all who made the events a success–HB and Boston Globe and Simmons staff, our judges, our speakers, and our attendees, who kept the conversation lively. Cathie, Katrina, and I have already started planning next year’s program (if saying “let’s pick a date” counts as planning). The BGHB 2016 judges–Betsy Bird, Roxanne Hsu Feldman, and chair Joanna Rudge Long are already at it. 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the awards so we hope to make the weekend extra-special.

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9. The Grasshopper and the Ants

pinkney_grasshopper and the antsThe Grasshopper & the Ants adds another title to Jerry Pinkney’s growing set of books based on fables by Aesop and Andersen. Unlike his Caldecott-winning The Lion & the Mouse (2009), this title has text, except for an extended wordless sequence in the middle.

But the Caldecott committee will not be comparing this to Pinkney’s other fable books, because they’re only allowed to discuss titles published in 2015.

Here, Pinkney’s adaptation softens the harsher elements of Aesop’s version, allowing the ants to show compassion and portraying the grasshopper as a guy who is devoted to his art rather than just a lazy freeloader. The action starts in the spring and moves quickly through the seasons as the grasshopper implores the ants to stop working and join him fishing, dancing, singing, etc. The ants don’t stop their rushing around to gather food before the snow covers it all up. Pinkney depicts his characters realistically (every leg segment, abdomen, and antenna in place), but dresses the ants in acorn caps and the grasshopper in a natty straw hat and vest.

When winter comes, the grasshopper finds himself surrounded by lots and lots of snow. What follows is a five-spread wordless sequence that juxtaposes the busy ants and the lonely grasshopper. In one especially effective spread, we see the ants in their cozy underground tunnels full of stored food, while a flap folds up to show the grasshopper, hungry and shivering in the snow above them.

Pinkney’s art is as intricate as ever, and it’s clear how much research and thought he put into this book. The endpapers, the illustrative lettering on the title page, and the dual jacket and cover are all exquisite. But to my eye, the pages illustrating the actual story are a little too detailed. They are so full of shapes that it can be hard to figure out what’s happening. This style works better for the ants, with their many dark legs making an interesting repeated design. This style is less successful with the grasshopper. It takes me a second to figure out what position he is sitting in and what he’s doing with all those legs. I also think the wings are too prominent. When I was a kid I spent many hours in the summer hunting and catching grasshoppers and crickets. Their wings stay folded against the abdomen until they jump, so that seems like one aspect Pinkney could have changed to make the character look simpler. I don’t think I’m alone in perceiving this art as overly busy. The first time through, readers will probably struggle to parse the images, but the payoff will come on subsequent readings when they will see more and more as they look again and again.

I don’t want to sound like a downer here. I am a fan of Pinkney’s work and love the texts he chooses to illustrate. Whenever a new book of his comes into the office, I want to drop everything and look at it. But I do think that his style is working against him in this instance.

But that’s just my opinion. I am ready to be convinced otherwise — and I have no doubt the Real Committee will be taking a good, hard look at this book.

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10. 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)

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11. The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi | Giveaway

Enter to win a BONJOUR, AMI prize pack that includes The Story of Diva and Flea, written by Mo Willems and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi (Disney Publishing, 2015). Giveaway begins September 11, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 10, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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12. Wake me up when it’s all over

sleep-paralysis-1170x668I confess to feeling nonplussed when the publicist wrote to see if “Horn [ed note: AARGH] will review The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep,” the self-published bestseller that Random House picked up for a rumored seven-figure advance. I mean, yes, the Horn BOOK will review it in the Spring 2016 Horn Book Guide because that publication reviews non selectively, but, really, why are you asking me this? Is somebody making you do it? I felt one step away from a drunk Reese Witherspoon bellowing at a cop who didn’t know who she was.

But, okay, Rando, here’s what Horn thinks. The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep is a book designed to help parents get their kids to go to sleep. It has sold so many copies (already, I mean, but clearly RH thinks there are even more suckers out there) because it probably works as advertised. The text is long–really, really long– and droning and uneventful, and it will bore the brats right into dreamland. Authorial directives are everywhere, telling parents where to whisper, where to provide emphasis, where to yawn: “The name of the rabbit, Roger [ed note: fuck you], can be read as ‘Raaah-gerr’ with two yawns.” The combination of boredom plus suggestion will induce a hypnotic state in both parent and child and cause Chandler to walk around the apartment with a towel round his head like a girl make them very, very sleeeepy. (Despite what the Amazon reviews will tell you, this is not “magic.” Now, I would have thought that the kind of parent  susceptible to The Rabbit Who Wants to Go to Sleep might have been horrified at the prospect of hypnotizing their offspring because that is how demons get in, but anything for a good night’s sleep, I suppose.) Mission accomplished.

If the seven-figure-advance rumor is true, I’d love for someone to do the math for me. Can this book (or books; the author and publisher are threatening a series) earn that much money back? Won’t parents figure out that Goodnight Moon–cheaper, prettier, and a billion times classier–does the same thing?


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13. 2015 Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium timeline

Roger Sutton and the Horn Book at Simmons editors panel. Photo: Shoshana Flax.

Roger Sutton and the Horn Book at Simmons editors panel. Photo: Shoshana Flax.

On Saturday, October 3rd, we held our fifth annual Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, with the theme “Transformations.” Miss the fun? We’ve compiled a timeline of the day’s highlights based on tweets by our staff and other attendees. See Friday’s ceremony timeline here.

9:07 am: Good morning! We’re ready for a full day of great discussion about good children’s books!

9:10 am: Cathie Mercier: It’s easy to read what we know and like, but how do we push ourselves to read outside ourselves, read “otherways”?

9:14 am: @jescaron: @RogerReads and Cathie Mercier open #HBAS15 with words of wisdom and “grounding”

9:15 am: @RogerReads introducing keynote speaker Susan Cooper

9:19 am: Susan: Transformation in nature is generally cyclical. What about change in our minds? Imagination doesn’t follow any rules

9:20 am: @jescaron: Susan: “Change is an integral part of stories — it is called plot.”

9:21 am: Susan: Can words spark an unpredictable change in the mind?

9:22 am: @ShoshanaFlax: SC clearly read the May @HornBook carefully #swoon

9:24 am: Susan discussing different types of book transformations: retellings, adaptations from other media, making books more accessible

9:26 am: Susan: Fantasy is metaphor… It takes you through the imagination to truth

9:27 am: @jescaron: “People who write fantasy have chosen transformation…finding the magic from the real”

9:30 am: A tumultuous year in Susan’s personal life had profound effects on her writing. “As with writers, so with readers” — we seek escape in words

9:31 am: Susan: When reading, your imagination lives in the book. Reading is creating experience from imagination

9:32 am: Susan: This experience of living in a book can change you

9:33 am: Susan: Letters from readers say, “I read your book, and my world changed a little,” even if readers can’t articulate exactly how

9:35 am: Susan: “The imagination of a reader instinctively takes what it needs from a book and creates a kind of life belt”

9:38 am: Susan: You realize which books had a profound effect on your childhood imagination only by looking back

9:40 am: Susan: An imagination that delights in books as a child grows up and is able to nurture a hunger for books in the next generation

9:43 am: Which books were transformative for Susan in childhood? The Box of Delights and The Midnight Folk by John Masefield

9:44 am: Susan: Nonfiction can be transformative too: “a story is a story”

10:02 am: Nonfiction winner Candace Fleming and editor Anne Schwartz on “Bringing History to the Page”

10:03 am: Candace echoing Jacqueline Woodson’s metaphor of writing as childbirth: you forget how miserable it is and then you’re ready to do it again

10:04 am: Candace writes in longhand on loose-leaf paper — the smell of the ink is reassuring, reminds her of what she’s accomplishing

10:05 am: @jescaron: The Family Romanov went from a light and fluffy book to its final state — transformation!

10:06 am: Anne: As an editor it’s very difficult to ask an author to start over; both author and editor have already invested a lot of work

10:08 am: Fascinating to see original drafts, notes, and editorial letters for what became The Family Romanov

10:11 am: Anne liked the format of text snippets and sidebars, creating a narrative like a tapestry

10:15 am: Anne asked questions Candace “never saw coming,” which made her think about her research and narrative in different ways

10:18 am: Candace: “Anne is the best editor because she questions everything–and that makes me a much better writer”

10:21 am: Going to Russia helped Candace really understand the disparity between the Romanovs and the peasants whose “backs the palaces were built on”

10:23 am: Candace: Stories of peasant lives in Imperial Russia and the Russian Revolution are extremely difficult to find

10:28 am: Candace: Writing good nonfiction requires finding the “vital idea” you want to communicate, not just the facts

10:51 am: An Amazon reviewer called Candace a “vile socialist” for her portrayal of the Romanovs. She’s proud :)

11:06 am: Judge Maeve Visser Knoth in conversation with #bghb15 honoree Jon Agee about It’s Only Stanley in “How Do I Make You Laugh, Too?”

11:07 am: Stanley, like all of Jon’s books, started as a doodle in a notebook. If one of Jon’s doodles makes him laugh, he tries to follow that idea and flesh it out

11:10 am: Jon: Writing a picture book is “like fishing” — you start with an idea and “see if you can bring this fish in”

11:13 am: Jon says developing the plot of his picture books comes from a series of “what if” questions

11:14 am: Jon discussing how page-turns work with punchlines

11:18 am: Jon: “Sometimes when you’re working on a picture book, it’s like the story is already there” and you’re excavating it

11:27 am: Lear’s limericks made a big impression on Jon. They were about grown-ups, but grown-ups who were doing ridiculous things

1:08 pm: Great breakout sessions all around! Now @RogerReads is going to moderate editor panel “It’s a Manuscript Until I Say It’s a Book” #HBAS15

1:13 pm: Each editor is sharing a story of the “editorial magic” that helped turn the author’s manuscript into a #BGHB15-winning book

1:19 pm: Editor Liz Bicknell: “Editing is a backstage job. I wear black and sit in the curtains.”

1:20 pm: @maryj59: Liz: “Every writer demands different things of an editor.”

1:25 pm: Rosemary Brosnan: As an editor, “I like to feel that if I’ve done my job well, no one knows I exist”

1:39 pm: Nancy Paulsen: Editing is about “finding the writing that sings to you” as an individual reader — it might not be for everybody

1:34 pm: @jescaron: Editors muse on advice to younger selves — Don’t be so rash

1:36 pm: @jescaron: Editors muse on advice to younger selves — Try to get a good picture of the marketplace

1:38 pm: @jescaron: Editors muse on advice to younger selves — Have confidence that you will eventually figure it out

1:39 pm: @jescaron: Editors muse on advice to younger selves — Don’t stay out so late 😉

1:40 pm: @ShoshanaFlax: @nancyrosep & @lizbicknell1 both cite editor’s role to stand in for readers

1:52 pm: Nancy: “We all have the same goal…to make the best book possible.” Rosemary: “Sometimes we have to remind the author of that!”

1:44 pm: @maryj59: Rosemary: “An idea is just an idea. It’s the execution that matters.”

2:06 pm: Gregory Maguire in conversation with #BGHB15 judge Jessica Tackett MacDonald about Egg & Spoon in “Bringing Baba Yaga Home”

2:10 pm: Gregory: A story can have any number of inspirations. It’s not a one-to-one ratio

2:16 pm: Gregory discovered different roles for Baba Yaga in Russian folktales: the scary witch, the kindly crone… “That made her human”

2:17 pm: Gregory: “I had to get out of Baba Yaga’s way… It sometimes felt like channeling the devil”

2:20 pm: A theme of Egg & Spoon is “What can we little ones do” in the face of problems? What we older ones can do is give little ones courage

2:21 pm: Gregory: “I don’t write [specifically] for adults or for kids. I write for people who like to read Gregory Maguire books”

2:23 pm: Gregory quoting Katherine Paterson: “The consolation of the imagination is not imaginary consolation”

2:17 pm: @deirdrea: Gregory on why he loves Baba Yaga: “What we look like and what people think we are is NOT who we are.”

2:26 pm: Gregory showing us inspirational objects — including a tiny Baba Yaga house — he kept on his desk while writing Egg & Spoon

2:30 pm: @RogerReads asks, Are today’s readers well-versed enough in fairy tales & folklore to know the references Gregory is asking them to engage with?

2:32 pm: Gregory Maguire: Maybe Egg & Spoon is a reader’s first introduction to Baba Yaga, but he hopes it won’t be their last introduction

2:37 pm: @RogerReads has nothing to do with the BGHB judges’ choices, but “the happiest news I got this year was the announcement that The Farmer and the Clown won BGHB Picture Book Award”

2:40 pm: Marla Frazee & editor Allyn Johnston discussing The Farmer and the Clown in “Do I Need Words with That?”

2:41 pm: Love seeing Marla and Allyn’s work spaces — and the real-life boys (their sons!) — from A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever!

2:46 pm: A Couple of Boys… started as an illustrated thank-you note from Marla, James, and Eamon to Allyn’s parents for the boys’ nature camp trip

2:54 pm: Original title: “A Couple of Boys Go to Nature Camp (Sort Of)”

3:02 pm: Whoa, neither Marla nor Allyn had done a wordless book before The Farmer and the Clown!

3:07 pm: Marla: Part of The Farmer and the Clown illustration process was soaking the art in the bathtub between pencil and color!

3:19 pm: Really interesting backstory for Marla’s upcoming book with Victoria Chang, Is Mommy?

3:26 pm: #BGHB15 committee chair Barbara Scotto speaking with Neal and Brendan Shusterman about Challenger Deep in “When Life Provides the Story”

3:30 pm: Barbara: Did writing Challenger Deep change the meaning of the experience of facing mental illness for Neal and Brendan?

3:32 pm: Neal’s own tumultuous emotions — deep depression followed by euphoria — during a hospitalization for a blood disorder contributed to the novel as well

3:34 pm: Brendan: Mental illness is something we need to talk about. It’s easy to feel that you’re alone

3:37 pm: It was important to Neal to show Caden’s strength in facing and managing his illness, despite fact that it will never go away entirely

3:38 pm: Brendan’s original art is all in color; helped him to express what he was feeling during an episode. There’s a huge volume not included in Challenger Deep

3:39 pm: Much of the narrative of Challenger Deep was inspired by Neal’s interpretations of Brendan’s art

3:42 pm: Neal: the changes made to the manuscript in the editing process were small but extremely precise

3:46 pm: Neal: “When I submitted this manuscript, I was terrified…I had no idea if it even worked…As a writer you always need to be on that edge”

3:50 pm:@RogerReads asks, What was it was like for Neal when his fictional story started to diverge from Brendan’s real experience?

3:51 pm: Neal: it was easiest to write the pieces that did diverge, challenging to dovetail the 2 so readers wouldn’t be able to tell the difference

3:56 pm: Neal: “I look back at my body of work, and I feel that I everything I have written helped me to write this book”

4:01 pm: Cathie Mercier of @SimmonsCollege wisely and wittily recapping our day. How does she do that?!

4:03 pm: Cathie: “The writer lives two lives: the life lived, and the life unfolding on the page. The reader lives those dual lives too”

4:13 pm: Cathie: Who are the readers we leave behind? What are the topics we avoid due to discomfort? How can we transform literature itself?

4:14 pm: Cathie: Will we be able to transform ourselves to join young readers in the reading future?

4:15 pm: Thanks so much for a fantastic weekend at #BGHB15 and #HBAS15! See you next year!


More on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards and the following day’s Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers,” is coming soon! Follow us on Twitter for updates on all things Horn Book.

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14. 2015 BGHB ceremony timeline

The winners and honorees. Photo: Aram Boghosian.

The winners and honorees. Photo: Aram Boghosian.

Did you miss the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards on Friday, October 2nd? Just want to relive the excitement of the ceremony? We’ve compiled a timeline of the evening’s highlights based on tweets by our staff and other attendees. See Saturday’s Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium timeline here.


5:43 pm: @jescaron: The crowd is gathering! Everyone ready for the ’15 @HornBook and @BostonGlobe Awards!

5:45 pm @Reflectlibrary: #HBAS15…I’m all a twitter!!

5:47 pm: Here we go… Cathie Mercier opening the #BGHB15 Awards ceremony!

5:51 pm: More opening remarks from the @BostonGlobe’s Linda Pizzuti Henry and @RogerReads of @HornBook. So much history with these three Boston institutions!

5:54 pm: @RogerReads: The BGHB Awards have only one central criterion: to honor excellence in books for children

5:56 pm: Chair Barbara Scotto will present the awards for fiction

5:58 pm: Gregory Maguire now accepting for Fiction Honor Book Egg & Spoon

6:00 pm: Gregory Maguire: “Baba Yaga c’est moi” — he most identifies with this madcap character

6:01 pm: @lauragmullen: Gregory Maguire accepts Boston Globe Horn Book Honor for Egg & Spoon and has room in stitches

6:02 pm: Gregory Maguire: We inherit a world of great beauty and great sorrow… We share both

6:03 pm: @SussingOutBooks: Gregory Maguire: “There are some things that are not diminished in being shared, but increased”

6:04 pm: Neal and Brendan Shusterman now accepting for Fiction Honor Book Challenger Deep

6:05 pm: Neal Shusterman: Challenger Deep began as just a title… What would “the deepest place on earth” mean in fiction?

6:06 pm: @ShoshanaFlax: Love that #BGHB15 award presentations include editors’ names #creditwhereit’sdue

6:07 pm: @lauragmullen: @NealShusterman “My editors taught me to write.” Delighted to learn from him at #BGHB15

6:08 pm: The Shusterman family’s experience with schizo-affective disorder provided a glimpse into that emotional “deepest place on earth”

6:09 pm: @jescaron: Challenger Deep — the story of a young adult struggling with mental illness and emerging from the deep

6:10 pm: @SussingOutBooks: “When I first turned in Challenger Deep, I had no idea how it would be received.” @NealShusterman, we are so glad you told THIS story

6:11 pm: Katherine Rundell’s editor David Gale accepting on her behalf for #BGHB15 Fiction Winner Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

6:12 pm: Katherine Rundell is often asked, “Why children’s books? Why not ‘proper’ adult books?” Because children are extraordinary readers

6:13 pm: @MrsVanDusen223: Katherine Rundell: When you write you build a house. When kids read they build a castle

6:14 pm: Katherine Rundell: “I come back to children’s books because children’s books were there for me when I needed them most”

6:16 pm: Katherine Rundell: Books “helped me up and led me home” when lost. Children’s books say, “hope counts…love will matter”

6:18 pm: Katherine Rundell: “I asked [ed.] David Gale to read this out. I am making him thank himself. Which is a particular pleasure because he is so brilliant and modest”

6:20 pm: @jescaron: “Children’s books are not an way back out but a way in… they were not a crutch, they were wings”

6:21 pm: Judge Jessica Tackett MacDonald presenting Nonfiction Awards

6:23 pm: Editor Wesley Adams accepting on behalf of Phillip Hoose for Nonfiction Honor Book The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

6:25 pm: Phillip Hoose: Knud Petersen knew this book was his last chance to tell the story of The Churchill Club right

6:28 pm: Editor Nancy Paulsen accepting on Jacqueline Woodson’s behalf for Nonfiction Honor Book Brown Girl Dreaming

6:29 pm: @lauragmullen: @nancyrosep accepts #BGHB15 award on behalf of @JackieWoodson. What a team!!

6:30 pm: “Brown Girl Dreaming was not an easy book to write. I am glad to have that book in print — and out of me. Imagine a very long labor with no drugs”

6:31 pm: @SussingOutBooks: There were 32 drafts of Brown Girl Dreaming… @JackieWoodson @nancyrosep SO WORTH IT. Thank you for sharing your world with us

6:32 pm: Jacqueline Woodson: The post-labor euphoria of writing is having the book in print with a life of its own

6:33 pm: Candace Fleming accepting for #BGHB15 Nonfiction Award winner The Family Romanov

6:34 pm: @lauragmullen: She makes history have a heartbeat. The amazing @candacemfleming accepts her award for The Family Romanov

6:35 pm: Candace Fleming: The adult book Nicholas & Alexandra was (unwanted) book club selection of her mother’s, Candace’s first introduction to the Romanovs

6:36 pm: @jescaron: The Romanovs “were all roses and sweet kisses,” at least in Fleming’s memory

6:37 pm: Candace Fleming: The first drafts focused on Anastasia’s glamorous life with few hints of the sweeping events overtaking Russia

6:38 pm: Initially Candace Fleming avoided any mention of the Romanovs’ tragic end. The draft was factual, but not the truth

6:41 pm: Candace Fleming realized “I had work to do” when looking at her copious notes on the Romanovs’ riches but few on the lives of peasants

6:42 pm: Candace Fleming: “There is a difference between fact and truth, and to write a credible story—a compelling story—you need both”

6:43 pm: Judge Maeve Visser Knoth presenting award and honors for Picture Books

6:44 pm: Jon Agee accepting #BGHB15 Picture Book Honor for It’s Only Stanley

6:45 pm: Jon Agee: “It’s Only Stanley is a love story. There’s a lot of love in this book” although much of it is delusional, irrational love

6:46 pm: Jon Agee: there’s the canine love and then there’s the Wimbledon family’s love and trust for Stanley

6:47 pm: @jescaron: A book with a pink lunar poodle? Count me in! #ItsOnlyStanley

6:49 pm: Carmela Iaria accepting on behalf of Oliver Jeffers for #BGHB15 Picture Book Honor for Once Upon an Alphabet

6:51 pm: Oliver Jeffers: It was a risk to publish this weird, 112-page alphabet book, but worth it. Thank you to those who came on this strange journey

6:53 pm: Marla Frazee accepting #BGHB15 PB Award for The Farmer and the Clown. She’s glad to be in company of two of her favorite PB creators, Jon Agee and Oliver Jeffers

6:55 pm: Marla Frazee was baffled and troubled by conversations on social media around The Farmer and the Clown

6:56 pm: Marla Frazee: “Making sure words and pictures don’t stomp all over each other is maybe harder than focusing on one or the other”

6:57 pm: @jescaron: “Words and pictures can be equally misinterpreted”

6:58 pm: Marla Frazee: Saying that wordless books cede control to the reader is saying that the visual narrative provides a less powerful story

6:59 pm: Marla Frazee: Children are better at reading visual narratives than grown-ups are

7:01 pm: Because young children can’t yet read or read well, they rely on the visual narrative to guide them from emotion to emotion in a picture book

7:02 pm: Marla Frazee: The @HornBook has been a master’s class in children’s books for her since she graduated art school… 33 years! ♥

7:04 pm: Marla Frazee has taken heart in readers’ responses to The Farmer and the Clown — particularly very small children’s responses

7:05 pm: Marla Frazee: wordless books speak directly, secretly to children — no adult mediator necessary

7:06 pm: @RogerReads turning us loose to mingle, get books signed, and ooh and ahh over the winners

7:07 pm: See you tomorrow for #HBAS15 — lots more to come!

7:11 pm: @EmilyProcknal: Congratulations to all the 2015 @BostonGlobe – @HornBook Award honorees and winners. What an incredible evening at @SimmonsCollege 📚

11:59 pm: @Wozleigh: Worth long drive for #HBAS15 tomorrow with @RogerReads, @NealShusterman, @candacemfleming, @nancyrosep, Liz Bicknell, Gregory Maguire, and SUSAN COOPER!

More coverage of the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards and the following day’s Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium, “Transformations,” is on the way! In the meantime, follow us on Twitter for updates on all things Horn Book.

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15. Boats for Papa

boats for papaThis is one gorgeous picture book. It’s perhaps even more remarkable, given that it’s by a debut artist. Since its publication last June, it has gotten lots of love. And even more love.

Most reviews refer to the way the story tugs at the heartstrings: “A weeper.” “Heart-breaking.” I have to say that the message I took away from the book was less Look How Much They Love Each Other and more Watch This Young Boy Become an Artist. By trying to make the best boat possible for his absent father, Buckley hones his craft: “And each time he made a new boat, it was even better than the last.” Little by little, through hard work and incentive and love and practice and more practice, we see his initial crude efforts — essentially just hunks of driftwood with sticks for masts — become sophisticated, complex, intricate, beautifully crafted works of art.

The ink and watercolor illustrations are simply stunning. The watercolor medium is of course an apt one for this edge-of-the-ocean tale, but that doesn’t begin to express how completely Bagley captures the look and feel of a driftwood- and seaweed-strewn shore. From the colors of water, sand, and sky at various times of day to the way she conveys that sometimes-undefinable edge between ocean and beach and between ocean and sky: it’s all spectacular. She also transitions organically from the shorescapes to the scenes set inside Buckley’s humble home. The use of line (and ink) in the indoor scenes make them tighter and more controlled, and yet the edges of the pictures always retain that watery feel, linking them to the outdoor scenes.

The endpapers are both thematically meaningful and glorious. I love how the driftwood scattered over the beach on the opening endpapers then morph into Buckley’s finished boats hanging on his display wall on the closing endpapers. The endpapers visually reflect the book’s theme of turning raw materials into art.

There are a few things that throw me off a bit:

  • Why are the characters beavers? It seems an odd choice for a book set not by a lake or pond but by the sea.
  • For a debut picture book creator, Bagley seems comfortable and in control. She allows the story to unfold at a very deliberate and leisurely pace. She has confidence in her ability to hold readers’ attention for what is really (outwardly, at least) a not-very-eventful story. Nevertheless, the pacing at the start is off, for me. The book opens with a series of double-page spreads of the shorescape, and they set the scene beautifully. But, if you count the opening endpapers, we get four of these scene-setting double-page spreads, and then the first time we get to the true meat of the book — Buckley making things with his hands — that happens in a teeny little vignette.
  • I can’t shake the feeling that the story has an adult sensibility. Everyone seems to agree that the book will generate strong emotions in readers, but I see more adults getting all choked up than children. However, this may not be of primary importance to the Caldecott committee, which is looking at the art first and the text/story only secondarily.

Over to you all! What are your thoughts about this very impressive picture book debut and its chances on the Caldecott table?


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16. Best Selling Young Adult Books | October 2015

This month, the best selling young adult titles include books by super-talents Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell, Rainbow Rowell and Sarah Dessen.

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17. Best Selling Middle Grade Books | October 2015

This month, Connect the Thoughts (Chronicle Books), a guided journal for young thinkers, is back again as The Children's Book Review's best selling middle grade book.

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18. Best Selling Picture Books | October 2015

It only takes a couple of beautiful autumn days and the holiday season suddenly feel so much closer. Readers are not wasting time getting into the holiday spirit: this month, our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the delightful rendition of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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19. The Wacky World of Silly Willy Winston & Fire HD7 Kindle Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of The Wacky World of Silly Silly Winston: An Ordinary Pet with Extraordinary Adventures, written by Donna Maguire, and a Fire HD7 Kindle! Giveaway begins September 27, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 26, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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20. Come early

Concert Crowd

Cambridge Public Library is telling me they expect to run out of room at Middle Grade Madness, tonight at the Main Library at 6:00PM; show up early to be guaranteed admission. Youth services director Julie Roach is legendary for the ease with which she firmly shuts the door on even the most well-connected mom trying to get her kids into a full story hour, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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21. Illustration Inspiration: Jim Arnosky, Creator of Frozen Wild

Artist and naturalist Jim Arnosky has been honored for his overall contribution to literature for children by the Eva L. Gordon Award and the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild Award for nonfiction. His latest book is "Frozen Wild."

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22. Middle-Grade Madness recapped

Rebecca Stead and me.

Rebecca Stead and me.

Shoshana has written up an excellent recap of last night’s goings-on at the Cambridge Public Library. I’ll just add my thanks to the panelists, who were all engaged, enthusiastic, and nice to me and each other. (Jeanne Birdsall brought along a belt for me to use if things got out of hand, but luckily I did not need to employ it. Jeanne, what would Pére Penderwick say?) And the evening gave me a prompt for my November editorial, so I’m grateful for that.

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23. That One Time Lauren Oliver Interviewed H.C. Chester About Curiosity House

Bestselling author Lauren Oliver and notorious relics collector H.C. Chester interview each other about Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head (HarperCollins, 2015).

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24. Best New Kids Stories | October 2015

Hot New Releases & Popular Kids Stories We think our list of the best new kids books for October is sensational! It highlights some amazing books from many different genres: non-fiction, reality fiction, and fantasy. Take a gander and let us know which titles and covers catch your eye ... Read the rest of this post

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25. Win the Witches Protection Program, by Michael Phillip Cash, and a $50 Amazon Gift Card

Enter to win an autographed copy of Witches Protection Program, by Michael Phillip Cash, and a $50 Amazon gift card! Giveaway begins October 1, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends October 31, 2015, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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