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1. There are no picture book biographies of Donald Trump

A quick search of the Horn Book Guide Online shows three picture book biographies of Hillary Clinton, including these two new ones (both published in January 2016):

WINTER_Hillary  markel_Hillary 
And this one from 2008, revised in August 2015:


Then there’s this new YA biography:


Along with sixteen volumes of series nonfiction (here are two):

epstein_hillary  tieck_hillary
And here’s once place where she and Donald Trump overlap:

burlingame_HillaryPeople  wooten_trump
For now, there appear to be no Bernie books… but that may well change! Check back next year.

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2. Shortest month of the year #HBBlackHistoryMonth16

The Horn Book celebrates Black History Month

As our #HBBlackHistoryMonth16 coverage comes to a close, here is a reminder that these articles by and about African American children’s literature luminaries should be read by everyone, everywhere, everyday, not just during the shortest month of the year.

In the meantime, we’ll keep updating our Horn Book Talking About Race resource page. We’ve already gotten started compiling a set of new and archival Horn Book material for #HBBlackHistoryMonth17. Everyone keep talking and listening.

Click the tag HBBlackHistoryMonth16 for more articles in this series.


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3. Stephen Colbert: kidlit after dark

The outside world doesn’t always get kidlit and YA lit. Children’s books are cute and easy and anyone with a vague sense that children are charming can write them, right? And anyone can write silly fluff for young adults. Especially anyone with a famous name.

That’s a common attitude, anyway. But there are celebrities who don’t think that way. Like Stephen Colbert.

colbert_i am a pole and so can youBack in 2012, Colbert interviewed the late, great Maurice Sendak on his old show Comedy Central show, The Colbert Report. Going in, I figured that interview would be amusing, but I also figured some of the amusement would stem from a celeb’s typical ignorance of everything that goes into creating a children’s book. Boy, was I wrong. The whole point of the two-part “Grim Colberty Tales” segment was to parody the very attitude I’d expected to see. It’s also a great interview, and it resulted in Colbert’s spoofy picture book, I Am a Pole (And So Can You!) (Grand Central Publishing, May 2012), which was coincidentally released with Sendak’s blurb (“The sad thing is, I like it!”) the same day that Sendak passed away. Highly recommended if you need a good laugh. Warning: Colbert Report-style silliness; Sendak-style crotchetiness; NSFW.

sendak on colbert

“Grim Colberty Tales” made another appearance or two with other authors before Colbert left the Report for CBS’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert. But the change in venue doesn’t mean Colbert’s become too cool for books for young people (or books in general, for that matter). On the contrary, his new show has a recurring segment firmly rooted in YA: the Hungry for Power Games. As candidates have dropped out of the presidential election, Colbert has bid each “tribute” farewell with his best Caesar Flickerman impression. (Warning: contains politics.)

stephen colbert caesar flickerman

And of course, the man is a certified Tolkien nerd. This, right here, is what it looks like when someone cares about a story. Not a bad thing to show on TV.

I still think Ellen would be a perfect interviewer for the Newbery and Caldecott winners. But if Stephen beats her to it (ALAYMA 2017, anyone?), that’d be pretty cool, too.

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4. LumiKids Snow app review

lumikids snow title screenIt’s rainy, not snowy, in Boston right now, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to explore the winter wonderland that is LumiKids Snow (Lumosity Labs, December 2015).

Opening the app, you’re taken to a landscape of white and icy teals, where a friendly seal waits on a small ice floe. Tap to access a game starring the seal, or swipe either direction to play any of five other winter-themed activities alongside cute kids and critters. Three of these — ice fishing, toasting and sharing marshmallows, and having a snowball fight — are more silly winter fun than educational activities. But the other three are the type of “brain training” game found in Lumosity’s app for adults. (It’s challenging and fun; I recommend it for grownups!)

In the first of these brain games, the seal and his friends play hide-and-seek. The challenge? To remember where each seal is hiding, even when their ice floes start to move.

lumikids snow seals

Another game invites you to create increasingly complex systems of ramps, bouncy castles, and catapults for penguins to reach floating balloons (so they can fly, natch).

lumikids snow penguin

Both of these start off simple, but get incrementally more difficult as you proceed through them and return for subsequent visits. In the last brain game, you practice writing capital letters (letter names and sounds provided) by directing kids’ sleds. There is no text to read or directions of any sort, but figuring out what to do is part of the process. A locked parents’ section offers some usage tips.

Bright colors against the wintry background, cheerful music and silly sound effects, and visual humor (for instance, the ski-jumping penguins wear safety goggles) make this an engaging way to practice a variety of skills. Fun for an indoor snow day activity. There are several other LumiKids apps — Park, Beach, and Backyard — and I’m looking forward to giving them a spin as well.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 7.0 or later) and Android devices; free. Recommended for preschool users.

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5. DC Super Heroes Origami

dc super hero origamiIt’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…origami?

On a scale of 1 to 3 stars, the “Daily Planet Building” project is a 1, meaning it is the simplest level of the paper-folding projects in John Montroll’s DC Super Heroes Origami (Capstone, September 2015). As an origami novice, I decided to start with the easiest possible project, thinking “Buildings are rectangles; you’ve totally got this.”

Daily Planet Pic 1

what the Daily Planet Building project is intended to look like

But I will forever claim that I was doomed from the beginning: the origami paper specifically designed to be the Daily Planet building was not a square. I feel like that should have been a prerequisite for the production of this book:

“We’re creating a book on how to do origami projects. Origami paper is square. Should we make sure our paper is square?”

“Nah, no one will notice if the paper is rectangular. Just print it. What? No, no, just print. We’re good.”

Uneven paper pic 2

And I began.

Following the step-by-step instructions, I found myself repeatedly flipping back to the handy key in the front which explains different folds and how to do them. I did not master the “squash fold.” I imagine mastering the squash fold is not in the cards for me. But the “pleat-fold”? I’ve definitely got that one down:

awesome pleat fold pic 3

The squash fold, for your viewing pleasure:

Squash fold pic 4

At this point, my windows aren’t matching up and, for some reason, the base of my building has an extra side. There are lots of little steps left between “extra-sided-base” and “finished” and all of them are pleat-folds with mountain-folds along the crease and squash folds to make things…pointy? I’m not even done and it already looks like the Crooked Man built the Daily Planet. Or like something from A Serious of Unfortunate Events happened in Metropolis (that’s where Superman is from, right?).

I squash and pleat and create ART. Because I am an ARTIST. Then, the final step is to bend slightly so the building is 3D and can stand. I turn it over. This is what I have:

Complete laying down pic 5  Complete standing up pic 6
It does stand…when supported by my water bottle. To prove to myself that I am capable of folding paper, I cut my own origami paper and started over. I still have not mastered the squash folds. But look! Look at the difference when the paper is square!

MINE pic 7

That is a Daily Planet! A Daily Planet built by a not-very-imaginative Metropolis-ian (Metropolian? Metropolitan?) architect. Look at the detail! And that flat base. People could totally work in that thing. Tiny, two-dimensional, imaginary people.

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6. Happy Year of the Monkey!

We’re a day late (blame atrocious Boston weather) but we’re wishing a happy Year of the Monkey to all who celebrate Lunar New Year! Eat some dumplings and share a book from this list of titles featuring the holiday, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide.

Picture books

compestine_runaway wokSet in long-ago China, Ying Chang Compestine’s The Runaway Wok tells of Ming Zhang and his poor but deserving family. On New Year’s Eve, Ming buys a magical wok, which promptly sets out to transfer riches from the greedy Li family to the Zhangs, who share it with others. The detailed, vigorous illustrations by Sebastià Serra reflect the mischievous wok’s energy. A recipe and Chinese New Year festival facts are appended. (Dutton, 2011)

compestine_crouching tigerAlso by Ying Chang Compestine, Crouching Tiger stars Vinson, whose grandfather, visiting from China, calls him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. Grandpa teaches his impatient grandson the slow, careful exercises of tai chi, and eventually he and Ming Da play a pivotal role in the Chinese New Year parade. Yan Nascimbene’s realistic, luminous watercolor illustrations show the family’s balance of the traditional and the modern. (Candlewick, 2011)

li-qiong_new year's reunionIn Yu Li-Qiong’s A New Year’s Reunion, Little Maomao and her mother prepare both for Chinese New Year and for her father’s annual return home (he works far away). Zhu Cheng-Liang’s harmonious gouache paintings use lots of red and bright colors. This award-winning import is an excellent introduction to Chinese New Year in China and a poignant, thoughtful examination of the joys and sorrows of families living apart. (Candlewick, 2011)

T175 SC AW AW-1In Bringing in the New Year by author/illustrator Grace Lin, a Chinese American girl describes her  family’s preparations for the Lunar New Year. Her impatience for the big moment moves the story along until the dragon dance, depicted on a long foldout page, finally ushers in the new year. Illustrations featuring Lin’s signature clean, bright gouache patterns accompany the tale. An appended spread supplies additional information about the holiday. A board book edition was published in December 2013. (Knopf, 2008)

shea_ten mice for tetCounting book Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill offers a simple description of the activities surrounding the celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year (“1 mouse plans a party / 2 mice go to market”). A section at the back provides facts about the holiday and explains the importance of the details in Tô Ngọc Trang and Phạm Viết Ðinh’s vibrantly colored embroidered art. This playful look at a cultural tradition can be used with a wide age range. (Chronicle, 2003)

wade_no year of the catMary Dodson Wade’s humorous folktale adaptation No Year of the Cat explains why the Chinese calendar uses specific animal names for the twelve years. The emperor, bemoaning that “we cannot recall the years,” devises a race — the first twelve animals to finish will have a year named after them. Both text and the ornate illustrations by Nicole Wong give personalities to each of the animals, the emperor, and his devoted advisors. (Sleeping Bear, 2012)

wang_race for the chinese zodiac2In The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, the ancient Jade Emperor tells thirteen animals that they will race; the “first twelve animals to cross the river” will have a year named after them. The animals line up and, each in its own unique fashion, cross the river. Sally Rippin’s Chinese-ink, linocut, and digital-media illustrations are exuberant and fluid, evoking mood and furthering the whimsical tone of this retelling. (Candlewick, 2013)

wong_this next new yearIn Janet S. Wong’s This Next New Year, a spare narrative enhanced by Yangsook Choi’s festive, richly colored illustrations relates a Chinese-Korean boy’s reflection on what Chinese New Year means to him. By sweeping last year’s mistakes and bad luck out of the house, he hopes to make room for “a fresh start, my second chance.” Concepts of renewal, starting over, and luck will resonate with young readers in this imaginative appreciation of the emotional aspects of the holiday. (Farrar/Foster, 2000)

yim_goldy luck and the three pandas2Natasha Yim’s entertaining Goldilocks takeoff Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas is set during the Chinese New Year celebration, when Goldy Luck takes a gift to her panda neighbors. Familiar incidents follow — featuring (rice) porridge, a broken chair, and a nap — all portrayed with zest in the illustrations by Grace Zong. In an ending that suits the setting, Goldy has second thoughts and returns to apologize. New Year facts and a turnip cake recipe are included. (Charlesbridge, 2014)


Intermediate fiction

lin_year of the dogFor Taiwanese-American Pacy, sorting out her ethnic identity is important, and she wonders what she should be when she grows up. Writing and illustrating a book for a national contest makes her think that perhaps she can become an author of a “real Chinese person book.” In The Year of the Dog, author/illustrator Grace Lin offers both authentic Taiwanese-American and universal childhood experiences, told from a genuine child perspective. (Little, Brown, 2006)

lin_year of the ratSequel The Year of the Rat brings major change for Pacy, as her best friend moves away. Pacy also starts doubting her resolution to become a writer/illustrator. Lin deftly handles Pacy’s dilemmas and internal struggles with sensitivity and tenderness, keeping a hopeful and childlike tone that will inspire empathy. Appealing line drawings appear throughout. (Little, Brown, 2008)

yep_star makerArtie brags to his tough cousin Petey about providing all the fireworks for Chinese New Year in The Star Maker. With time running out before the celebration, Artie’s uncle Chester makes a gracious sacrifice to help his nephew save face. The easy-to-follow story introduces readers to Chinese New Year traditions. Author Laurence Yep’s preface explains that the 1950s-set tale is based on his own childhood memories. (HarperCollins/Harper, 2011)




compestine_d is for dragon danceIn Ying Chang Compestine’s alphabet book D Is for Dragon Dance, each letter is accompanied by one or two sentences very briefly introducing an aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration — I for incense, J for jade, K for kites. Chinese characters in various calligraphy styles make an eye-catching background for the attractive textured illustrations by YongSheng Xuan. An author’s note offers a few more facts as well as a dumpling recipe. (Holiday, 2006)

otto_celebrate chinese new yearWith colorful photographs and simple, informative text, Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto details the traditions and rituals of Chinese New Year, including travel, family, gifts, plentiful food, and decorations. The use of “we” throughout feels welcoming and inclusive. Appended are instructions for making a Chinese lantern, a recipe for fortune cookies, and information on the Chinese calendar. (National Geographic, 2008)

simonds_moonbeams dumplings & dragon boatsA suitable addition to any multicultural holiday collection, Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz’s collection Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes includes folktales, recipes, and activities for celebrating Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Accompanying the stories and activities are Meilo So’s stylized watercolors, some of which evoke the brushwork of Chinese calligraphy. (Harcourt/Gulliver, 2002)

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7. Audrey Vernick on The Kid from Diamond Street

vernick_kid from diamond streetIn our January/February 2016 issue, reviewer Dean Schneider talked with author Audrey Vernick about her clear love of America’s favorite pastime. Read the full review of The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton here.

Dean Schneider: You’ve written a few books about baseball. Have you always been a fan? Or did you become one after you started writing about the sport?

Audrey Vernick: One of my favorite things about being a grownup is no one can make me write about explorers. I write about baseball because I truly love it and have for decades. While I am a devoted fan of a team I’ll not mention by name in a Boston-based publication, I also love the game’s rich, textured history and the individual stories folded within it.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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8. “Winners, Losers, and Something in Between” awards panel recap

cbb winners panel

moderator Roger Sutton with panelists Cathie Mercier, Nancy Werlin, and Charlotte Taylor

What makes a book award-worthy? Who decides, and how? These questions were the focus of “Winners, Losers, and Something in Between: An Inside Look at Book Awards,” a panel sponsored by Children’s Books Boston that met at Simmons College on Tuesday.

The panelists and moderator had years of experience choosing book award winners among them. The moderator, our own Roger Sutton, and panelist Cathie Mercier, Director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons, have both served on committees for a number of long-running book awards, including plenty of American Library Association Youth Media awards. Panelist and author Nancy Werlin has served as a judge for the National Book Award and the Edgar Awards, and has been a finalist for both those awards and a winner of the Edgar. Panelist Charlotte Taylor is a blogger and longtime judge of the Cybils Awards.

Committee composition was a hot topic, with various types of diversity coming up again and again — gender and ethnic diversity, but also diversity of professional experience. Are the judges librarians? Booksellers? Authors? Bloggers? Do they have opportunities to share books with kids? Do those kids come from different backgrounds? Do they have a variety of genre preferences, and can they get past their preferences? And how big is the committee? Will it be dominated by one or two strong personalities? (Or not-so-obviously-strong personalities — as Nancy put it, quiet committee members in the back of the room are just as capable of digging in their heels as anyone else.)

Another big question was how the books get into the committee members’ hands. In most cases, publishers submit books for consideration, sometimes with a submission fee, sometimes without. ALA award judges are expected to read beyond what’s sent to them; National Book Award committees can “call in” a book from a publisher (and if the publisher is a small one, the submission fee is waived). The Cybils, an award judged by book bloggers, has a completely different process: anyone can nominate a book for the first round of judging, in which one group chooses a shortlist that’s handed off to a second round of judges.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work involved in being on an award committee. Cathie emphasized the importance of preparation before meetings, since time is short and there are so many books to discuss. When she chaired the Sibert committee, she insisted that committee members write annotations of the books they were supporting. (I’ll bet she did, thought all the Simmons alums in the room.) “You have to be able to see what people are thinking,” she explained.

The perspectives of the panelists varied most widely on the question of what makes an award-worthy book, and how one decides. While ALSC awards use terms like “most distinguished” in their criteria, the Cybils emphasize “kid appeal,” a term Charlotte admitted is subjective, since the adult judges bring their own biases. Cathie expressed that she feels “really, really inept at determining what kid appeal is,” but Charlotte said that the Cybils rely on the experience of the judges, many of whom work with kids.

All in all, the discussion was lively as advertised. And if you enjoy lively CBB events, join us for the liveliest of the year: Wicked Boston Children’s Book Trivia Challenge, hosted by Jack Gantos, at M. J. O’Connor’s on June 13.

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9. Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary!


March/April 2016 Horn Book MagazneApril 12, 2016 marks the one hundredth birthday of children’s literature icon Beverly Cleary. To celebrate, the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine includes a series of tributes to the author and her work written by children’s book authors, illustrators, editors, and librarians whose lives and work were touched by Ms. Cleary.

Beth McIntyre, Madison County (WI) Public librarian, shows off her Ramona Quimby Q tattoo.

Beth McIntyre, Madison County (WI) Public librarian, shows off her Ramona Quimby Q tattoo.

Each week leading to The Big Day we’ll post an article or two about Cleary’s life and work. To start things off, here is Julie Roach, from the Cambridge (MA) Public Library talking about “Ramona in the 21st-Century Library” — including bonus Ramona-inspired tattoo!

Happy 100th Birthday, Beverly Cleary! For more, click the tag Beverly Cleary at 100 and read the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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10. Hermione, headcanons, and kindred spirits


Jamie Parker (Harry), Noma Dumezweni (Hermione), and Paul Thornley (Ron).

Recently, the two-part what-happens-next-in-the-Wizarding-World play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child announced three key cast members: Jamie Parker as adult Harry, Paul Thornley as adult Ron, and Noma Dumezweni as adult Hermione. Congratulations to them all, and I hope the plays are as good as the books, and I really hope they make it to the States in some form. But more than all that…

WOC HERMIONE! WOC HERMIONEEEEEEE! (That’s Woman of Color, or Witch of Color, or however you want to think of it.)

It’s natural to react with surprise to this announcement. After all, we’ve seen Hermione portrayed in eight movies by Emma Watson, who grew into the role and did a lovely job, and who looks nothing like Noma Dumezweni. But the plays aren’t sequels to the movies; they’re sequels to the books. And in the books, Hermione’s race is never specified.

Urban Dictionary gives the following definition for the not-in-American Heritage term headcanon: “Used by followers of various media of entertainment, such as television shows, movies, books, etc. to note a particular belief which has not been used in the universe of whatever program or story they follow, but seems to make sense to that particular individual, and as such is adopted as a sort of ‘personal canon.’”

A lot of people have headcanons about Hermione. After all, she’s a character many a) identify with and b) want to emulate. She’s a little awkward. She doesn’t always fit in. She’s the brightest witch of her age, she’s Gryffindor-brave, she has Hogwarts: A History pretty much memorized, and — let’s face it — the wizarding world would be pretty much screwed without her. She’s a kickass role model for anyone of any background, and if your version of her looks like you, then who says you can’t be like her? (Okay, maybe you can’t create Polyjuice Potion or wield a Time-Turner, but you can be Gryffindor-brave and the brightest Muggle of your age.) That’s probably why lots of fans have already created images of “racebent” Hermione (along with other characters — the practice seems especially common in the Harry Potter fandom.

Hermione of color is there if you want her to be.

The matter of Hermione’s race reminded me of a similarly malleable matter: Anne Shirley and Diana Barry. (Insert your favorite are-they-or-aren’t-they pair here.) The “bosom friends” of L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books might have a beautifully devoted, platonic friendship featuring a flowery vocabulary (Anne’s). Or maybe, just maybe, one or both of them is romantically invested in that friendship. Maybe one or both of these creative, caring, widely beloved characters is queer (probably bisexual, since both marry men later), and whether or not that’s the case, they’re still creative, caring, and widely beloved. I’ve read it both ways. I’ve loved it both ways.

Does it matter what the author was thinking? It’s lovely to see J. K. Rowling’s public support of the recent casting (which doesn’t actually discount either reading of Hermione’s race), but if she’d said nothing, either reading would still be equally valid. Was L. M. Montgomery thinking of same-sex romance or attraction so long ago? Who knows? What was in her head doesn’t have to be in readers’ heads. Readers’ headcanons are their own.

All this isn’t to say that it’s unimportant to have characters who are overtly from underrepresented backgrounds. It’s extremely important — without them, it’s way too easy to default to exclusively straight, white (and Christian, and cisgendered, and typically abled) headcanons. But there’s also something special about cases like this where one can choose a headcanon for oneself. And to have this one legitimized after all these years is even more special. There’s no rule that says anyone’s personal view of Hermione has to change with this announcement, but I hope that at least some people who found it surprising asked themselves, “Is there any reason Hermione can’t look this way?” And I hope they answered themselves, “Nope!”

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11. Last show and tell of 2015!

When Out of the Box started over five years ago (!!), it was primarily show-and-tell type posts: a look at what we literally pulled out of boxes we received. The scope of the blog has widened considerably since then — adding app reviews, movie reviews, event recaps, and lots more — but I still collect notable items to give you a glimpse at how wacky, weird, and wonderful our mail can be. With 2015 drawing to a close, it’s time to do a big swag post (and clean out my desk shelves!).

We’re not really sure of the provenance of some of this stuff, so if you can shed some light on what items are and where they came from, please do! For more swag and surprising mail, check out the tag show and tell.

First category is…sweets! We love getting treats. Bonus points if they are beautiful and bookish.

magnificent thing cookie

cookie with art from Ashley Spires’s The Most Magnificent Thing

i am bear gummies

gummy bears celebrating Ben Bailey Smith and Sav Akyüz’s I Am Bear

cake mix

mystery international chocolate milk mix (we think?)

Journals and other writing-related tools:

poet ink and quill

awesome quill-and-ink set accompanying Don Tate’s Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

star darlings

Star Darlings wish list pad and magnetic board

wonder journal

companion journal for R. J. Palacio’s Wonder

every last word journal

journal and magnetic poetry set with Tamara Ireland Stone’s Every Last Word

Prints and posters:

loren long print

signed print of Little Tree by Loren Long

rosen and selznick prints

signed prints: Appleblossom the Possum by Gary Rosen (written by Holly Goldberg Sloan) and The Marvels by Brian Selznick

henkes waiting poster

signed print of Waiting by Kevin Henkes

chronicle pbs

postcards with illustrations from several Chronicle picture books

reading space poster

poster for Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant’s That’s (Not) Mine!

poster for Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson

poster for Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson

Lizi Boyd's big bear little chair print and masks

Lizi Boyd’s big bear little chair print and masks

Tote bags:

cockatoo bag and to-do list

tote bag and to-do list featuring characters from Bethanie Murguia’s Cockatoo, Too

lectura books tote

Lectura Books Literacy Project tote bag


story blocks

story blocks from Daniel Nayeri and Brian Won’s kit How to Tell a Story


mystery seeds, from two separate correspondents

nightfall with candle and matches

Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski’s Nightfall with creepy note, candle, and matches


mystery (but cute!) rhino stuffie

latin wimpy kid

Commentarii de Inepto Puero (a.k.a. the Latin edition of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid)

ivy and bean stickers

stickers of Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall’s Ivy + Bean

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12. 2015 in review

2016 new yearHappy New Year! We hope your year is full of great reads.

Before we ring in 2016, though, let’s take a look back at 2015 — we had a very busy year!

BGHB 2015

Fanfare 2015

ALA 2015 coverage

Remembering Marcia Brown, Dorothy Butler, George Nicholson, Mal Peet, Sir Terry Pratchett, and Vera B. Williams

May/June 2015 Horn Book Magazine Special Issue: Transformations

Brand-new newsletter: What Makes a Good…?

Some article highlights:


Summer Reading 2015

Hunger Games Week


Crossover Week

Brooklyn Week


Book Reviews of the Week and App Reviews of the Week

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13. Mwah mwah mwah mwah: movies

This is way behind the times, but how cool and clever is it that Trombone Shorty was the “voice” of the adults in the new Peanuts Movie? Read the Horn Book’s review of last year’s jazzy picture book Trombone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; illus. by Bryan Collier.

The-Peanuts-Movie-poster  andrew_trombone shorty  
What movies did you check out during the break? Star Wars (no spoilers)? Hunger Games?

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14. 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Speeches

While you’re gearing up for ALA Midwinter — in Boston! Home of The Horn Book! Come say hi at our booth! — you can enjoy the complete 2015 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards speeches. Click on the tags BGHB15 and HBAS15 for timelines, pictures, and more. Photos, judges’ intros, and other information can be found in the January/February 2016 Horn Book Magazine. And as a bonus, we’re including Susan Cooper’s wonderful Horn Book at Simmons Keynote on the theme Transformations: “The World That Changes.

rundell_cartwheelingFiction Award Winner
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

Fiction Honor Books


Nonfiction Award Winner
fleming_family-romanov_170x249The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

Nonfiction Honor Books


frazee_farmer-and-the-clown_17-x137Picture Book Award Winner
The Farmer and the Clown
by Marla Frazee

Picture Book Honor Books

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15. January children’s lit events in the Boston area

Grace Lin

Grace Lin

Boston is starting 2016 off with a bang. There are a ton of children’s literature related events coming up this month in and around Boston — including ALA Midwinter this weekend! Here are just a few highlights; see our calendar for even more events.

  • ALA’s 2016 Midwinter Meeting begins Friday, January 8th, and runs through Tuesday, January 12th, at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The Youth Media Awards announcements will take place Monday the 11th at 8:00 am in the ballroom. See the full schedule and register.
  • The Jumbies author and Creative Writing MA faculty member Tracy Baptiste will speak at Lesley University’s Marran Theater on Friday, January 8th, at 5:00 pm. The presentation is free and open to the public.
  • Also on Friday the 8th: at 7:00 pm, Brookline Booksmith will host a “Real Teen Lives in YA” panel with authors Marieke Nijkamp (This is Where It Ends), Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (Firsts), Annie Cardi (The Chance You Won’t Return), and Emily Martin (The Year We Fell Apart).
  • On Saturday, January 9th at 4:00 pm, Mac Barnett and Jory John will hold a prankster’s workshop at An Unlikely Story to celebrate the publication of The Terrible Two Get Worse. The (terrible?) two will also visit Barnes & Noble on Sunday the 10th at 12:00 pm.
  • As part of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing Program, Lesley University will host a morning of Picture Book Seminars on Sunday the 10th. Author and faculty member Michelle Knudsen will cover “Picture Book Basics” from 9:30 am–11:00 am. Author/illustrator Brian Lies will discuss “Vision, Revision, and Re-revision” from 11:00 am–12:30 pm. The seminars are free and open to the public.
  • FableVision Studios will hold a reception for winners of the Massachusetts Book Awards on Sunday the 10th from 3:00 pm–4:30 pm.
  • KidLit Drink Night celebrates ALA with a gathering at Pastoral Boston at 5:30 pm on Sunday the 10th. Come socialize with fellow children’s literature aficionados!
  • The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial author and Creative Writing MA faculty member Susan E. Goodman will speak at Lesley University’s Marran Theater on Sunday the 10th at 6:30 pm. The presentation is free and open to the public.
  • Peter H. Reynolds will participate in the Family Film Festival at Arlington’s The Regent Theateron Saturday, January 16th. The event includes screenings of animated films based on several of his books, a presentation, and a book signing. It begins at 10:30 am (ages 3 and up; $6).
  • On Saturday the 16th at 2:00 pm, The Writers’ Loft will host YA authors MarcyKate Connolly (Monstrous), Camille DeAngelis (Bones & All), Mackenzi Lee (This Monstrous Thing), and Marika McCoola (Baba Yaga’s Assistant) for a panel discussion on “Writing Monsters.” Free for Writers’ Loft members; donation requested for nonmembers.
  • Grace Lin will give her presentation “The Mirrors and Windows of Your Child’s Bookshelf” at The Carle Museum on Saturday the 16th (1:00 pm; free with museum admission) and as part of TEDxNatick on Saturday, January 23rd (9:30 am–3:30 pm; $27).
  • Jarrett Krosoczka will be visiting An Unlikely Story at 1:00 pm on Saturday, January 30th, to celebrate the release of Comics Squad: Lunch! Register here beginning January 16th.

See our monthly events calendar for more events and all details. Hosting — or attending — a local event and want to see it listed? Email the info to cbb (at) hbook.com.

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16. Go, indies, go!

It’s a bicoastal book-to-book battle, but it’s an everybody-wins sort of thing.

ncibaBeginning in the fall and running through the end of 2015, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Children’s Alliance (NCIBA) and the New England Children’s Booksellers Advisory Council (NECBA) were competing to see which coast’s booksellers can sell the most copies of certain titles with diverse characters.

NCIBA was touting One Word from Sophia (Atheneum, June 2015) by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail; and The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher (Delacorte, September 2014) by Dana necbaAlison Levy. NECBA was promoting Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam, January 2015) by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson — which just yesterday received the Newbery Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and a CSK Illustrator Award Honor.

The idea was to “provide hard evidence to publishers that diverse books sell,” according to a statement from NCIBA’s new Diversity Committee.

Brookline Booksmith participated in a similar campaign while I worked in the children’s section there. The Great Greene Challenge of 2014 was a competition to see which bookstore could sell the most copies of Varian Johnson’s The Great Greene Heist (Scholastic/Levine), a funny caper with a diverse cast pictured clearly on the cover. The most challenging part of handselling this book was its lack of wildly popular comp titles. The easiest way to sell a book from Intermediate Fiction was to say, “If you liked Percy Jackson/Harry Potter/Diary of a Wimpy Kid…” Recommendations for a middle-school caper novel often sounded a little out-of-the-blue. The solution? Honesty. When I explained to customers that we were competing to sell this title to prove to publishers that a book with kids of color on the cover could sell, it often piqued their interest. “That needs proving?” one customer asked. Some did walk away with copies of The Great Greene Heist. Others picked different books, but in at least a few cases, they picked different diverse books. The exchange almost always led to some discussion about the need for more diversity in children’s literature.

Let’s hope the same happened with this initiative! We’re looking forward to seeing the results announced. (And far be it from this New England bookselling alum to say which reason is the best region, but may the best region win!)

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17. Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day provides an opportunity to reflect not only on the life of the great civil rights leader, but also on how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go.

Below is an updated list of recommended books about Dr. King’s life and legacy (all reviewed and recommended at the time of their publication by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide). For more books on the civil rights movement, click here. What are your favorite books about Dr. King and the civil rights movement to share and discuss?


my brother martinOf the many stories about Dr. King, none is as personal and revealing as My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a memoir-tribute by his older sister Christine King Farris. Starting with early family reminiscences, King Farris captures the drama of a life that would lead to the “I Have a Dream” speech. The brilliance of Chris Soentpiet’s realistic illustrations, the placement of the precise text, and the oversize format make this a dramatic contribution. A poetic tribute by Mildred D. Johnson, an afterword, and an illustrator’s note are included. (Simon & Schuster, 2003)

watkins_love will see you throughIn Love Will See You Through: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Six Guiding Beliefs, Angela Farris Watkins, King’s niece, explores his six guiding principles. Watkins cites specific examples of victorious actions, including the desegregation of Alabama buses and his famous “Letters from the Birmingham Jail,” explaining with “love and respect” the importance of the fight for equality.The foundation of King’s philosophy, illustrated with colorful mixed-media art by Sally Wern Comport, will resonate with all ages. (Simon, 2015)

My Uncle Martin's Words for AmericaWatkins shares her own memories of Dr. King and provides background on the civil rights movement in My Uncle Martin’s Words for America. Her text incorporates King’s own words and explains them in context (“Uncle Martin said, ‘Let justice roll down like waters.’ He meant that everyone should be treated fairly”). Eric Velasquez’s illustrations include close-up portraits and crowd scenes, all conveying the movement’s scope. (Abrams, 2011)

martin's big wordsThe text of Doreen Rappaport’s Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a mix of finely honed biographical narrative and appropriate quotes from King himself, emphasizing the concept that from his youth Martin had sought to inspire others with his words. The essential events of King’s life are presented in a straightforward yet moving style. The facts are extended by Bryan Collier‘s breathtaking collage illustrations. A chronology and informative notes from author and illustrator are appended. (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, 2001)

michelson_as good as anybodyAbraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi born in Eastern Europe, becomes a stalwart friend to Martin Luther King Jr. as the Baptist preacher urges America toward new standards of equality and freedom. In As Good as Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson, readers first meet King as a young boy, then Heschel; their shared story later unfolds. Raul Colón portrays the two leaders in swirling, textured colored-pencil and watercolor illustrations. (Knopf, 2003)

pinkney_martin & mahaliaAndrea Davis Pinkney‘s Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song relates the way “Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson combined their respective vocal gifts to form an unshakeable ribbon of faith.” A visual representation of that faith, a series of banners with directions (e.g., “This way to freedom”) create a frame for each of Brian Pinkney‘s illustrations, while words from both King and singer Jackson provide context for the uplifting text. Notes from the author and illustrator and a discography are appended. (Little, Brown, 2013)

carson_what was your dream, dr. king

Mary Kay Carson’s What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?: And Other Questions About Martin Luther King Jr. [Good Question! series] uses a question-and-answer format to relate the story of Martin Luther King Jr.’s contributions to the civil rights movement. Brief but sufficient explanations are given to questions related to segregation, nonviolent protests, the March on Washington, the importance of Dr. King’s philosophy, his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, and his assassination. Illustrations by Jim Madsen accompany the insightful text. (Sterling, 2013)

bunting_cart that carried martinAt his funeral, Martin Luther King Jr.’s casket was carried in a borrowed wooden farm cart pulled by two mules. It’s a humble image, but the throngs of people lining the streets to pay their respects reflects Dr. King’s great work and legacy. Eve Bunting’s simple, poetic prose in The Cart that Carried Martin follows the cart’s slow, sad procession; Don Tate’s somber, handsome gouache illustrations are a perfect accompaniment.

mcnamara_martin luther king jr. dayWhile learning about Martin Luther King Jr., Mrs. Connor’s first graders illustrate their own dreams to make the world a better place: no more fighting, a clean planet, everyone having fun. Margaret McNamara’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day [Ready-to-Read: Robin Hill School series] is a simple and age-appropriate introduction to Martin Luther King Jr. Day for beginning readers (though no substantial details about MLK are provided). Mike Gordon’s warm cartoons show the kids’ great aspirations. (Simon/Aladdin, 2007)



i have a dreamKadir Nelson brings to life Dr. King’s famous speech in the superlative oil paintings of I Have a Dream. He begins with Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial addressing the crowd; literal illustrations of his words (e.g., his “four little children”) follow. Visually, this is a stunning accomplishment that embodies the thrilling inspiration of Dr. King’s words. The complete text of the speech is appended and an accompanying CD allows readers to hear the speech themselves. (Random/Schwartz & Wade, 2012)



I See the Promised LandArthur Flowers’s I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. uses an innovative design to blend African griot storytelling and folk art from India to create a bold graphic homage to Dr. King for young adults. Manu Chitrakar’s illustrations, drawn in the style of Patua scroll painters (a combination of sequential and performance art), recast the story with a distinctively Indian flair. There is a creative symbiosis between the seemingly disparate elements, which reminds us that the civil rights movement is but one chapter in the story of global human rights. (Groundwood, 2013)



lewis_voices from the march on washingtonIn Voices from the March on Washington, poets J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon give voice to a cross-section of the 250,000 participants of the 1963 March on Washington: from first grader Ruby May Hollingsworth and Aki Kimura, a Japanese American sent to an internment camp during WWII, to Coretta Scott King. Many fine works on the civil rights movement are available; this adds the power of poetic imagination. (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, 2014)

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18. Sago Mini Music Box app review

music box titleI’ve been singing Sago Mini’s praises for some time (see my reviews of Ocean Swimmer, Road Trip, Friends, and Fairy Tales, as well as Shoshana’s review of Monsters), and now I have musical accompaniment! Sago Mini Music Box (2014) invites users to join cheerful animal characters to play three familiar tunes.

First things first: choose a character and thus the song you’ll be performing. Select the orange cat to drift over a meadow, through mountains, and into space in a hot air balloon, to the strains of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” Hop in a sled with the blue bunny to dash through the snow as you play “Jingle Bells.” Or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” through a tropical paradise with the brown dog.

music box menu

Regardless of which character/song combination you choose, tap your device to both play the appropriate musical notes and accelerate your vehicle — you set the tempo of your song and the speed of travel.

Tapping different items or locations on your screen produces different instrumentation and a wide range of humorous visual surprises. For instance, in “Twinkle, Twinkle,” tapping the meadow as the kitty floats over in the balloon plays a low guitar note (and might produce a tree, flower, or mountain goat), while tapping the night sky plays a higher keyboard tone (as a star, comet, or rocket appears). When you drift past the moon, alien groundhogs pop out to greet you. Tap the same item twice in a row, and you might get a brief animation. If you’re lucky, you may spot paper airplanes soaring through the sky, or even a UFO beaming up one of the goats. Throughout, the kitty oohs and ahhs at the sights. Both the music and the landscapes are seamlessly looped, allowing for unhurried exploration.

music box moon

The visual surprises and various instrument sounds add considerable variety to the otherwise similar tunes. Bright colors; simple, rounded shapes; and a sense of joyful wonder enhance the experience. A locked parents’ section offers some usage tips.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 5.1.1 or later; free) and Android devices ($2.99). Recommended for preschool users.

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19. Antoinette Portis on The Red Hat

AntoinettePortisIn our January/February 2016 issue, reviewer Sarah Ellis asked illustrator Antoinette Portis about that pesky (playful?) wind in The Red Hat. Read the full review of The Red Hat here.

Sarah Ellis: The “bad guy” here is the wind, but in your swirly, spiral line the wind comes across as more playful than malevolent. Was it hard to figure out how to make a 3-D character out of a no-D antagonist?

Antoinette Portis: Instead of personifying the wind as one of the puffy-cheeked Greek gods you see on antique maps or as an evil villain, I imagined it as an externalization of Billy’s resistance to venturing out into the world. When he’s impelled to risk forging a relationship, all his fears don’t suddenly evaporate. They manifest themselves as the wind, trying to drive him back to the safety and isolation of his tower.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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20. Say Hello to Your Friends*…in full color

In the heyday of Livejournal, several friends and I joined one of its fan communities: babysittersclub. For a while, it was quite an active community (and it still sees some activity). Its members, most of them probably ‘90s kids like myself who’d grown just old enough to be nostalgic, posted detailed questions and answers about Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series, announced books they were interested in buying or selling, shared excitement when they happened to see a street with one of the characters’ names…in short, fangirling and fanboying (yes, both) occurred in spades. I rarely posted myself, but commented regularly on others’ posts, and generally felt validated by this space that acknowledged how thoroughly cool it was to love the BSC.

telgemeier_kristy's great ideaIn 2006, the community was abuzz with the news that some of the books would be adapted into graphic novels. And then an FAQ post appeared from a Livejournal user with the handle “goraina.” Cheery, friendly Raina Telgemeier subsequently posted often enough to feel like part of the community, and other members embraced her four graphic novel adaptations. She made some changes, skipping some of the books so she could get to the meatiest possible story about each of the original four baby-sitters. (For instance, book #6, Claudia and Mean Janine, gives more insight into Claudia’s character than book #2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, so Raina skipped ahead and adapted #6.) Raina wasn’t some outsider brought in to create these graphic novels. She was a BSC fan, and she got it. She captured the characters’ enthusiasm. Kristy’s confidence. Mary-Anne’s naivete. Claudia’s famous crazy outfits.

Fast-forward a few years, and a familiar style popped up among the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, specifically in 2010 Nonfiction Honor Book Smile. I, of course, had a copy signed for a friend who was also a babysittersclub community member on LJ. Raina recognized my friend’s username. Fandom is a wonderful thing.

If you’ve followed kids’ graphica, you know what happened next. Raina’s work grew more and more popular with Drama and Sisters, both of which I would’ve loved with or without the BSC connection, though I might not have discovered them as quickly. The phrase “graphic novel” used to only conjure up images of superheroes and adventure stories; Raina’s funny realism is much more my thing — I mean, I did grow up reading The Baby-Sitters Club — so her work was a perfectly-tailored way into graphica.

martin_claudia and mean janinePresumably because of her later books’ popularity (there’s another one coming, you guys!), the BSC graphic novels are being re-released in full color (with color by Braden Lamb, who was also the colorist for Sisters). The first one, Kristy’s Great Idea, came out in April of last year, soon followed by The Truth About Stacy and Mary Anne Saves the Day. And today, Claudia and Mean Janine, the fourth and final entry in the graphic series, hits bookstore shelves in its full-color incarnation. Check out Raina’s blog post for a look back at her process — and some BSC fanart from her childhood!

Realistic graphic novels, especially middle-grade ones about girls, are more common these days, and though I don’t know enough to say for sure that Raina started the trend, she definitely played a role in its popularity. And as any BSC fan will tell you, that’s dibbly fresh.

*Who remembers this theme song?

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21. Dream, dream, dream

The Horn Book GuideThe cover of the Fall 2015 Horn Book Guide is a beautiful Rafael López illustration from Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle (which, by the way, just won the Charlotte Zolotow Award). In this story, saturated acrylic-on-wood illustrations capture the island’s musicality and the surreal dream-images that inspire young Millo — a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s taboo against female drummers. It’s a stunning cover, and I’m proud and excited that the Fall 2015 Horn Book Guide bears it.

In the book, “dream” is used in the sense of a will or desire — Millo aspires to be a drummer.

In this issue of the Guide you’ll find more dreams-as-desire-and-will: Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand tells the story of Ira Aldridge, an African American man who aspired to be an actor in 1824; Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson shows how Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah grew up to be a national hero and disabilities activist; and Henry Aaron’s journey to the major-leagues is described in Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares.

But this cover has me thinking about actual dreams. I’m not the only one who finds the topic intriguing:

First, BBC Magazine wonders why people don’t talk about their dreams.

Which is, perhaps, answered by Sarah’s mother, Mrs. Matthiessen, on WBEZ’s This American Life. (Never talk about “your dreams. Nobody cares about your dreams.”)

RadioLab does what they’re oh so good at and delves into the science of dreaming.

This Guide issue also has dreams as I’ve been considering them: that space one inhabits in sleep. Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals! by Eileen R. Meyer highlights the sleeping habits of fourteen animals. The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O’Brien follows a protagonist who enters a new boarding school but discovers the school is a cover for a nefarious experiment. In Kit Alloway’s Dreamfire, teen prodigy Joshlyn Weaver must teach her apprentice, Will Kansas, about dream-walking.

And Stick Dog Dreams of Ice Cream, which is, coincidentally enough, also what I do.

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22. Mockingjay Part 2: Let’s talk about that epilogue

katniss with baby mockingjayIt’s never fun to listen to someone talk about all of the ways in which a movie was not like the book. And I’m not going to do that here because that is not the point. Am I sad that the personalities and import of secondary characters were lost between Mockingjay the book and Mockingjay the movies? Yes. Do I wish Prim’s final scene could have been more impactful? I do. Would it have been better to more strongly allude to Gale’s part in the bombing? Possibly.

But, surprisingly, what has most saddened me about Mockingjay, Part 2 is what was kept between book and movie: the epilogue.

People have talked and talked and talked about The Hunger Games as a feminist franchise — here we have a somewhat oblivious but totally badass heroine who sometimes responds in stereotypically feminine ways but, more often than not, breaks convention. She’s a breadwinner and protector, quick to anger, emotionally damaged, confused, and heroic. Katniss is brave and strong, skilled and smart, and, always, distinctly a teenage girl.

The feminism doesn’t stop with Katniss. Women are real people in this franchise: Effie rocks out her style no matter the situation, because it makes her feel good; Coin is ruthless and ready for power; Prim is focused on bettering herself and the world around her; Annie — as difficult as it may be — survives, thrives, and raises a child without her male partner; Cressida escapes the Capitol and becomes a leader in the rebellion; Johanna endures terrible punishment but maintains her steel and intelligence. Women, like their male counterparts (also real people who break with gender norms: Peeta as partner, Finnick’s imprisonment in the sex trade, Beetee as a maternal figure to Wiress), are agents of change. It is a beautiful thing to see this work gain such a massive following and dominate the box office.

But that last scene…

Mockingjay the book ends the same way as Mockingjay, Part 2: we flash-forward to Katniss and Peeta as the parents of two young children. Katniss lets us know that one day, when it’s time, she’ll explain to her children why the world is the way it is and her role in making it that way. She will tell her children why she has nightmares, how she survived, how she continues to survive. It is clear that she is happy, if scarred. It is clear that there is a “happy ending.” And it is clear that life goes on.

It could have been clearer in the movie that Peeta and Katniss are still broken in some ways, that the pain never really goes away, that things aren’t all meadows and chubby babies. But if you know what to look/listen for, those ideas can be found in the dialogue.

But the book makes one additional, very important thing clear: it took many, many years (“five, ten, fifteen years”) before Katniss felt safe and comfortable with the idea of motherhood. Peeta is the partner who desperately wants a family — Katniss does not acquiesce until her early 30s. She loves her children, yes, and is very happy with her life and the added role of mother, but at no point was it necessary for her to have children to be happy.

In the movie, however, we cut to a seated, loose-haired Katniss, babe in arms. She wears a pastel, floral print dress and is bathed in golden light. Gone is her signature braid, gone are her Earth-tone colors and leather vests, gone is her restless motion and active-even-at-rest stance. Gone is Katniss the Hero. All of the pain, the work, the fear, the struggle in the name of the female protagonist with agency; all of Katniss is wiped clean in this image. Here, she sits inactive, wearing clothing we have only ever associated with her mother (whose complete lack of agency is integral to the story), with husband and children as her sole focus.

This ending shows the viewer that the only way a woman can be truly happy is through motherhood — the only measure of a woman’s success is through her ability to be a mommy. It doesn’t matter that Katniss has taken down the Capitol. It doesn’t matter that she deposed what would be a new dictator. It doesn’t matter that she has finally discovered and understood herself and her loss. It doesn’t matter that she has mended relationships. It doesn’t matter that she has opened herself up to love. It doesn’t matter that it took fifteen years of relationship building and emotional mending to bring Katniss to a place where she would accept being a parent. None of this matters because the only way to give a woman a happy ending is to make her a mommy.

Four movies. Four. Of strength and wit and sacrifice and crushing defeats and women enacting world-changing events. All to bring us to one final scene: Katniss the Mother.

It devastates me that this ending was so misrepresented. Because the beauty of the book’s epilogue lies in how Katniss and Peeta keep themselves whole, how they build a life together, how they are individuals with pasts that matter, how they cannot be pigeon-holed into specific gender or relationship roles. It adds to the feminist nature of the work and continues Collins’s methodical destruction of gender stereotypes. It is hopeful and realistic and it made me cry for days.

The movie ending, though, works only to undermine all of the important work Collins’s series has done. Because, at the end of the day, who cares if you’re the Girl on Fire? You only matter if you have a girl of your own.

Don’t miss our reviews of Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2. This post is part of our Hunger Games Week. Click on the tags Hunger Games Week and Hunger Games to see all posts.

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23. The Wunderglasses app review

wunderglasses menuAs The Wunderglasses app (Gentle Troll, December 2015) opens, a little boy named Max is playing in the park. He notices a strange pair of glasses on the ground; when he puts them on, everything ordinary now looks extraordinary. Users swipe down from the top-right corner of the screen to see what Max sees: a rose garden becomes an array of lollipops, two ducks appear as a giant blue frog, an older couple on a bench transforms into two turtles. You can swipe back up to see the scene as normal; it’s fun to swipe up and down to see exactly what has changed.

Max goes by an ice-cream stand (there he sees a red sun, a couple with ice-cream-scoop heads, and a businessman wearing a tutu), then walks home past a construction site (two workers playing wheelbarrow, a woman walking an ostrich), the outdoor market, the lake, the downtown, and his street — usually “rather boring,” but not today.

wunderglasses street

The story itself, narrated gently and with a touch of wonder (the narration can also be turned off), is a little kooky: “He feels like eating some candy. But of course, you cannot eat the roses or the grass, and butterflies are not made of sugar.” The visuals are great — hand-painted watercolor scenes are very child-friendly as they are, and they become even more so once kids start to swipe and the silliness kicks in. There’s a map of the town on the home screen, along with some great jazzy sax music. With some light sound effects and over one hundred animations, this should keep kids entertained, occupied — and giggling.

Available for iPad (requires iOS 6.0 or later); $2.99. Recommended for preschool and primary users.

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24. Five reasons to get your holiday gifts from a bookstore

Holidays at Brookline Booksmith. Used by permission.

Holidays at Brookline Booksmith. Used by permission.

In our January/February 2016 issue, Abby McGanney Nolan tackles a topic dear to my former-bookselling (and aspiring children’s-book-creating) heart. Her article “Shelf Lives: From Bookseller to Bestseller” features interviews with a slew of children’s book creators who got their start working in bookstores. Plenty of current and former Horn Bookers have also spent time as booksellers, and all of us feel at home among alphabetized shelves.

This time of year in particular makes visions of book displays dance in my head, and I’ve ducked into dear old Brookline Booksmith several times to pick up holiday essentials — and always ended up with things I hadn’t realized were essential until I saw them.

In case you’ve been missing out on the perfect place for gift-shopping, here are five reasons to stop missing out:

1. In a bookstore, you can sit down and test books out in real time. You can even take them home right away, and you don’t have to pay shipping.

2. You’re surrounded by people who are really, really excited about books, whose job it is to give you recommendations if you want them (and leave you alone if you don’t). These people inhale advance reader copies and discuss them fervently on their breaks. If your giftee liked one book, booksellers know of several good readalikes — and they’ll tell you how the books are alike and how they’re different.

3. Websites *ahem* can give you age or grade recommendations in the form of numbers. Booksellers can tell you what those numbers mean. Is the book violent? Does it tackle difficult issues? Does it have complicated vocabulary and sentence structure? Not all readers of the same age have the same needs. You know more than a number about the recipient; a bookseller knows more than a number about the book.

4. When you support a bookstore, you’re supporting a lot of good things. Like books, and jobs for people who are obsessed with books. Like author events. I met Ann M. Martin at a bookstore in 1994, you guys. No, you don’t understand, I met the creator of the Baby-Sitters Club series. Basically, I met the Queen of 1994. Because of a bookstore. Because people shopped there. And I know that other bookstores gave other lucky kids the same opportunity, because there’s photographic evidence in Nolan’s article.

Sorry, got sidetracked a bit there. (Have I mentioned that people who work or have worked in bookstores are often really, really excited about books?) What I meant to say was…

5. Bookstores often do good things for their communities, including but not limited to, creating magical meet-the-author memories. They do food drives. They serve as hosts for World Book Night. They engage in friendly competition to sell diverse books. When you buy your gifts there, you give another gift — you help this sort of thing continue.

Yes, if you go to a bookstore (like any store) right about now, it will probably be a little crowded. But you’ll encounter booksellers with lots of sugar-fueled energy. You’ll find stocking stuffers at the register while you stand in line. You may even find kids around the age you’re looking for who can give you a general sense of what books they like. (I’ve seen this happen. It’s adorable.)

And hey, if you prefer a quieter shopping environment, bookstores are still there, and a little less frenzied, the rest of the year.

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25. We wish you a merry Bookmas!

Last year I pulled together a few bookish gifts we were drooling over — here are some literary presents we’re giving (and maybe, hopefully getting) this holiday season.


agee_it's only stanleyI’m only actually giving this to one person, but I find myself recommending It’s Only Stanley to everyone who asks for a picture book recommendation. It has dogs! Laughs! Escalating oddities! Crazy contraptions! Flawless trochaic heptameter!


suma_walls around usI am giving lots of bookish gifts this year: multiple copies of the Harry Potter coloring book and one of the Game of Thrones coloring book (because coloring is cool), two custom-ordered JanDaJewelry tiiiiiny book pendants, and a Felix Felicis necklace.

As for what I’d like to get, well, I may have dropped some hints about a certain book starring a killer ballerina. And maybe this qualifies as naughty, but I ordered myself a present: signed and personalized 20th anniversary editions of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.


peeta_bakery_toteI’m giving some of the things I bought at the Hunger Games exhibit as gifts: a “Peeta’s Bakery” tote bag and then a Hunger Games mug. And what’s even cooler than those gifts is the wrapping paper: the Hunger Games exhibit store wrapped my items in Hunger Games tissue paper which I then reused for as many gifts as possible.


Of course, the most bookish gift of all is…an actual book. Need recommendations? See our 2015 Fanfare list for our fave books of the year. If you’re feeling really festive, choose something from one of our annual Holiday High Notes lists. Shoshana gives you five reasons why an indie bookstore is the perfect place to finish up your holiday shopping (if you haven’t already!).

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