Friday, January 13, 2012


I just received my copy of the January/February Horn Book, and opened it up right away to the 2011 Horn Book Fanfare spread. I did a quick browse through the picture books, where I saw the usual, excellent suspects - Naamah and the Ark at Night, The Money We'll Save, etc. In the fiction section, I noted that I should really read Anna Hibiscus and Chime. Then onto the nonfiction - but wait!

Something was missing. Aside from Dead End in Norvelt, all lonely and weird in the corner of the page, and Breaking Stalin's Nose, the list seemed awfully light on middle grade fiction. Is it possible that Roger Sutton and company felt the same way I did about this year's paucity of distinguished offerings?

Well... no. Not really. The Fanfare lists from 2010 and 2009 seem to indicate that the magazine is just picky about its middle grade fiction. But so am I, darn it, and I this is one of those years where I feel like maybe the committee shouldn't award a medal at all. Most people's front-runner - Okay for Now - always seems to be introduced with, "I loved it, but..." There's no room for "buts" in "most distinguished."

Even my favorite, Breadcrumbs, leaves me with vague misgivings about awarding it the highest honor. And the ones I feel most confident about - The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and Wonderstruck - are long shots in terms of eligibility and format, respectively.

I'm not that excited about any of the nonfiction, picture books, or easy readers either, on the merits of text alone. Nothing jumps out at me as a Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! or a Frog and Toad. I'm just going to hope that the committee has a sleeper up its sleeve.

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