The Horn Book Magazine

When I went in search of material for my report on Professional or Scholarly Journals, I decided to begin with the journal display shelf at the GRC. Most of the items on the shelf look like standard magazines. They say: “don’t judge a book by its cover.”  The fact is it is impossible not to. We’ve discussed this in class. Whether we are looking at books, magazines, a journal, or any other reading material, covers play a huge role in attracting our attention and drawing our interest. Knowing this, I am happy to admit that my decision to pick up, flip through, and ultimately choose The Horn Book Magazine (“About Books for Children and Young Adults”) for my review was largely based on the fact that it is a very attractive publication. Smaller than a standard magazine or journal, The Horn Book Magazine is printed on thick, creamy paper, it has gorgeous illustrations, and the font has an old-fashioned, type-written appearance. It even smells delicious!

Inside, the journal contains thought-provoking articles about such topics as the history, the present and the future of children and teen publishing, current events shaping the industry, and interviews with popular and up-and-coming authors. A major feature of the January/February 2009 issue was their list of the best books of last year: “Horn Book Fanfare: Our choices for the best books of 2008”. The reviews of the chosen books included plot summaries, critical analyses of the books, and audience recommendations. Each review was accompanied by a black and white image of the book’s cover. The issue also included a list of the books that won 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, and a “Foreign Correspondence” section featuring an article about Canadian author Michael Kusugak by Toronto librarian Joanne Schwartz.

The second half of the journal was taken up by book reviews. I was very impressed by their quality. They were concise but also very perceptive. I felt that I could trust the reviewers’ opinions.

The journal conveys a sense of confidence … superiority, even. Take, for example, the mocking tone of the farcical list of “Bestsellers” making up the final page of the journal. Number 1 was “Like I’d Lie to Kids: A Memoir” by James Frey: “The author of the controversial “A Million Little Pieces” tells the “true” story of his teenage years.” Number 10 was “Endr: Book 4 of the Inheritance Trilogy” by Christopher Paolini: “The young author of a popular dragon fantasy series learns the importance of planning ahead.” I was impressed by The Horn Book Magazine, but even so as I read I felt somewhat excluded by the tone, the appearance…the entire package. Maybe excluded isn’t the best word. I felt like I was a public school kid visiting an affluent private school, rich in history. Was I allowing my imagination to run a little wild? Intrigued, I visited The Horn Book website to learn more about the history of the publication. It turns out that The Horn Book has been around since 1924. It was founded by Bertha Mahoney Miller, the owner of a Massachusetts’s children’s bookshop (the first of its kind in the U.S.A.), “to herald the best in children’s literature.” (This noble history somehow seems to support my sense of the magazine’s pomposity.) In their words, “The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide are the most distinguished journals in the field of children’s and young adult literature”. They describe The Horn Book Magazine as “[i]ndependent, opinionated, and stylish” and “essential for everyone who cares about children’s and young adult literature. Our articles are lively, our reviews are insightful, our editorials are always sharp.” I can’t argue with them. All discussion of the journal’s possibly arrogant tone aside, it is a great resource for critical opinions and reviews of children’s and young adult’s literature. Definitely check out the copy in the GRC (doesn’t it smell lovely??) and give the website a look: www.hbook.com  Apparently there is also a searchable database of thousands of reviews.   I haven’t had time to check it out, but it sounds immensely useful to me!

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