Horn Book Highlights, May/June 2012

Here's a list of the books I added to my hold list after reading the reviews in the current issue of the Horn Book (I left out the ones I already read). A first step toward reviewing some of them here!

Lady Hahn and Her Seven Friends by Yumi Heo (Ottaviano/Holt). Lady Hahn is a seamstress, and her seven friends are her sewing tools personifed. The tiny women argue among themselves about who is the most important, but of course, they all are. The appeal for me is the subject (textiles!) and Heo's colorful oil-and-pencil illustrations of Korean traditional dress.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Dial). I loved Cashore's Graceling, but didn't seek out Fire, the companion novel--I wasn't interested in the character of Fire, impossibly beautiful, able to control men's minds, etc. But Bitterblue I remember as a child in Graceling, and now she's the young queen of a troubled country. Charlotte of Charlotte's Library liked Bitterblue, too (and she's giving away two copies! I hope I win, because the hold list is already very long).

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng (Houghton). Cheng writes realistic fiction with multicultural characters and themes for elementary to middle grade readers. Only One Year (Lee and Low, 2010) is my favorite of her books. This one is narrated by Chinese-American fourth-grader Anna Wang, who always has her head stuck in a book. I can relate, then and now.

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke; illustrated by Andrea Offermann (Little, Brown). I am not always a Funke fan, but this sentence from the review is impossible to resist: "Funke's consummate way with setting, well-interpreted in Offermann's looming illustrations, brings the medieval English town (and all of its ghosts) to life, from the sprawling boarding school campus to the echoes-of-the-past cathedral and eerie cemetery grounds; a side jaunt to Stonehenge even adds some levity." We (almost) went to Salisbury when we were in England last winter, even! Maybe next time.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion). I already started this YA novel about two young women, spy and pilot, during World War II (thank you, Hyperion and NetGalley!). The first part is the spy's confession; the second, the pilot's accident report. So far, so compelling--technical detail about airplanes (the author is a pilot herself) aside. This one got a starred review. I look forward to following up with my own.

Best Horn Book Cover Ever?

My long-awaited copy of the January/February 2012 issue of The Horn Book arrived today and it is gorgeous.  The cover illustration is by Salley Mavor, who illustrated the 2011 Boston Globe-Horn Book picture book award winner, Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; link is to my review). You can see and read more about the process of making the cover illustration (I love the way she renders the Horn Book logo in particular. Also the little girl dressed as a lamb) and enter a poster giveaway on Salley's blog, or just order your poster directly from The Horn Book.

I've been a Horn Book subscriber for two years now (the inside of the magazine is just as good). Other favorite covers are Marla Frazee's hollow tree (May/June 2011), which also appears in her illustrations for the picture book Stars by Mary Lyn Ray (Beach Lane Books, 2011); and Anita Lobel's guardian angel (November/December 2010).

Which are your favorites? [There are lots more to choose from in the Horn Book Magazine's gallery of covers, too.]

Library party at our house next month--save the date!

The March issue of Family Fun hasn't been in our house for 24 hours and we've already picked a date and time (a Wednesday afternoon in March) for our library-themed party, complete with book-pocket invitations and in-house library cards for all the guests.  The party was designed to celebrate Read Across America Day on March 2, but I hope to be celebrating the Arlington Public Library's brand-new catalog and account system myself.  The library is transitioning to the new system this week, which means the catalog is offline and my holds (all those shiny new books waiting to be reviewed!) are temporarily...on hold.  While the staff is working hard, I need a suitably old-school distraction.  Ssh, it's party time!

Betsy in Oberammergau

When the November/December issue of AAA World arrived in the mail (it's free with membership), I immediately thought of Betsy Ray's trip to Oberammergau in Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace (illustrated by Vera Neville; 1952).  The cover story is about that small Bavarian village, famous for its Passion Play; I wonder if it's changed much since Betsy was there in the spring of 1914.  I am a great fan of Betsy-Tacy (although I have yet to join the Society), and this book was one of my favorites in the series.  Unfortunately, it's out of print again.  But if I ever make it to Oberammergau (or Sonneberg, for that matter), it will be because of Betsy.