Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Good Issue Nonetheless

I had trouble becoming enthused about reading the last couple of issues of The Horn Book Magazine because a few months back the magazine underwent a little overhaul. I was, in two words, put off. The articles were now laid out in columns and the margins seemed larger. Didn't that mean less text? I'm a text person. Where was the text? I wanted more text! If they're cutting down on text, well, then, humph, gasp, moan. That wasn't very zenny of me, now, was it? To get all distressed about what I thought something should be, instead of, at the very least, appraising it for what it was? And, as it turned out, the March/April issue was pretty good. For instance, it carries An Interview with Katherine Patterson that includes the line "Read for your life." Just those four words made the interview for me. This issue was a sort of tribute to Patterson, who is the present (reigning?) National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. Linda Sue Park did a little piece in which she wrote about being inspired by an essay on writing in which Katharine Patterson advised writing two pages a day. Park found that doable. Well, I was inspired by Park's essay about Patterson's essay. Not to write two pages a day. Hell, that's not doable. Not every day. Come on. But I thought I might be able to reread the prior day's work on my many nonworking days. I couldn't even manage that...on all the nonworking days. But I've managed it sometimes. It might make a difference. Elizabeth Bird did an interesting article on whether or not children's books of one era need to be updated when reprinted years down the line. Leonard Marcus isn't capable of writing poorly, at least on the subject of children's literature, so, of course, his article on photography as picture book art was good. Though some of us in the kidlitosphere feel there's not a lot of true science fiction being published for young readers, this issue of The Horn Book carried reviews of two books that sounded like pretty hard core scifi: Living Hell by Catherine Jinks and Stuck on Earth by David Klass. Couldn't help but notice. So there is a lesson for me in my recent Horn Book reading experience--and if for me, then for us all, because that's how the personal essayist I aspire to be thinks. Look at what's there instead of what you think should be there. Read mindfully, you might say. And by the way, even after having been revamped, The Horn Book Magazine, is still small enough to stick in a bag or backpack and to read comfortably while on the treadmill. Some people might think that if a publication has that going for it, what else does it need?

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