Part of the fun of going to the American Library Association Midwinter Conference is attending the announcements of the children’s book awards. There are always gasps of surprise and exclamations of approbation, but at ALA in 2009 one of the most satisfying symbols of recognition was given to a librarian. And not just any librarian, either. The prestigious May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture was awarded to Kathleen T. Horning, the coordinator of Special Collections at the Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin.
Most people have never served on an awards committee with K. T. Horning so they cannot have first-hand experience of her skills as an evaluator. Fortunately, she has concisely captured her approach to book criticism in From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children’s Books. Published more than a decade ago by HarperCollins, the book continues to be in print and in demand not only for its clear-sighted advice but also as a pithy explanation of the publishing process. Anyone who works with children’s books and their young readers can benefit from a greater understanding of how a book comes into being.
Not every book requires the same approach and Horning details the necessary criteria for each category ranging from nonfiction to folktales to poetry and then from picture books on up through young adult novels. One can see that she practices what she preaches as the well-organized table of contents and back matter exemplify all that she deems worthy in an excellent nonfiction book. From Cover to Cover is an essential resident of any children’s book selector’s shelves.
For more on the 2010 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture, visit the American Library Association website at http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2009/january2009/ymaarbuthnot.cfm.
– Reviewed by Ellen Myrick