Week of April 15, 2012: LESSONS FROM THE HORN BOOK GUIDE
Monday, April 16, 2012: The Playing Field—A Big-Picture View
The Spring 2012 edition of The Horn Book Guide has just been released. If you are not familiar with The Horn Book, check out their web site (http://www.hbook.com/) and become a subscriber. I find the magazine, related blogs and email newsletters, and the twice-a-year guide to be extremely informative and helpful.
The staff of The Horn Book Guide attempts to review all hard-cover children’s books published in the United States in a six-month period. Novelty books and board books are excluded. Mass-media books are sometimes reviewed. Please note that there is a section in the guide that includes Preschool books. These are not considered picture books by The Horn Book staff or most publishers, so I am not including them in my analysis.
Reviews are by children’s librarians, educators, and others who are experts in the field of children’s literature. Each review includes the initials of the reviewer and you can look in the back of The Horn Book Guide to find a mini-bio of each reviewer.
Each book receives a rating from 1 to 6, with one being the highest, and six being the lowest. The rating system includes:
1—Outstanding, noteworthy in style, content, and/or illustration
2—Superior, well above average
3—Recommended, satisfactory in style, content, and/or illustration
4—Recommended, with minor flaws
5—Marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality
6—Unacceptable in style, concept, and/or illustration
In The Horn Book Guide, Spring 2012, 351 picture books were reviewed. The break down of the rankings for the reviewed picture books is shown in the chart below.
NUMBER OF BOOKS
PERCENT OF TOTAL
Outstanding, noteworthy in style, content, and/or illustration
Superior, well above average
Recommended, satisfactory in style, content, and/or illustration
Recommended, with minor flaws
Marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality
Unacceptable in style, concept, and/or illustration
For those of you who care about such things, the ratings of picture books in this issue of The Horn Book Guide form an almost-perfect statistical bell curve. While I have seem a similar break down in previously editions, I have not noted a bell-curve this exact.
Even though The Horn Book and The Horn Book Guide are well-respected and every author hopes for a great review from them, their review is only one review out of the many a book might receive. Remember also that while authors, agents, and publishers love good reviews, they also love great sales. Just because a book receives a lack-luster or low review, does not mean that book won’t be popular with readers and won’t sell many copies.
On Wednesday we’ll examine what we can learn from the picture books given ratings of 5 or 6. Hopefully we will discover pitfalls to avoid and areas where we can improve our writing.