Through his long association with the Horn Book Magazine, both in print and its online platform, Roger Sutton has arguably become the best-known U.S. children’s literature critic of the early twenty-first century. He got his start at the Center for Children’s Books.
Sutton graduated with a BA from Pitzer College in 1978 and an MLS degree from the University of Chicago Graduate Library School in 1982. While completing his master’s degree, he served as an assistant at the Center for Children’s Books. He then worked as a young adult services librarian at the Zion-Benton Public Library District (Illinois) and at the Chicago Public Library (CPL), both as a children’s specialist and later a branch manager.
In 1988, Sutton left his position at the CPL to rejoin the staff of the Bulletin as senior editor (he simultaneously began teaching at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School). Like current Bulletin editor Betsy Hearne, he was a former Zena Sutherland student, and Hearne and Sutton continued to collaborate with Sutherland, who was still engaged with the Center and journal during her retirement.
As the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago closed, Sutton played a key role in supporting Hearne’s efforts to move the Bulletin and Center for Children’s Books to Urbana-Champaign. In 1992, Sutton became the Bulletin’s executive editor; from his office post in Chicago, he wrote and edited reviews while performing outreach at area schools and libraries. In 1994, now relocated to Urbana-Champaign, he briefly took over the role of editor of the Bulletin.1
Although Sutton remained in close contact with the Bulletin staff, he left the Center for Children’s Books in 1996 to become editor-in-chief of The Horn Book Magazine, a children’s book review journal that also includes critical scholarship and editorials aimed largely at a practitioner audience of librarians, educators, and other book people. During his long career at The Horn Book, Sutton has increased the journal’s audience and influence through a vibrant web presence and robust public engagement. Moreover, he has propelled the once-staid journal into the twenty-first century, engaging in critical conversations about children’s literature against the backdrop of the day’s most pressing social and cultural issues.2
According to K. T. Horning, Director of the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, “Roger Sutton has always brought a deep intellect and sharp wit to his book reviews. He is one of the most well-read and well-informed critics in the children’s book world and, as such, has the ability to elevate any conversation about books.”3
3 K. T. Horning, quoted on 4/28/2021; Sutton’s published books include Hearing Us Out: Voices from the Gay and Lesbian Community (1994) and, with Martha Parravano, A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature (2010).