“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Red Carpet Awards of ALA...Newbery, Caldecott, Wilder

One of the most fun things about ALA is going to the book award ceremonies.  My favorites are the Newbery/Caldecott Awards and the Printz Awards.  Here's my review of the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Award...It was a blast of a night! 

Nikki Grimes, Me, & Brian Collier

Jenni Holm & Me

Tomie dePaola & Me

Me & Rita Williams-Garcia

Erin Stead, Me, Philip Stead

Me & Joyce Sidman

The 2011 Newbery Medal

The 2011 Newbery Medal winner is Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool.

Listening to Clare Vanderpool give her Newbery acceptance speech was like listening to one of your best friends up on stage.  She is a heart-warming, down-to-earth public speaker.  It’s easy to imagine sitting at the local pub swapping stories with this award-winning author who has given life to a little girl named Abilene and the fictional town of Manifest. "I come from a family of optimists," she said in her Newbery acceptance speech, “Their approach to life is what gave me the wherewithal to write a book. To work hard at it. To try and try again after many attempts and many rejections. Figure it out. Make it work. Keep at it. Their confidence and their optimism allowed me to dream big and set lofty goals.”

“But even with that spirit, that optimism, that determination, I never set out to win a Newbery. I never even dreamed of it. And I have always dreamed big! Just not that big."   She went on to say, “Someone asked me recently if winning the Newbery is as wonderful as having a baby. That analogy falls a bit short, but it is like having a baby if you didn’t know you were pregnant.”

One of the things I really loved about the way that Clare delivered her speech was the comfortable down-home feeling.  One example is after she finished telling her husband the news that she had won the Newbery and, much to her amazement, found that he mirrored her excitement they walked down the street to tell her parents.  This was her paragraph of the initial encounter with her dad:
We went down the street to tell my parents. My mom cried and my dad beamed. He said, 'That is just wonderful! . . . Thunderation! . . . Hot diggity dog!" and things of that nature. Then after all that he said, "So, Mary Clare, what is the Newbery?"

Abilene has grown up during the tough times of the depression hopping from one home to another with her father.  She has been sent to spend the summer on her own in the town of Manifest.  Moon Over Manifest is an adventure-filled mystery set in the era of the Depression with a young girl trying to uncover her father’s past.  Vanderpool said she was inspired by a quote from Moby Dick "It is not down in any map; true places never are."

2011 Newbery Honor Books:

Turtle in Paradise
By Jennifer L. Holm

Another historical fiction book set in the Depression era – must be something about the current economy that has inspired these authors to look back at that particular time period and write these wonderful stories.  Turtle is a spunky young 11-year-old who is sent off to live with her mother’s sister for the summer in Key West upon learning that live-in housekeeper mama’s new employer doesn’t like kids.  When she arrives in Florida, it is a bit of a surprise to her aunt.  Turtle has essentially arrived on the doorstep with a note and a suitcase and no forewarning.  Her aunt makes the best of things and Turtle finds herself in a whirlwind of adventure adjusting to a life very different from anything she’s ever known before.  At the heart of it all she discovers the true meaning of home and family.

Heart of a Samurai 
By Margi Preus

Yet another historical fiction, this is the true story of a group of Japanese fishermen who were stranded on an island after a storm at sea.  An American vessel rescued them and the story ultimately focuses on one brave young man, Manjiro, and his dream of becoming a samurai.  It is unlikely for any man not of noble birth to become a samurai, and so the dream seems foolish, but it is one that Manjiro holds dear.  This is an incredible tale filled with adventure.  It is a part of Japanese, and American, history that I was certainly unfamiliar with despite the fact that I have lived in Japan and have had an interest in Japan for approximately two decades.  This is a beautifully written and highly entertaining account of history enjoyable for all ages.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
By Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen

This book, quite simply, is a glorious celebration of nature at night.  The title and cover alone entreat with a gorgeous illustration of an owl described as a Dark Emperor.

Come feel the cool and shadowed breeze,
come smell your way among the trees,
come touch rough bark and leathered leaves:
Welcome to the night.

Welcome to the night, where mice stir and furry moths flutter.
Where snails spiral into shells as orb spiders circle in silk.
Where the roots of oak trees recover and repair from their time in the light.
Where the porcupette eats delicacies—raspberry leaves!—and coos and sings.

Come out to the cool, night wood, and buzz and hoot and howl—
but beware of the great horned owl—
for it’s wild and it’s windy way out in the woods!

One Crazy Summer
By Rita Williams-Garcia

I loved this book set in the radical 60’s.  When I was growing up, there were no books that talked about African American history.  I don’t even like calling it African American history quite frankly because I feel like at this point in history it should just plain be American history.  We ought to be beyond separating out all of the gender and race and facets of our American history and teaching a more well-rounded and accurate American history.  This wonderful historical fiction story is loaded with real American history about the Black Panther movement and much of the political unrest during the summer of 1968 in Oakland.  The story centers around three young girls, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, who fly across the country to visit their mother for the summer.  They haven’t seen her since they were very young and she left them to go off and “find herself.”  They spend the summer slowly getting to know her despite her reluctance to accept them with open arms, and find themselves in the midst of action-packed adventures in the politically charged streets of Northern California.  Rita Williams-Garcia is not only a talented storyteller, but also a lovely human being.  When I met her at ALA it was like meeting a soul sister.  She has a huge heart and I’ve no doubt she will continue to write many, many successful books in the future. 

The 2011 Caldecott Medal


The 2011 Caldecott Medal winner is  A Sick Day for Amos McGee, illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead.

When Erin Stead gave her acceptance speech for the Caldecott at ALA this year, it was the most incredible, beautiful, sweet, and humble acceptance speech I think I have ever witnessed.  She literally brought a packed room to tears.  Erin is a lovely, delicate woman with a graceful self-deprecating sense of humor that few can pull off in front of a large audience.  She is desperately shy.  Before illustrating A Sick Day for Amos McGee, she had given up drawing for three years and, in fact, the original drawing that was the genesis for the book was a very small illustration of an old man, a tree, and an elephant that she drew very slowly at her kitchen table over time.  This remarkable little drawing caught the eye of her husband Phil who together with their editor and friend Neal Porter convinced her she needed to get back behind a drawing table.  In her speech she thanked them both remarking that, “It is a tremendous gift to have people in your life that know better than you.”

One tiny drawing bloomed into a wonderful, fanciful parade of friends with the help of her husband Phil who wrote a tale about a kindly old zookeeper with a case of the sniffles and his generous group of supportive animal friends who come to visit.  Erin’s softly quavering voice made us all feel like her group of supportive friends as she stated, "I am a little less fragile now and settling into my instincts with bookmaking. I am very young. I still have doubts. But they are outweighed by true friends (and maybe a heavy medal)."

Erin had wonderful things to say about books in her speech.  She is truly a fan of books, libraries, and librarians.  I particularly loved the following two quotes from her speech:

“I never grew out of picture books. I believe in them. A picture book allows a child ownership of art—even if it's just for the two weeks they check it out of the library. That book is theirs. I'm not sure any other art form replicates that feeling.”

“I am aware that e-books are changing our world of books and bookmaking. They offer convenience, but by their nature I'm not sure they can be timeless. Their selling point is that there is limitless information beyond that backlit page. But I believe there is an infinite beauty in the limitations of paper books. I don't think it can be mimicked or replaced by pixels on a screen. To me, e-books are not books. The more flash and whiz-bang we add, the more we limit the possibilities of our own imagination. Books are simple. They must be felt. The copies of my very favorite books are not pristine. They are worn and dog-eared and a little bit dirty because they are loved.”

Erin ended her speech by quoting from Margery William’s Velveteen Rabbit.  Interestingly, as she was giving the speech live, she inadvertently forgot to attribute the quote, however I don’t think a single person in the room missed where the quote was from, it was so familiar.  It is properly attributed in the formal written and published speech.  The quote fits perfectly with Erin’s own philosophy – and mine – about books in general.

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day. . ."Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real, you don't mind being hurt. . .It doesn't happen all at once. . .You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

It's traditional for the Caldecott winner to design the evening's program, and it's always a special treat. Erin Stead's program was folded to look like a miniature book, complete with a Dewey Decimal number -- 793.2 for parties and entertainments -- on the spine. Inside the back cover, she placed an old-fashioned "date due" pocket, and filled it with "date due" cards on which the names of previous award winners were listed.

The 2011 Caldecott Honor Books:

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Written by Laban Carrick Hill

I am so grateful to Laban Carrick Hill for bringing this incredible piece of history to our children through this wonderful story.  What a treat it is to read this book.  And the art that Bryan Collier has further told the story with is simply breathtaking.  I have to agree with Erin Stead’s assessment of Brian Collier’s work when she stated in her acceptance speech that upon seeing one of his originals she “stood in front of it for a full ten minutes trying to decode it…” essentially saying that she was awestruck.   I can understand that.  The foldout page in Dave the Potter showing Dave’s hands working the clay makes me feel that way.  When I look at the image I can feel Dave working the clay with his hands.  I can only imagine what the original painting looks like.  I’m quite certain I would be awestruck.  I find this story and the illustrations so incredibly moving that I have suggested using it in an art lesson plan with students when they work with clay to make pottery.  It is the perfect way to combine history, literacy, poetry and writing, and art into the classroom experience. 

Interrupting Chicken
Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein

This is a read-aloud comedic dream of a story!  I am always one to fall for books that make me and the kids fall off the bed laughing with great comedic dialogue.  David Ezra Stein has created not only a visually adorable book, but also brilliant dialogue for kids and grown-ups alike to enjoy.  This is one of those books I’ll be tucking away into my “accent game” collection.  That’s the game Elena and I reserve for our select few favorite read-alouds with just the right dialogue for practicing all of our great accents from deep U.S. south to Cockney.  Oh the fun we’ll have with these chickens!

Tomie dePaola
Author/Illustrator Tomie dePaola is the winner of the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.  Tomie has written and illustrated over 200 books for children including the very famous Strega Nona books.  His illustrations are so distinct that they are instantly recognized as “Tomie dePaola’s” by the bright colors and particular trademark lines of his people and characters.  Several of his stories are somewhat autobiographical in nature including one of my very favorites, The Art Lesson.

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