June 29, 2010

Kid Lit Stars

If you're into celebrating children's and teen literature, the American Library Association's annual conference is definitely the place to be. Over the past couple of days, children's and teen librarians have been treated to several awards ceremonies highlighting the best books of the year. The highlight was the Newbery and Caldecott banquet, held Sunday night, with 1,200 people in attendance. On Monday morning, the ALA's Association for Library Service to Children feted the winners of other kid lit awards: the Sibert Medal, for the best children's non-fiction book; the Geisel Award, for the best beginning reader; the Batchelder Award, for the best children's book from another country translated into English; and the Carnegie Medal, for the best children's video. Later on Monday, the Odyssey Awards spotlighted the best children's audio books, followed by the Printz Awards, which celebrate the best in teen books. On Tuesday morning, the celebrations conclude with a breakfast honoring the winners of the Coretta Scott King Award.

This year's Newbery/Caldecott Awards banquet was particularly notable, as the winner of the 2010 Caldecott Medal, Jerry Pinkney, was the first individual African-American ever to win the award. Pinkney's winning book was The Lion and the Mouse, a nearly-wordless retelling of the Aesop fable, and he designed the exquisite banquet program based on the book. Beginning his speech, Pinkney called the award pretty special stuff , especially after winning five Caldecott Honors. Pinkney, 70, said that he always has loved that particular fable since hearing it as a child, noting that I believe the enduring strength of the tale is that .. no act of kindness goes unnoticed and that even the strongest among us can sometimes use the help of the weakest. Pinkney concluded his speech the way he concludes school and library visits -- with a question, asking the audience Do you think I'm just as excited today as I was 46 years ago when I illustrated my first book? The answer from the audience was a resounding Yes!

While Pinkney toiled for years before finally winning the Caldecott Medal, Rebecca Stead won the 2010 Newbery Medal for her second novel, When You Reach Me. Stead began by saying that she wanted to write a great speech.... But it turns out that's really hard to do. So Stead decided instead to write four short speeches, each of which illuminated an aspect of her life and work. She talked about the importance of books in her life and said that, as a child, she secretly wanted to be a writer, but I didn't tell anyone. Instead, I told them that I wanted to be an actress, which seemed much more practical.... Meanwhile, like a lot of people who secretly want to write, I become a lawyer. Stead said that she was halfway through the first draft of When You Reach Me when she thought, Was I really going to pour all my weirdness into this book? Stead concluded by thanking librarians, saying that they are smartest, funniest, most open-minded people I've ever met....

At the Monday morning kid lit awards, Tanya Lee Stone, whose book Amost Astronauts won the 2010 Sibert Medal, noted that she was particularly honored to be the 10th recipient of the award because Marc Aronson, my editor on the book, was the first recipient.

At the same awards ceremony, author/illustrator Mo Willems thanked librarians for awarding the Carnegie Medal to the video created from his book, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by saying that being able to show a reluctant reader -- which means a boy -- a cartoon that rocks and then hand him the book, is an awesome thing. It's so great to be able to make cartoons that get kids to read.

In accepting the Geisel Award at that same ceremony, Geoffrey Hayes, the author/illustrator of the winning book, Benny and Penny in the Big No-No, was particularly thrilled that a graphic novel had been recognized instead of being dismissed as sub-literature. Fortunately for us, librarians are a savvy bunch.

To be continued soon with a look at the Odyssey, Printz and Coretta Scott King winners.....!

Posted by at June 29, 2010 12:28 AM
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