June 25, 2012

Librarians Rule!

Thousands of librarians, including me, are gathered in Anaheim, California for the American Library Association's annual conference.

There are all kinds of librarians here -- school librarians, academic librarians, etc. -- but it certainly seems as if we children's & teen librarians have the most fun at this conference.

For example, one of the biggest events of the ALA's annual conferences is always the Newbery/Caldecott dinner, which took place last night. The Newbery honors the best-written children's book of the year, while the Caldecott spotlights the best-illustrated children's book of the year.

Jack Gantos, winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for his novel, Dead End in Norvelt, brought down the house with his speech outlining the steps -- and missteps -- that led to his career as a children's book author. He noted that he was delighted to learn recently that he is NOT the first convicted felon to win the Newbery Medal; the first was Will James, who won the Newbery in 1927 for Smoky the Cowhorse and served 15 months in a Nevada state prison for cattle rustling. Gantos served time in prison as a young man for drug smuggling, an experience he details in Hole In My Life.

Chris Raschka, who won his second Caldecott Medal for A Ball for Daisy, offered a more complex,introspective speech about the influences behind his artwork. Raschka, as the Caldecott winner, produced the whimsical paper program for the evening's guests: a round, blue, accordian-pleated envelope that, when opened, prompted a flat red cardboard disc to pop up into the shape of a ball -- Daisy's ball.

Sunday morning began early for children librarians with the Coretta Scott King breakfast, honoring the African-American authors and illustrators chosen for this year's awards.

Ashley Bryan, who won the 2012 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, got the hundreds-strong crowd to recite with him Langston Hughes' poem, My People. Shane Evans, who won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for Underground played the guitar and coaxed librarians to sing a toe-tapping refrain with him. Kadir Nelson, winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award for Heart & Soul, described how he was inspired to write the book when he realized during a Washington, D.C. trip that there are no African-Americans in the historical paintings in the Capitol Rotunda.

There are more awards ceremonies today, and more chances to be inspired by, and laugh with, some of the best children's book authors and illustrators working today.

Posted by at June 25, 2012 05:59 PM
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