This past week, at the American Library Association conference held in Anaheim, Calif. (aka Disneyland), award winners celebrated with great speeches, feasts, singing and dancing.
The Coretta Scott King Award Sunday breakfast was filled with music from Shane Evans's guitar, the poetry of Ashley Bryan and, sung by the attendees, the anthem "Lift Every Voice and Sing" by James Weldon Johnson.
Shane Evans, winner of the 2012 CSK Illustrator Award, explained that Underground (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook) began on a train while he was traveling across Japan. He found himself sketching the journey of a man and woman escaping a life of captivity, moving toward freedom.
Kadir Nelson, who won the 2012 CSK Author Award for Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans (Balzer + Bray), spoke of entering the rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., in 2008. Its giant paintings of key moments in American history do not include a single African American. Nelson's book places African Americans at the center of America's history and remedies the Capitol's omission by depicting an African American man in the rotunda in the first full-page image.
Ashley Bryan, winner of the 2012 Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, spoke of his personal connection to Hamilton and how her work embodied the words of the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who said, "I believe when an author ceases to climb, he ceases at the same time to lift his reader up with him." Bryan said he would like "this lifting up of others... to be as it was for Virginia: at the heart of all I do."
Family emerged as the theme of Sunday afternoon's Pura Belpré Awards Celebracíon. Guadalupe Garcia McCall, winner of the 2012 Author Award for Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low), spoke of the healing that took place when she explored the rift between father and daughter in her novel, following her own mother's death. She spoke of her respect for books, and that she wants her readers to love her book, and "to love it they have to live with it." She wants her pages to be stained with tears. The Celebracíon concluded with dancing and music.
On Sunday night, Chris Raschka, 2012 Caldecott Medal winner for A Ball for Daisy (Schwartz & Wade/Random House), invited everyone to pull up a seat at the table. He imagined the audience in an intimate Manhattan apartment, just like Sunday dinners his family often shares with another artist neighbor, an opera singer, and his family. He described what it's like to "see like an artist" and described the importance of allowing time to enter between observing and drawing. "Even the brush contains the time of the making of the art," he pointed out. That lets memory enter into the equation, and "as soon as you have memory, you have emotion," Raschka said.
Jack Gantos took memory to a whole other level, using Mrs. Volcker's "This Day in History" column, made famous in his 2012 Newbery-winning book Dead End in Norvelt (FSG/Macmillan) as a launch pad for a side-splitting speech. The date he chose was January 23--the day he was awarded the Newbery Medal. He threaded together John Hancock's birthday, Hancock's planting of a tree to block a view of the prison, Gantos's own imprisonment and performing "a happy dance" under Hancock's tree when his first book, Rotten Ralph, was published. He purported to structure the speech like an obituary but eventually abandoned the form, closing with a quote from Mark Twain, "The reports of my death have been wildly exaggerated."
On Monday morning, winners of the Sibert, Geisel and Batchelder Awards gave their acceptance speeches. Melissa Sweet, who won the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Award for the best in informational books for her picture book biography Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), thanked the committee for honoring "a picture book that celebrates the creative process"--a process that also inspired her subject, Tony Sarg.
The winner of the 2012 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for beginning readers, Josh Schneider, author of Tales for Very Picky Eaters (Clarion), said, "I've always lived my life in a way in which I could avoid receiving compliments." Schneider professed to be shy but had the crowd laughing as he described researching other acceptance speeches and discovering that they were all "personal in a way that discourages theft."
Anita Eerdmans, publisher of Eerdmans, accepted the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. In this time when our culture is often polarized, when "foreign" and "European" are often used as insults, Eerdmans said, "We need books that act as a bridge to understanding." --Jennifer M. Brown