At what other formal occasion would you take a seat at your table in a grand ballroom and be greeted by a gaggle of giraffes on top of your plate?
Only at the Newbery Caldecott Banquet, an annual event honoring the best in children's literature. This year's banquet was held Sunday night in Washington, D.C. as part of the American Library Association's annual conference, and Kate and I were thrilled to be among the hundreds in attendance. Changing quickly out of our convention clothes into something spiffier, we rushed over to the Hilton and took our seats at a fun table with BookPage husband-and-wife super reviewers Dean Schneider (2008 Newbery Committee member) and Robin Smith (2011 Caldecott Committee member).
After dinner, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishing industry pros and others who love children's books listened with rapt attention as Rebecca Stead accepted the Newbery Medal for When You Reach Me and Jerry Pinkney accepted the Caldecott Medal for The Lion & the Mouse. The Newbery honors the "most distinguished American children's book" of the previous year, while the Caldecott goes to "the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children." Though both award winners were announced in January, the summer banquet and acceptance speeches are a cherished tradition that give children's authors and illustrators a chance to shine.
And shine they did. A gracious Jerry Pinkney, who's 70 years old and has been illustrating children's books since 1964, joked about being a five-time Caldecott Honor recipient (the runner-up award). When Caldecott Committee Chair Rita Auerbach called early on a January morning with the announcement that he had won the Caldecott, Pinkney said he waited anxiously for her to add the word "Honor." When she didn't -- and it finally dawned on him that he had won the big one -- Pinkney turned from the phone to share the exciting news with Gloria, his wife of 50 years.
Pinkney's winning book takes young readers to the plains of the Serengeti for what Auerbach called "a stunning and caring retelling of a classic tale." Since The Lion & The Mouse is a wordless picture book, Pinkney said, illustrator Mo Willems advised him to give a wordless acceptance speech. He passed on that suggestion, and instead gave listeners an introduction to his creative process, noting that he is "just as excited today as he was 50 years ago," when he was illustrating his first book. In a wordless book, Pinkney said, "it's about what you discover in the images. Each reader is free to take his or her own journey through the pages." And what a beautiful journey it is, reproduced in miniature in the illustrations that graced the evening's program.
Next up at the speaker's podium was Rebecca Stead, who was honored for what Newbery Committee chair Katie O'Dell described as a "highly original, brilliantly crafted novel," When You Reach Me. "I wanted to write a great speech," Stead said. "I wanted you to know the kind of happiness I felt on the morning of January 18." But having been warned by a friendly librarian that she should keep her remarks as short as possible (and having given the librarian a flashlight to wave from the audience if she talked too long) Stead decided instead to give what she called four short speeches: on becoming a storyteller, on the creation of When You Reach Me, on getting the Newbery news and on being grateful.
"Like many people who secretly want to write, I became a lawyer," she told the crowd with a laugh, relating her personal journey from a childhood where books held a special place to a writing workshop where an editor spotted her talent. She touched on some of the elements from her own life that inspired When You Reach Me (including her work in a Subway sandwich shop) and explained that, ultimately the book is more about exploring "the mysteries of life" than about time travel. Finally, Stead saluted many of those she is grateful to, from her agent and editor, to the members of the Newbery Committee (for "a lightning bolt of joy"), to illustrator Sophie Blackall ("for the gift of her gorgeous cover art") to librarians everywhere ("the smartest, funniest, most open-minded people I have ever met"). Stead's presentation was self-effacing, sometimes hilarious and extremely touching. We can't wait for her next book, though we hear she's been so overwhelmed by the Newbery hoopla she'll only now have a chance to start writing again.
Congratulations also to Newbery Honor winners Phillip Hoose (Claudette Colvin); Jacqueline Kelly (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate): Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon); and Rodman Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg); and to Caldecott Honor recipients Marla Frazee (All the World) and Pamela Zagarenski (Red Sings from Treetops).
It was a wonderful night for listening to inspiring authors, and for spotting many others in the audience (Libba Bray, John Green, Linda Sue Park, Brian Selznick and Jon Scieska, to name but a few). I'm already looking forward to next year's banquet in New Orleans!
Yesterday Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book—which won the Newbery Medal in 2009—took home The Carnegie Medal in Literature. The Carnegie is the UK's most prestigious children's book award, and according to Gaiman in his acceptance speech, it's also the most important book award that exists—since it was the first literary award he became familiar with when he read C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle.
Gaiman is the first author to win both the Carnegie and the Newbery.
For more on The Graveyard Book, read a review in BookPage—in which Angela Leeper praises Gaiman's "sharp, spine-tingling storytelling." Also, watch Gaiman's acceptance speech or the embedded video below of Gaiman talking about the award.
Did you enjoy The Graveyard Book?
The Audie Awards were given out last night in New York City, and the biggest prize—Audiobook of the Year—went to Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales. (Read more about this book and listen to an excerpt.)
Mandela and the 23 artists who participated in this recording must be pretty pleased to have beaten out the Bible and Patrick Swayze. We're guessing that the talented readers combined with the fact that 100% of the proceeds from the audiobook go to a nonprofit working in South Africa and the U.S. to combat HIV/AIDS and The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, convinced judges that this one deserved the prize.
The Moby Awards—recognizing the best (and worst) in book trailers—were announced last night in New York City. I am happy to say that the trailer for Lowboy by John Wray won for Best Cameo in a Book Trailer (actor/comedian Zach Galifinakis is hilarious in his interview with the author); you can watch the video in my original post about the awards.
Other winners include:
Best Low Budget/Indie Book Trailer: I am in the Air Right Now by Kathryn Regina
Best Big Budget/Big House Book Trailer:? Going West by Maurice Gee
Best Performance by in Author: Dennis Cass in Head Case
Least Likely Trailer to Sell the Book: Sounds of Murder by Patricia Rockwell
You can watch all the trailers on the Moby website. Also, do you know of any particularly good (or bad) book trailers you'd like to share?
Trisha posted about the Orange Prize longlist a couple months ago, and today we got some good news—Rosie Alison's The Very Thought of You, one of the shortlisted titles, will be published by Atria in the United States.
Here's a plot summary from British publisher Alma Books UK:
England, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple. Soon Anna gets drawn into their unravelling relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes - and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with unforeseen consequences.
Alison has stiff competition for the Orange Prize; other finalists include Barbara Kingsolver (The Lacuna); Attica Locke (Black Water Rising); Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall); Lorrie Moore (A Gate at the Stairs); and Monique Roffey (The White Woman on the Green Bicycle). The winner will be announced June 9.
Has anyone snagged a copy of The Very Thought of You from overseas? What'd you think? Any Orange Prize predictions?
The Bellwether Prize has just been announced online—Naomi Benaron won for her novel Running the Rift.
The Prize, which comes with a $25,000 award and guaranteed publication by a major publisher, was founded and fully funded by Barbara Kingsolver. The mission of the Prize—given to a first-time novelist—is to "advocate serious literary fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." Benaron's novel will be published by Algonquin.
In a press release, Kingsolver said that Running the Rift:
engages the reader with complex political questions about ethnic animosity in Rwanda and so many other issues relevant to North American readers. . . For one, it conveys the impossibility of remaining neutral within a climate of broad moral compromise—even for purportedly apolitical institutions like the Olympics.
Now, Benaron teaches at Pima Community College in Tuscon (in addition to working with the Afghan Women’s Writing Project and being a triathlete and a certified orthopedic massage therapist!).
In the past, BookPage has covered Bellwether winners such as The Book of Dead Birds (Gayle Brandeis), Mudbound (Hillary Jordan) and The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Heidi Durrow). I will eagerly anticipate more information about Running the Rift.
Do you have a favorite novel that addresses social justice issues?
Last night, the 2010 James Beard Award winners were announced. The award highlights the year's best cookbooks in several different subject areas. We at BookPage were especially pleased to see Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home, cookbook columnist Sybil Pratt's 2009 favorite, take home the prize for General Cooking. Get your taste buds ready, because this week's recipe will be Thomas Keller's delicious take on Pineapple Upside Down Cake, from the pages of Ad Hoc at Home. Did anyone try David Lebovitz's Nonfat Gingersnaps over the weekend?
[gallery link="file" orderby="ID"]
2010 James Beard Award Winners (links take you to the BookPage review)
Real Cajun by Donald Link with Paula Disbrowe
Baking and Dessert
Baking by James Peterson
Been Doon So Long: A Randall Grahm Vinthology by Randall Grahm
Cooking from a Professional Point of View
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts by The French Culinary Institute with Judith Choate
Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
Love Soup: 160 All-New Vegetarian Recipes by Anna Thomas
The Country Cooking of Ireland by Colman Andrews
Seven Fires: Grilling the Argentine Way by Francis Mallmann and Peter Kaminsky
Reference and Scholarship
Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta Zanini de Vita
Pasta Sfoglia by Ron and Colleen Suhanosky with Susan Simon
Writing and Literature
Save the Deli by David Sax