ALA 2013 – Printz Awards Reception

Every year I go to ALA Annual Conference, I can think of no better way to finish it off than attending the Printz Awards Reception. Unlike the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, all the honorees give a speech. They’re good authors, so you’re in for some eloquent speeches. The Printz Award is open to any English-language book, so you usually get to listen to some wonderful accents!

Before I cover the Printz Reception, here’s a wrap-up of all my ALA 2013 posts:

Caldecott Preconference Reception
A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal
Friday Night Exhibits (Books, Books, Books!)
Saturday Sessions
Sunday Excitement
Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet (with costumes!)
Monday Meetings

One thing I enjoy about the Printz Reception: I get to see my YALSA friends, who weren’t necessarily at the earlier ALSC events I attended. (YALSA is for service to young adults, and ALSC for service to children. As a public librarian in Fairfax County, we have them grouped together in “Youth Services.”) I got to sit next to Liz Burns and got to talk to others at the reception.

But the speeches!

It was quite unfair that Benjamin Alire Saenz, author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe went first, since he had much of the audience in tears with his heartfelt speech.

I haven’t (yet) read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but I gather it’s about a boy discovering friendship and romance with another boy.

Benjamin Alire Saenz said that this book was written out of his own journey, which was conflicted and difficult.
He “came out” at 54.
“What are a few wounds to a writer?”
His character, Ari, is on the brink of manhood, but also on the brink of self-hatred.
His characters’ fears and apprehensions too closely mirrored his own.
“There should be road maps out there for boys who were born to play by different rules.”

To those who say homosexuality is a choice, he asks:
“What madman would make such a choice in a world such as this?”

“It is no accident that many gay men have to struggle to love another man — and themselves.”

“Men and boys like me are neither demons, nor are we deviants. We are just men.”

He went on to thank the committee for choosing to honor this book. It was published on the day his mother died. So he wasn’t able to celebrate the book’s publication. Honoring Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe gave him back his book and gave him a chance to celebrate it.

Elizabeth Wein, Honor for Code Name Verity:

“Friends make exceptional teams, but help from angels is always appreciated.”

“Julie is born to be a novelist, but this is her only chance.”
“Julie also writes because there is power in it. Words are her weapon of choice.”
“Inventing the code sequences is what keeps Julie going.”
“In times of stress, or fear, or boredom, we invent stories.”
“Julie writes in the present tense. She is eternally writing.”

This book makes people cry, but it also makes them laugh.
“The paradox of the power of words: They can be wielded, like all dangerous tools, for good or for evil.”

Terry Pratchett, Honor for Dodger, via his editor, Anne Hoppe:

The book was undertaken as a tribute to Henry Mayhew, who wrote London and the London Poor.
The poor had freedom — to starve.
“Authors tend to have pack rat minds, and my mind has more rats than Hamelin.”
“Everything in the book is real except the plot.”
“You don’t have to make much up if you read a lot of social history.”

Beverley Brenna, Honor for The White Bicycle:

These conferences are a great opportunity to share stories.
Stories can change people.
Diversity can create walls or take down walls.
People with disabilities don’t often travel in YA novels.
Librarians make connections between people and reading.
“Librarians are partners with authors in a deliberate quest to achieve social justice.”

Nick Lake, Printz Award for In Darkness:
(Just when I thought we weren’t getting cute accents this year, Nick Lake had a marvelous one.)

His theme involves Circles, which protect against the evil eye.
“The ordinary world really is magical and wonderful.”
“Infinity is not necessarily big.”
“Toussaint and Shorty are inside each other.”
“From the perspective of genes: Nothing is ever lost.”
“Even in darkness, there’s the possibility of light.”
To him, it’s about goodness.
“Loss isn’t real and can be overcome.”
The magical power of the book is about the possibility of wonder in the everyday.

“Almost all YA novels are about a spirit journey.”
The characters enter a liminal world and an adventure that changes them, followed by a return.
It’s Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The concept of the eternal return – time when direct communication with God was possible – We long for that time.
We re-enact the eternal return by rituals and rites of passage.
Rites of passage are about moving into the adult world.
Which is not easy.

“We live in a world where boundaries between the young and adult are constantly eroded.”
“Reading fiction is an example of the eternal return.” – Vicarious initiation rituals.
“Books help young adults navigate the path to the adult world. They help them to grow up well.”

And so, deeply inspired, we moved on to dessert — cupcakes and popcorn.

I schmoozed a little bit, talked to friends, and got one more picture with Elizabeth Wein:

It was a nice end to a fabulous conference!

ALA 2013 – Monday Meetings

I’ve posted about almost all of ALA 2013 Annual Conference now. Still to report: One last day of meetings, and the Printz Awards Reception in the evening.

There was one thing from the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, however, that I didn’t notice until I was packing up to go home.

I don’t know about your libraries, but at our library, we put out those golf pencils and have to replenish them every single day. They disappear because people take them without thinking about it.

At the Caldecott Banquet, honoring the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and this year’s winner, Jon Klassen, author of This Is Not My Hat, they handed out a Bingo contest with Caldecott trivia. They handed me a golf pencil, and I didn’t get the chance to refuse because I’d rather use a pen. When I was packing up to go home, I found the pencil in my purse and was going to throw it away. But then I looked at it:

I laughed and laughed! Here’s the full view:

For the record, I did not throw it away!

Monday morning, the first meeting I’d planned to attend was too packed to enter. So I headed for the ALSC Awards, which were scheduled a little later, so I was on time for a change! They award the Sibert Medal, the Carnegie Medal, the Batchelder Award, and the Geisel Award at this event.

Some notable quotes:

Steve Sheinkin (Sibert Medal winner):
His story started with the story of a diamond mine scam. He couldn’t find sources, so switched to an obscure spy, “and so it began.”
“If Shakespeare could write one historic play about an American, I think it would be Oppenheimer.”
When he found out about the Norwegian spies, he thought of them as “Indiana Jones on skis.”

Katje Torneman (Carnegie Medal winner):
She began making films to spread awareness about the environment.
“We can make a difference in the world.

Dial Books representative (Batchelder Award winner):
When the book was being translated, she only got to read a chapter at a time.
It’s a story of duality, a girl who has nothing, but has everything.
(Note to self: Must read My Family for the War)

Ethan Long (Geisel Award winner):
The big banner in his mind: “You beat Mo!”

After the celebration of the award winners, it was back to the exhibits for a bit. I saw these two Odyssey Award narrators being interviewed by Booklist:

On the left is the narrator of the latest Artemis Fowl, and next to him is Elliot Hill, the narrator of Cornelia Funke’s Ghost Night. I could listen to both of their wonderful voices for hours, and, come to think of it, I have listened to Elliot Hill for hours. (It’s maybe just as well that I didn’t know while I was listening that he’s cute, too!)

After a little time in the exhibits, I went to the ALSC membership meeting. That’s the children’s services division of ALA. Among other things, they talked about the Common Core and the importance of play.

I’m a member of two other divisions — YALSA, for young adult librarians, and PLA, the public library association. But my heart is with ALSC, and that’s where I’m trying to get involved. I just finished two years on ALSC’s Children and Technology committee, and have begun serving on the Grant Administration committee. And I’m hoping that some day, somehow, I’ll get to serve on the Newbery committee.

Then it was back to the exhibits. I went straight to the Booklist booth to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, but she wasn’t there yet. I heard that she was still signing — and I immediately went to find her, since I figured they might be giving out ARCs of her new book! Sure enough, I didn’t get it signed, but I did snag a copy of Rose Under Fire!

And then I got to hear Elizabeth Wein speak, so it was a Win-Win morning!

At the Booklist interview, she talked about writing Rose Under Fire. Her introduction to Holocaust literature was the same as mine: reading The Hiding Place. She became obsessed with it. Both Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire are based on a story she wrote when she was 12. The story was not written, but she made pictures. It started with spies and went on to a concentration camp, so Rose Under Fire is the second part of that.

There’s a part of her that says, “I have no business telling this story.” But she didn’t deprive herself, because she knows her characters, and the real people they’re based on, wouldn’t wish that kind of hardship on anyone.

“Both books are about the Power of Words.”

Julie’s process of writing was very self-indulgent for Elizabeth Wein. She had to rein herself in for Maddie.

The importance of poetry in Rose Under Fire comes from a survivor account.

Each of her books is about something specific.
Rose Under Fire is about hope.”
Code Name Verity is about friendship.”
“My first book [The Winter Prince] is about jealousy.”

“Fly the plane” comes from flight instructors. When you’re up there, you can’t think about anything else.

There’s more of her in Rose than any other character she’s written.

After that, I had lunch and then tried to get out of the exhibits. But I was pulled inexorably into the free books line at the Simon & Schuster booth. I got four free books (the EXACT number so that my brother Robert correctly guessed that I’d come home with 92 books), but then managed to NOT get back in line.

The final program I attended was “Think with Your Eyes” about Visual Thinking.

The man leading it was modeling Visual Thinking Strategies. He had a work of art up on the screen and asked three questions:
“What’s going on here?”
“What do you see that makes you say that?”
“Thank you. What more can we find?”

“Something about VTS encourages scaffolding — building off each other.”

“Don’t start by asking ‘What do you see?’ Start with ‘What’s going on here?'”

Image selection is a critical part of the process.

“Provide a space where you have a multiplicity of right answers.
This matches real life.”

You can also use this method with poetry.
Kids get used to no wrong answers.

Evidentiary reasoning: “What do you see that makes you say that?”

“‘There’s one answer to everything.’ is the opposite of creativity.”

Paraphrasing responses clarifies and validates.

The facilitator also points out linking — “You’re building on what Joe was saying.”

The hard part: Teaching educators to remain neutral.

Participants learn that other people think differently than you.

It’s very similar to the Scientific Method, only less directed.
Meta-cognition — becoming aware of how you think.
Collaborative, not competitive.
There’s not consensus, but everyone listens and hears the multiple perspectives.

Find out more at the VTS website!

The VTS images become more complex with time.
Teaches silent looking — a valuable skill.
“Gives students a format for civilized discourse.”

Next speaker, a teacher, uses VTS with Caldecott books.

I want to try those questions the next time I use a wordless book in a storytime. It’s a great model!

That was my last session of the day. I needed to get back to my hotel early, so I could ship my books before going to the Printz Awards Reception. Here are some of my piles:

Those were the books I got on Monday. So much restraint compared with the other days!

I used my wheeled bag plus a tote bag to get the books to the post office. Here’s the tote bag stuffed full:

And the remaining books that I need to put in the wheeled bag:

The good news was that I got ALL the books except one into four Flat-Rate boxes and shipped them successfully. I was all ready to go to the last event, the Printz Awards Reception!

ALA 2013 – Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet!

Sunday night – Time for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet!

This year, ALSC was celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, so they had encouraged people to come in costume. I simply added a bell around my neck. If you could hear it, you still had the magic.

The backdrop for the above photo is from the illustration created by Randolph Caldecott on which the front of the medal is based.

I tried to take pictures of many people I saw in costume, but I didn’t write down all the names. If you know someone in a picture, let me know who it is in the comments!

First, Monica Edinger with a newspaper hat from Black and White. (And you can also let me know if I get the book references wrong!)

Then I got a picture of Monica with Roxanne Feldman, who was in a full newspaper costume.

I know I’ve met this nice person and gotten her name. She had badges with covers from ALL the Caldecott Medal winners! (And do you recognize the red balloon from A Sick Day for Amos McGee?)

They go all the way around!

Here’s Mary Ann Scheuer as an exquisite Olivia. I believe she’s with Kelly Celia (from Walden Pond Press)’s husband. I think his name is Eric. He’s a teacher, and was a nice addition to the children’s book crowd.

(Again, please correct me in all my photo identifications in the comments!)

Here’s Chelsea Couillard-Smith with cutouts from Lois Ehlert’s Color Zoo!

And here’s a fabulous Jumanji costume! (Anyone know this clever person’s name?)

Paul Zelinsky is again wearing his so-appropriate Rapunzel tie. He’s being interviewed by Betsy Bird, who explained her complete Caldecott medal-and-honors honoring costume on her own blog.

And my friend with the 75 badges got the red carpet treatment, being interviewed by Jim Averbeck:

Then I simply had to get a picture of the Queen of the Wild Things. Her badge says she’s Carol Phillips:

And once I saw that fine backdrop, I had to have my own new Facebook profile picture taken:

Then it was time for the meal. I got to sit with Cara Frank, whom I just met — but knew from Twitter. Here’s the important part of the meal:

In the break after the meal and before the speeches, I had to get a picture of the person sitting next to me, Leslie, an editor from Vizmedia. She was wearing a lovely tribute to Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. (I like the way the colors went with the room, too!)

Finally, the speeches! Here’s Jon Klassen giving his acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal for This Is Not My Hat.

I loved this quote from Jon Klassen:
“Storytelling in any form is a hopeful thing to do.”

I found most of the pictures I took of Honor winners were blurry or a little bit boring. But isn’t this picture cute of Laura Amy Schlitz accepting her Honor award from the Newbery Chair? I love the twinkle in her eyes!

Then came Katherine Applegate with her Newbery Acceptance Speech.

I’m pretty sure I caught her reading from one of her early efforts — a steamy Harlequin Temptation Romance. I loved her sense of humor about her career and these quotes:

“Writing is excruciating and writing is exhilarating.”

And especially:
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Finally, Katherine Paterson accepted the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for lifetime achievement. She moves a lot when she talks, and I was not able to get an unblurry picture of her.

She talked about how this award has come to her “by virtue of your most honorable shadows.”

At the end of all the inspiring speeches, we get to join the receiving line and congratulate the winners in person. I saw more people I knew in that line. I was kicking myself for not getting a picture of John Schumacher, Travis Jonker, Eric Carpenter, and Colby Sharp all together in line. Yay for the Kidlit men! 🙂

It was a marvelous evening, and the committee who put together the 75th anniversary activities can congratulate themselves for a job well-done!

This is my sixth ALA2013 post. Still to come are Monday’s programs and then the Printz Awards Reception. So much good stuff spinning in my mind!

ALA 2013 – Sunday Excitement

This is Part 5 of my ALA 2013 Annual Conference Coverage. I’m up to Sunday morning. Darn those long shuttle rides! I did arrive in time to hear most of Temple Grandin’s talk, but as you can see above, I wasn’t in time to get a good seat. But what I heard was outstanding, and I’m looking forward to reading the book,The Autistic Brain, which I purchased and got signed by Temple Grandin.

She was talking about what’s in the book: How autistic brains are different from neurotypical brains, and some things you can do to help all kids adjust to life better.

When I walked in, she was talking about innate ability. If you’re in the middle in some area, you can become good at it, but it’s the extremes that are tricky. She tends to be very good at some things and terrible at other things. Our school system finds it harder to accommodate such people.

She talked about different kinds of thinkers. She said there are two kinds of visual thinkers. She’s a photo-realistic thinker, but some are more about vision in space. People in the middle tend to be more of a mix than those on the extremes.

(One thing she threw out that I have to enthusiastically and whole-heartedly support: Kids who are skilled in math should be allowed to go ahead. Hear! Hear!)

“We need different kinds of minds working on problems.”
“When different kinds of minds work together, they can do great things.”

When helping kids who are different to succeed, you need to stretch them. Start teaching them work skills.
“Kids need to work in groups and invent their own rules.”
“Develop the area of strength, especially with the kids who are different.”
“Get kids into special interests.”
“Kids need hands-on classes. Those also teach problem-solving and resourcefulness.”
What saved her: Horses, carpentry…
“We need more people doing real stuff.”
“Talented, quirky kids get too many labels.”
Get rid of 60-cycle fluorescent lights and experiment with different colored paper.

“It takes a village to raise a child — The library is an important part of the village.”

After Temple Grandin’s talk and signing, I spent a little time at the exhibits, and then went to a program about Poetry Friday led by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell.

They were mostly going over ideas from their book called Poetry Friday, but the ideas were wonderful, so I don’t begrudge them that. The basic concept: Take a moment on Fridays to share poetry with your students. In a public library, I was challenged to start adding poetry to programs, not just relying on picture books alone.

They talked about how poetry fits with the Common Core, and all the poems and activities in their book fit with the standards by grade level. (They’ve got them divided into poems and activities to do with each grade level.)

They have “Take 5” Poetry Sharing Strategies:
1) Adult reads aloud.
2) Children participate. (Read again, with instructions for their participation.)
3) Open discussion
4) Skill connection
5) Poem extension (Compare with another poem)

What I took away from this, besides wanting their book, was being encouraged to think about ways to add poetry to what we offer at the public library. And to think about joining Poetry Friday on my blog.

Then I had been invited to a lunch put on by Boyds Mills Press. Even though it kept me from a couple things on the other side of Chicago, I thought it was worth it to get to talk to some authors and librarians face to face and make a more personal connection.

It turned out the lunch was just wonderful. Two authors, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Nikki Grimes, were there, along with an editor, Rebecca Davis, and a marketing person, Kerry McManus, from Boyds Mills Press. And then they’d invited six children’s librarians. So it was a lovely personal time when we actually got to talk with the authors and each other and enjoy the company of other children’s book people.

Both authors were lovely people to have lunch with!

Here I am with Rebecca Kai Dotlich:

And here is Nikki Grimes with librarian Kiera Parrot:

So much fun!

The final program I attended on Sunday (besides the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet, which gets its own post) was Archives Alive! Various people from libraries with children’s book archives showed slides of the material they have related to past Caldecott winners (still celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott medal).

This one, you had to be there to enjoy. It was amazing to look at some of the items the libraries had. Some picture book dummies. Some original art (which is rare for Caldecotts). Some letters from illustrators written in longhand. Caldecott woodblocks from Marcia Brown. Linoleum blocks from Dick Whittington. Comparative editions of some Caldecott books. It was all very fascinating

And then — back to the hotel to get ready for the Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet, a highlight of the entire weekend! With the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, many people came in costume, so my next post will have lots of pictures!

ALA 2013 – Saturday – Programs and Ideas and Authors, Oh My!

This is Part 4 of my summing up of the 2013 ALA Annual Conference. I’m up to Saturday, a day of some inspiring programs full of ideas I’d like to try.

The day got off to an inauspicious start. I had carefully set the hotel alarm clock the night before. In the morning, I laid awake on the bed with my blindfold in place quite awhile, wondering why I’d woken so early. Finally, I looked at the clock and discovered it wasn’t so early after all. Though I’d set the alarm, I hadn’t actually turned it on. So I didn’t get to the convention center in time for the Collection Management session I’d planned to attend. However, it turned out I was right on time to attend the Scholastic Book Buzz.

I’ve actually started trying to avoid the Book Buzz sessions — it just tells me about more books I want to read. But I still enjoy them. It’s fun to then go to the booth and ask for specific titles you saw in the program. For example, one that caught my eye was Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, by Katie Alender. The premise simply makes me laugh — a modern-day teen in Paris discovers that Marie Antoinette’s ghost is haunting the city — and she’s angry. It makes sense. After all, wouldn’t she be angry?

Next was a tough choice. I’d wanted to go hear Naomi Novik speak on a panel titled “Beyond Genre.” But I decided that more practical to my job would be a session put together by Cen Campbell, who’s served with me on ALSC’s Children and Technology committee, and who is doing amazing things. The session was called “Building A to Zoo for Apps,” and is about the need for App Advisory, and how that’s exactly something librarians are good at and should be doing.

She had assembled a stellar panel of speakers. Clarissa Kruger writes a blog that reviews apps. She started as a mom who saw a gap. Parents are looking for ebooks and they need help. Other speakers talked about how librarians should get involved reviewing apps, and identify themselves as librarians when they do so (Sneaky outreach!).

An especially inspiring speaker was Chip Donohue from the Fred Rogers Center. He said that the new tools hold wonderful potential for promoting relationships and interaction.

“The tablet is an invitation.”
“We have a wonderful opportunity to model appropriate use of this tool.”

He said that we should avoid the false dichotomy of ALL tech or NO tech. It CAN be both! “Young children do not segment their thinking.”

“How can these tools become tools for literacy and engagement?”

“Parents are dying for help selecting apps.”
“Work on your own digital literacy.”
“Select. Use. Integrate. Evaluate.”
“It’s what we’ve always done. We know how to do this.”
“Fred Rogers believed that technology is okay and can be great if it’s used to build relationships, interactions, and social-emotional development.”

Some responses during the Question and Answer session:
“This new technology is NOT ‘better.’ It’s a new tool added.”
“The tools ARE in the kids’ hands. Let’s use them.”
We need to be the researchers. Edtech research lags 10 years behind technology.
When we use apps in storytime, we’re modeling using them in an educational way.

And the final rallying cry:
“We need to build an army to curate this new marketplace.”

Okay, after that program, I went to an “Ignite!” program, where 6 people spoke on different topics for 5 minutes each. These were interesting, and the presenters really pared down their talks so you got the nugget of what they had to say quickly. They were extremely varied ideas. Some helpful ones:

It’s important to build a professional learning network. Be prosumers (producers) as well as consumers.

Shanna Miles talked about “PTSD and the Urban School Library” – Kids need reflective texts, books where they see themselves.
Do characters speak, act, look, experience life like these kids?
Do the books provide solutions and give hope?
If they can live it, they can read it.

Kim Ventrella, from my own library system, did a presentation on “Book Snacks: Teen Humor Edition.” She showed how you can make “booktweets” promoting a book in 140 characters or less. You can use this idea on bookmarks, book displays, and more.

Jennifer Lau-Bond talked about Creativity in Reference Service Provision.
She described “Predatory Reference” — What questions aren’t people asking? Go answer them!
Had “Librarians on the Loose” at a train station.
Monitor local social media questions.
Where does your community go online? How can you contribute?

After that interesting session, I got lunch and explored the exhibits some more. Then I walked in a little late to the panel “Science Fiction: The Factual and the Counterfactual.” I’ve gone to this session most years at ALA, and I love what the authors have to say about the state of science fiction and fantasy. I’ll list some good quotations:

David Brin:
“We create industrial grade magic of incantations.”
“Science fiction takes these incantations and expands them.”
“Get back to the heart of science fiction: Optimism.”
“Can we get people to think it’s possible to leave people with the belief we might make it?”

John Scalzi:
“Given enough time, anything in science fiction is eventually proven wrong.
Why this does not matter: It’s about the larger themes.
“Science fiction misses the small details but gets the larger picture right.”
“DO get the stuff we know right. But don’t worry about the rest.”
“It’s about positing what these things will do to us as humans.”

Elizabeth Bear:
“I grew up in a library.” The only child of a single parent, she was there every day for 3 hours.
Today there’s big diversity in YA science fiction fans and writers.
“The Rainbow Age of Science Fiction” – This is the factual world. It’s diverse.
The job of science fiction writers isn’t futurism.
“The best science fiction is always about the present.”
It extrapolates and examines.
You don’t have to use metaphor. You can tackle issues thematically without oversimplification and didacticism.
“In good characters, specificity becomes general.”
“Provide that right environment for young readers so they can figure out what they think about the world.”

Brandon Sanderson:
As a kid, he was often told to “be realistic.” What does that even mean? Approximate reality?
“In fantasy, the world was so different, that makes the person [the main character] my tribe. This was the familiar among the strange.”
“It makes the strange familiar and adds a new level of strange.”
“It made being a fantasy novelist realistic by comparison.”
“I’m not trying to be a wizard! I just want to write books!”
“We’re giving books to the people who will define what realistic means in 40 years.”

Cory Doctorow:
He doesn’t think science fiction is extrapolative. It’s more like a petri dish.
“We predict the present by doing a world-in-a-bottle-exercise.”
“Knowing about the present is necessary but insufficient to knowing about the future.”
“We only experience one person’s interiority, our own. Yet books are about interiority.”
“The amazing thing about literature: The sustained illusion that we can share in someone else’s experience of the world.”

They gave a bag of books to everyone who attended the panel, but unfortunately, I didn’t have time to stand in line to get them signed. I wanted to go to:

Conversation Starter: 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

My friend (by now) James Kennedy was running this program. He talked about the 90-second Newbery Film Festival, now in its 3rd year. He showed lots of brilliant examples, created by kids. The premise is to show the entire story of a Newbery winner or honor book in 90 seconds.

“Any book becomes hilarious when compressed to 90 seconds.”
“Kids take control, and they have to know the text really well.”
Much of the creativity comes in when they put the text in another movie style.
“What kids want is recognition.”
“There’s a lot you can do with very limited resources.”
“It takes real engagement with the text to boil down the script to 90 seconds.”
“Teaches kids about a long-term project and digital literacy.”
“Genre-bending takes some smarts.”
There is a curriculum guide at
Some advice for public libraries: Try using puppets in case the same people don’t show up at later meetings.

I’d really like to get this going at my library. Not quite sure how to start rounding up a group of interested kids, but the ideas are percolating….

After that, I hit the exhibits again, shipped the day’s books, and then went to hear Elizabeth Wein speak at a session sponsored by USBBY.

She’s an appropriate speaker for USBBY, a branch of IBBY, an international organization of books for youth, since she has lived in many different countries.

She talked about her childhood. She was born in America, but lived as a child in the United Kingdom, and then in Jamaica. She didn’t come back to America until she was 9 years old.

She showed us some old pictures and some of her writing and drawing as a child. We saw some themes that came up in Code Name Verity!

She migrates like the osprey — not immigrating, but having a home in different places.
“Moving around created a strong sense of nostalgia early on.”
She longed for a sense of place and a place to be rooted.
She spends her life collecting places she loves.
Living in Jamaica, she was international and colorblind in her early reading, including reading English translations of Chinese propaganda picture books.
She wrote Sara Crewe and Alan Garner fan fiction.

“Passenger air travel has made our world smaller and brought us closer together.”
“Best we can ask: Open minds and no fear of strangers.”

I was especially excited to meet Elizabeth at the end of the session. (That’s the picture at the top of this post.) I was happy that she knows my name. I’ve been reviewing (and loving) her books for 10 years! It turns out that the first book I read of hers, A Coalition of Lions was my #1 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out in Historical Fiction. (Back then, there weren’t so many bloggers, so I even talked to her via e-mail a little bit.) And I’ve continued to love her books over the years.

After that, it was back to the hotel. I grabbed some dinner, and then went to the ALA/ProQuest Scholarship Blast where Second City was performing comedy and improv. I was curious about them ever since listening to Tina Fey’s book, Bossypants.

It was very funny. I don’t think I’ll probably go to this event in future years unless I find a friend to go with. At the Newbery Banquet and Printz Awards, I always run into several people I know — They’re for the children’s and YA book people. At this, I saw one person I knew, but I think he was on a date. Still, it was nice to not think and just laugh.

And that was my big Saturday! More ALA coverage will follow — Writing up helps me consolidate in my mind all I learned and experienced. Sunday was one of the highlights of the conference — The Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet. I took lots of pictures of people dressed up in honor of the Caldecott’s 75th anniversary. Coverage coming soon!

A Wild Ride: Caldecott Preconference at ALA 2013

Continuing my coverage of my wonderful time at the 2013 ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, last Friday I was at the ALSC’s preconference, in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Medal. Even though I don’t consider myself an art expert by any means (I’ve always dreamed of being on the Newbery committee, but never the Caldecott), when I heard the event was taking place at the Art Institute of Chicago, I couldn’t resist.

One of the wonderful things about the preconference? Being with a large group of people who take picture books seriously, discuss them as art, and believe in the magic of what they do for children.

I was happy that I’m getting to know more and more members of ALSC (the Association for Library Service to Children). I saw many people that I have already met at the breakfast, and met some new people. Capitol Choices, a group from the DC area that I attend, was well-represented.

The first speaker was Brian Selznick, who put on the sparkly jacket he wore for the Caldecott Banquet.

After taking this picture, I realized it was rather futile to take pictures of every speaker! Oh well.

Brian gave an illustrated talk about the history of the Caldecott Medal. He talked about how Randolph Caldecott and Frederick Melcher were about entertaining books just for children. Caldecott’s pictures added to his books; they weren’t just repeating the words. The pictures had a sense of life, rooted in his sense of humor. And that sense of humor was a shield against tragedy.

Brian also talked about Maurice Sendak, their friendship, and how Where the Wild Things Are sums up what the Caldecott is all about. It shows how Max went farther than he intended and came home safe again. It scared adults. It contained life.

The second session was a Spotlight with Erin and Philip Stead and their editor, Neal Porter. The title was “Matching Words and Pictures,” but they gave it the alternate title: “Everyone Makes Mistakes.” I liked the way they showed some early versions of their work and how their editor helped them to the final product.

One interesting point they made: When they eliminated excess words, they actually slow readers down. Sometimes when there are too many words on a page, readers don’t spend as much time looking at the pictures.

With And Then It’s Spring, Erin wanted people to pay attention. She wanted to “trap readers with pictures.”

The next session was with Chris Raschka and his editor, Lee Wade, looking at the making of A Ball for Daisy. A Ball for Daisy is wordless, so you might not think it needs a lot of editing? You’d be wrong. Chris Raschka gave the alternate title: “The Daisy Journey: Not a Walk in the Park.” The book went through multiple versions, even multiple styles. He joked, “Should the ball die? All these questions.”

I was simply amazed at how far the book came from his original sketches to the practically perfect picture book that won the Caldecott Medal last year. A fascinating look at the process that got it there, a give and take between artist and editor.

After that was lunchtime, and they kept us engaged with an Honor Book panel — artists who had won Caldecott honors.

That’s Leonard Marcus moderating, followed by Kadir Nelson, Melissa Sweet, Pam Zagarenski (hidden, sorry), and Peter Brown.

Here’s a shot that includes the lovely room we were in, the former Trading Floor:

Leonard Marcus asked some intriguing questions, starting off with “Why picture books?”

Kadir Nelson: “Books chose me. I always was a storytelling artist.”

Melissa Sweet: She saw Little Bear and felt she had come home. It is like a mini-movie. Art is so varied, she’ll never get bored.

Pam Zagarenski: She’s always been illustrating. Even as a girl, she wanted to be Beatrix Potter when she grew up. She’s never had any other ambition. What she had to do.

Peter Brown: He was a reluctant reader, and more interested in creating than reading. He thought he’d be an animator, but hated it because he wanted to tell his own story.

There was more intriguing talk about making art and making picture books, and then we got to hear from Jerry Pinkney and his editor, talking about The Lion and the Mouse. Sorry that my picture of them is blurred:

He talked about his own history, what got him into picture books. He used to sneak down where he could watch a printing press in action. He enjoys the rhythm… of the printing press, of turning the page.

With The Lion and the Mouse, the editorial, design, and production all worked together. What it’s about is holding that object in your hands.

They also showed the book set to music, with pictures inserted from Jerry’s first book about Anansi the Spider. He said, “I’d love my art to feel the way music sounds.”

After those inspiring sessions, we had an elective. I wish I could have gone to all of them! I chose Leonard Marcus’s talk on Randolph Caldecott. (Oh, and I met Eric Carpenter, a fellow frequent Heavy Medal commenter!)

Leonard’s coming out with a book about Randolph Caldecott. (I wish I had gotten to his signing the next day, but had something else going on.) He titled the talk, “Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.”

Randolph Caldecott was not a sentimentalist. Even though he made books for children, he wrote about the adult world. (He showed us some humorous examples.) Leonard showed us slides of places from Caldecott’s life. His father was an accountant and had lots of practical ideas for Randolph. When he worked in a bank, he discovered that bank slips are great for drawing on. (And we saw some pictures of those slips.)

Picture books for fun were a new idea in Caldecott’s time. It was also a time of the explosion of train travel, so they sold books for people to take on trains. Color printing was new, and they developed the predecessors to the motion picture.

Some hodgepodge notes from this talk: Caldecott was thinking of how to pare down a picture book to the fewest possible lines. When he traveled on trains he’d make “lightning” sketches. He played with composition in new ways. He only once did a book with animals in human dress, and you can see its influence on Beatrix Potter, who admired Randolph Caldecott with a “jealous appreciation.” He invented all the tricks of the trade.

The final general session was Paul O. Zelinsky speaking on “The Caldecott Medal in the 21st Century.”

He wore his Rapunzel tie, which he painted just after turning in the artwork for his Caldecott-winning book Rapunzel

He did some joking about what might happen with the Caldecott in the future. (“We can extrapolate. They’ll all go to Jon Klassen.”) But he did point out that we can’t figure out what will happen.

“Picture books may change, but Story never will.”

He pointed out that your consciousness *is* story — the autobiographical self.

“We are stories. So we cling to stories.”

“Stories take you out of yourself and take you away.”

He talked about writing Rumpelstiltskin and how he got pictures of straw from the New York Public Library photographic archive. He wanted to find a spinning wheel, but there was none to be found anywhere in New York City. (I loved his aside: It was just like the situation in Sleeping Beauty. Made him wonder.)

He concluded that the picture books of the future and those that get honored are completely unpredictable. But bottom line, speaking to that crowd of librarians, “The Caldecott of the future is up to you.”

By the time I finished that amazing Preconference, the entire weekend in Chicago was already worth it. I was energized and inspired and all the more excited about showing children the wonder of art and words and story that picture books are.