When I found out that the Newbery Caldecott banquet was to be held in Chicago this year, a mere
My whirlwind trip began on Friday when I drove into Chicago just as the Blackhawks victory celebration was dying down, so luckily the traffic wasn't too horrible. My roommate, Alyson Beecher, and I decided to head over to McCormick Place to get our registration materials and then go to the exhibit hall that was opening at 5:30. The exhibit hall was CRAZY. It was so packed that it honestly felt more like we were cattle being herded than people looking to get books.
It was there, however, in that crowded exhibit hall, that I ran into Allison Tran, someone I have known through various online spaces for the past ten years and whom I only just met face to face at that moment. You don't even know how excited I was to finally meet her in person and to realize that she is just as sweet as she is on Twitter and Facebook.
|Finally getting to meet my longtime online friend, Allison Tran|
After the exhibit hall, Alyson and I took a cab to Epic, a restaurant downtown where the Walden Pond Press party was being held. It was there that I got to catch up a little bit with some more of my Nerdy Book Club friends and also meet some tweeps that I had never met in person like Kathy Burnette and Jennifer Reed. I was also able to talk to Allison more since she was also at the party. Thanks Kellie Celia for hosting such an "Epic" party. I had a wonderful time!
|With Mo Willems, Laurie Halse Anderson, Mac Barnett, and Jon Klassen|
I don't even know how to describe this party. It was the most lovely party I've ever been to. Beth's house was inviting and warm, the food was phenomenal -- made in large part by her incredibly talented and artistic children -- and there was a laid-back, comfortable feeling to the whole evening I never would have imagined given the fact that most of us were going to this generous woman's house and she had never even met us in person. That is the power of Twitter, y'all. So many people say that social media is making us less social because we feel like we don't have to interact face to face anymore, but I'm finding the opposite is true. I have formed so many friendships and I go out more now than I ever did before I had Facebook and Twitter accounts. I mean, the very word party used to send shivers down my spine. As an introvert, the idea of having to insert myself into a conversation and make small talk just made me want to go home and read a book in my pajamas instead. But now I'm surrounding myself with people I've already gotten to know online and who I know love books. So there's no awkward conversation because we're all book people.
Thank you Elizabeth Fama for your hospitality and generosity at opening your home to people you barely knew. The only thing you knew about us was that we were book people, and to you that was good enough.
On Sunday I spent a good portion of the day in the exhibit hall hanging out with Niki Barnes and Sherry Gick:
When we got to the front of the line, I was completely floored and blown away when Katherine saw me, recognized me, and gave me a hug. My year was made in that moment right there. I couldn't believe that the Newbery winning author of 2013 knew my name and gave me a hug.
|With the One and Only Katherine Applegate|
I also met Benjamin Alire Saenz, author Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. This book won THREE ALA Youth Media Awards in January: a Printz Honor, the Stonewall Award, and the Pura Belpre Award. With that many awards, book lovers who had never read it were scrambling to get their hands on a copy - I was one of them. It was such a beautiful story and such an important story, that I actually found myself unable to speak when I made it to the front of the line to get my book signed. I tried to tell Benjamin what a beautiful book it was, but ended up choking back tears instead. I felt like such an idiot.
|With Sherry Gick, Brian Wyzlic, and Kathy Burnette|
I'm still trying to find the appropriate words to describe the evening. Author Laura Golden probably said it best when she wrote on her blog: "The evening was filled with fairytale magic."
And it really was.
Not only did the books that we had rooted for win the most coveted awards in children's literature, but the speeches that accompanied these awards were magical as well.
|Inside the banquet room|
|Dessert featuring a white chocolate 75th anniversary Caldecott logo|
Jon Klassen endeared himself to the audience as he
|Nerdy Book Club friends enjoying the Newbery Caldecott banquet|
But then as he explained it, everything made sense. Just as in "The Telltale Heart", the little fish in This Is Not My Hat has done something wrong and "he's given the whole floor... to try to make an argument for his reasonableness and sanity by telling us his version of how things went down," and then ultimately succumbs to his crime.
Now that I know what inspired This Is Not My Hat, I'm going to be using this as further argument that picture books are not just for elementary students: high school and middle school teachers should be using them in their classrooms too. I mean, how much fun would it be to give kids an assignment to compare "The Telltale Heart" with This Is Not My Hat?
Some gems from her speech:
- "I'm wearing this sucker to Target." (as she was handed her medal)
- "I learned that writing is excruciating and I learned that writing is exhilarating."
- "I ghosted so much I was positively ectoplasmic."
- "It's quite fair to say that it took me a while to locate my literary sea legs."
- "You my friend, have potential." (As she read to us a fan letter from her Animorphs days)
- When Katherine thanked Colby Sharp, John Schu, and the Nerdy Book Club, I think we all wanted to scream, but we held back because it was just too dignified of an event for hooting and hollering.
And finally, the last speech of the evening was Katherine Paterson who won the Laura Ingalls Wilder award which, according to ALA's website, "honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."
|Katherine Paterson, winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award|
It shocks and surprises me that Paterson is only just now winning this award as her presence in the children's lit world has been "substantial and lasting" for many years now. In fact, as the chair of the Wilder committee introduced her, they even joked that the reason she hadn't won the award yet is because everyone thought that surely she had already won it. Her speech, like Klassen's and Applegate's, was absolutely perfect. It was humorous and endearing, and made tears stream down everyone's face. I spent the whole evening clinging to my tissues. It was, to paraphrase Laura Golden, simply magical.
I am so grateful that I not only got to be part of this evening, but that I was able to share it with my book loving friends. The stars aligned perfectly for this night to happen. It really was the opportunity of a lifetime.