I can't wait for dinner on Sunday. It'll just be me, Neil, Beth and Ashley. Oh, and a thousand or so other people.
Where am I having dinner? At the Newbery/Caldecott banquet which recognizes the honorees of two of the most illustrious awards in the children's book world. The banquet is held every year at the American Library Association's (
The winners and the honor books get announced at a press conference at the ALA Midwinter conference in January. I was there this year, and the atmosphere was absolutely electric. It was so exciting to hear the applause, cheers, and exclamations of surprise.
Click here for the complete list of all the 2009 winners and honor books.
The winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals get honor, glory, increased book sales, and gold stickers on their books. And an actual medal. But they also have to give an acceptance speech. A speech that will be heard in front of a ballroom full of librarians, authors, illustrators, editors and publishers. A speech that will be published and studied for years to come. A huge, important, career-defining speech. But other than that, there's no pressure.
An interesting note about the Caldecott Medal: the award actually goes to the illustrator of the book. Although The House in the Night was written by Susan Marie Swanson, it's Beth Krommes who gets the medal and has to give the speech.
There's also a third speech this year. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is given every other year. It 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. This year's recipient is Ashley Bryan and I'm looking forward to his acceptance speech.
Last year, Jen and I went to the banquet together. And we even got interviewed on the red carpet. See this post for more details and an embarrassing YouTube video.
It was an unforgettable night. First, Caldecott winner Brian Selznick wowed the crowd with his intelligent and heartfelt acceptance speech for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, complete with a movie! It was an impossible act to follow, but Newbery winner Laura Amy Schlitz was equal to the task. A storyteller through and through, she mesmerized the crowd and told beautiful stories as she accepted the Newbery for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!
Her speech looked effortless, but it was much harder than it appeared. I recently had the opportunity to hear Laura Amy Schlitz speak about what that night was like for her. She had memorized her entire fifteen minute speech. It had already been submitted for publication in The Horn Book, so she couldn't change even one word as she delivered it.
She said she would love to get those magic, unforgettable fifteen minutes of her speech back. It sounded like a roller coaster ride she never wanted to get off.
This year it will be Beth Krommes', Neil Gaiman's and Ashley Bryan's turn to ride the roller coaster. I wish them joy and exhilaration and hope they enjoy every moment. I'll be cheering them on from the sidelines and will tell you all about it next week.