First and Foremost: Newbery Banquet Reporting (Part One)
Give the people what they want.
And if said people want a picture of a lady in a red dress, it is advisable to hand that picture over to them. So here it is. The one. The only.
Ladies and gentlemen… the red dress.
Lovely, no? J. Crew, in case you’re interested. Note the matching freakish toenails. Oh, anthropologists of the future, wherefore do we do what we do to our feet?
As you can see, the dress (for all its charms) is not red at all, but a rather nice coraly, pinkly hue. Not red. My nose (and you cannot tell here) was exposed to the appropriate amount of sunlight the first day I was in town so as to match the dress in pinkness. Fortunately it wasn’t so bad in most of the pictures. I will now begin my recap of all things ALA with a look at the highpoint of my trip: The Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder Banquet.
This year the Newbery was held in the lovely Hilton Washington, a building located a freakish distance from the DC Convention center. By "freakish" I of course mean "I had to take the Metro there and WALK!". Some trepidation was ah-buzz amongst the attendees. Apparently (and this falls under the category of hearsay and conjecture) a previous Newbery was once held in this same building. Many people were able to relate to me the mystery meat nature of past Newbery/Caldecott Banquets. So it was that the previous food here was said to have once been particularly atrocious and its victims were anxious to see if the folly would be repeated again. Now this was my second Newbery banquet. As such, I have only known tasty food to be served. To my infinite relief, this year’s meal was no different. There was a salmon (I think… did I mention how dark it was in the room?), some wine, bread, a salad (very tasty), and a chocolatey mousse in a truffle-like shell.
But I get ahead of myself. After walking an ungodly distance (more than two blocks) from the Dupont Circle stop I found myself in a lovely hotel lobby. A lovely hotel lobby that was filled with the recent winners of the Third Annual Bookcart Competition. More on that another day. After locating a restroom I proceeded to change into my Newbery outfit. You might wonder why I chose to change only then. As it happened, I was staying in Silver Springs with a friend of mine, and I decided that on this particular day I was going to lug my dress and shoes about with me to save myself a trip. In doing this I had assumed incorrectly that my second trip to the convention floor would not yield any additional acquisitions. Couldn’t have been more wrong about THAT, lemme tell ya. So I had stuffed my dress in a big Cat in the Hat bag, rammed some shoes in there, then topped the whole kerschmozzle off with a pile of 8 or 9 books for spice. The result? That dress is a wonder, wrapped in a miracle, stuffed inside a gift from the heavens above. Very few wrinkles and not a spot or tear in sight. And alongside the other Newberyites and our winners, it almost looked red.
Dressed with my eyes popped into my head (I’m thinking of exchanging my contacts for a monocle someday) I waltzed into the Green Room reception area. It was lovely. Nobs were hobbed. Hobs were nobbed. I mugged when appropriate and when not appropriate. I also located my saint of a friend Katherine Lord who had allowed me to sleep in her spare bedroom for the duration of my trip. Having an extra Newbery ticket, I handed it off to Katherine, who promptly managed to accidentally sit at a table that contained my boss. I couldn’t have planned that if I tried.
The actual banquet was in a very large room with lots of lovely seats. I was at the Simon & Schuster table with Matt Phelan (The Higher Power of Lucky‘s illustrator), his wife, Rebecca Sherman (his agent), two Newbery committee members, and three Simon & Schuster folks. I noted that the tables closest to the podium were of the Wilder committee members, which was particularly interesting to me.
Now the sole problem with sitting with the cool kids at this kind of thing is that you’ve a devil of a time figuring out where to look. I happen to own a pair of contact lenses that are at least 35 years old. They’re more like portable cataracts than useful extensions of my visual senses. As such, I can make out distant speakers best when I am on the verge of tears. And since that only happened two or three times during the evening, I was not always getting a clear view of things. There was also, I should note, a gigantic screen to my left. This gigantic screen was meant to show to the peanut gallery folk every pore, mole, and stray hair on the speakers’ faces. It’s a singularly effective mechanism and it was straight ahead of me. So I could either look to the right and pretend to see every twitch and tick on the faces of the podium speakers OR I could look dead ahead and see those same twitches and ticks IN LIVING COLOR! I opted for the former since looking straight ahead would have given the impression that I was staring at Rubin Pfeffer all night. A nice way to pass the time, but definitely calculated to creep poor Mr. Pfeffer out and, therefore, inadvisable.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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