First and Foremost: Newbery Banquet Reporting (Part Two)
Usually at these things the tables are outfitted with a program, a CD of the speeches, and a cute toy. At least, that was how the last Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder banquet worked. When The Hello, Goodbye Window won we all got cute little harmonicas on our tables. I wanted to see what this year’s Flotsam equivalent would be. My money was on those little red plastic fish you’re supposed to put on your hand so that they’ll tell your future. Cheap and fun, they’d have made excellent gifts. As it was, no little tidbits were around this year, which was a pity.
Words were said up on the podium. ALSC President K.T. Horning was eloquent as ever. Food was then served and I plowed through it.
Now would be a good time to note that I had spent the previous 2-3 days walking DC. Walking and running, trying desperately to get to various events on time. My legs, at first, took this to be an amusing joke on my part. "Oh? You would like to run? Up a flight of stairs? Well, by all means, my dear. Ho ho! Aren’t you a card?" My legs like to think that they’re alive in 1923. They keep calling things "bully" when they think I’m not listening. However, when it became clear to them that I was not going to stop running and walking like a madwoman, they went into open rebellion. Open rebellion usually takes the form of forcing me to walk like a duck. Not only that, I was wearing cute little half-a-size too small silver strappy shoes with paper thin little heels. So when the food had been served and people were meandering about the floor, I attempted to find the New York Public librarians and my friend by walking around the room. Like a duck. Needless to say, I did not find anyone I was looking for. The room was packed and I failed to recognize anyone.
Then came the speechifying. Here you can see HMOCL #something or other Kadir Nelson accepting his plaque for Moses. Later I would apologize to him for making him the top HMOCL and therefore possibly submitting him to ridicule. He didn’t quite know how to respond to that.
The author of Gone Wild, David McLimans, sported a pretty nifty outfit involving a lot of black. Two thumbs way way up for the outfit. Kudos all around.
And David Wiesner… well here are my thoughts on the matter. Insofar as I could tell, Wiesnery creates wordless picture books. A lot of them. And yet here he is, put on the spot, having to write a third Caldecott speech and undoubtedly his best material has already been used up. So Wiesner would totally have received a pass from me if he had flubbed his speech or phoned it in. Long story short, the guy killed. Maybe repeatedly getting a highly competitive award just means that you get to hone your speechifying skills. No idea. Whatever the reason, Wiesner had us in the palm of his hand and only once did my mind wander enough as to wonder whether or not he’s ever been tempted to race his Caldecott medals against one another. Which year would win if pitted against its fellows on a steep incline? He’ll have to get back to me on that one.
Newberyites followed. Has anyone else noticed that this turned into a Boys vs. Girls year? Boys won the Caldecott. Girls won the Newbery. Easy-peasy. And while McLimans had killed in the boys Fashion category hands down, no clear cut winner came through on the girl side of things. There was Kirby Larson sporting a subtle chocolate colored gown, designed to flatter her small waist. There was I-Just-Gave-Birth-2-Weeks-Ago thin as a rail Jenni Holm in her gorgeous cream colored number with ripples of delicious silky fabric undulating down her side. And then Ms. Cynthia Lord sported a swank light green dress with matching shug, intricately beaded so that she glittered and gleamed like a little roving light amongst the festivities. And Susan Patron, elegant in pearls and a subdued black. Pictures, you say? Fellow Newbery committee member Tim took the one below. Well played, sir.
And when Susan Patron spoke her speech more than lived up to expectations. Oh, you’ll be able to read it in its entirety when Roger reprints it in the Horn Book, of course. And maybe someday I’ll create a podcast blog where you can hear snatches of the highlights. For now, you’ll just have to take my word on it. I had heard a very different speech the day before when the Newbery committee members were treated to dinner with Ms. Patron, Mr. Phelan, and the Simon & Schuster folk at Brasserie Les Halles. At that time she was just as eloquent as she was on the podium, but nothing really compares to the actual honest-to-goodness writ in stone speech itself. Ms. Patron spoke of her own upbringing, telling her little sister stories in the bath and getting that rush that comes when you’ve completely enthralled a listener. She spoke of her youth and how she hoped to be artistic and wild and a writer. "I would be tragic like Piaf . . . only taller." She spoke of the creation of Lucky. And she mentioned Fuse #8.
That night I would debate whether or not it would be a wise move to write in big bold letters on my blog I WAS FRIGGIN’ MENTIONED IN A NEWBERY SPEECH!!!! YEEEEEE-HAAAAAW! I decided against it A) Because I was tired and B) Because I was tired. But I was thrilled. No question. Would it be safe to say that this was the very first time in the history of a Newbery speech that a literary blog’s name cropped up? I’d like to think so but I like to think of all kinds of things. Not all of them are realistic.
It was a brief mention, but a thrilling one. You see, last year I posted a review of Patron’s book (one, I might add, that mentioned the word "scrotum" and how some people might raise a hullabaloo about it). At that time she wrote me a very kind response and that was the end of that.
In any case, I was a little humbled by the mention. And as my husband pointed out, now I can replay it from the CD I received whenever I like. Replay it and replay it and replay it.
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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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