Newbery/Caldecott Banquet Tips and Tricks: ALA Annual Conference 2012
In which our hero ostensibly writes about the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet but, in truth, just wants to talk to you about Shrinky-Dinks. Full credit to Rocco Staino at SLJ for the image to the left here.
Day Three of ALA and I can say with certainty that lots of interesting things to do abounded. Collection specialist meetings, meals with Newbery medalists (both past and future), a final sweep of the conference floor for anything missed (Jim Murphy’s The Giant and How He Humbugged America = win!). But when it all comes down to it at the end of the day the only thing to really discuss was the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet.
It surprised me only a little to learn that tickets for the banquet sold out by Friday morning, disappointing those who might have hoped to see the festivities. Having long since learned not to count on publisher invitations to the event I had made the only minor mistake of buying two, rather than one, tickets. Initially I thought my husband might join me, but when we came to the decision not to bring out certain-to-squall toddler I was left alone with a spare. There are worse problems in the world. Canvassing the folks I’d run into already I quickly heard that the great Miriam Creamer, librarian extraordinaire, fellow Newbery member, and the woman who one fed, hosted, and drove me around a Kidlitosphere Conference in 2008, was without a host. Problem, as they say, solved.
Only one thing left to do then. It was time to break out the secret weapon.
You may recall a post of mine from Christmas-time or so when I was introduced to the wide and wonderful world of Shrinky-Dinks. Sometimes I like to say that I must be a Bourne Identity kind of gal. It’s the only explanation for why I seem to have missed great swaths of the 80’s. I never saw The Karate Kid, The Breakfast Club, Stand By Me, (the list goes on and on) and I never heard of Shrinky-Dinks. If you too blink in blankness at the name here’s the long and short of it: A Shrinky-Dink is a kind of plastic onto which you may trace an image with colored pencils. Once colored you cut it down to size, pop it in the oven, and it shrinks and dinks down to a hard, colorful, plastic image of the thing you traced. I lived in ignorance until Alison Morris came to my home preaching the gospel of Shrinky-Dink Christmas ornaments. You may see my post on the matter here.
Rewind tape and meet The Ghost of Newbery/Caldecott Banquets Past. Inspired by god only knows what inane instinct I have taken to attending the Banquet covered in the winners. I may owe this bizarre desire to the great NYPL librarians of the past who would buy a table at the banquet and wear matching outfits to celebrate in kind. For example, one year they all wore Officer Buckle police caps. Another inspiration came from Nina Lindsay who used to have the tendency to dress up (a Mardi Gras mask here, a “Martha” from “George and Martha” outfit there…). Finally, one of my first banquets (maybe THE first?) my Newbery committee members and I determined to wear red dresses in honor of our winner The Higher Power of Lucky). I can only assume that knowing all this caused my little brain to conclude that dressing up is de rigeur. Never mind that I’m the only one who does it anymore.
In previous years this desire has manifested itself in the form of custom made tattoos. God only knows how I came upon the notion but for two, maybe three, years I would meticulously make my tattoos at home and then apply them right before the banquet to mixed results. The problem came when I felt inclined to continuously upgrade. The first time it was a band of covers on one arm. Then two arms and the chest with photos of the winners involved. Then circles of covers on arms and legs and slinky words down an arm causing me to look like nothing so much as the victim of some highly literary splotchy disease. Homemade tattoos are not fun things to apply, by the way. The cheapness of the glue means that it can be very difficult to get them on intact and, once they have bonded to the skin, near impossible to remove. I would walk around for days after the banquets peeling in colorful horrible ways. Clearly it was time for a change.
The idea came to me when I received the gift of a kind of Shrinky-Dink jewelry maker from my mother-in-law for Christmas. It is not called “Shrinky-Dink”, by the way, but rather the fancy dancy term like “shrinkable plastic” which, let us face facts here, is a lot less fun to say. This gift came not long after the ornament making party by complete coincidence. Instantly upon seeing it I realized the potential. Here I had the means with which to create something colorful and ideal for the banquet without the horrid side effects.
So I pawned off the work onto my friends. I’ll tell you here and now that if you have a creative project in mind but find that your own personal artistic talents begin and end with the ability to reduce images on a computer screen to a slightly smaller size, you could do worse than befriend the A-Team of children’s literature: Alison Morris, Lori Ess, and Heather Scott. This deadly trio of trained assassins slash crafty craft experts are all members of the Scholastic Book Group. I have spent many a fine hour in their presence turning F & G’s into elaborate birdhouses and I knew that if anyone could help me converta batch of book winners into wearable art, twas they.
But first things first. The jewelry kit seemed to have the essential parts in place but since my brain can’t properly process what kind of jewelry to make without help I decided to make a purchase that would either help or hinder everything.
The name of this blog, as you might have noticed, is A Fuse #8 Production and is, for all intents and purposes, named after a car part from an old 1989 Buick Century I used to own (long story). So with the blind faith of a woman who has stumbled through this world into lucky situations I hopped over to etsy (rhymes with me) and plugged into the search bar the term “fuse necklace”. And the universe, loving me as it does, complied. I found the item to the right here.
Obviously what I had hoped to find was a necked bedecked in eight beautiful little fuses, but that probably would have been pressing my luck. As it stood, this wasn’t bad by half. The large fuse box in the center (which opens to inexplicably reveal a goofy image of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford ) was a bit more than I needed but I liked the length and the little fuses on the sides. It was only after I had purchased the item and gotten it in the mail that I realized that the chain was perfect for linking small items. Small cover-like items, no less.
On a lovely Sunday I picked up the small Bird of my home and headed over to Brooklyn to an informal Shrinky-Dinkarie at Lori’s home. Then, as I played with my infant and fed her cheese, my friends took the colored printouts of the winners that I had made and set to work. I had asked Alison to break out her very vast supply of colored pencils to aid us in this work and she did so willingly. Right off the bat executive decisions had to be made. Do the whole of a cover or just a part? How big do you go? How small? After some consultation it was decided that most of the images could go on the necklace while others could maybe be glued to a broach or a hair piece, if needs be. Suited me. Then the covers were broken down. Me…Jane was taken down to its center image. Blackout and Dead End in Norvelt were titles-only. Breaking Stalin’s Nose proved to be particularly hard since the cover is essentially colorless. I think it was Heather who realized that we could reduce it down to a red star with an image of the nose in the center. One internet search later we had it. The rest could be just their central images (a silhouette, an elephant, Daisy with a ball). I created a little Newbery and a little Caldecott medal but that was about it.
Several hours later they were traced entirely. I took them home to shrink, fearful of what would happen to them. Indeed I managed to dunk half of Me…Jane in a glass of soapy water in the sink prior to its shrinking to no discernible harm. To my delight everything worked like a charm! They all came out like gangbusters, though there was an oh-so-slight curl to the arm of the Stalin star.
My friends had been clever enough to make me take a picture of where they envisioned these charms on the necklace so I had an easy reference point. All that was left was the Lane Smith elephant. That damnable leafy pachyderm. It was much larger than the other images and for various reasons we didn’t punch any holes in it prior to shrinking (once shrunken you have missed the boat punched-holeswise). I just stared at it for a while, trying to figure out if it would actually work on a hair clip. I did this until, after an excruciatingly long amount of time, I came to the slow realization that if I put the darned thing over the fuse box it fit perfectly. Almost like I had planned it.
That’s the sort of luck I sometimes stumble into if I’m lucky. Clipping Blackout and Dead End in Norvelt to the back of my neck (and didn’t THAT lead to some salty comments later!) I placed the rest strategically to the front and voila! Instant outfit. This next image is a bit dark and doesn’t quite do the signs justice:
Getting it to ALA proper just took some judicious packing, and handling it had to be careful since I hadn’t “set” the colors for fear of dulling them. Still I felt very pleased with it. Then it was off to banquet it up!
Folks who, like myself, buy tickets on their own must plan ahead to some extent. If you do not rush the moment the doors to the room open and claim your seat you might well find yourself later floating from table to table asking “Is anyone sitting here? How about here?”. It’s gobs of not fun. So in the cocktail hour before the opening I made sure to find some wayward souls like myself. It wasn’t too hard and so when that opening occurred we ran to the tables in the cheap seats and found a nice one.
I should note that though the tables for folks like myself are far from the podium it is easy to watch the speeches via the big screens from anywhere in the room. Plus we all get the same atrocious food (bad banquet food is a Newbery/Caldecott staple and whosoever writes an ode to it therein earns my love) so no difference there. The back tables also have a distinct advantage when it comes to the receiving line at the end. After every banquet the winners stand with their editors outside the room with their editors and, much as in a wedding, the guests can walk by, shake their hands, and coo over them. More on that later.
This time around I was one of those horrible people who check their Twitter as they eat. There wasn’t much of an agreed upon hashtag so we winged it. Next year we’ll come up with one. The Twitter proved to be mighty useful when a long pause led to some confusion and folks found the evening delayed thanks to a faulty mic.
The invitation was particularly keen. Check out the Travis Jonker (from 100 Scope Notes) video if you don’t believe me:
There are two people in the children’s literary world who thrive on producing the best shoes at any event: Victoria Stapleton and Brian Selznick. I didn’t see Victoria this time around but I did Kinnear a quickie shot of Brian’s footsies. It’s not a good shot, but it gives you the general gist of the matter:
If I were to describe the flavor of the room I’d have to call it jovial with a mild hint of raucous. Folks were having a good time. Such a good time, in fact, that they really didn’t want to quiet down for anything happening at the beginning of the program. I think I will have to lend my services to ALSC next year as a verbal bouncer, standing at the front of the room utilizing my mad shhhhhhing skills. I work for cheap.
These things are usually filled with more than just the winners, of course. Just off the top of my head I know that the author/illustrators on attendance included Loren Long, Denise Fleming, Jon Scieszka, Ashley Wolff, Sheila Turnage, Brian Selznick, Laura Amy Schlitz, Mo Willems, Michael Buckley, Jon Klassen, Tom Angleberger, Kekla Magoon, Neal Schusterman, and a whole bunch of others that I just know I’m forgetting. I met for the first time the misses Turnage, Wolff, and Fleming, all of whom were true delights. And for your own notes, know that Fleming is a hilarious dame. Ask her why she doesn’t make felt out of dryer lint sometime. Trust me.
Here’s another piece of advice: If at any time you leave your table with edible food, tell your tablemates to guard it with their lives. Banquet waiters are a fine and noble profession but they sometimes get a big ambitious in their attempts to clear the tables. I would like to extend my very warm thanks and gratitude to Kekla Magoon and her mother for guarding my chocolatey dessert with their lives. Ladies, I am in your debt.
Then with the speeches. Because we weren’t honoring a Wilder Award recipient this time around (it’s an every other year kind of thing) this proved to be the shortest part of the evening. We had only three elements in play: The Caldecott speech, the Newbery speech, and the Carnegie winning video. Raschka went first, Caldecott-wise. This being his second award win he was in the David Wiesner-esque position of having to come up with something new to say this time around. This time he used a dinner party with friends as the bones of the talk, hanging all kinds of different elements on it. He discussed the roots of Daisy’s beginnings and many other things, though my brain briefly shorted out when I heard that he liked to hang out at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in NYC. I freakin’ love that place, and I feel like it’s relatively unknown in the city. At any rate, good speech, attentive audience, and there was even a short film of Daisy that played at the start, created by Raschka’s son Ingo. Indeed the film was so well done that folks started murmuring “How old is Ingo?” when it was done. Later they would do the same thing for the daughter of Gantos (Note to Self: Write epic fantasy trilogy and call it Daughter of Gantos).
Gantos was, of course, probably much of the reason why the banquet had sold out this time around as quickly as it did. We all wanted to know what the man had up his sleeve speech-wise. And really, what can I say about it that does it any kind of justice? I can say it didn’t disappoint, and I would be right but that’s a fairly petty way of putting it. Makes it sound like it merely “lived up to expectations”. In truth he threw all kinds of stuff in there that you couldn’t help but love. Holograms and Mexican Coca-Cola. Copious mentions of his daughter Mabel and tales of running buck naked around the house as a kid only to be locked outdoors, reduced to stealing the neighbors’ ladieswear from the clotheslines. He mentioned that Daniel Radcliff has purchased the film rights to Hole in My Life, Jack’s YA autobiography. Maybe my favorite moment was when he summed up two speeches he’d seen in the past where the speakers deviated from their prepared remarks never to be seen again (Jerry Lewis and James Earl Jones). All this will be in the printed version of Gantos’s speech in the upcoming edition of Horn Book Magazine, unless of course he himself deviated a bit from the written record (I’m fairly certain the Mexican Coke bit was a throwaway line).
Huge applause. Lots of standing in tippy-toppling shoes that I should not have worn but was too lazy to find another pair. Then the video of Children Make Terrible Pets which was wonderful if oddly subtitled. After that a mad dash to the reception line where everyone was very nice about my necklace. Certainly if it offended any of them they kept quiet about it, which was decent of them. Then came the annual Drinking Up of the Remaining Alcohol. This is as close to a traditional after party as you will find at this event. Each year the alcohol that was purchased but never consumed is laid out with plastic cups like some kind of college house party (minus the R.A.) and that’s where you’ll find the bulk of the authors and illustrators who didn’t get awards.
All in all, very good times. The next day was spent with me going home (which explains where I got the time to write this up). All that remains to be seen is how to take everything to the next level for next year’s awards. Your suggestions are more than welcome.
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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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