I’m completing my trilogy on favorite tribes with the Children’s Book Festival Tribe. As usual, it held both the expected and the surprising. Expected were nuggets of information from the speakers:
• Jon Sciezka – “I was inspired by my students.” (Then he kept us in stitches telling us why he deserved this award, referring frequently to the antics of his five brothers. He is maybe even funnier in person than in my favorite of his books, The Math Curse.)
• Candice Fleming emphasized the importance of accuracy in nonfiction including throwing out good stuff because it was wrong – like Amelia Earhart’s myths about her “naturally curly” hair and an airplane she claimed to have seen that wasn’t there.
• Betsy and Ted Lewin chuckled at a rather dangerous photograph saying it looked like the caption should have read, “last picture taken before the death of the photographer.” What fun as they passed the microphone back and forth finishing each other’s sentences and paragraphs!
• Grace Lin affirmed that it didn’t matter whether it was a boy book or a girl book, whether or not it was multicultural. It only mattered that a child read a good book.
As expected, a librarian won the Kaigler Lamont Award, but Liz Turner of Madison Public Library won with an unexpected feature – her program of 1,000 books before kindergarten, which might make more educational difference than a roomful of standardized tests. Just saying.
The Magnolia Children’s Choice Awards were expected. The exponential growth in just a few years was a surprise as was the addition of a new age category.
Unexpected happenings included:
• A tornado warning interrupting Jennifer Lanthier, Keats Honor Book winner, that sent all 300 + attendees down into a stairwell for safety. During the time in the stairwell, I found a new BFF. I think I was not alone judging by the chatter I heard all around me. Jennifer asked when we returned, “Now where was I?” and picked up right where she left off. I’ll blog soon about her book The Stamp Collector.
• Grace Lin gave a wonderful presentation on her own journey to both honor her Chinese culture and appeal to all children in her writing only to be upstaged by her daughter Hazel who took her first steps at the festival luncheon.
• A dinner conversation before Thursday night’s reception revealed that a pair of librarians had their first date at that very event the year Ezra Jack Keats won the medallion – thirty-three years ago. Sherry Laughlin knew immediately marriage was ahead. It took Paul a little longer.
• Weirdest of all happenings may have been the spontaneous quartet at the end of an exhausting day when four Southern members of this tribe sang “I’ll Fly Away” for the New York contingent from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
I’ll end this tribal visit with my favorite nugget of the festival from K. T. Horning who gave the Ezra Jack Keats lecture highlighting some of the Caldecott winners in celebration of the medal’s 75th anniversary. After choosing a sample from several decades for her lecture, as she does in her Horn Book Magazine series, she closed with a picture reference to my favorite, The Snowy Day, showing “Peter leaving tracks to take us into the future.”