Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Meeting 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat.
Attending the American Library Association's annual conference is truly an inspiring experience, and this year's meeting -- held in beautiful San Francisco -- was no exception.

Meeting authors and illustrators whose books I know, love and use in my work is one source of inspiration. It's wonderful to see how seriously they -- and their editors and publishers -- take their work of making great books for children and teens.

Talking with 2013 Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.

Another source of inspiration at ALA "Annual" is the wonderful camaraderie among the children's and teen librarians here -- no one is a stranger in our ranks! Like many others, I've made numerous "conference friends" over the years. We may only see each other once a year but our shared experiences allow us to just pick right up where we left off the last time. And each year, I make new "conference friends" as I attend ALA programs, or enjoy the many book-related events put on by publishers.

Then, of course, there are committee friends, like these folks from the 2012 Sibert Medal committee on which I served. Our chairperson was Andrew Medlar, who just began his term as this year's president of the Association for Library Service to Children. Other pictured in this photo below are my fellow librarians April Mazza and Susan Melcher.

Mini-2012 Sibert Committee reunion at the Newbery-Caldecott banquet.
Last, but not least, there's the inspiration gained at the celebrations of the various children's & teen book awards. The biggest celebration, of course, is the Newbery-Caldecott banquet. At this year's dinner, both Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander inspired both tears and laughter as they detailed their paths to winning the awards often dubbed "the Oscars" of the children's literature world. It's worth taking the time to read both Santat's speech and Alexander's speech. As is traditional, Santat designed the banquet program, which featured a cardstock version of Beekle -- star of his Caldecott Medal-winning book, The Adventures of Beekle. Santat engineered the program so the cardstock Beekle can be detached and then placed in two holders to create a stand-up character.

Front and back of Newbery-Caldecott banquet program
 designed by Dan Santat.

There are numerous other acceptance speeches worth reading as well, including Donald Crews' speech on winning the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, given for "substantial and lasting contributions to literature for children." I've been a fan of Crews' books since my children, now in their 20's were small, and in fact, I learned the word "trestle" -- and well as the names of various kinds of train cars -- from his iconic book Freight Train.

2015 Wilder Medal chair Karen Nelson Hoyle
shows the medal while winner Donald Crews greets fans.
There were other award celebrations I couldn't attend, unfortunately, because of committee or other commitments. These included the Coretta Scott King Awards breakfast, where my friend and mentor Deb Taylor was given the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. Some of the other award acceptance speeches can be found here -- all are worth reading by anyone interested in children's books.

The last award celebration I attended at this year's conference was for the Odyssey Award, given to the best audiobooks for children and teens. This year's winner was Live Oak Media for H.O.R.S.E.,  written by Christopher Myers, and narrated by him and Dion Graham. As usual at the Odyssey celebration, the winners read "live," and since Myers' book is a picture book, he and Graham were able to read the whole thing. It's always a thrill to watch audiobook readers perform in person, and this particular performance was especially dynamic. It was a great way to end another inspiring ALA annual conference!

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