Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The 2018 Caldecott, Newbery, and Legacy Award Speeches

One of the highlights of attending the American Library Association's Annual Conference was attending their Caldecott, Newbery, and Legacy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, and getting to hear the acceptance speeches from the winners.

Here, some notes and impressions:

The Caldecott Medal went to...

“Wolf in the Snow,” illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell, and published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan. As the ALA Caldecott page describes it,

"In this spare, nearly wordless picture book, a girl and a wolf cub each get lost in the snow and rescue each other. Cordell uses pen and ink and watercolor wash to capture the frenzied snowfall and the brave girl’s frantic, frightful journey. Fairy tale elements and a strong sense of color and geometry offer an engrossing, emotionally charged story.

“HOOOOOWWLLLL!!” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Tish Wilson. “Committee members were astonished that a deceptively simple book could be such a dramatic story of survival.”

Matthew shared how the mistrust humans have of wolves is based on stereotypes, and how his book helps us reflect not just on how people mistreat wolves because of what we wrongly believe, but on how people mistreat other people because of what we wrongly believe.

His speech was laugh-out-loud funny, and then there were bittersweet moments that made the audience (and Matthew himself) tear up. One of the most poignant was when he told an hysterical story of years ago wishing another book of his might win this very same award, how he set his intention, and then how it didn't happen... and now, it had.

Peppered with lots of standing ovations and applause, it was a great moment to witness.

The Newbery Medal was awarded to...

"Hello, Universe", written by Erin Entrada Kelly, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. As the ALA Newbery page describes it:
Filipino folklore and real life converge at the bottom of a well. Even while following signs and portents, the characters are the definition of creative agency. Masterfully told through shifting points of view, this modern quest tale shimmers with humor and authentic emotion.

“This reading community celebrates the panoply of American literature for children published in 2017. We are delighted to share our selections with the world,” said Newbery Medal Committee Chair Cecilia P. McGowan.
Erin's speech was funny, and so heartfelt. She shared growing up the only Filipino student in her class, her grade, her school. On how she felt so alone. And on how books helped her escape. How she has always been a writer.

And then, she said this, and it resonated so strongly for me:

"My greatest wish as a writer... is that the person reading my book feels less alone." 

I found myself nodding so hard. Yes! It was a beautiful, powerful moment of connection for everyone there, and we all leapt to our feet to give Erin Entrada Kelly a standing ovation.

And then, the newly named Children's Literature Legacy Award.

(From the ALA website: "At its meeting on Saturday, June 23, 2018, the Association for Library Service to Children Board voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children's Literature Legacy Award. This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness." You can read more about this here.)

This year's winner of the Legacy Award is Jacqueline Woodson.

As the ALA Legacy Award page put it,

 If children’s literature today addresses themes of racism, sexuality, and class; if previously invisible characters have come to the fore; if different voices are now heard; if more children see themselves and others in books, look to Jacqueline Woodson as a prime-mover. For over 25 years, in elegant poetry and prose, she has courageously explored issues once ignored and nurtured her readers’ self-esteem and empathy.

Jacqueline's speech opened with a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, and then proceeded like the best kind of poem - words full of meaning, and power, taking us through a landscape of injustice all around us, and yet, through some navigational magic, letting us off at a place of hope.

How what we write is "the deepest essence of ourselves, translated into characters and plot..." and all the elements that make a story.

And that, for we creators of stories for children and teens,
"It is the work for people to feel safe and seen in this world."
Another standing ovation, just as wonderful, and yet distinct from the previous ones of the evening.

One of the evening's many standing ovations!

I feel so fortunate to have been there for all that magic.

Illustrate and Write On,

p.s.: The full acceptance speeches are in the current issue of The Horn Book Magazine. (Though the speech Jacqueline Woodson gave was revised the afternoon she gave it, so there will be some differences.)

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