Today, if I am not too much mistaken, Eric Carle will be stopping by my library to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This is happening in conjunction with the Jumpstart: Read for the Record campaign. We’ll be doing all sorts of things in my library today, though the one I’m the most excited about involved a man-sized Very Hungry Caterpillar costume. I want to see if he walks on his two hind feet in an unnatural fashion or if he does an actual caterpillar-esque crawl on his belly. Whatever they decide to do, it should be mildly terrifying. Pictures to come!
In the midst of all this, however, it seems a bit unfair that I wrote so much about our recent Pooh release, but not so much as a word about the Eric Carle Museum Honors I attended a week or so ago. My, but that was a fun party. You see, every year the Eric Carle Museum honors some various geniuses in the children’s literary field on a variety of topics. The categories of honorees include Artist, Angel, Mentor, and Bridge. This year the folks being honored were:
Artist: Alice Provensen
Angel: Kyle Zimmer
Mentor: Walter Lorraine
Bridge: Blouke and Marianne Carus
I went up to the roof trying to feel spiffy, wondering whom I would talk to, and where they were hiding the bar. Once there I spotted Lisa Von Drasek speaking with some folks and smiled a hello. She waved me over and said to a nice older gentleman beside her, "This is Betsy Bird! She works for New York Public Library" or something along those lines. I smiled politely, he smiled politely, and both of us were mildly puzzled by Lisa saying, "Betsy! Get your camera!" I excused myself then, having spotted the bar that was hiding behind Mo Willems and his posse.
This what you call "foreshadowing".
On the roof, it was lovely. Lots of publishing types and, for a change, a nice smattering of librarians as well. Though, as one librarian confessed to me, "When all the publishers get together at one time, I have a hard time telling them apart!" Yup. It happens.
Then it was time for dinner, so we trooped down the stairs and took our seats. As the seats were not assigned I latched onto the librarian table, which contained a couple fine pubs like Jean Feiwel for spice. Around the room there were some lovely pieces of art participating in a silent auction. I drooled enviously over them, perhaps hoping that my drool would lower them in price. No such luck.
Then came the speeches. As they began I heard that Eric Carle was present that night. Eric Carle! Fancy that. Now imaging roughly five minutes ticking away. This is what my thought process looked like:
Minute one: Eric Carle is here! Fancy that.
Minute two: What’s the brown stuff they’re calling desert? Cause it ain’t chocolate and if it ain’t chocolate why is it brown and on my dessert plate? Good god… that’s not tofu is it?
Minute three: Stupid digital camera with its stupid tiny zoom… oh, wait. That’s how it works.
Minute four: Something… something important is occurring to me…
Minute five: Did I meet Eric Carle on the roof earlier tonight?
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Such is the enviable speed with which the human brain works when in a fancy dress situation. I started replaying that scene on the roof with Lisa Von Drasek and, yes, evidence began to suggest that the nice older gentleman I’d shaken hands with that evening had been Eric Carle. Boy howdy, he must’ve thought I was the most blase been-there-seen-that children’s librarian on the face of the planet, with my polite smile and vague curiosity.
As I sat in mild shock I watched as the following folks stood up to speak.
Leonard Marcus was one of the first.
Joan Allen, the actress, presented an award to Kyle Zimmer. Not sure why.
Ms. Zimmer herself spoke. If her name seems familiar at all to you, that would be because she is the co-founder of First Book.
David Wiesner, presented the award to Marianne Carus. Marianne Carus who, doncha know, created Cricket Magazine with her husband Blouke.
Susan Meddaugh presented an award to Walter Lorraine. Since Walter Lorraine was unable to accept the award at this time, a drawn image of Walter was created by Ms. Meddaugh as a kind of stand-in.
Paul Zelinsky presented an award to Alice Provensen. Alice Provensen in the flesh accepted (Cece and Sam, I thought of you guys).
All the speeches were good, of course. And I was particularly drawn to something Mr. Zelinsky said about how powerful images can be to children. "When you’re little, your sense of things is heightened." He was explaining the power of a page turn in Ms. Provensen’s The Color Kittens, which was a Little Golden Book I was unfamiliar with.
As for Ms. Provensen herself, she had flown in from California the night before. "I must say, I miss New York." That got a big cheer, it did.
Then it was food and mingling for all. And, of course, an enormous Very Hungry Caterpillar cake on display.
Alas, we were not allowed to eat it. Don’t think I didn’t try. So I left with my goodie bag at the end of the night to find myself sharing an elevator with none other than Jerry Pinkney and his wife. All in all, a very nice time was had by one and all.
Rocco Staino provides his own recap of the event here. A big thank you to the very kind folks at The Eric Carle Museum for inviting me out. Couldn’t have been nicer.