Yeah, this week is party week, baby! First I recap a Robert Forbes party alongside Cynthia von Buhler’s event of the year. Now I turn my attention to a party beneath a bridge. The 59th Street Bridge, if you’re going to be technical about it. Picture, if you will, a glassed enclosure nestled sweetly beneath one of the city’s smaller bridges. The place was Guastavino’s and the event The Eric Carle Honors of 2010.
You see, each year my favorite Museum (The Eric Carle Museum) honors folks in the children’s literary community that have made a contribution in some manner. These honors are split into four parts. You have your “Bridge”, your “Mentor”, your “Angel” and your “Artist”. More on those later.
On this particular day I was flying in from Chicago, desperately hoping to get an early flight so that I’d make it to the Honors on time. In point of fact I did finagle a flight and even managed to get home, dress up, and run hell-for-leather in the direction of the subway with enough time. That doesn’t mean I didn’t walk limping and dripping sweat into the restaurant. But I was a limping, sweaty, ON TIME individual and really, isn’t that what truly matters?
The party was hopping by the time I arrived anyway. Lots of tiny food and, as readers all know, tiny food = excellent party. Particularly when that tiny food involves prosciutto in some way. Prosciutto is the cupcake of the meat world. It’s like salty meat-flavored gum. Delicious.
Each Carle Honor event tends to auction off original art by the luminaries in the children’s literary field. I do not usually participate since auctions suggest disposable income and children’s librarianship suggests nothing of the sort. Still, it’s a lot of fun to look and see what other folks are bidding on. As I circled (and stared with great longing at my personal favorite, an Art Spiegelman work shown here) I thought about original art and where it belongs. It has occurred to me that if I were an artist, a big time children’s illustrator of some sort, and I wanted to donate my life’s work to someone, I would probably want to give it to an organization like The Carle. Giving my work to a big library or museum is all well and good, but I’d prefer to hand it over to a group that cares entirely about children’s art for the good of the whole and not as a side venture.
These thoughts swam in my head in part because I learned that night that on October 15th (tomorrow!) in the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, they will be auctioning off almost all the original art from Charlotte’s Web. By rights, such art should belong to The Carle, where they could preserve it and take care of it and eventually display it in the proper fashion. Yet The Carle cannot afford to pay the kind of money it would take to win the original cover art (plus 44 of the 46 interior illustrations). So I harbor a crazy dream that the eventual winner will just donate the winnings to The Carle anyway. Hey! Stranger things have happened.
Back to the Honors event.
In time we were ushered upstairs by earnest staff members of Guastavino’s who didn’t want to be pushy but really wanted you upstairs, please. The next part of the evening was set up in a very orderly manner. Several presenters had been tapped to introduce one honoree or another. In this way, scholar Leonard Marcus introduced Nancy Schon, author/illustrator Pat Cummings introduced Stephen Mooser & Lin Oliver, Elizabeth Pochoda (editor of The Magazine Antiques) introduced the Daniels, and Chris Van Allsburg (squee!) introduced David Macaulay.
It seems a little perfect that the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carle is named “Christopher Milne”. I know he’s no relation to “Christopher Robin Milne” of Pooh fame, but to my mind it’s close enough to count. Mr. Milne, Alexandra Kennedy (the Executive Director) and Eric Carle himself started everything off. Then up trotted Mr. Marcus.
Does the name Nancy Schon ring a few bells in that luscious brain of yours? Then allow me to play the visual card instead. What do the following have in common:
If you said they were all made of bronze you’d admittedly be correct, but you would not win a cookie. If, however, you instead said that they were all children’s literary characters created by a single pair of hands (the hands visible in the last picture or so) you would get a cookie after all (do you prefer chocolate chip or butter pecan?). Nancy Schon is probably the best known sculptor of public art based on children’s book characters in this fair nation. How clever of The Carle to think to honor her. One can only pray that someday a big, beautiful bronze caterpillar will grace their own walkways.
After Ms. Schon spoke a little up went Ms. Pat Cummings. I had the pleasure of hosting Ms. Cummings in my library this month as part of a Children’s Literary Salon and if I have any advice regarding whether or not to see her speak when you have a chance, it is this: Do. With a finger in every pie imaginable, from The Carle to The Author’s Guild to SCBWI, Ms. Cummings was indeed the perfect person to introduce Mooser and Oliver.
Now here’s where it gets depressing. Apparently Mooser and Lin started the organization now known as SCBWI (previously known as just SCBW since illustrators didn’t join until the 90s) when they were a mere twenty-one years of age. Ye gods. I think when I was twenty-one I was traipsing about Portland, Oregon trying to “find myself”. I should have been building nations! By now there are 45,000 members and the organization is 40 some odd years old. When Mooser and Lin started off they wanted support from the established authors. So they sent ten letters to ten people (folks like E.B. White n’ such) and received TEN handwritten replies back. “We are an incredibly lovable group”. Indeed!
After Lin and Stephen accepted their awards, up went Elizabeth Pochoda. Beside me, at least one person in the audience murmured that they were going to jump that woman, at some point, for her scarf. Kendra and Allan Daniel, the “Angel” folks, are art collectors who (according to the literature I hold before me now) “have contributed exceptional works to The Carle’s permanent collection”. Pochoda said of the first time she spotted them, “They stood out in a crowd of hurried and not particularly well-dressed people.” So there you go.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for. The moment when Chris Van Allsburg advanced upon the podium. Coming Spring 2011, Mr. Van Allsburg has a remarkable biography coming out of Annie Edson Taylor, the first person to ever go over Niagara Falls (and she was a sixty-two-year-old widow at that!). Expect that story (Queen of the Falls) to get a bit of buzz. Tonight, however, dapper in his yellow silk tie, Van Allsburg was shining the spotlight squarely on David Macaulay. Recounting his past triumphs (how Cathedral, Macaulay’s first book, “employed a dynamic and slightly askew perspective) we were told that when David left RISD he worked for a design firm. It was during this time that the great Walter Lorraine encouraged David to do more with that cathedral book of his. He did. He did more than that. And we honored him this day.
You know, it’s always nice when the folks you honor are alive and eager to speak themselves. Stepping up to the podium, Mr. Macaulay remarked how amazing it was to be in a restaurant under this particular bridge. Affectionately dubbing us “my fellow trolls”, he protested receiving this award, pointing out that “this shouldn’t be given to the person whose job is already the best in the world.” He was charming. Folks applauded. Best of all, Mr. Macaulay assured everyone that next semester he will teach another semester at RISD (something he hasn’t done in five years).
After that all that was left was the raffle. As my eyes slowly moved to the left I became aware that the folks sitting next to me looked a heckuva lot like Leo and Diane Dillon. These suspicions were confirmed when Diane proceeded to win Raffle #1. Then came Raffle #2 (more cool art) and Raffle #3 (where Eric Carle himself will make an original piece of art out of your name just for you). The kicker about Raffle #3 is that the guy who won it was the SAME GUY who won it the previous year! Before any feathers could become too ruffled, however, we were assured that the guy was a peach and last year he had the art made for his local library. And the masses say, “awwwww.”
All in all, a delightful evening. I had a splendid time. A tip of the hat to The Carle for allowing me to attend and to everyone who was there.