As fancy pants award ceremonies for works of children’s literature go, I’m certain that there are plenty to choose from. Two in particular stand out time and time again. On the one hand you have the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet. Longstanding, stately, a respectable tribute to the greatest picture books and texts written for children, the ceremony is couched in a kind of deep and abiding majesty and sense of purpose (tattoos of the winners aside). In contrast the CBC’s Children’s Book Choice Awards Gala is a mere five years old. It’s a charity gala that brings together the biggest names in books for kids and teens and its particular ceremony is as likely to have former National Ambassadors appearing in drag as it is plentiful platefuls of really tiny food. Put another way, the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet has speeches that are likely to make folks cry while the CBC Awards Gala has that too, but may also throw in the odd Snooki reference. Put another another way, the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet is what you get when adults choose the books and the CBC Gala is what happens when kids finally get to have a say.
Rocco Staino of SLJ had a clever notion this year. Why not do a red carpet interview session along the lines of the Oscars or Jim Averbeck’s annual red carpet analysis of the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet? By George it was just so crazy it just might work! I agreed but I wanted us to be known and Rocco and The Bird. This name may prove useful someday. So it was that I drew from the mothballs the old Newbery 2006 “red” dress I had such a devil of a time finding back in the day (in fact I’ve just unearthed an old blog post where I asked folks if I could wear their dresses . . . what the heck happened with that plan, I wonder?). It’s a coral silk dress that looks nice enough for more than one event, and I figured that if anyone recognized it from 2007 they’d simply be sharp-eyed spotters (one person did recognize it, as it happens, but in a nice way). Then I chopped my hair down to a short bob and had it blown out for the night. I referred to it as my Gremlin hair. Basically if it got wet or it was after midnight it would go crazy (technically I should have called it my Gizmo hair but would anyone have gotten the reference?). Then it was off to a fancy space called Espace (heh) where the Gala was already in full swing.
The plan was simple. Rocco and I would station ourselves somewhere, the beautiful Chelsey Philpot would operate the camera, our faithful minions would fetch us folks to be interviewed, and all would be well. Of course, Chelsey was working with a broken collarbone and an arm in a sling. Then there was the question of lighting. Some spots were well lit but right smack dab in the flow of traffic. Others seemed ideal lighting-wise until we realized that the lights were operating on a strange moody system that could instantly and inexplicably go green, lending the person you were speaking to a sudden Shrek-like appearance. As for minions, we had none. Well, I had my husband but he couldn’t very well ask folks to come over to us if he didn’t know them.
Fortunately, all turned out well in the end. Ms. Philpot operated the camera one-handed. We found a little well-lit bookcase with all the nominated titles (the one in the picture up above). And Susannah Richards, who is always a delight anyway, became even more infinitely useful by tracking down the big names, slinging a lasso around their necks and bringing them to us. Only one or two were able to resist her siren call. In their stead we got everyone from Walter Dean Myers and David Wiesner to Jon Scieszka and Chris Raschka.
The full interviews may be seen here.
A couple notes:
- I’m mugging partly because that’s what I do and it’s hard to stop and partly because I am trying to imitate award show ladies. That’s my excuse anyway.
- As you can see, the early interview with Walter Dean Myers was done in Location #1. Then folks kept walking through. And tripping on our cords. Second point: Mr. Myers is very very tall.
- Jack Gantos truly is the snappiest dresser in the world. He’s not kidding when he’s listing all those designers. He really was wearing them all.
- I feel awful about not naming Jon Scieszka’s wife Jeri Hansen. I am a boob. Rocco, not a boob, does what I should have done. Doesn’t stop me from being a boob though.
- I was torn on whether or not to tease Jarrett about his bow-tie by asking if he had mugged Roger Sutton for it or Tim Travaglini. Since Tim turned out to be at the gala, I would have gone with Roger.
- Doesn’t Henry Cole have pretty much the sexiest voice of the evening? He’s like the James Earl Jones of book illustration.
- Don’t believe Jeff Kinney. My money STILL says that the next Wimpy Kid book will be pink. No matter what he says. Right Chad? Right?
- I thought about bringing up with Mr. Weisner the awesome fact that early in his career he created E.T. sequel art. I abstained, but in case you wonder what that poster we were talking about looks like, here it is:
- I don’t know sports. That’s my excuse for when we were packing up and Rocco said, “Oh, look. There’s Justin Tuck. Should we talk to him?” I said “Nah.” Turns out he’s apparently pretty famous. And not for that celebrity picture book of his.
So that was fun. Then we had some brief mingling and in the course of my adventures I ran across Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg. Really nice folks. Always love seeing them. I swear upon a stack of Bibles that I didn’t go over to talk to them because of who they happened to be speaking to at the time. For you see, I have been a Hark, A Vagrant fan for years and years. Often I have posted images from the site here, whether we’re talking about her hilarious Nancy Drew covers or just good old-fashioned crazy history. And there she was before mine eyes. Kate Beaton. What’s that? Did I make a fool of myself? Oh, honey. Do you even have to ask? By the way, she appears to be entirely up for doing a children’s book. *shoots a very long and meaningful glance at Neal Porter* Seriously, Neal. Ask Mark Siegel about her. He’ll back me up on this.
Moving on, ceremony time! The cool thing is that the whole thing was taped and edited that very night so that the next days kids in schools around the country could tune in and watch the announcements of the winners for themselves! You can too if you go to this site. If you watch nothing else, check out this opening video at the start.
So good I may just have to repost it this Sunday. I was pleased to spot the Lisa Yee cameo when it ran but missed Jeanne Birdsall. Dan Santat was a nice inclusion but, as always, it just makes you want more Santat. And that Jeff Mack guy is great. A toothpick! Genius! Oh, and I searched Jarrett’s videos for that “Scieszka is STINKY” video. No dice. The only Scieszka I could find was the one where Jarrett dressed up like Michael Jackson.
And here are all the winners’ videos! If you’d like to have a viewing party, you are all set.
As you can see, Jeff Kinney finally won Author of the Year Award at long last. They say five’s the charm. Be sure to keep an eye peeled for Jarrett’s story about when he was a kid and got a class visit from Jack Gantos. Gary Schmidt pretty much made us all cry with that thank you to his wife (also inadvertently providing a good callback for the rest of the evening . . . well played, Brian Selznick and Justin Tuck). Also, the aforementioned Kate Beaton did a drawing to go along with Justin Tuck. I like this pairing:
Finally, if you’d like to see some fancy pants photos of the event, the full SLJ Flickr range is here.
Thanks to the CBC for a lovely event. Thanks to Rocco and SLJ for the interview idea. And thanks to Jon Scieszka for letting my hubby attend as well. Wonderful wonderful most wonderful all.