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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

My Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder experiences

Betsy Bird promptly posted lots of fun stuff about her Newbery Banquet experience and I just wanted to share a little bit of mine. Here is a photo of Betsy and her tattoos while she is trying to chat with Margarita Engle. I am such a fan of The Surrender Tree and her newest book Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba. I think I was too nervous to convey how much I appreciate her verse.

Remember that Executive Board role I mentioned in the previous post? Well, one special advantage is that we visit with the honorees before the banquet at a special reception. So, while thousands of people had to wait in line in the exhibit hall to see Neil Gaiman, I had a few moments "alone" in a crowd of a hundred people. Aha! Now you can see the true "perks" of being on the executive board – you have more meetings to attend with authors and illustrators. All of you youth librarians and school librarians start serving on council so you can get elected to exec. board.

Jacqueline Woodson (Newbery Honor recipient for After Tupac and D Foster) is one of the most enthusiastic people. She is so friendly and actually raced over and leaped up onto the stage to take her honor. She was very gracious about having her picture taken during this "relaxing" reception and it Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodsongave me a chance to chat about her books. I still love Our Gracie Aunt, Show Way, and The Other Side from my elementary school collection. Now I am building up my middle school collection including Peace Locomotion, Feathers, Locomotion, and the Maizon books. Oh, yes, and don’t forget all her Young Adult books we are adding. I love being a librarian.

Melissa Sweet does not have many photos of herself on her blog so I consider myself fortunate to have snapped this one while she was greeting 1200 friends at the banquet. Caldecott Honor recipient for illustrating the incredible book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 

You may have heard that Ashley Bryan stole the show with his performance. He is truly amazing at 86 years and I wonder what miraculous work is still forthcoming. Betsy, you may have had the handshake with Ashley Bryan, but I got the kiss on the cheek. He was brimming with life and enthusiasm and it was contagious. Readers, if you ever have Ashley Bryan speaking near you, RUSH there and grab a seat. In the meantime, you can view this Library of Congress webcast of Ashley Bryan. We need more poetry in our lives and I applaud the Laura Ingalls Wilder committee for their choice of "an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."

It was time for the banquet so 1200 or so of us stagger into a room. I had a reserved seat and was able to greet the dignitaries at my table in a direct line with the podium. There are so many tables at this banquet that are purchased by vendors. It makes it easier for them to know where they are sitting, but harder for the "general attendee." Still, can you imagine planning this event’s seating? 

I met an interesting bunch at my table including Bob Sibert and his daughter Laura. I watched Laura and thought about how long I had waited for a seat at the Newbery banquet. New Orleans was my first banquet where I had a ticket for the dinner. Before that, I always slipped in with friends to join the crowds along the walls waiting for the speeches. I can remember so many of those speeches in part because of my aching feet. A little work made them even more precious. I wonder how many hundreds slip in just to hear the speeches? With tickets at $94 each, attending the banquet is an event!

Also at our table were the two chairs of the Local Arrangements for ALSC – Shiloh and Portia. (I do have everyone’s last names and job titles written down, but they are in boxes being shipped to my house) Thanks for all the hard work, ladies. 

Last, but not least at my table were Pat Connelly, the man behind the medal seals, and his lovely wife Maureen. I jotted down stories about their new pug. I think that dog will be famous someday. 

While I agree with Betsy on the food being unnecessarily mysterious, I did enjoy the company. Everyone looks so elegant and are so happy to be in the same room with these honorees. I must admit that I’m jealous of my conference roommate Allison because Richard Peck was at her table. I missed him throughout the entire conference. 

This banquet is listed as beginning at 6 (with cash-bar cocktails in the lobby), doors opening at 6:45 and the banquet being served. Speeches begin at 8:45 and there is usually time for people to roam the tables before the speeches and greet others. Since my zipper had detached from the back of my dress right before the banquet, I avoided walking around. I had a jacket to cover it and Allison pinned it for the evening. Next year I’ll have the hotel sewing kit ready for last minute stresses. While I was sitting, I could wrap the jacket around the part with the zipper and enjoy the company. I guess sometimes you learn to laugh off wardrobe malfunctions and just continue enjoying life. Bet no one else knew but Allison and me. 

The banquet ends at 11 when the last of the guests has crawled through the receiving line. The poor honorees and their publishers stand shaking all those hands and accepting our enthusiastic praise for their work. Who cares if we weren’t sure whether the cone was potato or not? We were in the company of greatness. 

You can check out some of my other ALA Conference photos before I get them placed on the blog by viewing my Flickr photostream.