I know, you’ve all been waiting with baited breath for this. I’m sorry I don’t have pics – I did snap a few with my cute new camera phone, but since I was trying to be surreptitious, and it is only a camera phone, I only have a handful of very small fuzzy indistinct images of people milling around drinking wine, some of whom may be famous authors and illustrators but you can’t really tell. Anyway, you’ll be glad to hear that I was able to avoid any awkward, tearful confrontations with Kate DiCamillo, and that I DID NOT EMBARRASS MYSELF IN FRONT OF ROGER SUTTON.
I did, however, manage to embarrass myself in front of James E. Ransome and Jarrett J. Krosoczka; possibly also in front of Taylor Morrison, Lois Ehlert, and Robin Smith (one of the judges/presenters), and only narrowly escaped embarassing myself in front of M.T. Anderson. Oh, and I discovered that my friends and colleagues are not so much friends-and-colleagues as they are ENABLERS.
So, Jill, Kate and I decided to brave the notoriously evil Boston traffic and drive, rather than take the T like our sensible colleague Julie (not the other half of Team 7ITBB, a different one). Jill, Kate and Julie all looked lovely, by the way. I definitely still have my Kim Gordon/Stevie Nicks problem. But whatever. Jill’s claims that she is an excellent parallel-parker turned out to be true; she was even able to whip her blue Beetle in a u-turn across a busy, narrow 2-lane downtown Boston street to snag a ridiculously close spot. We actually beat Julie by 20 minutes. On the way in I explained my wine/cheese problem and asked both of them to watch my back. Jill was present for the PLA reception at the BPL that I already mentioned, and needed little explanation. Both agreed to help me NOT EMBARRASS MYSELF IN FRONT OF ROGER.
5:05 p.m.: Inside the Athenaeum, we got stalled in the coat check/name tag/swag area. While we got our bearings, who should I see directly in front of us? Ms. DiCamillo, looking quite pretty in a long sleeveless teal-ish dress and deep in conversation with someone else. I got very interested in my swag folder until the coast was clear.
We made it to the ceremony room (I think it’s usually a reading room), claimed a row of rock-star seats directly behind the “Reserved” area (where all the Honor recipients were sitting) and then went exploring. We ran into Emma, a fellow library-school student that Jill knows who works in the unspeakably gorgeous Children’s Library at the Athenaeum, and got a little tour. Oh, I can’t even tell you – the Preschool Room is tiny, and it has big windows that overlook what I think is the Old Granary Burying Ground, and it has really lovely dark wood shelves and an antique-y looking brass light fixture in the shape of the solar system. And the Young Readers’ Room has big leather chairs in front of another cemetery-facing window, and even more dark wooden shelves, and framed portraits of – former librarians? donors? famous Boston people? – on the walls. I had a hard time picturing kids being allowed to run around there, but I sure wouldn’t mind getting paid to hang out in that room every day.
We made our way back to the holding area, and at Roger’s signal (shout, actually) we filed in to the ceremony room and took our seats. I started looking through my swag folder, and discovered – oh, goodie – a set of Edward Tulane postcards. Just a few seconds before the ceremony started, I happened to glance up at the balcony behind us – and saw M.T. Anderson sitting all on his own, VIP-style, except for a pretty blondish woman. I’m sure she was just his sister.
5:30 p.m.: So then, the speeches. After the Atheneum trustee and Roger did their introductory things, each of the three judges for this year’s awards introduced the honors and winners in each category. I won’t go into a lot of detail here, because – yikes – this is already way too long, and the Hornbook always posts mp3s of the speeches anyway. First up was Margaret Bush (who happens to teach in our MLIS program), introducing the Picture Book winners. Jeanette Winter was teeny-tiny and tried to keep her speech “as brief as the text” of her Honor-winning book, Mama. For Sky Boys, James E. Ransome, with a very big smile, thanked the committee for their “wise decision,” and his wife. Then Maggie went up to the podium and started to introduce Lois Ehlert (oops), but Roger stopped her to let Deborah Hopkinson give her speech (she said she’d been waiting for her cue). She said that the idea for Sky Boys came five years ago at a book festival: she asked James Ransome what he wanted to paint next, and he said “The Empire State Building.” And then came the winner, Lois Ehlert (I finally know how to pronounce her last name – AY-lert!). I had never seen a picture of her before, but I had figured out who she was by the awesome sweater/poncho she was wearing – it was in varying shades of red, and reminded me of the vivid colors she uses in her art. She talked about how she has always loved gathering leaves, and when she started working on Leaf Man, and told people about it, friends and family started sending her leaves in the mail from all over the country. She described a few of the leaves used in her book, telling who sent each leaf, what kind of tree it was, and where it was used in the illustrations.
Wow, writing this is taking longer than the actual ceremony. I’ll have to tell you the rest tomorrow.