2015 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet: Complete Banquet

It is my pleasure to be here this evening. To be with my friends and colleagues, at the
2015 Newbery Caldecott Wilder Celebration Banquet! (applause) I’m Ellen Riordan, president
of the Association for Library Service to Children. And it is my great delight to host this evening! Is there anywhere any of us would rather be
tonight? I don’t think so! Dinner is coming, but first may I introduce
our ALA President, Courtney Young. Amid many duties and initiatives, Courtney
has continued her work with the special presidential task force on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Let’s please welcome Courtney Young. (Applause). Courtney:
It is my pleasure to be here this evening to honor the recipients of these prestigious
book awards. Children’s books are awesome. (Applause). They introduce us to new people, creatures,
places, and things. They are often colorful. And they always teach us something. In many ways children’s books that have
brought me to where I am today. Complemented by the stories my father would
make up and tell me, books and the power of reading opened up so many worlds for me while
empowering me to better interact with my own world. They were a source of consistency for a young
girl whose military family roots meant she was frequently uprooted during the first eighteen
years of her life. That family, which included my Army colonel
father who grew up in a segregated Memphis, Tennessee, and my teacher mother, did its
very best to provide me with as many diverse books as possible, and that meant spending
a lot of time in the public and school library. Sometimes this meant exploring materials well
beyond my reading level, and my longing for these stories written “for a kid like me”. While there is still far to go, we have made
some progress in the area of mainstream diverse books for children. Many of the honor books and winners revealed
during the Youth Media Awards in January reflect that. Those selections are a breath of fresh air
for so many of us. As children construct their world and construct
their understanding of the world through books it is essential that diverse books be written,
published, made available, recognized, highlighted and embraced. (Applause). The work of various affiliates and units of
the American Library Association including the Association for Library Services to Children,
the “We need diverse books” movement, and the selection committees (applause) for
these prestigious awards are doing important work to place a spotlight on diverse literature
for children. ALSC’s white paper “The Importance of
Diversity in Library Programs and Material Collections for Children” notes, and I quote,
“Diverse, culturally authentic materials in library collections allow all children
to meet the people like themselves and develop an appreciation for the beauty of their culture
and the culture of others.” Let us continue to feature diverse literature
with positive images of girls, racial and ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities,
same sex families, …librarians. (Applause). We all win when the literature available for
children (and honestly all of us) is as diverse as the planet we live on. Communities where diversity isn't visible,
these materials are needed just as much as those with a rich mixture of people. After all, libraries collections are not only
a rich source of diversity but also places where difference is welcomed. Again, it is my honor and deep privilege to
celebrate with you these amazing works. Thank you. (Applause). Ellen:
Thank you, Courtney, for taking time out of your busy schedule (and she does have one,
I know). We are delighted that you will be able to
spend the duration of the evening with us (which is unusual for presidents)! (Applause). And she really took time to read our white
paper on diversity. It’s really wonderful to have that kind
of support. Please take time to enjoy the PowerPoint presentation
that recognizes the many supporters of ALSC. A complete list of individuals and corporate
donors will appear, and I hope that you will extend a personal thank you for their support
of the Association this evening. I do want to also mention, that there is a
cash bar located stage left, to the front, right there. He’s waving, so you can see him. Always an important element in an evening
like this. The program will reconvene after dinner at
approx. 8:30 p.m. Thank you. I would like to start with introducing two
important groups of people, whose work this year has made ALSC the strong organization
that it is. My hard-working, dedicated friends and colleagues
on the 2014-2015 ALSC Board of Directors, and the ALSC staff that supports the Board
and members in all our activities. We truly appreciate what you do. (Applause). They are terrific. I love that so many people have come together
tonight. Among them are past presidents of our Association,
publishers, editors, authors, illustrators, and vendors who are our partners, supporters
and friends. Thank you for being here and for your dedication,
work and friendship to ALSC. You make us what we are. (Applause). ALSC appreciates the support and collaborative
spirit we share with ALA, our sister youth divisions, AASL and YALSA, and ALA affiliate
REFORMA. We thank you for the work that you do to advance
our common cause – excellent library service to children and teens. (Applause). ALA Annual Conference programs and events
run so well due to the assistance of our dedicated Local Arrangements volunteers. They were fabulous this time. Let’s have a big hand for them. Thank you so much! And please join me in thanking Little, Brown
Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc for the creation of tonight’s
amazing, gorgeous, and adorable print program. Weston Woods Studios, a division of Scholastic,
has continued its tradition of producing an audio souvenir of tonight’s speeches. We are truly grateful for your generosity. This is also an opportunity to acknowledge
other generous donors, many of whom are with us tonight….the official Friends of ALSC,
and our colleagues in publishing and the corporate world who support the Association through
scholarships, grants, and funding for the book and media awards and other literacy projects. ALSC would especially like to thank Bob Sibert
and Bound to Stay Bound Books for their sponsorship of the awards breakfast tomorrow morning. Also, a warm thank you to Eerdmans Books for
Young Readers, HarperCollins Children's Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Macmillan Children’s
Publishing Group for their donations in honor of their recipients tonight to the Frederic
G. Melcher Scholarship, which encourages the professional development and engagement of
future librarians in service to children. (Applause). Please join us tomorrow morning for the ALSC
Awards Ceremony and the ALSC membership meeting as we honor the recipients of these awards,
grants and programs. And finally, we want to thank the wise and
wonderful Judy Zuckerman for her thoughtful and considerate responses to every question
and concern as Priority Group Consultant for all the award committees. (Applause). It is an amazing amount of work. Thank you so much! It is now my distinct pleasure to introduce
Junko Yokota, Chair of the 2015 Randolph Caldecott Award Selection Committee. Junko. (Applause). Junko:
We are fortunate to be surrounded by an abundance of excellence in picture books that stir our
imaginations, our hearts, and our minds. We are inspired, we feel empathy, and we are
stirred in ways we hadn’t known were possible – until we hold books in our hands that
reach our innermost consciousness and develop broad and deep perceptions of ourselves and
of our worlds. This room is filled with people dedicated
to creating such opportunities for young readers. Each of us, in our varied capacities, plays
a critical role in engaging readers with meaningful picture books. As chair of the 2015 Committee, I had the
pleasure of working with colleagues, who work with diligence and dedication to meet the
charge of selecting exceptional picture books. Committee members, please stand when I call
your name and audience, please hold your applause until they are all standing: Lucia Acosta, Tali Balas Kaplan, Bradley Debrick,
Alison Ernst, Adrienne Furness, Jonathan Hunt, Rebecca Jackman, Roger Kelly, Barbara Klipper,
Susan Kusel, Amy Lilien-Harper, Sharon McKellar, Shilo Pearson, Angela Reynolds. On behalf of our committee, I thank the entire
ALSC membership, for the privilege we were given to serve this past year. We were honored to be elected or appointed
to represent the membership. We are mindful of this responsibility throughout
our year and we sincerely appreciate to immerse ourselves in the books we were given and call
it our duty to read them so carefully. Thank you to all of ALSC! (Applause). The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded annually
to the illustrator of the most distinguished picture book for children published in the
United States in the preceding year. The 2015 Caldecott Committee chose six Honor
books. In alphabetical order by title, they are:
Nana in the City (Applause). Written and Illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Published Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. Edited by Jennifer B. Green and designed by
Kerry Martin. (Applause). Lauren Castillo’s evocative watercolor illustrations
tell the story of a young boy’s visit to his grandmother, and the reassuring way she
helps him to overcome his fear and experience the busy, loud city in a confident way. Nana in the City takes readers on a visual
journey depicting a story arc that rings true with emotional resonance. Lauren, please come forward and accept the
Caldecott Honor citation for Nana in the City. (Applause). The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds
of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Written by Barb Rosenstock Published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of
Random House Children’s Books. Edited by Allison Wortche and art directed
by Isabel Warren-Lynch. GrandPré’s paint flows across the page
in ethereal ribbons of color as she depicts how abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky experienced
colors as sounds and sounds as colors, and how he created work that was bold and groundbreaking
from his "noisy paint box.” Details in the illustrations contrast with
abstract emotional allusions to offer interpretations of the contexts faced by Kandinsky in his
development as a painter. Mary, please come forward and accept the Caldecott
Honor citation for The Noisy Paint Box. (Applause). The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (pause)
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet Written by Jen Bryant
Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, an imprint of William Eerdmans Publishing
Company. Art directed by Gayle Brown. Sweet’s inspired mixed media illustrations
illuminate the personality and work of a man passionately interested in many things. Her collages combine disparate elements to
create a cohesive whole, echoing the ways in which Roget ordered the world into lists
that evolved into his groundbreaking thesaurus. Melissa, please come forward and accept the
Caldecott Honor citation for The Right Word. (Applause). Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Illustrated by Jon Klassen Written by Mac Barnett
Published by Candlewick Books Edited by Liz Bicknell
Designed by Ann Stott Two boys set out to dig a hole to search for
something spectacular. Oblivious to what their dog senses and readers
are shown, visual humor privileges the reader to consider the story from a different dimension
and challenges us to ponder the meaning of finding what is “spectacular.” Jon, please come forward and accept the Caldecott
Honor citation for Sam & Dave Dig a Hole. (Applause). This One Summer
Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki Written by Mariko Tamaki (Applause). Published by First Second, an imprint of Roaring
Book Press, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. Edited by Mark Siegel and Art Directed by
Colleen AF Veneable Intricately detailed illustrations in shades
of indigo masterfully convey story in this graphic novel. Tamaki’s visual pacing and strong imagery
evoke a myriad of emotions and ground this poignant and painfully realistic coming-of-age
story. Jillian, please come forward and accept the
Caldecott Honor citation for This One Summer. (Applause). Viva Frida (Applause). Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Published by Neal Porter Books/ Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s
Publishing Group. Edited by Neal Porter and Designed by Jennifer
Browne Using a unique variety of media—puppet making,
printmaking, painting, and photography–combined with an intoxicating use of color and unfailing
sense of composition, Morales celebrates the artistic process. Yuyi, please come forward and accept the Caldecott
Honor citation for Viva Frida. (Applause). And now…the winner of the 2015 Randolph
Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book for children is: Dan Santat for The Adventures of Beekle: The
Unimaginary Friend. The book was written and illustrated by Dan
Santat and published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette
Book Group. Edited by Connie Hsu and Designed by David
Caplan In four delightful “visual chapters,”
Beekle, an imaginary friend, undergoes an adventurous journey looking for his human. Santat masterfully conveys the emotional essence
of a special childhood relationship with visual details that affirm concrete reality within
imaginative fantasy. In ‘The Adventures of Beekle,’ Santat
makes the unimaginable, imaginable. Dan Santat, please come forward to accept
the Randolph Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle. (Applause). Dan:
I get to start off this night. This lovely, capacious room. (Laughter). It’s wonderful. Last year, Kate DiCamillo’s speech was so
wonderful, none of us who ever watched that speech will ever forget the definition of
capacious. Um, first of all, I’d like to congratulate
my fellow Caldecott honorees. I know there was some debate about whether
having six honors was a big thing, but in my personal opinion, I feel, in a time when
school budgets are slashed, I encourage any means to promote the arts. Because the arts are always the first things
that get cut. (Applause). So with that said, I have some jokes. (Laughter). Let’s begin: I turn forty this year, and I’ve noticed
that I still don’t feel like an adult. I feel like a kid who is pretending to be
an adult. I look around, and suddenly I’ve ended up
with a beautiful wife, a lovely house, two great kids, and an assortment of pets (courtesy
of my beautiful wife). I sort of know how to do my taxes. I have no clue how the billing of my health
care works, and I’m just completely faking being a parent of two small children. (They will be unleashed on the world in about
twelve years. Let’s hope it works out.) This is my eleventh year in publishing, and
in those years I’ve produced over sixty books. (applause) I still feel new to the business. I still feel like I’m pretending to know
what I’m doing. I still feel like I have something to prove. The question I’m asked most often by people
is: “Why do you work so hard?” I’m not a workaholic. I think that would imply that I’d work this
hard at any profession. I’m not obsessed with power, fame, or money,
because the profession of making children’s books embodies none of these characteristics. (Laughter). I am, however, a prisoner of my own insecurities. It’s intimidating the first time you see
your book sitting next to books you admired when you were a child. Santat is shelved alphabetically right next
to folks like Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, and Maurice Sendak, so you can probably understand
where I’m coming from. I suddenly found myself floating among bright,
shining stars, and I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? This must be a mistake.” Up to a certain point, I feel like I’ve
managed to get where I am out of pure hard work. I always wanted to believe that hard work
could mask any shortcomings I had in true ability. Perhaps if I worked harder, if I worked longer,
or painted with more precision, no one would notice that I had no clue what I was doing. I wanted to believe that hard work was this
great equalizer that could help me achieve what my peers made look so effortless. I constantly worried that I would be discovered
as an impostor and that everything would fall apart, so I would tell myself, “I have to
work harder.” I was not an overnight success. My career can be characterized as one that
began slowly but rose steadily. I would set small career goals for myself
year after year. “I hope I can get a book published someday.” “I hope I can get another book published.” “I hope I can get a better advance.” “I hope making books can be a full-time
job.” “I hope my publisher will actively promote
my book.” “I hope my publisher will put me on a book
tour.” I handled my career one book at a time. Each small goal seemed attainable if I just
worked hard. Each book I made was a chance to improve myself
and to learn. The beauty of youth is that you have the strength
and energy to climb mountains, the optimism to know you will get there, and all the time
in the world to reach the summit. I was searching for answers hoping that making
one of these books would give me an epiphany on the secrets to making a great book. The knowledge was gathered in pieces. A good idea here, a clever trick there, but
never anything that added up to a whole. It was like staring at the ruins of a great
empire from long ago, but you had to use your mind to fill in all the blanks. Part of navigating my way through these ruins
was reading reviews. Now, the advice you hear from everyone is
to ignore all book reviews because they will just depress you, but then what is the point
of book reviewers? (Laughter). I read reviews. I read every single one. I read every glowing post singing my praises
and every cruel one-star review from Anonymous. (Laughter). I read, not to torture myself, but to search
for answers, hoping maybe one of you can tell me what it takes to make a great book. Whatever you may have said in print could
never be any worse than what I say to myself. Five years ago, I was offered a very lucrative
job as a doodle artist at Google. Just thirty miles from here. It was the type of job where money no longer
would have been a concern. My wife could have quit her job, lived closer
to her family, and spent more time with our kids, who would have received a solid education
in one of the country’s finest school districts. A few friends of mine who worked down the
street at Yahoo! told me that they knew hordes of people who would kill to work at Google. This was an opportunity for me to stop all
the self-doubting. This was a chance for me to decline with dignity:
“Sorry, I’m not making books anymore because Google hired me to handle their branding.” But there was a pain in my side. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I want this? Perhaps a more sensible, responsible husband
and father would have chosen this job for both career and financial security. The publishing industry, at the time, was
going through a rough patch, and in 2010, Google was number four in Fortune magazine’s
100 Best Companies to Work For. Google told me that I could still publish
books, but the work at the company would probably require most of my attention. I tossed and turned for weeks trying to decide
what I wanted to do. I asked a few of my peers about what they
would do. “Uh, I’d take the job,” one would say. “So, wait, you’re telling me that they’re
hiring?” asked another. I was hoping for them to tell me to “keep
it real” and that making books was what I was meant to do. When Google asked for a response, I asked
for an extra week to think things over. Then another. I even avoided their phone calls. Ultimately, I turned the job down because
I knew that for the rest of my life I would have asked myself, “How good could I have
been? How far could I have gone? How high could I have climbed?” When forced to make a decision, I realized
that the anxiety of not knowing my full potential greatly exceeded my anxiety for feeling inadequate. I just wanted to know that I could shine just
as brightly as all the other stars. I had to work harder. Fast-forward four years. I was very nobly called “one of the hardest
working people in the industry” in the Huffington Post in 2014. That year, I published thirteen books. It was the hardest year I had ever worked,
and since then I swore to myself that I would never work like that ever again. At one point, I slept for a total of twelve
hours in an entire seven-day work week. My brain was so exhausted that I would break
down and cry at my computer. I broke down so many times that I lost count. On top of all that, several members of my
family were hospitalized for health reasons that year, and I remember sitting beside them
in a hospital room thinking, “This will probably be me pretty soon if I keep this
up. I can’t do this forever.” At this point, I felt I had nothing left to
give. The universe had told me that I can’t work
as hard as I used to. I used to be able to work until two a.m. and
wake up at six thirty every day to get the home started and get the kids to school with
ease. Now, I sit down at my desk at night to begin
my evening shift of work, and I find myself passed out by eleven thirty p.m. only to wake
up at three a.m. realizing another night has been wasted. That’s even with a fresh ten p.m. cup of
coffee in my system. I am only human. The strange part of all this was that I was
angry at myself because I felt like I was being weak. It’s a hard day when you face the moment
you realize you’ve pushed yourself as far as you can possibly go. The feeling that you’ve peaked. You weren’t an overnight success, you were
slow and steady. The hard lesson after ten years in the business
is that you are no longer the young, fresh, new talent, full of promise. Art styles come and go, and perhaps people
have grown bored of your work and maybe now you’re viewed as a has-been. It has only been four years since declining
a job offer you fought so hard not to regret, and you will never be able to forgive yourself
for being so selfish. You turned down a job that a good, responsible
husband and father should have chosen, but instead you decided to pursue your own interests. You can’t look your children in the eye
knowing that you took an opportunity from them and squandered it. You convince yourself that this is who you
are, this is as good as you will ever be, and you will have to work this hard for the
rest of your life just to keep up. This is as good as it gets. At a book event last year, a few author friends
openly expressed their concern for me. “You should slow down. We’re afraid you’re going to kill yourself
if you keep up this pace.” The honest truth is, I would kill myself to
achieve what you’ve achieved. It is perhaps a curse that I want far more
than what I am capable of. I don’t need to be great. I just want to be “just as good.” I think I’ve given all I have to give, but
deep inside, I have to work harder. On February 2, 2015, I woke up fifteen minutes
before I got the call. I woke up with an intense case of heartburn
from constant worry. In those brief fifteen minutes, my mind wandered
and inevitably settled into a familiar place. I reminded myself that I wasn’t good enough. People talk about books at the end of every
year, as they always do. Your friends and colleagues tell you to ignore
the chatter because it will only drive you insane (and it does), but you peek and you
begin to think, “Maybe?” “Maybe” is a dangerous place to be, because
it fills your mind with hope, and sometimes that can be an awful thing. Hope is not something you earn. Hope is something you are given and you have
no control over. The probability of hope fulfilling such a
lofty goal is slim to none, and it will most likely lead to disappointment. At best, you hope for an Honor, because they
give out more of those, so your odds would be improved. To imagine winning the Caldecott Medal feels
pompous, implying you somehow feel like you deserve it. This is an odd state of mind coming from a
person who after years of hearing award announcements was convinced that if there was ever going
to be an award given to an Asian-American author whose name started with a “D” and
ended in an “-an Santat,” the winner would probably still be Mo Willems or David Wiesner. (Laughter) There is no point in hoping for the unimaginable
because chances are it will never happen. It’s like being disappointed because you
never got to talk to aliens. (Laughter) Magic only happens in fairy tales and feel-good
movies. You don’t like the feeling of disappointment,
so you prepare for the inevitable by simply telling yourself, “They probably already
called the winners, and how dare I have the nerve to think that I even had a chance?” Then the phone rings, and the voice on the
other end tells you that you won the medal, and you begin to cry. The emotion you feel is overwhelming, because
you just experienced the unimaginable becoming a reality. I would like to thank the 2015 Randolph Caldecott
Award Selection Committee from the bottom of my heart. After ten years of working like a dog, I realized
that this is not a prize that can ever be earned, but I want to be worthy of it. I would be a fool not to realize that, in
a world of infinite possibilities, it could be feasible to argue that many other fine
books in 2014 could have worn the highly coveted gold sticker. Beekle may not be perfect for everyone, but
I was happy to know that it was perfect for fifteen people on
the committee. Thank you for being my perfect other half. Thank you for changing my life and letting
me, for the first time, feel that I was good enough. Thanks to you, I no longer feel invisible. I would also not be here were it not for my
fellow authors and illustrators. You make this “job” that we do seem so
effortless, and you inspire me to keep telling my own stories by working on your own. I read your work. I study your books. I even study how you all present to an audience. We’ve occasionally confided in one another
in private, reminding me that we all have the same insecurities. I’ve had the privilege of working with some
of you, and I have learned to be better at my craft by your example. When the award was announced, I received an
outpouring of responses from many of you sharing your sincere happiness for me, and for that
I thank you. There was a moment of worry in which I envisioned
a universal eye roll with everyone uttering, “Ugh, that guy?” (Laughter). All I’ve ever wanted was to be as good as
you, and I thank you for letting me feel like I am worthy of your praise. You are the stars in the sky, and I thank
you for allowing me to shine with you. I would like to thank my parents for allowing
me to pursue my dream and for your willingness to let me explore the world untethered. Your good intentions of grooming me to become
a doctor were noble, (laughter) but as you can see, I was never meant to be a man destined for a
safe and secure type of profession. While I dashed your hopes of becoming a doctor, which should have been evident by my college grades, (Laughter) I was driven by my desire to give
you the undeniable confidence that I was going to be okay making a living as an artist. I would not have been able to look you in
the eye if I had been anything less than good enough, and I hope that you are proud. I would especially like to thank my wife,
Leah, who supported my decision to decline the job offer from Google. (Applause). I know perfectly well that it would have been
a dream come true for her if I had accepted the job, and I am forever indebted to her
sacrifice and belief in me while selflessly allowing me to pursue my dream. She has comforted me when I am sad, cheered
for me when I succeed, and has always been there to hold down the fort when I am away
on trips. She has been my spirit on this long journey
through life, starting all the way back in the days when I studied biology, through the
years I went to art school, and with me in my career up to this day. I was an only child growing up, but my agent,
Jodi Reamer, is probably the closest thing to a big sister that I will ever have. My fondest memory is of her shouting at me
in the middle of a street in Beverly Hills. (Laughter). This may have been partially due to the fact
that I tried wearing cargo shorts to a fancy restaurant, which in turn ended up with me
changing in the middle of the street into a pair of jeans, which I had luckily found
in the trunk of my car. I remember it fondly because she told me exactly
what I needed to hear. She said, “Stop being so down on yourself. You are good at what you do and you will succeed. Give us three years and I promise you that
you will be in a much better place.” Given her track record with a long list of
very impressive clients, this perhaps was all part of her master plan. I apologize that it has taken us five years
to get to this point instead of three (laughter), but I doubt it will tarnish her reputation for
being the best in the business. Forgive me for all the long phone calls filled
with self-doubt and constant worry. I am still a kid pretending to be an adult. I should also add that it has been permanently
burned in my mind to always wear pants to a fancy dinner. (Laughter). Now, if you may recall, I never queried you,
because I never considered myself good enough to be represented by Writers House. Thankfully, because of our mutual friend Lisa
Yee, we managed to find each other. Lisa Yee is the best friend an author could
ever hope for in publishing. We started our careers together at the same
time through Arthur A. Levine Books. We’ve had long discussions over countless
numbers of lunches, and I hope to have more in the years to come. I would like to thank all the various librarians,
teachers, and book bloggers whom I’ve had the opportunity to know over the years. I would especially like to thank Betsy Bird
and Julie Walker Danielson for noticing me from the very beginning of my career and casting
a spotlight on my work. I would like to thank Minh Le, John Schumacher,
Travis Jonker, Matthew Winner, Jennifer Kelly Reed, Colby Sharp, and many others, too many
to name. I value your friendship and thoughtful discussions
online, and I will always happily raise a glass with you at future book events. I would also like to thank all the members
of the Nerdy Book Club, who work tirelessly to promote great literature to children all
over the country. (Applause). I would like to thank everyone at Little,
Brown Books for Young Readers, who played an instrumental part in the success of this
book, especially my art director, David Caplan, and my editor, Connie Hsu. (Applause). I have known Dave for years, seven years,
and all the way back to when we worked together on a series at HarperCollins. Dave continues to push my knowledge of design
and typography, which is why I requested him by name when I arrived at Little, Brown. He meticulously nitpicks the smallest of details
when I am ready to call it quits, and he makes me look better by always going the extra mile,
whether it be selecting coated or uncoated paper or exchanging Rhodamine Red for Magenta. Dave brings me one step closer to improvement
with his impeccable taste in design and equally high standards. Thank you Dave, you are a true friend. (Applause). A month before Beekle was released, woke up
in a panic. I couldn’t stop thinking about the ending
to the story, worrying that it wasn’t entirely obvious to everyone that Alice, the girl in
the story, had written the entire adventure about how she and Beekle met. I remember my editor, Connie Hsu, calling
me that day to talk me off this metaphorical ledge; to assure me that the slight ambiguity
is what would make the story better. She told me that some people would not love
the book, some people would not understand the book, but that was the beauty of the book. Like the character himself, Beekle may not
seem perfect to everyone, but he was perfect to those who ultimately examined all the little
details, and that in itself is a perfect representation of the book. Connie and I exchanged many long phone calls
wrestling this story into shape. As a superb editor, her notes were clear,
honest, and true, and this story would not be this beautiful without her aid. And, finally, for my kids. In the days leading up to fatherhood, I worried
about what it would be like to be a father and about the insecurities I had about being
able to handle the duties of parenthood. I’ve never expected your respect simply
because I was your father. I work hard because I hope that, over the
years, perhaps in the twelve years before you are unleashed to the world, you can look
back and see me as a man who felt it was always important to work hard and earn respect. The name Beekle was my oldest son’s first
word for bicycle, and from that word he inspired me to write a story about the day he was born. It was a day I could only imagine, but I knew
we would be perfect for each other. Alek and Kyle, you both taught me what unconditional
love truly is, and one day I hope that you can share this book with your kids and your
kids’ kids and teach them to know how it feels to be loved unconditionally. This speech that I am giving will be transcribed
into zeros and ones and released into a sea of information so that you can always hear
my voice. Let this be my love letter to you even long
after I am gone. Understand that I am not perfect, because
no one is, and we are all only human, but despite all my insecurities, it is also in
our nature as human beings to try our hardest because we cherish the feeling of acceptance
from those who we hold closely near us. Thank you for being my inspiration and reminding
me what it still means to be a kid, though I still have no clue how to be an adult. Beekle is a book that I made to the best of
my ability, but despite my faults, you are both proof that I am capable of creating something
perfect in this world. With the birth of the two of you, I have witnessed
proof that I was able to be perfect twice. Though this book is not nearly as perfect
as both of you, I’m glad it was good enough. Thank you. (Applause). Ellen:
So you so much, Dan. What a wonderful way to begin our evening
together. I am pleased to introduce Randall Enos, Chair
of the 2015 Newbery Award Selection Committee. (Applause). Randy:
Thank you, Ellen. Now we leave the realm of unimaginary friends
and crossover to the zones of basketball, (applause) dreams, and young superheroes for the Newbery
segment of the evening. Tonight, as we celebrate and honor 3 very
special authors and their exceptional books I want to say a quick thank you to all who
have supported the work of the Newbery Committee throughout the year. You know who you are, and I hope I’ve made
it abundantly clear what your help and guidance has meant to me, the whole committee and the
entire Newbery process. And speaking of the Newbery Committee, I couldn’t
have dreamt up a better team. Many thanks to each and every one of you for
all you did to make it all work. Please stand as I call your names, remain
standing — and audience, you know, please hold your applause until the full group has
been announced. Armin Arethna, Stephanie Bange, Eti Berland,
Therese Bigelow, Jennifer Brown, Patrick Gall, Lolly Gepson, Abby Johnson, Yapha Mason , Shelley
Quezada, Stan Steiner, Sylvia Tag, Janet Thompson, Lucinda Whitehurst. Thank you all! (Applause). The Committee selected two truly distinguished
honor books. They are:
Brown Girl Dreaming (Applause).
by Jacqueline Woodson. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint
of Penguin Young Readers. Edited by Nancy Paulsen. Exquisite and evocative poems are woven together
to form this lyrical memoir drawing the reader into the world of 1960s and ‘70s Greenville,
South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York. Precise language magnifies the small, intimate
moments and connects them to the larger historical perspective as young Jacqueline Woodson blossoms
from a struggling reader and dreamer into a confident young woman and writer. Jaqueline Woodson, please come forward to
receive your Newbery Honor citation for Brown Girl Dreaming. (Applause). El Deafo by Cece Bell. (Applause). Published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS. Edited by Susan Van Metre. With much insight and humor, young Cece Bell
relates what it’s like to have a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest and be able to
hear all of your teacher’s movements, including those in the bathroom. (Laughter). Through such universal experiences as navigating
a new school, handling sleepovers, finding a true friend, and coping with a first crush,
we learn that our differences are gifts that “can be turned into something amazing.” Cece Bell, please come forward to receive
your Newbery Honor citation for El Deafo. (Applause). The winner of the 2015 John Newbery Medal
for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children is: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander. (Applause). Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books
for Young Readers. Edited by Margaret Raymo. (Applause). Through the moving and grooving rhythm and
rhyme inherent to a red-hot game of basketball, Josh Bell, aka Filthy McNasty engages in some
foul play while trying to cope with unwanted changes in his close-knit family. Tensions mount on and off court as Josh and
his once-close twin brother JB spar and craft a rift that they may not be able to mend. Meanwhile their father is in denial about
his deteriorating health – and all of this in four quarters, plus a “warm-up” and
“overtime.” Kwame Alexander, please come forward to accept
your 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover. (Applause). Kwame:
More, more. (Laughter and applause). When I was a child, I wanted to be a fireman,
and a doctor, and a king. (Laughter). The first two didn’t work out so well, but
I gotta tell you, tonight I feel like a king. (Applause). “I believe there’s a calling for all of
us. I know that every human being has value and
purpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.” ―Oprah Winfrey (Laughter) Two hours after being awakened by the Call,
I get another call, from a reporter. She asks, “How did you find poetry?” Let me go on record as stating that Newbery
winners should not be required to answer questions, especially on record, within the two-week
period after receiving the greatest and most miraculous news of their writerly life. This haze, this Newbery trance, is not kind
to clarity and conciseness. (Laughter). I tell her:
“I think poetry found me. I think it circled above, for years, until
I was ready, and then it swooped down, grabbed me by the arms, lifted me up, and I’ve been
soaring ever since.” Then she wants to know, who were some of the
influential librarians from my childhood. (Laughter). And I’m stumped, because I don’t remember
any! And then I realize, my first librarians were
my parents. You see, we lived in a . . . (Applause) we
lived in a library. Books lined the walls and the floors, in most
rooms in our home. Books that taught us how to love our beautiful,
black selves. Books that showed us what was possible in
the world. My parents were my first librarians. It wasn’t until much later in my writerly
life, that I encounter librarians would will inspire and influence me. People like Debra Taylor and . . . (Applause). Now if you clap like that, I’m not going
to be able to get through the whole speech. (Laughter). Linda H… of Lowden County Public Library. Betty Smith of DC Public Library. Kathy Allen of Ostersmith High School Public
Library in Chesapeake, Virginia. I remember bring asked to host an evening
of poets and poetry with Kwame Alexander and guests in Charleston, South Carolina. I remember the branch manager greeting me
with a southern verve that screamed jubilance. I remember the glazed donuts and ham and cheese
sandwiches she served for the hundred people she was expecting. I remember ten of us being in the room. (laughter). I remember us having a good time, listening
and reading poetry. I remember thinking, this woman is all about
joy, and she loves books. I remember Cynthia Heard, let us take a moment
and remember her. (Moment of silence). I am honored to be in this room with so many
pulchritudinous librarians. (Laughter). Librarians who raised this book, The Crossover,
like a flag, and had countless kids pledging allegiance to it. The most distinguished contribution to American
literature for children, that just sounds perfect. (Laughter). Contrarily, writing this speech three months
in advance, not so perfect. (laughter). Well, it wasn’t perfect until a friend of
mine calls and says, “Kwame, I heard they send you to write your speech at a destination
of your choice.” His laughter builds. “Any place you want.” “No way!” I answer, “Are you serious?” Oh the places I could go! Tuscany, Bali, or maybe even a return to Bahia. “Perhaps,” my wife says, “they only
send you somewhere domestic.” That’s fine. Miami, Sedona, Hawaii. Over a celebratory dinner a week later, I
recount these mind-boggling conversations to my editor. My editor, who though quite funny, rarely
laughs out loud . . . (laughter). “Get this Margaret,” I say. “They send me to any place I want!” She laughs out loud, and then still laughing,
asks, “Kwame, who is ‘they’?” (laughter). This of course, tells me, that
‘they’ is not her. (Laughter). ALSC, the Newbery Committee? Previous awardees? Is there a speech-and-spa get away fund that
Curtis and Gantos and Applegate and Naylor have funded? Are they, ‘them’? I end up in Key West. It turns out ‘they’ is me. (Laughter). In between Ping-Pong and writing and parasailing,
I check out the Mel Fisher Museum. Mel Fisher, the treasure hunter. Mel Fisher, the man who gave up ten years
of his life, of his family’s life, in search of a 1622 shipwrecked Spanish vessel called
Nuestra Señora de Atocha, never knowing if it’d be found, yet each day claiming, “Today’s
the day,” until July 20, 1985, when it was the day, and he found it. And, it had gold on it. Lots of it. So much that his find became known as “The
Atocha Mother Lode.” Like Mel Fisher, each word, each poem, each
writing day has come with sacrifice and hope. Today’s the day, I would claim while immersed
in this novel. About Basketball. And Boys. In Verse. Mel Fisher immersed himself in a sea of possibility,
crossed over miles and miles of ocean floor searching for a treasure, sacrificed ten years,
and the reward? The reward was 450 million
dollars’ worth of gold. After six years of writing and rewriting,
twenty plus rejections, and countless hours of self-doubt, I too discovered my own gold. The Crossover. The Crossover is, first and foremost, about
fathers and sons. It's a novel about love. About family. It is not about my family. It is not about my family, yet much of the
jazz and hip-hop, the rhythm and energy that moves through each page of poetry comes from
my own familial experiences. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for introducing me
to the song and dance of words and visual melody. Thank you to my wife, Stephanie. Happiness is you loving me, is you watching
me dance, and never leaving me on the floor alone. Nikki Giovanni, thank you for teaching me
how to dance properly, (laughter) for letting me find my own groove, and cheering me on. Thank you to the members of the 2015 John
Newbery committee, under the chairmanship of Randall Enos, for giving me a brand-new
song. To Margaret Raymo, my editor, my partner on
this journey under the stars, my Polaris, my bright and shining “Yes” in a sea of
“No.” I am forever grateful. Thank you to my writerly and publishing friends,
some from way, way back, some new to my world, who have journeyed with me and who join me
here tonight. In this improbably achievement: Marshall,
Tenisha, Diana, Juanita, Kim, Mike, Jenny, Marjorie, Kathy, Stacey, Susan, MaryAnn, Lisa,
Pam, Andrea, Joanna, Chris, Jason, Rita, Sharon, Jackie, and Ashley Bryant. (Applause). Enormous thanks to the American Library Association,
the Association for Library Service to Children, my artful and accomplished agents, Ariel and
Jim Levine, of Levine-Greenberg-Rostan. Karen Walsh, Lisa DiSarro, Betsy Groban, the
entire, amazing, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt team. Wow. To Deborah Warren of East West Literary, and
Ruben Pfeffer of Ruben Pfeffer Content. Two brilliant souls, who brilliantly sold
The Crossover when no one else would. When no one else could. I am forever grateful. To my firstborn, Nandi, whom I met for the
first time in a dream in 1989, and who continues to show me the value of riding life until
the wheels fall off. Thank you for turning up, my dear. Finally, Samayah, my six-point-eight year-old,
who says that her favorite book is The Crossover, though I won’t let her finish it yet. (Laughter). Thank you for waking me up one morning and
asking me the question that would inspire this speech: “How do you win the Newbery?” First, use your words. 1971. Age 3. New York City. Get your first dose of poetry under a red
maple in Prospect Park . . . And the Sun God Said: That’s Hip . . . Ernest Gregg. Spin a soft black song . . . Nikki Giovanni. Fox in Socks . . . Dr. Seuss . . . Listen
and watch your mother make all these words dance off the page and into your imagination. And later, when your sisters are born, show
them how to do the dance. Take them on a freight train, uptown to meet
Everett Anderson, Donald Crews, John Steptoe, Lucile Clifton. (Applause). Learn Words. Love Words. Become so immersed in words that one day,
at Riverside Day Care, when you’ve finished building your magical castle of blocks that
house the ideas galloping through your mind, and your classmates knock them down because
playtime is over, protest, defend yourself with the only weapons you have: words. Hey, man, that’s not hip. Those were my blocks that you flipped. (Laughter). Lest you want a quick payback, come and fix
my quick-block stack. (Laughter). When your mother comes to pick you up, listen
to the teacher tell her, “Your son intimidates the other children with his words. (Laughter). He is a little arrogant.” (Laughter and Applause). Watch your mother answer with a smile, “Yes,
we teach him to use his words, thank you.” How do you win the Newbery? Be inspired. 1981. Age 12. Chesapeake, Virginia. You’ve loved books all your life, but something
has changed. Aside from the stories that your mother makes
up to keep you and your sisters smiling and laughing, the songs she sings in the kitchen
while preparing breakfast, your love affair with words is over. You simply do not care that The People Could
Fly, and even though you kinda liked that book with the gold seal on it by Mildred Taylor,
you wish your parents would hear your cry for No. More. Books. (Laughter). They just don’t interest you anymore, especially
since you’re now being forced to read the huge historical tomes that your father has
written. (Laughter). In your garage are Queens Farms milk crates. Stacked to the ceiling. Crammed with books. Spines out. The floor is covered in junk—receipts, letters,
magazines, newspapers, clothes, dirt—so every quarter, your father asks you to spend
a Saturday cleaning the garage. “Get out there and do it,” he yells. Before you get started, you scan the crates
of books: The Three Musketeers. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. M.C. Higgins the Great Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. A Married Guide to Different Positions. (Laughter) Can I say that here? Alright. (Laughter) Wait. What was that title? You pull it off the shelf. You read the jacket copy. You make sure no one’s looking. You open it. You see the pictures. You read the captions. “Kwame, come in, it’s dinnertime,” your
mom hollers from the kitchen. “No, I’m good, Mom, (laughter) I just
want to finish the whole garage first.” (Laughter). From that point on, volunteer to clean the
garage. Monthly. Even offer to alphabetize the library. One day, happen upon a book about your hero:
The Greatest: My Own Story by Muhammad Ali. Read all 415 arrogant, flashy, brilliant,
exceptional pages of it. In one night. Love it. Somewhere in the deep, damp darkness of displeasure
that reading has become for you, become inspired, again. “How do you win the Newbery?” Be interesting. 1986. Age 16. Blacksburg, Virginia. Every Thanksgiving your family has dinner
at Hunan Park II on the Upper West Side. It is ritual. After a delicious meal of shrimp with lobster
sauce, you retreat to the Stouffers Hotel in White Plains and rest, because tomorrow
you’ll be on your feet all day. Working. On the Friday after each Thanksgiving, your
father always, always hosts a book fair. in White Plains and rest, because tomorrow
you’ll be on your feet all day. Working. You and your sisters sell the books. Your mother leads workshops. Your father, tense and stern, supervises. There is no volunteer orientation. It’s on-the-job training. You either learn how to properly display books,
how to recommend books based on purchases, how to be charming, or you face the consequences:
Fussing, Interrogation, or Worse . . . actually, there is never a Worse, because each of you
knows your job. You stand in the booth (you are not allowed
to sit) and become intimate with Heinemann’s African Writers series, with Alice Walker’s
books. With Walter Dean Myers’ books. At these expos you realize that, sure, books
are mirrors to our world and windows to opportunity; but they are also much more: they are actual
doors to a life of sustainability and success, to our lives, and each of us has a responsibility
to walk through these doors. That is way too much responsibility for a
teenage college student, and you want nothing of it. So, you rebel. You abandon literature again. That is way too much responsibility for a
teenage college student, and you want nothing of it. Believe that. You’re going to be a doctor. And then sophomore year comes, and two things
happen: 1. You take a course called Organic Chemistry. (Laughter). 2. You sign up for an advanced poetry class taught by the Princess of Black Poetry. How hard can it be? You’re the king. 1. You take a course called Organic Chemistry. (Laughter). Her poetry, in fact. She’s a legend. 2. You sign up for an advanced poetry class taught by the Princess of Black Poetry. Naturally, you challenge her every remark
and critique in class. You get one A minus, a few Bs, mostly Cs. She calls you into her office. It’s about time she apologizes for giving
you a hard time, (laughter) for not acknowledging your genius with words. You sit down across from her. She tells you that “night comes softly.” You say, “Nikki, there’s a storm coming.” She says, “Be bold . . . but be eloquent.” You say, “I am. Like Nancy Wilson singing ‘Fly Me to the
Moon’, on her album Like in Love,” which It’s about time she apologizes for giving
you a hard time, (laughter) for not acknowledging your genius with words. You don’t just know hip hop.
you know jazz. She smiles, like your grandmother used to
do when you thought you said something profound and you didn't. (Laughter) “Kwame, go listen to Ella sing the same
song, live in Japan, 1964,” she says, standing up, like one of you is about to leave her
office (laughter). “You are a good poet and I can teach you
the tools, but I cannot teach you to be interesting.” After a silent stare, you stand up and storm
out of her office. Arrogant. is sort of your way to show her you’re cultured. (Laughter). You don’t just know hip hop.
you know jazz. She smiles, like your grandmother used to
do when you thought you said something profound and you didn't. (Laughter) You fall in love. “Kwame, go listen to Ella sing the same
song, live in Japan, 1964,” she says, standing up, like one of you is about to leave her
office (laughter). Washington, D.C. You meet a woman. You have no car, no money, no residence, just
a small efficiency apartment that your best friend allows you to sleep on the floor of
the living room of. This woman owns you, and you have nothing
to offer. But poetry. You write her a poem a day. For a year. (Laughter). I am not a painter, browns and blues we get
along, but we are not close. I am no Van Gogh, but give me plain paper,
a dull pencil, some scotch, and I will high-jack your curves. (Laughter and applause). Take your soul hostage, paint a portrait so
colorful and delicate, you just may have to cut off my ear. (Laughter). Ya'll get that when you get home. (Laughter). When you tell your mother you plan to start
your own publishing imprint and publish your own collection of your love poems, she smiles,
offers passionate encouragement. For a year. (Laughter). you should reconsider your career choice. I am no Van Gogh, but give me plain paper,
a dull pencil, some scotch, and I will high-jack your curves. Now there are one thousand paperback copies
of your collection of love poems on the floor of the efficiency apartment. (Laughter) You have spent a lifetime learning how to
sell books, from working for your parents cut off my ear. (Laughter). Ya'll get that when you get home. (Laughter). To promote Cujo.” So, you put yourself on a thirty-city book
tour. (Laughter). You start locally. At a poetry conference. You purchase a booth. You stand behind it. And then he hands you a check, an investment
in the poetry imprint he doesn’t think you should start. You sell books. You are now the supervisor. A woman comes up, says, “Hey, Kwame,”
in a familiar voice. of the efficiency apartment. (Laughter) The Princess. You brace yourself for more verbal sparring. You’re ready this time, because you’ve
been listening to Ella Fitzgerald. (Laughter). But she surprised you. So, you put yourself on a thirty-city book
tour. (Laughter). poems, smiles, says congratulations, then
walks away, leaving you standing there “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” (Laughter) You purchase a booth. You stand behind it. I think it swooped down, grabbed by the arms,
lifted me up. You charm customers. You recite poetry. There was a moment when that first book came
out that I heard the call, that I knew poetry You sell books. You are now the supervisor. 1996. Age 26. Los Angeles, California. It’s the last leg of my first book tour. You’ve been traveling to schools and libraries. Performing poetry at subway stops, in recreation
centers, on college campuses. You even been booed off the stage at the Royal
Shakespeare Theater at Stratford-upon-Avon You’re ready this time, because you’ve
been listening to Ella Fitzgerald. (Laughter). The final stop is at a church in Los Angeles,
where you’re scheduled to autograph books in the gift shop following the service. Sitting in the back, you calculate the number
of books you need to sell to get home, and pay the rent. Bothered, and Bewildered.” (Laughter) Now, the most you’ve sold at any one place
on the tour was maybe twenty-two copies. But you are hopeful. Today’s the day, you think. The pastor finishes the sermon and asks you
to come up and share a poem. Of course, you want to, but you’re a little
hesitant. 1996. Age 26. Los Angeles, California. intently listening, and all you have are these
sensual love poems. (Laughter). So I go up, stare out into this sea of beautiful
faces, and all you hear are: Use your words … Be interesting … Be eloquent … Get
out there and do it. So I do: “I have never been a slave
Yet, I know I am whipped I have never been to Canada
Yet, I want to cross your border” (Laughter). I’m in church, now, ok. by a group of teenagers who were expecting
a rapper, not a love poet. (Laughter). “I have never escaped underground
Yet night knows my journey. If I were a poet in love
I’d say that Sitting in the back, you calculate the number
of books you need to sell to get home, and pay the rent. where romance
is just a beginning and freedom
is our end.” The silence is deafening. (Laughter). It says, if you’ve been transported into
a public library in the ’80s. Did you go too far? Were you a little too arrogant? Then it happens. intently listening, and all you have are these
sensual love poems. (Laughter). Swift and sweet. … Be interesting … Be eloquent … Get
out there and do it. So I do: You hear the call. You are a poet. I have never been to Canada
Yet, I want to cross your border” (Laughter). In that moment, you commit to putting in the
work, to saying yes, to learning how to live an authentic life so you will have something
authentic to writing about, so that one day when my daughter asks you, “Dad, how do
you win the Newbery?” You can tell her, confidently, “Beats me! Ask your grandparents (laughing).” But here’s what you do know: First and foremost,
you gotta answer the call: write a poem that dances . . . in the front
of the room . . . wild and free . . . naked on the floor . . . a gutsy poem . . . write
a poem that looks good . . . not homely or swaybacked . . . give it posture, poise and
profile . . . turn our heads when it walks by . . . stomps out feet when it smiles . . . on
a superficial level, make us want to marry it, or at least remember its name the next
morning. Write a poem that works . . . write a poem
that works, has a job and does it, promptly . . . follows rules and responsibilities . . . gets
a raise or at least a head nod. And when it's not feeling well, when your
poem ain't feeling well, give it sense enough to call in sick, and not waste our time with
unmet expectations . . . Write a poem with an inkling of suspicion . . . get a clue poets,
I mean it ain't got to solve a crime, but at least let it offer us a tip. . . write a poem with tension, like some last-second
shot in the fourth quarter of a tied championship game, let it cross over time and place and
circumstance, send the crowd into a frenzy. Write a poem that is contagious, Sylvia. Write a poem that is contagious, Eddie. Write a poem that is contagious, Abby. Write a poem that is contagious, Patrick. Write a poem that is contagious, Randall. Write a poem that is contagious, let it inspire. Make us want to write a poem about how beautiful
and breath-taking and hopeful and tragic and interesting life is. Thank you. (Applause). Ellen:
Thank you, Kwame. I think I am with everyone when I say I am
so glad you learned to use your words. (Laughter). And now, I am very pleased to introduce Karen
Nelson Hoyle, Chair of the 2015 Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal Selection Committee. (Applause). Karen: Thank you, Ellen. A quintet of ALSC members met at four ALA annual and midwinter meetings to request suggestions
from ALSC members, to review the criteria, and to discuss the entire body of books by
the best of the best contributors to the field. We committed ourselves to reading, and re-reading
books by many worthy creators. The committee is pleased that the Laura Ingalls
Wilder award will be presented each year in the future. (Applause). With recognition and gratitude for their expertise
and commitment, I thank the thoughtful librarians, Christopher A Brown, Kathleen T Horning, Jane
B Marino, Ellen Hunter Ruffin. (Applause). For almost fifty years, Donald Crews wrote
and illustrated, and continues to create books that reach even the youngest toddler set. The quintet ALSC members selected Donald Crews
for the 2015 Laura Ingalls Wilder award. Donald Crews elevated books for the very young
children to an art form. His bold illustrations raise the ordinary
into stylized representations.He is a master as pacing. The ingenious use of design and color made
his works both dynamic and accessible, especially to youngsters. Dr. Crews remains popular with young children,
generation, after generation. Donald Crews was born in 1938, in Newark,
New Jersey, to a creative seamstress mother, and energetic railroad-working father. During the summers, Crews traveled by train
to rural Cottondale, Florida to stay with his grandmother, whom he called “Big Mama.” He graduated from Cooper Union for the Advancement
of Science and Art in New York City in 1959. Returning from a stint in the U.S. Army, in
Germany, Crews and his late wife Ann Jonas, returned with two little bundles. Baby Nina, and what was to become his first
book, We Read A to Z, published in 1967. It continues to reside in school and public
libraries and remains in print today. Companion to the alphabet book, Ten Black
Dots, was a concept book about numbers that followed the very next year. Then Freight Train published in the next decade,
introduced basic concepts through boldly colored, accurately named train cars. With swift, linear patterns and hues, Crews
conveys anticipation and depicts the motion and exhilaration of a passing train. He built “turn-the-page” excitement with
the ever-increasing speed of the train until only smoke is left in its wake. Truck followed two years later, revealing
its contents–tricycles–at its closure. One selection committee member recalled a
toddler trundling into the library, eagerly yearning for the book he sought, “truck…truck.” The child’s world expanded with the motion
swirling Carousel, busy port Harbor, the straight back marchers in Parade, and the ubiquitous
School Bus. A helmeted girl in red passed other riders
to win, in Bicycle Race. Flying provided the novice traveler with sequenced
procedures, while Sail Away captured a sailing excursion from dawn to dusk, introducing another
means of transportation. Autobiographical Big Mama’s placed childhood
memories of the rural south in perspective. Donald Crews book appeal is not limited to
the youngest set. With either a primary or secondary color scheme
and crisp design, each timeless title delights the parents, librarians and teachers who share
them with children. Now it is my delight to present the 2015 Laura
Ingalls Wilder Award to Donald Crews. (Applause). Donald:
Thank you, thank you very much! I have a tough act to follow, so I hope I’ll
try to come up to the task. I want to thank the American Library Association
and the Association for Library Service to Children —especially the Laura Ingalls Wilder
Committee—for selecting me for this award. Thank you to the chair, Karen Nelson Hoyle,
and to Christopher Brown, Kathleen Horning, Jane Marino, and Ellen Hunter Ruffin. And special thanks to Greenwillow Books, from
the beginning until now, for our long and wonderful association. (Applause). I was astonished when I got the call informing
me of your choice. Truly I thought it must be a mistake. Thankfully it was not. I cannot consider accepting this honor you’ve
given me, however, without sharing it with my late wife, Ann Jonas. (Applause). Without her, I would not have begun the journey
toward this place nor been able to stay the course that got me here. The journey has been long and wonderful. How did we do it? I’m not a believer in destiny, although
it might look that way from what I am about to say. Yogi Berra, the legendary New York Yankees
catcher famous for his aphorisms, said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” (Laughter). We did. My family lived in Newark, New Jersey. Both my parents have Southern roots. My mother was from Cottondale, Florida, and
my father was from Henderson, North Carolina. Their farm roots produced people with the
need and ability to find inventive solutions to everyday problems. Those solutions had to be crafted from whatever
materials were at hand. Artistic solutions, sometimes; practical solutions,
always. My mother was an accomplished seamstress. She worked in the garment industry in Newark
and was apparently one of their best workers. She followed patterns and preset instructions
and found creative alternatives when she had to. I remember her turning brightly colored feed
bags into cotton dresses for my sisters. Almost every year we spent the summer months
in Florida, at my grandparents’ farm. As I wrote in my book Bigmama’s, “We called
our Grandma Bigmama, not that she was big, but she was Mama’s Mama.” She didn’t read well, and my ability to
read to her impressed her. She declared early on that I was clever and
smart and would someday be somebody. Of course, most Bigmamas say that about their
grandsons. But I didn’t know that then and considered
it as a prophecy meant for me alone. Failure was impossible. My mother, as well, was always very encouraging. She passed away in 2009 at the age of 105. (Applause). She especially liked my autobiographical books—Bigmama’s
and Shortcut. My father took a more nuanced view and mostly
wanted me just to succeed at something. He was not specific about what that might
be. He worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad by
night and as an independent small-job provider during the day. His work on the railroad got us free passage
for our yearly trips to Florida. As children, our lives in Newark were spent
mainly in school or on the streets. Our apartment was very small. We made our own wagons and scooter, forts
and cabins. We staged plays and made the costumes and
scenery. We made one working bicycle out of two that
didn’t work, and one scooter out of a pair of skates. It might have been possible to buy some of
those things, but not as much fun. We all did fairly well in school, but I developed
a tendency to doodle in the margins of papers instead of solving the problem at hand. My mother was summoned to school for consultation
more than once. Our school had a small library, and individual
classrooms had books. Art was a part of most days, and Saturday
art classes were available at Newark’s Arts High School. We had books at home—lots of books illustrated
with pictures, which extended the pleasure and understanding of the words. Fork in the road. I applied to and was accepted at Newark’s
Arts High School. This magnet school attracted students from
a citywide pool and opened the possibility of new friends. The most significant person for me was a teacher
I met in school, my senior year: Seymour Landsman. He was instructional and inspirational and
patient. He introduced us to art and culture. We read the New Yorker and designed covers
for it. We copied art from books and posters. He got us into the habit of reading the New
York Times and taking advantage of the Newark Museum. At some point that year he asked me about
my plans after graduation, and then he suggested— no, announced—the plan I should follow. He said, “You will apply to Cooper Union,
you will take the test, you will be admitted, and you will do well.” Then he walked away. (Laughter). Once again, failure was impossible. We stayed in touch until his death. Fork in the road. Cooper Union was a fantastic place to be in
the fifties. It was full of like-minded students and instructors
who appreciated willing learners. It was an ideal place from which to discover
museums and music and film and the electric environment of New York City. Our graphics instructor, Rudolph de Harak,
gave each student a private evaluation early on in his class. When my turn came he said, “Don, you don’t
have very much talent, (laughter) but you do have the determination to stay with a problem
until you make something of it.” Later he denied having said it, but I considered
it a compliment. Ann and I met in the second-year graphics
class. We had an immediate attraction and quickly
became fast friends. We shared a reserved reluctance about exchanging
personal information—except with each other. We graduated in 1959. Ann went to work in Rudolph de Harak’s graphic
design offices right after graduation, having been without a doubt the most talented of
his students. In late 1959 he hired me as assistant art
director at Dance Magazine, where he was the art director. My job required meetings in his design offices,
which brought Ann and me together again. Our friendship blossomed into a lifelong love
affair lasting fifty-one years. (Applause). We did briefly discuss the social impediments
of a black/white relationship, but we decided that we had no problem with it and would avoid
anyone who did. (Laughter). Our new-friend Rudy suggested that since we
were artists . . . I could probably see this better with my glasses on (Laughter) . . . since we were artists, nontraditional behavior was expected from us—and was even an asset. Nothing major ever seriously challenged our
lives. I was drafted in 1961—drafted and deployed
to Frankfurt, Germany. Ann and I talked about what this would do
to our relationship. She decided that ending it was not an option. Shortly after I left for Germany, she placed
her cats in a good home and came to Frankfurt to work and be near me. Fork in the road for both of us. We were married after about six months in
Germany. Our first daughter, Nina, was born there. As a married soldier I lived off-post and
had time to refurbish and rework my portfolio. Some of my favorite designers—Paul Rand,
Bruno Munari, and Charles Eames—had worked on projects for children. I decided I would include a book for children
in the mix of samples of things that I could do. I was enamored of the spare, abstract approach
of the Swiss Design movement, and so I used abstract images to introduce the alphabet
and words in a book I called We Read: A to Z. The German couple with whom we shared our
house was very excited by it and suggested I submit it to German publishers. I did—and it was promptly and reasonably
rejected. It was, after all, a primer written in English. The German rejections were all very polite
and in German, and since I didn’t read a lot of German, the sting of rejection was
minimal. (Laughter). And the book was, of course, was simply meant
to be a portfolio piece. Fork in the road. Back in the USA, we were now four people:
Ann and me and our two daughters, Nina and Amy. Ann was determined that we could find freelance
work that would make the most of our talents. “We’ll eat,” she said. While Ann stayed home with the children, I
secured jobs for us to work on. We designed jackets for adult and young adult
books, college texts, and mysteries. We designed record covers and brochures and
all matter of printed material. We even provided the art for a congressional
campaign. We did jackets for such books as Adventures
in Electrochemistry and Introduction to Thermodynamics. Very few authors of those books ever thought
to comment on the success or failure of our cover choices. (Laughter). Among the first art directors I met was Ava
Weiss (applause), who is miraculously here tonight. She gave me some of my first assignments,
and when they were completed she’d look at them and proclaim that I was a genius. Failure was impossible. I would duck into her office sometimes on
the way to other appointments, for a “genius” recharge. (Laughter). In due course, I met the editor Elizabeth
Shub at Harper & Row. She asked if I had ever considered doing a
picture book. I said that I had done one, but not for publication
(not a really proactive response). Libby insisted on seeing it, and she passed
it on to Ursula Nordstrom. We Read: A to Z was published by Harper in
1967. I was elated but not yet convinced that children’s
books should be my main focus, so Ann and I continued as freelance designers. But I was curious enough about my ability
to create something else for children— this time intending it for publication from the start. I designed and illustrated Ten Black Dots,
an introduction to basic numbers. Libby had moved to Scribners by then, and
it was published there in 1968. Fork in the road. As a design organization, Ann and I were,
at best, not first call. We had a good reputation for creativity and
reliability, but we never got major assignments. A good friend, John Condon, had some advice
for me. He explained that, as we both knew, freelance
work was ephemeral and that styles changed. He said, “Find something that only you can
do, and be the only one who can supply it.” What came to my mind was my books. Fork in the road. I took his advice and began to think about
another picture book. The result was Freight Train. I submitted it to Greenwillow Books (applause),
Thank you. I submitted it to Greenwillow Books, where both Libby and Ava now were, and they
and Susan Hirschman responded to the dummy with the kind of enthusiasm that keeps creative
juices flowing. Susan wanted to buy Freight Train before she
had seen the entire dummy, but I told her she couldn’t have it until she had looked
at all of it. Freight Train was the first book in my new
career as a full-time children’s book creator. And largely due to the attention it received
from librarians—from all of you here tonight—it was a good beginning. After that, the things that had pleased me
as a child—trucks, planes, boats, buses, and bicycles—seemed like appropriate subjects. Many of my books are taught in school and
catalogued as transportation, and that’s fine with me. I enjoy finding the exciting details of a
vehicle’s trip through thirty-two pages. The only figures in those early books were
drivers and pilots and engineers. Then, in 1983, in Parade, I added a cameo
of myself—a sort of Hitchcock moment. (Laughter). And once I started adding figures to my stories,
I thought I could make people the central characters. In the
autobiographical books, Bigmama’s and Shortcut, I had the opportunity to put a physical black
presence in my books. My world is full of black people, and they
had always been in my books when a person was needed. But now they were the very subject of the
book—the lead characters of the story. The locale in both books is Cottondale, and
the characters are my grandparents, my mother, father, brother, sisters, and cousins. I was back to my beginning. My decision to focus all my attention on books
caused the number of outside jobs to dwindle. Ann needed to continue creating, and I suggested
that she try a picture book. She did, and she was successful, as I knew
she would be. Convincing her to use her maiden name was
a bit of a problem. I wanted her to be appreciated on her own
merits—and she was. Round Trip, Reflections, and The Quilt speak
for themselves. (Applause). Ann is the love of my life—first, last,
and always. She is, as I said at the beginning, most responsible
for giving me—us—the courage to try to be successful artists in New York. She supplied the will to stay on course and
to try and try again until we accomplished what we had started. I can’t say that too loudly or too often. Any honor that comes to me I unreservedly
share with her. And we would not have made this journey without
all of you. We thank you. Thank you. I have nothing else. (Applause). Ellen: Thank you Donald! I am so glad you shared with us all of your
forks in the road. Many thanks to you all for this lovely evening! Our banquet has finished, but the celebration
continues. As the head table escorts and we are assembling
in the receiving line, I invite you to remain seated to enjoy our final videos this evening,
which feature some of tonight’s honorees, as they discuss Newbery, Caldecott, and Wilder
works that inspire them, and a special clip of the 2015 Carnegie winner, “Me…Jane”,
which will be awarded tomorrow morning at the ALSC Awards ceremony. Following both videos please join us in Yosemite
A/B room, located one floor beneath this ballroom to meet all of our honorees. Thank you. (Applause)

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