PS – Most people put the PS at the end of the letter, but I’m
putting one here because I have the most wonderful late-breaking news
to tell you – A Gathering Light (A Northern Light’s British
title) has won the Carnegie Medal!
Can you believe it? I can't. I still keep expecting one of the judges
to call up and say, "Er…um…I'm afraid there's been
a bit of a mistake…"
My fellow finalists included Mark Haddon for The Curious Incident
of the Dog in the Night-Time, David Almond for The Fire Eaters,
Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo for Private Peaceful,
Elizabeth Laird for The Garbage King and Linda Newbery for Sisterland.
The medal was awarded at the British Library in London on Friday,
July 9. It was the loveliest day imaginable and one I'll always remember.
There was tea beforehand and champagne after and the most wonderful
words in between. Colin Brabazon, head of the judging committee, delivered
a rousing speech on the need for excellence in children's literature,
asking us all who deserves great books more than kids? It was fiery
and passionate and made me want to stand up and cheer.
Emcee Lizo Mzimba, presenter of the Children's BBC show, Newsround,
talked about always being asked what his favorite book was and being
unable to answer the question because his favorite always changed
as he did. He told us to check back in with him when he turned 80.
Shirley Hughes, winner of this year's Greenaway Award for Ella's
Big Chance, spoke about the need for the new generation of illustrators
to recognize the importance of life studies, and to always carry their
sketch pads with them – just in case. (Budding artists, take
And then it was my turn. The winning title was announced, my name
was called and I went up on stage to receive a beautiful golden medal
and give my own speech. I think we writers are supposed to be somewhat
above the whole awards thing – but I'm not. Receiving this award
was an immense honor for me, and I was so emotional that I nearly
started bawling a few lines into my speech. I managed to get through
it, however, and if you're interested, you can read it by clicking
here: Carnegie Speech.
The award includes a monetary prize of £500 (approximately $1,000
USD) to be given by the recipient to a library of her choice for the
purpose of purchasing books. I've decided to split the award, giving
half of the money to my hometown library, the Port Leyden Community
Library, and half to a public library in East London.
I took many photos during my stay in London and will post them in
a new Photo Album section of the website as soon as my web designer,
the fabulous Brian P. Kelly,
can create the page.
And now…to return you to our regularly scheduled newsletter…
...Just got back from the American Library Association's
annual conference, which was held this year in sunny Orlando. I
was there to accept a Michael L. Printz Honor for A Northern Light,
and to attend the Newbery and Caldecott Awards banquet.
It was a fun and hectic four days, full of signings, speeches, dinners
and books, books, and more books. Publishers use the conference
to showcase their upcoming titles and authors come to sign new and
old work. The ALA and the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association)
hand out their awards for the previous year's distinguished titles.
The Printz ceremony was on Monday evening, and the day started with
a breakfast at which I was able to meet and speak with the Printz
award committee. The award is given in honor of the late Michael
L. Printz, a legendary librarian who worked in the state of Kansas
and dedicated his life to children and books. A YALSA librarian
named Pam Spencer Holley was this year's chair of the Printz committee,
and I took a few minutes during the breakfast to ask her what the
man behind the award was like. Pam, who is as charming and gracious
a woman as you will ever meet, began to tell me a few stories about
Michael L. Printz – about his dedication to young readers,
to his work, to his friends and colleagues, and to the pursuit of
good barbecue. Within minutes, her eyes had welled up and she couldn't
go on. That told me pretty much all I needed to know about the man.
The ceremony itself was attended by about 500 devoted book people,
and a lovely dessert reception followed. It was an exciting night,
one filled with good wishes and support from readers and writers,
and one I will remember. You can learn more about the 2004 Printz
Award books and authors by logging on to YALSA's site at www.ala.org/yalsa.
The ALA's annual conference is mindbogglingly huge, and one of the
most fun things to do while you're there is simply wander around
and check out the new offerings for fall. Publishers offer these
title at a discount, and if there's one thing I can't resist, it's
a bargain. I'm bent on assembling a beautiful collection of signed
picture books for my baby daughter Daisy, and I grow positively
dizzy with greed at the chance to pay a mere $10 for a gorgeous
brand-spanking-new hardcover picture book signed by the author.
And…as if the $10 price tag wasn't good enough, on the last
day of the festival, publishers mark the books down even more so
that they don't have to pack them up and ship them back to the office.
I bought so many picture books, and grabbed so many young adult
advance alleys, that my suitcase ended up going well over American
Airlines' weight limit and I had to pay a fine. Embarrassing, but
true. Still, when I got home and unpacked T is for Terrible,
the newest title by the wonderful Peter McCarty, and Here Comes
Mother Goose illustrated by Rosemary Wells, Madalenka signed by Peter Sis and Thunder Rose by Kadir Nelson…well,
the extortionate airline fine seemed like another total bargain.
My bookshelves are groaning, but Daisy's collection has some fantastic
And here's another picture book that totally, absolutely knocked
my socks off – The Friend by husband and wife team
David Small and Sarah Stewart (published in August by Farrar, Straus
and Giroux). It's about a little girl named Belle whose parents
are too busy to play with her, or in fact pay her any attention
at all, and Belle's caregiver, Bea. This beautiful book, in which
the text and drawings complement each other so perfectly, so seamlessly,
had me crying on the shuttle bus from the convention center to the
hotel. In fact, I missed my stop. The bond between these two friends
is shown, rather than completely told, and is all the more moving
and powerful for the authors' subtlety. The final page shows a grown
Belle thinking back to her childhood and the caring woman whom she
loved, and the endpapers show the author herself as a baby being
held by her own caregiver. Their picture – a real photo –
is framed by an illustrated locket. The book is just breathtaking,
somehow more than the sum of its parts, and if you get a chance
to read it, my goodness – do!
More to come soon, but that's it for now. I wish you all plenty
of happy summer reading!