2017 Newbery-Caldecott-Wilder Banquet: Complete Ceremony

I still recall working my way through a book as a child and making the astounding discovery that an author was speaking to me as a librarian I get to revisit that feeling every time I attend this banquet I can't think of a better way to spend an evening than with a thousand book lovers and friends as we hear from and celebrate their distinguished book creators yay indeed I welcome every one of you wherever you are seated whether your first banquet or your 50th together tonight we listen it is now my honor and delight to welcome the president of the American Library Association this is a colleague and book lover who among her many presidential duties and initiatives this past year has shown us how truly transformative and essential libraries are everyone please put your hands together for Julie todaro thank you so who knew that giving in a mayor an opinion would get me in so much trouble I was respectful and honest and when I gave my call this morning for you to go back into battle that's the way we do it but we don't miss an opportunity to speak up and to provide information thanks for sharing so in 1977 so if you were not born by then I do not want to hear that in 1977 I had the fortune as a children's librarian to be on a committee in Texas to put together a little award called the blue bonnet award I was honored to do so and when we finished that award I was asked to speak at Rice University about the importance of awards and zina Sutherland was in the audience zina Sutherland which was enormous for me because of that she appointed me as the member of the 1978-79 Newberry Caldecott committee this was two years before the Newberry in the Caldecott were separated and of course the Wilder was completely separate my books were can do the math the Western game I know I love that book and one of the most beautiful children's books the girl who loved wild horses so I love those I was honored to serve on that committee we had some fascinating people we had a children's librarian walk out and quit the committee in the space yeah it was it was good time maybe it's me I don't know I think it's me but we had a fascinating time we had to wear brown paper covers around our books because the publishers had our faces and then they would look to see which book we were carrying when we walked through the exhibit so we think you still do that maybe I'm not sure it was an exciting time and it it I met Augusta Baker there she was on my committee as well and we had heard it rumored that someone had walked out the year before or said they would be there until they voted her book in I think she's in the audience tonight but I'm not sure thank you all so much many years ago I was sitting where you are and it's daunting to be here and to be welcoming you to this event I've always been honored to have a career that includes being a children's and a young adult librarian and that continues to be on my resume can use to serve me well as I speak out and be knowledgeable about the kinds of services and resources that are critical because the next poet laureate could come from your library thank you so much good evening what do a remarkable young artist a knitting grandmother seeking solitude bugs speaking their own language dancers in New Orleans Congo Square and a cat have in common would you have guest book characters in the most distinguished Illustrated children's books published in 2016 would you have guessed this year's Randolph Caldecott award and honor books cherry mrs. Caldecott committee provided me with the opportunity to discuss debate and deliberate picture books published last year in the United States with a group of dedicated and articulate children's literature professionals I am proud to call them my colleagues my friends and my Caldecott family it has been an honor to work with them and please allow me to introduce you to them at this time please hold your applause until all of the committee members are standing and Caldecott family please stand as I call your name Martine Glasgow Miriam laying Budhan Marion L creamer Erica Dean Glen Stacey Dylan Brian D Hart Holly Jin Lauren M Annette Lang Susan Z melter Janet C Mumford Lori Reese Lisa fond race ik Ashleigh wearing and Brian E Wilson [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 2017 Caldecott committee chose for honor books in alphabetical order by title they are do is talk written and illustrated by carson ellis published by candlewick press a diverse community of anthropomorphic bugs is intrigued by an unfurling spout carson Ellis deftly depicts the mysteries of life in an imaginary natural world through intricate details and the witty humor of a made-up language dua stack is a treasure trove of visual and linguistic literacy carson please come forward and accept the Caldecott honor citation for Do's tuck [Applause] freedom and Congo Square illustrated by our Gregory Christie written by Carol Boston Weatherford published by little B books an imprint a Bonnie a publishing USA as they work throughout the week slaves look forward to their afternoon of music hope and community in Congo squares New Orleans our Gregory Christie's folk art inspired paint and collage images powerfully captured the emotions of this little-known historical event vibrant color and brilliant use of line heighten the impact of the rhyming couplets Greg please come forward and accept the Caldecott honor citation for freedom in Congo Square [Applause] leave me alone illustrated and written by Vera Brosco published by drawing book press an imprint of McMillan's children's publishing group at the end of her rope granny is desperate for time alone to finish knitting sweaters for a house filled with dozens of rambunctious children Vera brothels expressive watercolor and cartoon art presents a genre breaking journey for granny from taking the traditional forest setting to the mountains to the moon and beyond Vera please come forward and accept the Caldecott honor citation for leave me alone [Applause] they all saw a cat illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel published by Chronicle Books a cat's walk through the world becomes a surprise Ville exploration of perspective and empathy as the feline encounters a variety of creatures the thoughtful composition paired with spare language and repetition focuses on each individual's perception of it Brendan wenzels use of a range of art materials reinforces the idea that the essence of a cat might be in the eye of the beholder Brendan please come forward and accept the Caldecott honor citation for they all saw a cat [Applause] and finally the recipients of the 2017 Randolph Caldecott medal for the most distinguished picture book for children is de Vaca Steptoe for radiant child the story of young artists trying to sell best at Illustrated at written by Chewbacca Steptoe published by Little Brown books for young readers a division of hash it foot group like jean-michel basquiat work Jovanka step toes illustrations radiates energy and immediacy a patchwork canvas of scavenged wood painted and collage with photos and images of human anatomy evokes the in private ory nature of Basquiat art radiant child's resonates with emotion that connects to vacas pepto who is Basquiat and Basquiat with young readers making the artist approachable and relatable to children on a variety of levels de Vaca Steptoe on behalf of the 2017 Caldecott committee it is a privilege to recognize you and your achievement and to present you with the Randolph Caldecott medal for radiant child the story of young artist jean-michel Basquiat it says at the top of my speech this is six minutes and 18 seconds so we'll see what happens a genius child by Langston Hughes this is a song for genius child sings softly for the song his while sing softly for the song as well singing softly as ever you can Lester song gets out of hand nobody loves the genius child can you love an eagle tame or wild wild or tame can you love a monster a frightened name nobody loves a genius child kill him and let his soul run wild this poem was read at John Michell Boy Scouts memorial service by his friend Brady Freddy brathwaite also known as skypod Freddy host of yo MTV raps it sums up the love-hate relationship many of us have with bringers of change our connections with revolutionaries are often uncomfortable and hard to deal with and are often filled with abuse and struggles for power and an attempt to maintain the status quo but when their job is done we celebrate their lives as if we were behind them all the way imagining what it would what would happen if we were really behind them all the way 12 years ago I decided to write a book about jean-michel basquiat I was at the Brooklyn Museum in 2005 at the Basquiat exhibit standing in front of a piece called the jawbone of an ass the title reference the act of a livable biblical hero Samson chopping down 1,000 Philistines a perennial enemy of the Jewish people with the jawbone of a donkey the pen itself has an untraditional frame made of four slaps slats of wood tied at the corners with a string the canvas is draped over the frames and its surface is separated into three sections reminiscent of the Holy Trinity by a large yellow rectangular area in the middle this yellow area is filled with names that allude to historic struggles for power and agency names of those considered heroes are given crowns by biscotti in the upper left is a drawing of a black man from the waist up above him written the words thinker beneath them painted a blue crown all the way to the right a jumble of cartoon line drawings depicts conflict a policeman welding a jawbone snakes and bombs and two boxes one white one black slugging it out my description does not do the actual art work justice but what struck me about it about this piece of artwork was by Scotts use of history how he tied the past and the present together with clarity it was immediate straightforward yet complex that would be my first time standing in front of a work of his really studying it really seeing Basquiat this experience as well as the excitement surrounding the exhibit of his work led to a fleeting thought it would be really cool if I did a children's book around him the idea lay dormant for five years until 2010 when radiant child a documentary by a film maker SMAP by filmmaker Tamara Davis brought it back to the forefront of my mind reinvigorated I began searching his life and was able to find what I called the meat of the story the juicy mouth-watering piece that you can't do without it's what you what your mind sinks his teeth into what holds the story together sorry vegetarians for me the meat was this Basquiat quote I say my mother gave me the primary things the artwork comes from her these words let me know that I was going to create a story about the love between a mother and her son as I began to learn about Basquiat life I found that our lives have many parallels living in Brooklyn hanging out in the village creating art and mental illness I learned that his life was rich with experiences and subject matters relevant to today's youth and families such as drug addiction immigration poetry our activism or what we call artivism racism hip hop culture and graffiti I also found that while there was a great love for his work people will often conflicted about giving him credit for his genius there was a comfort in the narrative that he was a poor uneducated wild child from the streets that his artistry was not worthy of being discussed because it was a fluke and that his imagery came from drug addiction or mental illness delusions the truth is that Basquiat was raised in a two-parent home which they owned until his mother became sick he spoke three languages and went to private and public schools his father owned several businesses before becoming an accountant at penguin and he frequently played tennis on the weekend the the development of Basquiat Scott style began as a child and continued to develop into into his adulthood there are no first-hand accounts shown that his art was a product of drugs or mental illness and as a side note no one ever mentioned that there was also a highly prevalent drug culture in America so it was not like he was the only one and also this drug culture during the 80s was enabled by government policy oh sorry the truth is that you cannot discuss modern art without Basquiat art was his breath it was his act of love and he touched people deeply this is not to say that he had no problems or angst but there has been a double standard in the telling of the story s Adamson angers me to think how many young artists of color have discovered jean-michel basquiat have been moved by his work only to be told he was a lucky drug addict at the right place at the right time this type of character lynching is not something of the past I have personally experienced the rewriting of my history by a journalist article filled with blatant lies focused more on himself and his comfort level of what he thought I was than what rather who I was or M we have come a long way but black and brown bodies are still facing the repercussions of full frontal and systemic racism sometimes with their lives we still have far to go so why write a book about such a controversial figure because we live in a complicated world and children's books can open up spaces for young people to learn lessons that help prepare them for their future children's books are safe containers to discuss any number of difficult topics with a tape with their caretakers or loved ones they create opportunities for children seeking understanding and solutions for real-life situation to know that they're not alone and to speak their truth they are okay open space for children to develop empathy and understanding and to feel pride in their culture heritage and experiences jean-michel basquiat story teaches children and all of us that life has struggles many that we can do nothing about but we also have power and how we face them and most important it teaches us that we all have value thank you the job of a child is to learn as much as possible about the world through new eyes that casts no judgment it is not that they can not handle inconvenient truths it is we as adults who shy away from controversial topics and feel uncomfortable and even ashamed when we tell lies or omit truths about life to children they are filled with unrealistic expectations of the world we create angry adults that do terrible things to themselves and others and the truth creates peace this just just as a side note whenever I go to schools my number one rule is anything can happen so you just have to flow with it my father wrote as a way to heal himself and to value others and now I do the same sloppy ugly and sometimes weird is a metaphor for our lives our struggles and the value that we all hold while a life may be of no interest at first glance on closer inspection there is always more to learn more lessons to take note of when we pay attention to others we pay attention to ourselves when we find beauty in others we find beauty in ourselves by being a witness to the sloppy ugly but somehow still beautiful beings around us we learn who we really are we are not the sum of our faults or our strengths those are transit transitory things we are each doing the best we can with the tools we have been given against the challenges that we face we all desire love and happiness and we all are deserving how we treat one another is what distinguishes us I keep doing that so let us speak truth at all times even when it is difficult or it is painful so that we do not fill our children's bags with the weight of what we carry fighting racism sexism classism poverty and any of the other woes of humanity is like fighting hunger it is not satiated with one meal it is not solved by one by giving a man a fish it is everyday work that we must eat that we must teach people how to do we cannot be satisfied with one victory and think that the battle is over until the struggle becomes indistinguishable from the way we live our lives these pestilences will always be plagues committee members publishing companies everyone listening or reading the speech I ask that we all keep fighting and that we take this attitude with us into our day-to-day business please do not feel overwhelmed we can all pick an individual focus and then in this way everything will be accomplished you will become better and we will become better I would like to thank Joe Michel Basquiat my agent Eduard NECA Schlemmer Cindy Egan Connie sue Deirdre Jones Sabu sorrow Fuji Jane Keenan Phil community head any MacDowell erika schwarz sericia Fennell Victoria Stapleton Jenny choy Meghan tingly everyone at little brown for young readers for being supportive and pairing a space for me to sit and focus and work my girlfriend Asha dr. Trina Ellen Yearwood my mother father and family members and a host of other friends and family members who have supported me in my life and on this project through your words and through getting to work in the studio painting blocks for me I would also like to thank Leo and I am Dillon Jerry Pinkney my father John Steptoe Jerry Pinkney and Leo and Diane Dillon were the only other african-american people to receive the Caldecott award before me and there are a host of other African Americans that have received Caldecott honors and I just want to take a moment to think about that and my heart and because of the history of this country there are times that we've had to face race racism and the silver medals that were received by african-americans in my heart those are gold medals [Applause] [Applause] it is on their shoulders I stand and I would lastly like to thank the 2017 Caldecott committee for seeing the value in the story and for honoring me with such a distinguished award thank you what a thrill it is to be here with all of you to celebrate the best in publishing for children this past year I had the honor of serving as the chair of the 2017 Newberry committee or nc-17 as we have taken to college and working alongside a peerless group of ardent careful curious dutiful exacting fearless genial insightful magnanimous open particular passionate smart tireless readers that's 14 adjectives and casey lost counts I'm going to introduce them to you now I will read their names they will stand and remain standing and you will hold your applause until I've called them all ready Tony a karmic Kimberly Castle Albert's Betsy Fraser Elaine M Fults Krishna Grady Matthew Kruger Laura Lutz April maza Daniel elmire gene Nelson Marianne H Owen Brandi Sanchez Shana M so Joyner and Jamie Watson this year the Newbery committee chose three honor books in alphabetical order by title and author as it happens they are freedom over me 11 plays their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan published by Caitlyn blue ebooks Athenaeum books for young readers and imprint of Simon & Schuster children's publishing Ashley Bryan has taken 11 names and price tags from an 1828 Georgia plantation appraisal and fashioned from them a series of inspired affecting and deeply personal poems that are both an indictment of an ugly piece of our collective history and a celebration of the human spirit calling children to gather and witness and remember Ashley please come forward to receive your Newbery Honor citation [Applause] whoo here we go my Langston Hughes I play cool and I take all my motto as I live and learn dig and because in return [Applause] [Applause] the inquisitors tale or the three magical children and their holy dog by Adam kid wits published by Dutton books for young readers an imprint of penguin young readers a division of penguin Random House edited by Julie Strauss gable president and publisher of Dutton books for young readers she's having a good night my turns intimate and epic hilarious and heart-wrenching Adam giblets Chaucerian escapade traces an unlikely friendship across medieval France as three youngsters and a sainted dog defied dastardly monks foil farting dragons and Eve aid one enigmatic Inquisitor all to do nothing short of rescuing human understanding from the literal fires that would destroy it Adam please come forward to receive your Newbery Honor citation for we'll follow by Lauren Welk published by Dutton books for young readers an imprint of penguin young readers a division of penguin Random House edited by Julie Strauss cable president and publisher of Dutton books for young readers distinguished by top plotting indelible character painting and unspeakably beautiful sentences Wolf Hollow explores one girl's introduction into the ambiguities of adulthood as NFL faces down the gossip persecution and senseless violence consuming her small Pennsylvania town and works through her own complicated relationship it's the truth Lauren please come forward to receive your Newbery Honor citation for wolf [Applause] and now the winner of the 2017 newbery medal for the most distinguished book for children is the girl who drank the moon by Kelly Burnham published by Algonquin young readers an imprint of Algonquin books of Chapel Hill a division of workman publishing edited by Elise Howard publisher and editor Algonquin young readers the girl who drank the moon the first piece of high fantasy to win the Newberry since 1985 is at its core a family story telling the tale of zan a centuries old which not nearly as evil as a reputation lurk and amorphous swamp monster of colossal wisdom Furion a pint-sized dragon with a dragon sized heart and Luna their little girl accidentally and magicked and their everything but it is about so much more to about blind obedience and ultimate sacrifice about swallowing your sorrow and claiming your power it's incredibly ambitious with two or three more narrative threads than ought to be humanly manageable but hers is a feat of genius and this is a sweeping thrumming heart filling masterpiece Kelly on behalf of the 2017 Newberry metal selection committee it is my great honor to acknowledge your distinguished achievement and present to you the John Newbery Medal for the girls who drink oh good there are tissues here oh okay I'm good um um I only just learned today that it's a real metal nobody tells me anything so hi everyone you having a nice time all right so nobody writes a book alone this may come as a shock to some of you those of you who aren't writers I mean we look like we're alone don't we are tea stand ripped jeans and the Sun starved dullness of our faces when it's clear that we haven't left our offices in days I mean I've heard but seriously we can't do this by ourselves which means before I can talk about all this business I need to say thank you to some people first of all I wouldn't be here at all if it weren't for Lindsey Davis who I just met today and then I promptly burst into tears was that only the first person who said yes but the first person who championed my very first book at first yes in a writer's life means all the difference in the world and it still does it still does forever and speaking of first yeses I also would be remiss if I didn't also thank the effervescent Lee beautiful Nancy Kahn askew and the whole team at my very first publisher little brown who brought my first book into the world and supported the steps that led me here and so thank you I really appreciate you guys all so clearly just thanks Steven milk my amazing agent who hosted my career on his back and has carried it tireless across deserts and dark forests and high mountains and perhaps even into outer space I'm not entirely sure about that last bit but I wouldn't put it past him my writing is better because of Steve mostly because I'm constantly trying to impress him I sure as heck wouldn't be here without at least Howard who if you don't know this already is a wacky super genius and literally write about everything including by the way when she literally ordered me to write this very book let this be a lesson to all of you always listen to Elise and helping Elise is the entire team at Algonquin young readers the boundlessly joy soul Trevor Ingerson Eileen Lawrence Albert Brooks Yokosuka and many others so many of you who have all booyah we're all buoyed up by the support oh sorry by the support from workman publishing Dan Reynolds I gotta say you are steering a hell of a ship thank you I wouldn't be here at the world for my writing group the black sheep Steve Brezhnev Curtis galleta Harlan Coleman Jody crummy Brian bliss and Christopher Lincoln who refused to allow me to give up on this book or any of my books and insisted that I continue even emailing the manuscript that I thought that I had erased back to me over and over and over again saying hey dummy don't you know how email works even though sometimes it does seem impossible I have to give honor to my legion of ladies that beautiful battalion of women authors who have stood next to me and supported me in the way that women have supported women since the dawn of the dang universe we bind wounds we prop up we sued we give advice we hand unknown another the tools that we might need to solve our particular problems hammers for example vales compasses sailing ships armor yield and perhaps a very very sharp knife specifically and this is a small list within a broad community and earth to Tracy batiste old believe in Isola Rudy Perkovic Laura ruby loora looral Schneider Kate Messner and Linda urban where would I be without you ladies and I thank my lucky stars to have you in my life I also have to express my profound gratitude to the Newbery committee you guys so first of all I don't know if you guys know this but they love each other so much and though their care for one another is almost matched with their care for this work I thank you for your intelligence and care and honor for this art form how you demonstrate to your tireless effort the fact that all of this matters clearly because we're all here this is a lot of people all of this matters this work matters each reader matters each book that you poured over matters I see it and I appreciate it and gosh I love you guys just as much you guys are amazing thank you I am proud to be laboring in this field with you so I salute and lastly I can't look at them right now and would not be here without my family sorry just give me a sec my parents who help teach me how to understand stories to see them from the inside and look out my husband who bears the singularly difficult position of being the long-suffering spouse to an only mostly sane writer and who does so with grace and strengths and dedication and kindness and this is difficult because I'm a bit of a handful pretty sure and to my three kids who are in the process of writing their own lives and also in the process of rewriting the whole world I wouldn't have become a writer without you this is true we like to see this is true I generally would not become this writer without you you kids are my first thought and my last thought with every story none of this would exist without you my darlings thank you oh there's more so apparently you wanted to bury I'm still astonished by it I'm still after all these months in this state of non-belief it's a story you see one that stands in conflict with the narrative that I have created for myself the narrative that helps me to organize my life and what I believe about my life and the weeks are followed that phone call has pies in the morning when I was ripped out of the deepest of deep sleeps by the voice voices of a roomful of marvelously cheerful librarians with very impossible good news and me responding with garble II nonsense punctuated by the occasional Oh possible I'm still trying to accept the fact that it did in fact occurred and was not simply a thing that I made up this is harder than you'd think I literally make things up for a living this is not due to any particular ambivalence about my book in truth I loved writing this book I really did I loved mucking about in its strangeness it's poetry and paper birds and monsters and odd magics I loved writing through its pain on confusion and grief and hard-fought joy I loved reading the weaving in those not so subtle at all super feminist undertones because that stuff never gets old so yeah I had a pretty good time with this one till I held this deep and fundamental belief that no one else on earth was going to like it this is true I thought that I was writing a book for an audience of one that one being myself and and and that I couldn't imagine the relationship that I had with this book that was so deeply personal and deeply intimate that um that that could be replicated with another reader and in fact I turned it in to my poor editor with a letter of apology this is the assumption that this assumption was part of the narrative that I lived in part of the story that I insisted on telling myself which meant that each time that a reviewer didn't hate it or each time it inexplicably landed on a list or whatever each time was an astonishment to me this Awards this speech me standing here in front of the best-lookin book nerds in America well it's not what I expected and I feel as though I'm living in a story that isn't mine a narrative that I did not invent and one that I hesitate to claim as my own I've been telling stories my whole life most of them outlandish most of them outrageous most of them strange and odd and misshapen I can't help it I blame wiring I blame anxiety I blame the fact that I was an oldest child and oldest children are typically sent out of doors with unruly younger children to entertain them I guess and honestly what else are you supposed to do I told stories I took a small space and a small world and a small life and I enlarged it in big and it and magic everything I used stories to tell the truths about the world and about myself and I used stories to tell lies about the world and about myself for example Oh what's upon a time when I was a mousy haired accident-prone socially anxious and unbearably lonely twelve-year-old with an epic oz slash fairytales slash and of Green Gables obsession I journeyed with my three elvish companions on a magical path into a deep dark wood actually it wasn't a deep dark what at all it was the scrubby leftovers from my of my cities once great trolley line abandoned sometime in the 50s and which had gradually succumbed to the will of weeds and buckthorn scrub and cottonwood trees to me it was a wild and endless space and my elvish companions the blond children down the block that I babysat every Tuesday and Thursday believed me when I told them it was special and they believed me when I told them it was magic and they believed me when I told them it went on for miles and miles and miles and miles and we had to hold hands very tightly otherwise we might be lost forever in the thick canopy of trees they believed me of course because I wanted to believe myself we believe a thing and it is that is the power of stories I told them if they stared at tree bark for long enough they'd eventually see a map one they'd eventually see a met King I thought I got it rats oh well whatever I that would give them perfect directions in a certain country that does not exist on earth I told them that pink quartz is the Buried remains of a dead gnomes heart and that you can distract ghosts by blowing ashes in their faces and that a sudden cool breeze was the collected spirits of dead warriors trying to remind us to be brave and bold and kind and righteous I never knew if their mother was bothered by the endless stream of drivel that I poured into those tender ears although to be fair she did stop calling me so maybe stories enlarge they expand they amplify they turned South ears into silk purses and Pig keepers into Kings a story can make a lonely anxious kid feel more than herself for just a moment and can make an ugly forgotten gap in a city feel like a broad wild and infinite space we tell stories because we yearn for larger truths larger experiences larger world and larger selves we tell stories because we wish to contain multitudes and then we do we see the world through a wider and more complicated lens and we can for a little while feel as another fields think as another thinks and breathe someone else's precious and magical breath but there is another power of stories one that well-meaning and bookish people don't always like to talk about stories can reveal analyze and dissect yes but they can also conceal obfuscate and distract stories break down barriers and reveal the nobility in ordinary people and things but they can also turn nice old ladies into fearsome witches and neighbors and de fiends stories create empathy kindness connection and antipathy hatred and division stories are bridges and walls stories are bridges and walls what do we do about that when I was writing this speech I got asked a lot about politics are you going to talk about politics in your newberry speech kelley Barnhill this is what people asked me when after they were able to convince me that yes I did actually win a damn Newberry and I didn't make it up look despite it is despite its veneer of witches and Dragons it's a political book it is of course it is and for those of you who didn't notice it's politics um and I'll tell you it's hard not to talk about politics we are living I don't know if you have noticed in interesting times and yes all art is political yes it is and all politics in essence is storytelling all social movements all social change all arcs of Justice they are all storytelling we take the narrative we are given and we retell that story in a way that better reflects the world we want to see okay um human beings build meaning through narratives we can't help it we're wired that way so whose stories are told and whose are silenced and why those stories are told in the first place and what we as a culture do with those stories this matters it's always matters this work has always mattered but it does sound now more than ever and we all have to pay attention and as people who traffic in books and stories for a living like literally everybody here we need to show kids how to pay attention to I wrote this book intending to wrestle with the notion of false narratives the stories that turn neighbors into scapegoats the stories that perpetuate intolerance the stories that encourage us to notice the splinter in our neighbors I while ignoring the two-by-four in our own we have all seen how Minds can be opened through stories but we have also read our history and we know the other side of that coin we know that systemic oppression is rationalized through stories we know that atrocities are justified through stories we know that tyranny and intolerance are built on stories and that's on the macro scale on the micro scale we see the same thing self-hatred is a narrative self doubt is narrative even anxiety is a narrative is a story that we tell ourselves again and again and again and again and can't turn off stories are powerful for good or bad they can literally rewrite a person's sense of themselves and they can rewrite the world around us this is how I was trying to do in the girl who drank the moon to show how a story when it is cynically told can twist the truth I wanted to show how a cynical story could become a wall a prison a weapon and I wanted also to show how to subvert that narrative how to reimagine and replace the stories that harm with the stories that enlarge in noble and expand and this is the role of course of the book back when I used to teach I often told my students that a book and a story were two separate entities a book of course is not a story per se but rather it contains the tools and raw materials with we as readers construct stories with books we are both inside and outside we are both participants and builders with books we have the tools not only to build the stories within its pages but to rethink and rebuild the narratives that we have accepted as true but maybe aren't and then we can make something new I believe this is possible I've seen it happen and I know you've seen it too we live in interesting times and we have kids who right now are deeply in need of books that will give them the tools that they need to think critically to ask questions to breakdown assumed narratives both about themselves and about the world so yeah we need books that are mirrors so that any kid can see themselves clearly we need books that are bright lamps that shine light and hope into a dark and troubled world we need books that are bridges and roads connecting that which we know to that which we do not we need books that are safe harbors and welcoming sanctuaries books that are armor and shield friend and companion books to free prisoners heal the harmed teach the ignorant and and feed our aching soul once upon a time I was a lonely kid an anxious kid burdened with a false narrative a story about myself that I told myself it took me a long time to learn how to subvert that narrative as book people and I'm looking at all of you we are all experts in subversion yes we know that books teach us to transgress to stand up to listen to connect to analyze and to understand I've often said that reading is an act of radical empathy and I do believe it but the shortened version of that statement is also true reading is radical . so this is why every kid deserves a library well first of all so the shortened version of that sentence is also true every kid deserves the library come on especially here in Chicago I'm not saying I'm just saying so I every kid deserves a library stacked to the rafters with radical reads books that enlarge and ennoble us books remind us to be brave and bold and kind and righteous books that challenge us to face the narratives in our culture the narratives that twist that divide that tell us lies about ourselves and to break them down look inside analyze their working parts and ultimately write something new tell a new story rewrite the world thank you oh my goodness what a night and now we're going to get wilder so service on the wilder award committee is truly truly a privilege and a pleasure for an entire year five congenial colleagues had the opportunity to delve deeply deeply deeply into the work of some of the most distinguished authors and illustrators of books for children sounds pretty heavenly huh because the committee nominated creators of work in all genres and solicited suggestions from the ask membership it soon became clear in examining the excellent caliber of work that our task would be as daunting as it would be delightful we reveled in the rich illustrations of master artists kept company with some of the finest characters ever on the page we're fascinated with nonfiction and savored all the wise and wonderful words words throughout after exhaustive review and exhilarating discussion the committee chose to honor the distinctive and varied works of Nicky grime please join me in thanking the hard-working and good-humoured members of the 2017 Wilder award committee for their support dedication expertise and commitment to task you know the drill please hold your applause until they've all been named julik or sorrow who unfortunately can't be with us tonight because she's in South Africa Robin Gibson LuAnn top and Virginia Walter we are delighted to present this year's Laura Ingalls Wilder award to poet biographer novelist and artist Nikki Grimes for her substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children her enchantment with words emerged at an early age Nikki was composing first before the age of six and has been writing ever since at the age of 13 she gave her first poetry reading at the county colon Library in Harlem a block away from the hospital where she was born since that time she has published more than 40 novels picture books biographies and volumes of poetry for a wide range of Ages growing up in precarious circumstances Nikki found solace in books and in the library but she rarely found the validation she thought thought she thought thought through characters who looked like her or who had her life experience through the encouragement and influence of mentors and models from foster families and teachers to James Baldwin and Julius Lester she honed her voice and has used it to acknowledge the troubled places that children experience and provides the illumination of hope to guide them through via the high spirits and loyal friendships found into nature Brown and Diamond Daniel and the strength and dignity of Betty Coleman and Barack Obama her purchase validates the struggles and successes of human existence that she yearned for in her own childhood her characters whether drawn from history or her own imagination are audacious they are persistent and they fill us with inspiration but these gifts are not delivered didactically but instead with a love for the lushness of language the artful turn of phrase the masterful use of metaphor she shares with us new insights that make us tingle and recognizes that poetry has a magical element in terms of slipping past the intellect there's a surprise that touches your heart before you knew it was coming and so it seems fitting to read one of her poems here I can't do it as well as Ashley Bryan mystery rich or poor we all own two tiny treasures worthless if saved they are priceless than when spent what are they thank you Nikki Grimes please accept our very deepest gratitude and the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder medal for your substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children [Applause] when I first got into this business and the stories and poems that I wrote tended to be very dark very heavy and time and time again editors would tell me besides telling me to lighten up they would tell me these stories are not age-appropriate which I found difficult to process because the stories that I was drawing from were from my own childhood so how could they not be age-appropriate for children very complicated process that so I thought about what truth can I pull from my life from my childhood that would in fact be age-appropriate for readers of any age and that single truth that I could always return to is hope I know a lot about hope faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen is one of my favorite verses in scripture largely because the word hoped is featured I've had a lifelong fascination with words in the word but the deepest resonance for me is hope hope the golden key which mysteriously lets us into the Hall of Dreams the journey that brought me to this moment would have been cut short without hope to begin I must confess that I never planned a career in children's literature a life of letters was always part of my equation but my professional path began by writing for those aliens calls adults I spent years freelancing for periodicals like Soho weekly news in the Amsterdam news and then moved on to write poetry and features for MS and Essence magazine among others and the late 60s and early 70s I performed my poetry at coffee houses during open mic and eventually became part of the regular lineup of the last poets coffeehouse and the New Year weekend Porto Ricans poets cafe I attended a Writing Workshop at Columbia where I met Nikki Giovanni and moved in circles and included poets Sonia Sanchez and Quincy troupe and short story writer Toni Cade Bambara I published poetry and adult literary journals like callaloo drum and the Greenfield Review edited by one Josef brew Shack we go back a long way and later hit the college circuit reading my poetry alongside Giovanni amiri baraka and Jane Cortes of course it's a miracle that I even got that far a child at risk from a broken home I banged around from one foster home to another for years when my mother remarried and I went back to live with her I had to survive the turmoil of her alcoholism and mental illness and my stepfather's abuse in all those years writing was my survival tool and for me hope was not a feather but more a lifeline God helped me to hold on tight I had human help as well it was my 10th grade English teacher Evelyn Wexler a Holocaust survivor who taught me that I could rise above my circumstances and who gave me my first b-minus on a composition a b-minus I was appalled and demanded an explanation if you want an a-plus in my class she informed me you'll have to dig in and do the very best writing of which you're capable well as my Jewish friends would say she did me a great mitzvah teaching me that good enough isn't and that I should always seek to raise the bar in my own work and I've been doing that ever since then it was James Baldwin my favorite author who mentored me for a year and a half during a brief stay in America with their help and the encouragement of my sister I went on to finish high school and eventually college by the time I was in my 20s I was on a clear trajectory to create collections of poetry and short stories for adults I remember discussing one particular project with Toni Morrison while she was still an editor at Random House she believed in my talent and was an enormous source of encouragement little wonder I dreamed of someday penning the Great American Novel for which I would win the Pulitzer Prize of course to be quickly followed by the Nobel she beat me to it Little Nicky hadn't had no shortage of ego my friend of course all this was before I entered the realm of children's literature I had a couple of ideas for books for children and my thinking was that – them off because as we all know hiding books for children is so easy yeah afterwards I'd go back to working on the Great American Novel it's okay to laugh in my plans God certainly did though I didn't hear him at the time I was too busy figuring out how the children's book market worked to do that I reviewed children's books for several book review services including what was then known as the bulletin of the Council on interracial books for children Brad chambers was the head honcho back then and once I figured out that dial was a publisher most likely to be interested in the kinds of stories I wanted to write I started bugging Brad to arrange an introduction with the one and only Phyllis Fogelman Brad thought the idea was preposterous of course and tried to convince me to submit my work to a more junior editor well I wasn't interested in any of that I'd already gotten it into my head that if I was going to be rejected I wanted to be from the person at the top when Brad wasn't able to dissuade me he suggested a senior editor but I still wouldn't bite did I mention my submarine is from a young age well I needle a needle poor Brad until he finally caved and put in a call to Phyllis he was shocked when Phyllis agreed to look at my work and even more surprised when she eventually called me in for a meeting at that point I had a collection of what I thought were short stories about a friendship between a girl named short for pumpkin and a boy named Jim Jim those lights what she saw but said more stories were needed and suggested that perhaps I could come up with some thread that would connect them all and that ladies and gentlemen is how those Fogelman got me to write a novel without ever using the word in 1977 growing my debut book for young readers was born my second book something on my mind was art by Tom feelings was equally important because it was my first collection of poetry for children my father had once taken me to an art exhibit featuring calm feelings and Leo kardi two of his favorite artists and so I was familiar with Tom's work he and Leo were raising money at the time to join Maya Angelou and other artists african-american artists working in Ghana and the sales from that exhibit were to go towards their travel expenses years later I popped in to visit radio producer of Pepsi Charles in New York a good friend of mine Pepsi regularly read my poetry on air and when I dropped by her home one day she and a gentleman were busily poring over my work the gentleman turned out to be Tom feelings somewhere I felt my father smiling would I be interested in writing poems to accompany his art for a new book he asked me well I feigned indifference trying to look cool but inside I was jumping up and down I made no commitment but told him I considered the project that consideration eventually morphed into something on my mind many books have followed since and I'm long past planning a career in books for adults and guess what God's not laughing anymore instead he's smiling because I've taken the hope he planted inside me and I've carefully wrapped it in age-appropriate lyrical language to share with young readers as sorely in need of hope as I once was the world is a difficult and a dangerous place these days and our children need all the wonder beauty and hope we can offer we all have a part in this critical work thanks to committee chair starlet ron again and all the members of the 2017 Laura Ingalls Wilder War Committee for this honor thanks to my foster brother Kendall Buckhannon for being here tonight representing the family who gave me a loving and secure home in which my writing life could begin thanks to agent Elizabeth Harding my cheerleader in chief thanks to special friends from childhood and newer friends you come to cheer me on tonight thanks to the many editors who helped me to make my books the very best that they can be and thanks to all of you for putting those books into the hands of the children who need them God has blessed me richly and I hope he will in turn bless all of you thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *