I’m not much one for a party; my husband has a big birthday coming up and I’ve gratefully left all the planning to the children. But three parties I attended recently made me glad I was there, and they made me like my job even more than I already thought I did.
Children’s Books Boston inaugurated its existence with a bash at Simmons College on September 12th. While the city has plenty of people and organizations devoted to the various aspects of children’s books and reading, we don’t get out of our workgroups and mindsets often enough to see what our colleagues are doing. CBB’s mission is to bring together publishers, reviewers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, and authors and illustrators to remind each of us of the interplay among disciplines that makes our work so lively. (One thing that attracted me to children’s librarianship was that you got to do so many different things in the course of a day.) More than two hundred people came to the party, and in order to make sure CBB would be more than just a party, we asked attendees to fill out a survey regarding their hopes and dreams for such an organization. If you’re in the neighborhood, please consider joining our band. Sign up for the CBB mailing list and keep up with our monthly events calendar.
Then, on September 26th, I went to a swanky bash in New York City for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a truly beautiful place in Amherst, Massachusetts, celebrating its eleventh anniversary. Honored on that evening were artist Chris Van Allsburg, editor Phyllis Fogelman Baker, Reading Is Fundamental leaders Carol H. Rasco and Lynda Johnson Robb, and the Horn Book’s own Barbara Bader, to whom I was delighted to present an award for her work in furthering the scholarly exploration of picture books. While glossier than the CBB party, this gala was attended by all kinds as well. In his opening remarks, Eric Carle talked about a letter he received from a young reader in Texas who wanted to come for a visit with Carle but wasn’t allowed to cross the street. People crossed the country for this party; more important, they crossed the lines of professional specialty to celebrate an art form that itself requires the collaboration of so many kinds of talent, from poet to painter to publisher to (especially recalling the good ladies of RIF) provider.
A couple of days later, I went to a very different kind of party, one largely attended by ghosts. “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter” is an exhibition at the New York Public Library. Curated by Horn Book columnist Leonard S. Marcus (who wrote about it in our September/October 2013 issue), the exhibition is as compelling for its bold design (attentive to both the short-statured and adult-sized) as for the treasures it displays (had I been both criminal and dexterous, the Library would now be missing one handwritten manuscript of The Secret Garden). Even more than either of the previous events I mention, this exhibition put my heart and mind into deep conversation with the work we all do. Everybody who works with books for young people deserves a chance to feel the way I did — curious, refreshed, and definitely proud — as I explored what Leonard and the NYPL had brought together. Go if you can; the exhibit runs through March 2014.