Well, that was a fast weekend. One moment I was racing out of the carpool lane at school in Nashville to make my flight, and before I knew what hit me, I was looking at the departure board at Philadelphia Airport.
Midwinter ALA is a working conference. Most people are doing committee work for a good part of each day. Since I was not serving on any book committee, I was free to attend meetings, help with the Morris seminar, and visit the books at the booths at the convention center. In between, there was some time to see my ALA family.
The highlight of Midwinter is the announcement of the awards. Since the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. and I had heard that the room only held 800 people, I woke up early and headed out at 7:00. As we entered the convention center, we passed groups of giddy librarians on award committees waiting to make their phone calls. Though envy is a sin, I admit to a bit of envy as I imagined the confused and excited West Coast authors and illustrators as their phones woke them at the ungodly hour of 3:30 a.m. There is screaming and cheering, and I miss that experience.
The ballroom where the press conference takes place is huge, and a very large screen sits to the side. There are a few folks onstage waiting, and every five minutes a voice reminds us to take our seats. Conversations are excited and predictions abound.
Many of you heard the announcements and the reactions from the folks in the room. There are the inevitable screams when someone hears a beloved book’s name called.
Here are some highlights:
- The overwhelming joy and sorrow when the McKissacks were announced as the Virginia Hamilton Lifetime Achievement winners. I remember meeting them in Nashville a few years back, and the hole left by Fred’s passing was overwhelming when their names were mentioned.
- Penny and Her Marble (by Kevin Henkes) winning a Geisel Honor.
- Hearing that the author of the Geisel-winning book, Greg Pizzoli, was in the room to hear his name called live.
- The proud face of the Morris Award winner, Stephanie Kuehn.
- Seeing so many friends, my ALA family.
- The Year of Billy Miller and the Newbery Honor.
Directly after the announcements comes the time for questioning. Why didn’t this win? Why did that win? What happened to Mr. Tiger? Stuff like that.
Now that I am back with the Biggest Book Lovers of All (my class), I am overwhelmed by the cries of dismay about Mr. Tiger, their choice. Here is my party line: “We will never know why the committee decided the way it did. As people talk, they learn more and more about the books. Someone must have made a really good case for the other books, don’t you think?”
As I pack up my picture books for donation, I have to admit that there were a lot of books that could have won the Caldecott this year. From Dusk to Niño Wrestles the World to Building Our House to On a Beam of Light to Knock Knock and so on, it seemed that every book I touched could have been up on that big screen in Philadelphia. I wonder what the arguments were that moved the four winners to the top and moved the others off the table.
One thing I DO know is that I will never know that answer.