Two days before the ALA conference I found out that I didn’t have a plane ticket, uh-oh! The most important event of year for me, and I wasn’t going to make it. The traveling agent said I didn’t make it clear I wanted to have a ticket to Chicago, even though I bought the tickets for my husband and my son so that they will sit next to me on the plane and be with me when I received my award. Oh, well. Fortunately, the gods of the airplanes came to my rescue and got me to ALA just in time for the celebrations.
Some of the most anticipated events at the American Library Association conference are the award ceremonies for the different children’s books categories, including the Caldecott and Newberry medals. This year I went to the conference to receive the Pura Belpre Medal for my book Just in Case: A trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book. And it was heaven!
I did not exercise, I did not tour the city, I did not shop for souvenirs; instead I ate lots of dinners with librarians, signed books at the exhibit, and found new treasures among new books.
Some incredible books I saw at the exhibit:
Stitches, by David Small. What a book! This graphic novel (not exactly for little kids) is a masterpiece. Not only David has an incredible life story to tell, but he is a master at telling it with pictures.
Chicken Dance, by Tammi Sauer and Dan Santa is a visual riot!
Then for something softer there was Henry’s Night by D. B Johnson and Linda Michelin, with its soft and luminous illustrations. Looked at it for hours.
The book I can’t wait for? The Dreamer, by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis. Could there be a most perfect match? this book isn't coming out until Spring next year. Too long to wait.
I also saw my sister Magaly’s two new books, What Can You Do with a Paleta? and A Piñata in a Pine Tree.
But, of course, my day was Sunday. The Pura Belpre Award Celebration started at 1:30. Me? I Started with a signing at 11 am, and ended up signing books after the ceremony at about 5 pm, with only a short time to get ready for attending the Caldecott and Newberry banquet that evening.
But it was all so joyful! At the Pura Belpre Ceremony I finally met Rudy Gutierrez, who not only creates striking art, but who gave a much felt acceptance speech for his Pura Belpre honor book, Papa and Me.
I also met Francisco Jiménez for the first time, and people were right. He is so gentle and noble. Amazing just like his books.
Have you ever been at a Pura Belpre celebration? If you haven’t you are missing a great fiesta. There were multicolored ornaments hanging from the ceiling, Latino books on the tables, presenters and award winners—some dressed on rebosos, Virgin of Guadalupe printed dresses; I wore huge red dangling earrings to go with the merriment. Of course there were also speeches, tears (muchas lagrimas, many of them mine), singing, and little girls dressed as Jarochas (a traditional dress from Veracruz, my state) dancing to the son Jarocho tunes.
I created the artwork for the program. This is what the art looked like:
I was the last one to receive my medal and give my acceptance speech (here you can find the list on winners). A few minutes before I also received an honor award for the narrative on my book Just in Case, but they put me at the end of the speaker’s lineup so that I could give thanks for both awards. Except my speech was a trick! Instead of giving only a speech, this year I brought an extra present for everybody; something I made with the help of friends and with mucho corazón. If you were at the ceremony you received it. If you weren’t there, you can still have it here (or here):
I hope you enjoy it!
“I wrote because I wanted to know what happened to next to people I made up”-- Neil Gaiman at his 2009 Newberry acceptance Speech.