This past Friday I got to attend the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards, which were held at Simmons College. It was delightful, although in all honesty not super exciting. Horn Book is not one of the publications we get at my library, but it's a lovely journal. We got a copy of the latest edition in the folder they gave us, and it happens to have the most adorable cover ever. As my colleague said, "I would wear that on a shirt." Me too.
The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards are a bit different than other awards. First of all, the book does not have to be written or illustrated by an American citizen, although it does have to published in the US. Also, when a book wins, both the author and illustrator (if applicable) gets the award, which I think is lovely and totally makes sense since so often it's the two together that makes the book excellent. There are only three categories, nonfiction, picture book, and fiction/poetry. There are two honor books and one winner in each category.
The awards began with a history of Simmons College from president Helen Drinan. I wasn't listening very carefully since I've heard about the history of Simmons College several times, but I did tune in briefly to hear something I'd never heard before (which seems odd. Maybe I wasn't listening all the other times too...) which was that John Simmons had been the creator of the off-the-rack men's suit, and he'd founded Simmons as a women's school for the women who were working in his factories. So there's a bit of Simmons lore for you.
The first category was nonfiction. The honor books were Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol and Smile by Raina Telgemeier, which is a graphic novel. It was nice to see a graphic novel honored. I'd flipped through Smile, reading some of it when we'd gotten it in, and it seemed very sweet.
The winner was Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge. Marching for Freedom is about the children and young adults who took part in the civil rights movement. Elizabeth talked about her love of photographs and as she looked at pictures from the civil war, she noticed there were a lot of young people participating. She decided to try and find some of these children, who were now in their 50s and 60s. Elizabeth got choked up a couple times, talking about the people she'd interviewed and their bravery, and the experience of being in Selma interviewing people who took part in civil rights marches the day at Obama was elected president.
The honor books for picture book were It’s a Secret! by John Burningham and The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. John Burningham, who is an elderly British man (and married to Helen Oxenbury, in case you didn't know) gave an absolutely hysterical speech, mostly because what he was saying made no sense at all. Something about dogs smoking and talking on mobile phones. I don't know, but I'd like to get a drink with him some time. Jerry Pinkney was not at the awards ceremony, but a speech he had written, which was very nice, was read.
The winner for picture books was I Know Here by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James, who are both Canadian. Matt James and Laurel Croza both gave acceptance speeches, with Laurel Croza telling about where the idea of the book had come from. She had lung cancer, and at the time the outlook didn't look very good. Her doctor told her, "Don't wait five years to live your dream." Laurel had always thought about being a writer, but it had never happened, so she took a writing class and the first assignment was to draw a picture of your earliest remembrance of your neighborhood. From that came I know Here, which is about a little girl who's moving and decides to draw pictures of the things she'll miss so she'll always remember.
The last category announced was fiction. The honor books were The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís and A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. Peter Sis, who is Czechoslovakian has a fabulous accent and was very funny. He'd won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award several times before with different authors, which "makes me look like a mercenary." He said he'd originally wanted to tell his own stories, but no one was interested in his stories so he became an illustrated, which he hadn't wanted to do because illustrators were "boring." Peter Sis wrote and illustrated The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, which is excellent and beautiful. Megan Whalen talked about how many reviews of her books say that her characters have too much of an adult introspection, and how that buys into thinking teens don't think. I agree with this to a point. I don't think that teens need dumb down books, I think they can understand a lot, but some books, and I can't say it about Megan's books since I've never read any of them, but some books I think the children do talk too much like adults, and that takes away some of the truth.
The winner of fiction was, of course, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. Man, that book was so good. She apologized, because she hadn't know she was going last, and as everyone knows, the person who goes last is supposed to be "brief and super interesting." Since her book deals with time travel, she wrote it from two temporal points of view, in her home in New York and at Simmons. Definitely the most interesting acceptance speech.
Afterwards, I got to meet the editor of School Library Journal for like two seconds. Then after determining there was nothing any of us could eat at the reception (the people I was with and I all have a million allergies) we went to a place down the street were we talked about libraries for about two hours because we are just that cool. And then went home so we could get to bed at a reasonable time. A successful evening!