For many, the highlight of ALA is the Printz reception, traditionally held on Monday evening, celebrating the Prtinz winner and honor authors. As hundreds of librarians filed into an air-conditioned ballroom, we had no idea what a ride we were in for.
The evening’s expectations were immediately exceeded by the comedy duo of Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman, author and illustrator of Why We Broke Up. After a brief comedy shtick that looked like an Abbot and Costello sketch or I Love Lucy rerun, their feelings could no longer be contained in words and could only be expressed through melody, as you’ll see in this video shot by Beth Saxton.
And here’s a version of the song (sans Maira Kalman) that Daniel Handler performed a few days before at the San Francisco Public Library.
Following a very difficult act, Christine Hinwood, Austrailian and English author of The Returning told her own sweet story of getting the call from the Printz committee, or rather not getting the call. That fateful day in January, Hinwood was in her English cottage, away from the internet and phone reception. Apparently people were frantically trying to get ahold of her to tell her, but she remained blissfully unaware for days until she boarded a commuter train into town. When she finally got the word she did a happy dance, apparently not something the English do on trains, and was quite the spectacle.
Hinwood reminisced about her favorite childhood authors, Alan Garner and Ursula K. Le Guin, and what inspired to become a writer. “The fantasy I read as a child was not childish. It tackled the big things.” Fantasy, she praised, allows us to explore our identity without the politics of reality getting in the way.
Craig Silvey, author of Jasper Jones, entertained the audience with yet another wonderful Printz phone call story. He was home sick when the call came in, and through his illness misunderstood the award as something given by Prince, the pop artist. “I had no idea he had been following my career so closely!” he thought. Luckily he realized what the call was about before speaking and readily accepted the award.
Silvey talked about what book and libraries meant to him as a child and teen: “Libraries have been the most important institution in my life.” Librarians were his favorite people, his guides into the world of literature. The books that he found as a child allowed him to take risks without any consequences, and when he realized that those books were written by real people, he knew that was what he wanted to do. Silvey loved the idea of creating a story and allowing readers to make it their own. “Books are patient, always waiting for a read to breathe life into them.”
The Scorpio Races author Maggie Stiefvater defines greatness as “a book that has another world inside it.” For her that story was A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynn Jones. Young Maggie Stiefvater was so disappointed to learn that butter pies were not something she would ever be able to buy at the grocery store. She loved getting caught up in the world created by the author, and with The Scorpio Races, she created a world where her readers could experience the same sweet torment, ever unable to taste the sweet November cakes her characters enjoy. She traveled the world looking for Thisby and brought little pieces of it back to her book, until inside the covers was a world as real as yours and mine.
John Corey Whaley, author of the 2012 Printz winner, Where Things Come BackIn The Wright Man for the Job, Whaley thanked his agent Ken Wright for believing in the book. She Writes in Green to Spare My Heart was dedicated to his editor Nami Tripathi. Whaley thanked all the people that helped bring his book to light at Simon and Schuster and Atheneum with I’ll Have to Talk to My People and shared a contagious gratitude for his parents in The Whole Fam-Damily. Whaley retold the story of listening to an NPR article about Sufjan Stevens and the plight of Brinkley, Arkansas in Woodpeckers and Angels and Zombies, Oh My! Come On, Get Sappy showed Whaley’s fanboy side as he talked about the books that he loved, like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Cat’s Cradle. Lastly, in his final title, Lovely to Tweet You, Whaley again showed his love for libraries, asking everyone to tweet the hashtag #savealibrary.
The evening was full of laughs and sniffles and more than anything, a feeling of gratitude and appreciation. That feeling crossed lines between author, librarian, publisher and agent, and knit together everyone who attended that evening. I think John Corey Whaley summed up the purpose of everyone in the room that evening when he said, “Don’t we all want to leave some dent in the side of the world?”
— Kate McNair, currently reading Beta by Rachel Cohen and listening to Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos