On Friday evening Brian Selznick delivered the 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor lecture at Martin Luther King Jr. Library in downtown Washington, D.C. to a packed house of hundreds of librarians, educators, and youth literature aficionados. This lecture series was established in 1969 to honor May Hill Arbuthnot, educator, children’s literature critic, professor, and author of both the famous Dick & Jane books and the seminal textbook, Children and Books. In her introduction, Sue McCleaf Nespeca, chair of the 2015 Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, described their reasons for selecting Mr. Selznick as this year’s lecturer, citing both his groundbreaking The Invention of Hugo Cabret and his powerful speeches in the wake of that book’s awards. His lecture, titled “Love Is A Dangerous Angel: Thoughts on Queerness and Family in Children’s Books,” promised to be a thrilling additional contribution to children’s literature–and indeed, it was.
Brian Selznick, dressed in a snappy navy blue paisley suit and black bowtie, stepped on stage and thanked his family (including his mother & husband, both in attendance), friends, co-workers, editors, and, finally, the ASL interpreters for the evening, to whom he spoke and signed his gratitude and advance apologies for speaking quickly. His humor and personalized acknowledgements set the tone for the evening.
He opened his lecture with a quote from the late Maurice Sendak, who gave the Arbuthnot lecture in 2003. Mr. Selznick noted that Sendak is his “great hero” and when Hugo was awarded the Caldecott Medal, he was especially thrilled that the award would forever link his name to Sendak’s–an honor that the Arbuthnot lecture enriches further. To begin, he read out the six sections of the first chapter in May Hill Arbuthnot’s Children & Books. He used these section titles to structure his lecture, artfully intertwining his evolving understanding of his own identity and his career with his thoughts on the shifting visions of queerness and families in children’s books. Continue reading 46th Annual Arbuthnot Honor Lecture: Brian Selznick Explores Queerness & The Family in Children’s Books