Sunday, June 26, 2011

A "Let's Pretend We're Eating Osso Bucco" Brunch

Among other topics, today's Sunday Brunch looks ahead at a couple young adult novels, looks back at previous Newbery/Caldecott banquets, and discusses what's cooking (literally and figuratively) in New Orleans tonight.


Last week I talked about how excited I was to learn Mary E. Pearson is continuing the story she began with 2009's THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX in a new novel coming out this fall, THE FOX INHERITANCE.

This week I learned that Carol Plum-Ucci has written a sequel to her Printz Honor Book, THE BODY OF CHRISTOPHER CREED. I've always felt that CHRISTOPHER CREED was a near-perfect Printz selection -- a novel both literary and appealing to young readers. So I have big hopes for FOLLOWING CHRISTOPHER CREED, due out September 5 from Harcourt:


A good friend on the east coast got wind of a booksigning for Veronica Roth's very popular YA debut, DIVERGENT:

and arranged to get me a signed copy:

I love the silver ink against the black background -- and I've read enough of the book so far to understand what "Don't think. Just jump" means within the context of the novel.


This weekend the American Library Association is having its annual summer convention in New Orleans.

I'm not there. I'm sitting here in my pajamas writing this blog.

If you're sitting there in your pajamas reading this blog, you're not there either.

Isn't it a bummer?

Although I've never been to ALA, I have this "image" of the event in my mind. I imagine strolling up and down the convention floor, picking up stacks and stacks of ARCs from publishers' booths.

I imagine meeting with colleagues to discuss our children's book careers.

I picture myself hobnobbing with famous authors.

I imagine attending the Newbery-Caldecott banquet.

But maybe attending ALA is best left to my imagination.

I've heard that the publishers are persnickety about who gets ARCs; they don't hand them out to "just anybody" who wanders by.

To be honest, I don't have any "colleagues" in the book world and certainly have never had any kind of "career."

And while I've met a couple famous authors in my lifetime, I can't envision ever hobnobbing with them.'s probably better that I just stay home in my pjs.

But even from home, those of us who are un-Conventional can get a sense of what's happening in New Orleans today.

Here's a copy of today's convention newspaper.

And if you go to and type in "ALA" you can read all kinds of tweets and see a huge number of photos right from the convention floor.

Have you ever wondered how the winning authors and illustrators are announced at the big banquet? If so, here is a Youtube clip of Grace Lin receiving her Newbery Honor certificate for WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON at last year’s banquet.

And here's a video by fellow-Michigander Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes fame, which encapsulates all of 2010's conference into less than two minutes and ends with scenes from the big banquet.

Do you want to attend tonight's banquet vicariously? Here is some info about tonight's festivities, courtesy of ALA's website:

The banquet will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the New Orleans Marriott at 555 Canal Street. The ALA says, "The Newbery Caldecott Banquet is a very special celebratory evening. Guests are encouraged to dress in cocktail attire. Please bring a wrap or sweater as the room is large and can become cool."

The doors open at 6:00 PM for a pre-banquet cash bar reception in the Mardi Gras Balloom. The site says to "Come early to mingle with friends and colleagues." See why I couldn't go? I don't drink. Plus no friends and definitely no colleagues.

The banquet room doors open at 6:45 PM.

At 7:00 PM, the ALSC president offer opening remarks and dinner is served.

Here's the menu:

Bibb lettuce salad with roasted tomatoes, artichokes, and feta cheese with a lemon thyme vinaigrette.

Osso bucco style short rib served over smoked gouda grits with asparagus and root vegetables.

Strawberry chocolate shortcake with whipped cream.

Iced tea, coffee, tea.

Yeah, I had to look up what "osso bucco" meant. It's always a little scary to learn the definition of any food term. I mean, sweetmeats sound good until you know what they are. According to Barron's Food Lover's Companion, osso bucco is an "Italian dish made of veal shanks braised with olive oil, white wine, stock, onions, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, carrots, celery and lemon peel. Traditionally, osso buco is garnished with gremolata and served accompanied by risotto. In Italian, osso buco means 'pierced bone.'" (The problem with looking up any word is that it leads you to other words you don't know. Like "gremolata." I tracked that one down in the Wikipedia. It means "a chopped herb condiment typically made of lemon zest, garlic, and parsley.")

I'm intriged by "smoked gouda grits" and wish Quaker Oats made an instant version so I could try it. On the other hand, I would have to scrape the strawberries off my shortcake because strawberries are one of the very few foods (besides sweetmeats) I do not like and won't eat.

After dinner, the award presentation and speeches begin at 8:30 PM, followed by a receiving line at 10:00 PM. The creators will not be signing books at the event (don't even try!) but you can meet them personally IF you follow "Receiving Line Etiquette" which "is a great way to say hello and convey your congratulations to the Awardees and Honorees. However, with 1,200 people going through the line, we do ask that you keep your comments as brief as possible so that everyone has a chance to meet the Awardees and Honorees."

In other words: shut up, smile, shake hands, and keep it moving, folks.


1922: The very first Newbery banquet was held in my hometown of Detroit. No one bothered to save Hendrik Van Loon's acceptance speech for THE STORY OF MANKIND, though it was noted that he spoke "in a merry vein."

1924: Dorothy Cable Hewes had to deliver her husband's acceptance speech for THE DARK FRIGATE because Charles Boardman Hawes died before the awards were announced.

1932: Just like this year, the convention was held in New Orleans. Newbery winner Laura Adams Armer was living in the Hopi village of Oraibi when she left for NOLA and said, "Traveling by train across New Mexico, through Texas to New Orleans, I found myself as homesick as were the Navajoes themselves when forced to take 'The Long Walk' to Fort Sumner." What a drama queen.

1934: When accepting the Newbery for INVINCIBLE LOUISA, Cornelia Meigs gestured to the spirit of Louisa May Alcott with her hand and said, "If I could stretch my voice across the years, I would say, 'Louisa, this medal is yours,'" and brought several librarians in the audience to tears.

1937: Dorothy Lathrop gave the very first Caldecott acceptance speech, stating, "You must all know how happy it makes me to receive the first medal ever given to a picture book for children, and one that bears the name of so beloved an illustrator as Caldecott. When you think that not many years ago the illustrators of children's books were as anonymous as sculptors are now at the unveiling of their own statues, you will realize how much has been done for illustration. We also hear a great deal about how much illustration has done for children's books, thanks to such people as Frederick Melcher, Anne Carroll Moore and Bertha Mahony, and no one cries 'Hear! Hear!' more loudly and enthusiastically than the illustrators."

1942: Walter D. Edmonds (THE MATCHLOCK GUN) despaired of ever having to write and deliver a speech "not to run much over 45 minutes" than proceeded to give a speech that was over 13 pages in length. Think he made the time limit?

1945: In his acceptance speech for RABBIT HILL, Robert Lawson suggested that his winning the medal was predicted by a rabbit who always showed up on his lawn just before he received good news.

1952: When a nervous Eleanor Estes got up to give her acceptance speech for GINGER PYE, she fell to the floor. Her tablemates thought she'd fainted away but, in actuality, her long poufy dress had gotten caught on her chair. She came up laughing and delivered her speech with aplomb.

1956: Caldecott winner for FROG WENT A-COURTIN', Russian-born Feodor Rojankosky apologized to the audience for his accent, saying, "I am really handicapped as a English pronunciation is not exactly that of Sir Laurence Olivier."

1958: Accepting his second Caldecott for TIME OF WONDER, Robert McCloskey said, "Since you are predominately an audience of ladies..." then went on to discuss how airbrushing is used to depict weight loss in advertisements. It was a different time. Today those "ladies" would be throwing osso bucco at him for his sexist remarks.

1960: The first two-time winner of the Newbery, Joseph Krumgold began his acceptance speech for ONION JOHN saying, "Surely the most useful, the most proper way to accept this honor is to offer you the one report that, by your bounty, I'm uniquely qualified to make. This is the first time that you've put anyone up here who is able to bring back to you some idea of how it feels not only to accept the Newbery Medal, but to live with that distinction. So I propose to give you a record of that extraordinary experience."

1962: Elizabeth George Speare accepted her Newbery for her religious-themed novel THE BRONZE BOW admitting, "In my portrait of Jesus I failed. I know that failure was intrinsic in the attempt, but I wish that I could have climbed higher."

1963: In accepting her Newbery for A WRINKLE IN TIME, Madeleine L'Engle said that the Medal's founder, Frederic Melcher had written her a letter saying how excited he was about her book; it was one of the last letters he wrote before his death.

1965: When she finished writing her manuscript for SHADOW OF A BULL, Maia Wojciechowska approached a well-regarded librarian about her chances of publishing a children's book concerning bullfighting. The librarian thought it was unlikely. At the 1965 N-C banquet, where Maia accepted the Newbery for that book, she saw the librarian in the audience and reminded her of their conversation. The librarian denied that they'd ever met.

1970: A shy William Steig gave perhaps the shortest acceptance speech on record when he won for SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE.

1971: Betsy Byars recalled her experience winning the Newbery for SUMMER OF THE SWANS: "The banquet was held in Dallas and the room was huge and elegant. Eighteen hundred people were there, and the people who were to sit at the head table formed a sort of procession through the tables. Leading us were two teenaged boys in kind of King Arthur page boy suits and they were bearing large banners. The boy preceding me had a banner on which there was a swan made of real swan feathers (hand sewn, one by one) and it was gorgeous, I almost felt like I was back in medieval times. Then just before we were to enter, the boy turned to me and said, 'I could just kill my mom for making me do this.' Instantly I was back in the twentieth century."

1972: Real or imagined health problems prevented Robert C. O'Brien from delivering his own acceptance speech for MRS. FRISBY AND THE RATS OF NIMH. His editor, Jean Karl, presented the speech.

1973: During her acceptance speech for JULIE OF THE WOLVES, Jean Craighead George recalled her son's sixth grade teacher saying, "at the end of a long discouraging day: 'Look, kids, if you'll just read all the Newbery books, you'll get a terrific education, and it'll be a lot more pleasant for both of us.'"

1975: Accepting the Newbery for M.C. HIGGINS THE GREAT, Virginia Hamilton noted, "I am the first black woman and black writer to have received this award. May the American Library Association ever proceed."

1981: Second-time winner Katherine Paterson (JACOB HAVE I LOVED) teased that she was tempted to tell the ALA "We have got to stop meeting like this" during her speech.

1983: Maria Brown won her third Caldecott for SHADOW and noted in her speech that "I suspect it took a certain courage for those on the Caldecott selection committee."

1989: Stephen Gammell's infamous Caldecott acceptance speech for SONG AND DANCE MAN has gone down in history. Read about it in the forthcoming book Elizabeth Bird, Julie Danielson, and I are writing for Candlewick.

2002: Winning the Newbery for A SINGLE SHARD, Linda Sue Park walked off the stage and gave the medal to her father, who had inspired her love of books.

2008: Accepting the Caldecott for THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, Brian Selznick was the first winner to use a Powerpoint presentation as part of his speech.

2011: Tonight, first-time author Clare Vanderpool will accept her award for MOON OVER MANIFEST and first-time illustrator (and youngest Caldecott winner ever!) Erin Stead will accept hers for A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE.


I just read an ARC of THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO FLY by Dana Reinhardt and think it's one of the year's standout novels. Set in 1986, the story concerns thirteen-year-old Drew, a lonely girl who works in her mother's gourmet cheese shop, secretly reads a diary kept by her long-deceased father, and carries a pet rat in her backpack. Drew's summer -- and life -- changes when she meets a mysterious boy named Emmett Crane.

When she learns Emmett's secret, the two teenagers set off to pursue a legend -- the only element in the novel that, due to its shaky introduction by the author, strains plausability. THE SUMMER I LEARNED TO FLY is a strong portrait of a lonely girl learning to love, learning to let go, and learning, in her own way, to fly.


Then there's 12 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU CRASH AND BURN by James Proimos. Writer-illustator Proimos has created some fun, goofy books for younger readers (most notably the "Johnny Mutton" stories), but his first novel for teenagers pretty much does crash and burn. After the death of his TV performer father, teenage Hercules Martino is sent to spend some time with his uncle in Baltimore. Uncle Anthony gives Herc a list of twelve tasks (the twelve labors got it) which includes "Clean out the garage. Find a place of worship and pray. Eat a meal with a stranger."

Herc accomplishes these tasks, all the while pursuing the "Beautiful and Unattainable Woman" he met on the train, in a rushed and slipshod fashion. The text -- big print, lots of white space, tiny chapters -- almost reads as an outline for a novel instead of the real thing. The tone is sophomoric throughout -- more like a book for young readers with lots of cursing and a sexual episode tossed in. Reluctant readers, put off by the mammoth size of most of today's YA offerings, may be drawn to this skinny book, but the humor is puerile, the plot is contrived, and Herc's eventual insights are superficial and unearned.


Last week I included a photo of this wonderful children's book themed staircase:

I'd found the picture on the internet, but had no idea where it could be found in real life. A big thanks to "Snappy Di," who provided the answer: the stairs are at the "Magic House," a children's museum in Kirkwood, Missouri.

Thanks, Snappy Di!

...And thank you to everyone who wrote to explain why I might have been kicked off jury duty last week. And those who shared their own feelings of rejection and inadequacy when they too were kicked to the courtroom's curb. There was an article in Friday's paper saying the defendent was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Maybe it's just as well I didn't make that jury. Thursday morning I had a plumbing disaster that filled my bathroom with several inches of standing water and it took so long to clean up that I probably would have been late for court. Then the judge would have thrown me in a holding cell for tardiness. Better to pay $525 for a toilet repair than end up in jail.

Thanks for visiting Collecting Children's Books! Hope you'll be back!


lin said...

Peter, try grating some smoked gouda (available at the fancy cheese part of the supermarket) into your instant grits for a close approximation; and can I have your strawberries?

And now I've got to know what Stephen Gammell said (or didn't say)!

Fuse #8 said...

Ooo. Must steal your steps. Steal them I shall!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen this video about ALA?

Now you know what you are missing!

Z-Kids said...

Great reading... Thanks, Peter!
- AZ

Madigan Mirza said...

Wow! Where did you find all the Newbery/Caldecott banquet trivia? That is really impressive.

I was at the Newbery Caldecott banquet this year and it was amazing. Erin Stead looked so humbled... near tears the whole speech.
I did not have the osso bucco, because I ordered the vegetarian plate - spinach lasagne which was pretty good for a hotel banquet dinner.
And! We were startled by a mouse that ran past our table!