|Lane Smith, Chris Raschka, Jack Gantos, and Eugene Yelchin|
|John Rocco, Patrick McDonnell (say cheese!) and Lane Smith|
|Jack Gantos signing my copy of "Dead End in Norvelt"|
|Jack Gantos' morbid signature|
The Caldecott Medal for best illustrated book went to Chris Raschka for "A Ball for Daisy." It's a wordless book that tells the story of a dog who loves his red ball. One day, another dog at the park pops the ball accidentally. The range of emotions that Raschka captures in his simple pictures shows his skill as an illustrator. I even found myself howling at one point, like Daisy, mourning for his ball. Maybe I shouldn't admit to that, but it speaks to the power of the drawings.
|Note the little hand-drawn image of Daisy in the upper right corner.|
The Newbery honoree was Eugene Yelchin for his heartbreaking story of a little boy growing up in Communist Russia under Stalin. Called "Breaking Stalin's Nose," the book is about the disillusionment of the boy, who had once idolized Stalin, after a series of events opened his eyes to the terrors of that regime. I read this book on Saturday night in two sittings. It's heavy material for a children's literature, but he doesn't edit the parts that are scary. During the panel, Yelchin said that he had tried to find a way to make a happy ending or for the boy to still find some good in Stalin, but it wouldn't be true to the spirit of the book, and I agree. What makes it so powerful is that it reads as true, though it is a fictionalized account. Yelchin himself fled Communist Russia as a young man and his parents lived through the time of Stalin. I only wish I had read the book before I met him, because it really was quite beautiful, albeit very sad. It reminded me of the years we spent in Germany before the fall of the Berlin wall.
I'll list the Caldecott nominees in no particular order. Patrick McDonnell's book, "Me...Jane," was based on the childhood of Jane Goodall, as she learns to dream of a bigger life, one that can help animals. Her stuffed monkey that accompanies her on her adventures in her backyard gives a hint of a life to come. My favorite sequence from the book shows Jane sitting in her tree in her backyard with Jubilee, the stuffed chimp. She is reading a copy of Tarzan. Turn the page, and her house is now in the middle of the African jungle. It's so cool. The end of the book is good for little girls (and boys, but it was touching to me that a male author would make his young heroine so intelligent and curious) to read, because it shows her dreams coming true. McDonnell is active in the protection of animals in his own life and so this book makes perfect sense.
|Look at the giraffe. Adorable.|
|Lane Smith's topiary signature|
|Chatting up John Rocco|
|Rocco's signature, with the story's cat added in as a special touch|
My nephew Ranald came along because he's also a big fan of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series (as was I, and I'm so sorry my brother Josh couldn't have made it, too). Rocco illustrated the covers for those books, as you can see if you look on the back wall. He's sitting in front of a series of prints of his own work, how cool. He was good enough to sign "The Last Olympian" for Ranald.