Friday, April 27, 2012

Bringing the Newbery to the people.

The blurry bloggers and the author.
Every year our library sponsors a children's author visit for the region. The author speaks to school groups in each of the eight county libraries we serve. Originally we had scheduled Grace Lin for this year, but she had to postpone her visit until 2013, so I needed someone witty, resourceful, and reliable who could step in. Naturally, I called Jack Gantos.

And then he won the Newbery. Ha!

This is the fifth year we've hosted this author visit, and let me tell you, it is amazing the difference a Newbery makes. In the past, my colleagues have had to beg, cajole and otherwise drag teachers and media specialists to the library. Sometimes the classes have prepared for the programs by actually reading the author's works. More often not.

This year no cajoling was required. Books were read. Students were prepared. What a powerful little medal.

As always, Jack was a glorious speaker and a gracious guest. Through four days, eight programs and several hundred miles of driving, he maintained his trademark energy and good humor. And only one kid asked that most dreaded question: has he met any more famous authors? Like... Suzanne Collins? (Answer: yes, she's nice, and her books may not have done much for writing, but enrollment in archery classes is way up!)

Thinking back to my discussion of literary awards, though, I am left feeling ambivalent once again. Jack was every bit as good a speaker when we invited him here in 2008, and we were so worried about attendance that year that we invited Pre-K kids to one of the programs. I'm glad the award won us bigger, better-informed audiences, but I wish talent itself were more of a draw.

But if Grace Lin happens to win the 2013 Newbery, I certainly won't complain.

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