Coming back from ALA is always time for reflection. When the conference is in a city like New Orleans, one of my favorite cities in the world, the reflection includes fun times, music, and great food. But this ALA conference was a little different for me. As a member of the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Committee, I got to meet and spend a little time with our chosen awardee, Tomie dePaola. Not only did I get to have lunch with a legend in children’s literature, I got to meet a really nice, interesting, and fun man. Tomie dePaola is gracious — he was so genuinely happy to win the Wilder Award, and treated our committee with nearly as much awe as we have for him. I can honestly say that serving on the Wilder committee has been one of the shining moments in my career as a librarian. With the daunting task of reading, for TWO years, the complete works of quite a few heavy hitters in children’s lit, I thought it might sometimes get tiring. It never did. Even though I missed out on some of the new books I wanted to read, and even though I declined many an invite in favor of staying home to read a stack of books, it was a truly wonderful and eye-opening experience, shared with four other insightful and brilliant people. The rewards of choosing Tomie dePaola certainly became clear to me after our announcement was made public. So many people agreed with us! Our committee was quite proud to come to the conclusion that for the five people sitting in that hotel room in San Diego, the right, perfect choice was Tomie dePaola. So if you’ve read this far and are still wondering what exactly the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award is for, think of it as a lifetime achievement award for children’s book authors and illustrators. The official definition states that the award, given every two years, “honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.” For more information, here’s the link on the ALSC site. If you are a member of ALSC, you can help the 2013 committee by sending suggestions to Martha Parravano, the chair of the 2013 committee at email@example.com. And I highly recommend that you go read every Tomie dePaola book you can get your hands on, all at once, and immerse yourself in the mastery of storytelling and illustration that his books provide. Congratulations, once again, Tomie dePaola!
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