ALA Annual 2013

A Wild Ride at the ALSC Preconference #ala2013

If you’re feeling a bit numb this morning, it may be because I used up ALL THE FEELINGS at yesterday’s ALSC Preconference, A Wild Ride: 75 Years of the Caldecott Medal. There was so much picture book love, author and illustrator appreciations, insights into the production and editorial process, and simply great conversations with fellow picture book nerds. I could spend pages gushing, but I’ll share just a few of the highlights for me:

Brian Selznick delivered the keynote which had the audience in laughter and tears. And sometimes laughter through tears.
Brian Selznick delivered the keynote which had the audience in laughter and tears. And sometimes laughter through tears.

Brian Selznick killed it in his opening keynote. He started off by donning the dashing and be-dazzled shirt that he wore for his Caldecott acceptance speech. He joked about being often mistaken for Paul O. Zelinsky (a running joke that Paul later carried into his own hilarious closing speech,) and gave a well-researched and thoughtful overview on the history of both Randolph Caldecott and the medal named in his honor. Finally, Brian moved the entire audience to tears when he spoke about his relationship with the late, great Maurice Sendak. It was clear how much love Brian has for Maurice and how profoundly Sendak’s art and humor and personal philosophy have shaped Brian’s own journey through art and picture books. It was a deeply moving tribute and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling incredibly privileged that Brian shared his memories with us.

Later on Chris Raschka and his editor talked about the process that resulted in A Ball for Daisy. It was fascinating to see the early sketches and how Chris’ dummy books evolved, took some odd turns, and eventually evolved into the spirited and childlike tale of the Daisy we know and love. It was also fun hearing Neal Porter chat with picture book power couple Erin and Philip Stead about the back-and-forth creation and revision process.

During the panel discussion over lunch, Leonard Marcus asked Kadir Nelson, Melissa Sweet, Pamela Zagarenski, and Peter Brown about the future of the picture book. It was interesting to hear the various perspectives, ranging from the sense that technology is simply a new tool that will influence the evolution of the picture book, to the conviction that despite any new advances the traditional picture book will live forever. This was a question and theme that ran throughout the event. Jerry Pinkney later spoke about how integral the physical experience of a picture book is to the child reader. He and his editor talked about creating The Lion & the Mouse and how they came to select the type of paper used. Jerry spoke eloquently about the importance of page turns, the leap across the gutter, the folds of a dust jacket, the weight and texture of paper.

In the afternoon we broke into small groups. I participated in Caldecott Medal Artists at the

Pamela Zagarenski's scene from Red Sings From Treetops is part of the Play, Pretend, Dream exhibit at the AIC.
Pamela Zagarenski’s scene from Red Sings From Treetops is part of the Play, Pretend, Dream exhibit at the AIC.

Art Institute: A Closer Look. Our museum educator had us begin by choosing a strip of paper with a word: dream, pretend or play. We then had to walk through the exhibit and select a work that we felt emphasized that word or feeling. We discussed our choices and spent time looking closely at the artwork and discussing the use of media, technique and composition.

At the end of the day Paul O. Zelinsky delivered the closing address. He gave a tongue-in-cheek glimpse into future of the picture book in the 21st century. Poking fun at modern day distractions, Paul’s speech was “interrupted” several times by Facebook status updates and Youtube clips of baby sloths. He riffed off the idea of interactive picture books and presented a version of Where the Wild Things Are that could be adapted by each reader. In his version, “Max” was replaced by “Paul” and the Wild Things became the “Nice Things.” I was particularly excited when Paul talked about the research that goes into each book. He gave a wonderful shout-out to the New York Public Library’s Picture Collection. To create the abundance of straw in Rumpelstiltskin, Paul searched the Picture Collection for image references in order to get the bunching, the shadowing, and lines just right.

Diane Foote, K.T. Horning, and their committee did a fantastic job. It was a fascinating day and will remain one of my favorite ALA memories.

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