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Appreciation for storytellers

By / July 3, 2008



The Newbery-Caldecott dinner (the event at which this year's winners of the prestigious children's book awards are honored) took place this week and you won't find a better piece of reporting on that than what appears in the 7/2 edition of "Shelf Awareness," the e-mail newsletter that goes out daily to independent bookstores. Their website is still under construction so I can't send you there but I can paste a copy for you below. It's a lovely tribute both to the winners (Brian Selznick and Laura Amy Schlitz) but in addition it also honors the magic of the story. Take a look and enjoy.

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Newbery-Caldecott Dinner: Sweet Ladies, Good Gentlemen

It is the night we have been waiting for,
The Academy Awards of the children's book field,
For which hundreds don their finery
And pull up their chairs to large round tables
For the speeches they've been anticipating for nearly 6 months.
Brian Selznick takes the stage in a black shirt that sparkles
Like the stars in the sky
At the opening of The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
He speaks of the 70th Anniversary of the Randolph Caldecott Medal.
On two giant screens at either end of the Anaheim Hilton ballroom,
The image of the medal appears:
John Gilpin, one of the esteemed 19th-century artist's characters, astride a runaway horse.
Selznick tells us to peer into a small apartment in Paris where a boy named Hugo sleeps.
Symbols crash, the lights dim,
And the images on the giant screens transport us
Across the Atlantic to the City of Lights,
Rendered in the graphite illustrations we know so well.
We see Hugo asleep in his bed.
The phone rings.
Hugo's eyes pop wide open.
The caller is Karen Breen (Caldecott Chair,
Who holds a phone in a black-and-white photo).
Hugo clutches his head in disbelief
And races out the door, through the streets of Paris.
He calls up to Isabelle's window
And the two head off together into the night.
Their destination: the Air France terminal at Charles de Gaulle Airport.
Their pilot: A man with a patch over his right eye.
On the plane, Hugo and Isabelle read
First the Egg, The Wall, Henry's Freedom Box
And Knuffle Bunny Too.
Hugo's eye metamorphoses into the full moon he views out the plane's window.
Suddenly he is on the street in front of the Anaheim Hilton
Where a white-haired man rides out of the mist on horseback.
The man looks familiar.
Could he be. . .
George Méliès?
Yes! But wait. . . .
The image transforms; time stops.
And George Méliès on horseback suddenly becomes
The image on the Randolph Caldecott Medal,
To the audible gasp of hundreds of onlookers.

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