A Week In The Life of This Book Geek

Over the past 8 days, I have been living in Children's Book Heaven.  First, I was invited to attend the California Readers Award Breakfast on Saturday, February 26, 2011.  This was a luncheon to recognize the schools that were selected by the Committee to receive a collection of books written or illustrated by California Authors and Illustrators.  As well as, for the previous year's winners to demonstrate how they used the books that they received. 

In addition, 2007 Newbery Winner, Susan Patron was the keynote speaker and there were several dozen authors and illustrators in attendance.  I had fun sitting at the same table with Marianne Wallace (non-fiction picture book - writer/illustrator), David Schwartz (picture book writer), and Susan Goldman Rubin (picture book writer).  I also ran into Rhonda Hayter (2010 MG Debut author), and chatted with the amazing Eve Bunting.

Of course, as the fates would have it, I had plans to attend the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association Literacy Dinner in the evening.  The energetic and very talented Cecil Castellucci (Rose Sees Red) was this year's host.  Guest speakers included Middle Grade authors Brandon Mull (Fablehaven Series) and Cuthbert Soup (Whole Nother Story) and YA authors Judy Blundell (Strings Attached) and Andrew Smith (Marbury Lens).  And there were more authors and illustrators hosting tables and just hanging out.  After the dinner, a room was set up for book signings by the authors listed above and even more.  I had the pleasure of running into Eve Bunting again and in meeting Alyson Noel and Helen Stringer (Spellbinder).  I also met debut authors C. Alexander London (We Are Not Eaten By Yaks) and John Stephens (The Emerald Atlas). 

The authors and illustrators at the event weren't the only ones that I was excited to meet.  I also connected with many teachers and librarians I know including Tweeps like Shannon Messenger (@sw_messenger, Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe), Cathy Blacker (@cathy_blackler), Cindy Beggs (@cb6loves2read) and Yukari Matsuyama (@rblib).  (Note: I apologize to anyone I left out of this list.)  Unfortunately due to poor lighting conditions my pictures for this event will need a miracle to save.

Here is a stack of books that I brought back to my Library Coordinator for our school library after the 2 events.  (Shhh...I did keep a few back for me to read.)

Not even a full week later, I found myself attending the Charlotte S. Huck Children's Literature Festival at the University of Redlands.  I wasn't originally thinking of attending this but thanks to a friend encouraging me and a great hotel rate I decided to sign-up.  It was wonderful and so glad I attended.  There were some incredible authors and illustrators present.  I learned so much from listening to Kristine O'Connell George as she spoke about poetry and her new book Emma Dilemma.  Debra Frasier, On The Day You Were Born, made everyone in the room nearly want to run back to their classrooms to try out her ideas.  Susan Patron came in to pinch hit for another author was became ill and as part of her presentation she shared with the audience her reaction to winning the Newbery.

One of my favorite highlights of the whole weekend was getting to meet Kadir Nelson who is this phenomenal illustrator.  If you haven't seen his work, check out his webpage here. First, I attended a question and answer session with him.  Then on Friday night, as the evening presenter, he went into extensive detail about his artwork and the development of some of his books, especially We Are The Ship and his new book Heart and Soul which will be out in September 2011.  I loved his work before, but have a deeper appreciation for his illustrations after hearing him speak. 

My second favorite highlight was getting to hear Andrea David Pinkney speak.  A direct contrast to Nelson's reserved and quiet manner, Pinkney kicked off her presentation by leading the audience in a signing of "This Little Light of Mine" and a moment of concentrated focus.  As she recited the first part of her book Ella Fitzgerald, I was completely swept away and new life was given to the words of her books.  Though Pinkney comes across in personality as very different than Nelson, their commitment to accuracy, attention to detail, and disciplined commitment to their craft was very much the same. 

Just as I grew in appreciation for Pinkney's beautifully rich words, I also find her stories about how her husband, Brian Pinkney, creates the illustrations for many of her books.  Her explanation of Brian Pinkney's purposeful design of the counter-space throughout the book,  Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down brought a deeper level of understanding and power to the book.

Well it is getting late and I still want to see if I can get some of the film footage from the Literature Festival edited and up-loaded.  Wish me luck.  And if you are in the Southern California area, don't forget to check into all of these events.