June 2014. Las Vegas. Evening. A gaggle of ALA-attending librarians trudge along the Strip past feathered showgirls, dodging happy folks with very large drinks, and loud hen parties full of girls in very high heels. “Next year it is San Francisco.” mutters one librarian. “On Pride Weekend.” she goes on, stone-faced. “I heard that meant that they will be running around with their thingies out.” says another. “Oh jeez.” they all moan as they slip past a sort-of-naked person, enter a hotel, and stolidly march through the noisy casino toward a publisher event.
June 2015. San Francisco. Pride Weekend. Gaggles of librarians are everywhere, wearing rainbow wristbands (provided by ALSC), smiling, grinning, and bursting out with tears of happiness, thrilled to be part of the Pride weekend, to celebrate the historic SCOTUS decision. These librarians are not trudging through the crowds on Market Street, but bouncing through it, peeking over shoulders at the parade, enjoying the crowd, and the day. “Oh yay!” is the overriding sentiment.
And so it was with the happy rainbow background of the SCOTUS decision and Pride Weekend that we assembled for ALA Annual 2015. Some highlights for me:
- Everything that honored the SCOTUS decision. This came up in speeches and informal conversations at every moment. Of course being around the Pride Parade was amazing, but it was just the overall feeling of joy that was what made things really special.
- The Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast. This is, for me, always the most moving event of the convention. (You can read my last year’s overview here.) The combination of the happiness of the SCOTUS decision mixed with the continuing horror of #BLACKLIVESMATTER. illustrated most recently in Charleston, made for an extraordinary event. You can read some of the fabulous speeches and appreciations over at the Horn Book. Fabulous all of them.
Two honorees, Deb Taylor and Marilyn Nelson, with some of the 2002 Newbery Committee of which Deb was a part and which honored Marilyn.
- Visiting Angel Island. I’ve been teaching a unit on this for many years as part of my 4th graders’ study of US immigration. We focus specifically on the Chinese who were impacted by the Chinese Exclusion Act and centered that around the immigration station at Angel Island. How amazing to go to it in person. To see the poems carved by desperate detainees waiting, the space, and more. Roxanne took many photos and videos which she plans to organize into a presentation for our students. (I took some too, but hers are much better than mine.)
- Chances to talk and talk and talk with my people, so many of whom I see so rarely. It wasn’t enough time! There were so many of you I didn’t get to see at all or just barely! But I loved what I got from all of you. (Melanie Koss — haven’t seen you for three days — what’s up?:) My great thanks to all the publishers and folks who hosted me at fabulous events. The were all terrific.
Megan Whalen Turner and Jonathan Hunt
Myself with the one and only Rita Williams-Garcia
Jon Muth (first time I met him ) and Peter Sis (old friend)
Christian Robinson and his grandmother
- The Ferry Building. We went there several times just because we liked it. For evening drinks, for an early morning breakfast, and a late day visit on our final day.
- The Newbery-Caldecott Banquet. It was just incredible. Lots of powerful words and tears. I was honored to be sitting with Eerdmans, celebrating Melissa Sweet’s Caldecott Honor for The Right Word. But I was right there to cheer on all the glorious honorees. What a night!
Before the banquet I was invited to toast Cece Bell for her Newbery for El Deafo (a book I’d championed mightly). And, oh my goodness, there was cake!
And here is the very final photo shoot of the honorees at the very end of the evening.
- Oakland. We went there for a swell party given by Nina Lindsay for her sister-in-law, Melissa Sweet. In addition to seeing the house Nina and her husband Max have been restoring for many years, catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a year or much longer and meeting new friends, being at a street party in that lovely neighborhood was a real treat.
- Berkelely. On our final day, we stopped into the campus of UC Berkeley to wander about the tall eucalyptus and redwoods before going to lunch at the charming home of Elizabeth C. Overmyer (current Sibert chair). There we admired her lemon trees, quilts, and remarkable collections and also met her pleasant husband, Doug. He was most tolerant as we and the other guests (Armin Arethna, a member of this year’s Newbery Committee, and Patty Carleton who served with Roxanne and Elizabeth on the 2002 Newbery Committee) talked and talked, winding down after a fabulous few days.
And here is the SLJ Battle of the Kids’ Books Team, already scheming for next year’s Battle!