ALA Midwinter 2014

2014 has been a whirlwind!  It's time to catch up on some posts.  Let's start with some recent literary events. 

I was not made for cold weather.
The ALA Midwinter Meeting was held in January in Philadelphia. It was bitterly cold as evidenced in the photo on the right.  Travel buddy Mary and I were walking down the street squealing as we were pelted with freezing snow; clearly, no one confused us for native Philadelphians. But, in spite of the bone-numbing temperatures, I had a wonderful weekend in Chilly Philly (my first visit to the city).  Here are some highlights: 

**Scholastic Author Reception 
Scholastic hosts these fun events where a group of their authors perform a readers' theater of excerpts from each other's upcoming releases.  The mix of books, genres, styles, and personalities is always a delight, and this gathering was no different.  The reception featured Julia Donaldson, Jon J. Muth, Natalie Lloyd, Cynthia Lord, Rodman Philbrick, Deborah Wiles, and Lucy Christopher

Natalie Lloyd is a debut author, and she completely charmed the room (again! ... she was
also featured at the Scholastic event at NCTE and won a legion of fans there as well).  Her debut novel A Snicker of Magic is an enchanting story celebrating words, family, and new beginnings.  I expect we will continue to see great things from this talented lady!

I also particularly loved Muth's unique Hi, Koo! full of endearing haiku poetry perfectly illustrated by his gentle artwork. Two more spotlighted books I am really excited about are Cynthia Lord's Half a Chance ( I loved her first novel Rules) and Deborah Wiles' Revolution, the second in her Sixties Trilogy.  I have been eagerly awaiting this follow-up to Countdown.  It will surely be another powerful story of this tumultuous, important time period told in Wiles' heartfelt style.  And, isn't the cover excellent?? 

**Random House Dinner 
Random House hosted a lovely dinner with authors E. Lockhart, Dana Reinhardt, and Jenny Hubbard. It was a delightful evening celebrating excellent writing for young adults. I had read the incredible We Were Liars and loved hearing the back story to this unforgettable novel as well as learning about the additional upcoming novels featured at the event.  

I have since read And We Stay, a melancholy story of a teen who experiences a great tragedy but finds healing through poetry and the spirit of Emily Dickinson.  It was written by the talented and very Southern Jenny Hubbard (Paper Covers Rock) and edited by the equally talented and absolutely fabulous Rebecca Short whom I had the pleasure of chatting with throughout the evening. After reading this moving story, I am now eager to visit the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachussets (Emily Dickinson's home and an important setting in the novel) and I also plan to revisit Dickinson's poetry with fresh eyes. 

**Exhibition Opening at The Barnes Foundation 
Thanks to the ever-connected Mary, we were able to attend the opening of a special exhibition at The  Barnes Foundation. The Foundation holds an extensive collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art amassed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Dr. Barnes was committed to "the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts" ... be still my heart!  I was completely awed by what had been Dr. Barnes' personal collection which includes hundreds of pieces by Renoir, Picasso, Rousseau, Matisse, and one of my very favorites, Cezanne. 

The exhibition opening that weekend was Magic Ladders created by artist Yinka Shonibare. Shonibare's work "cites the artistic and intellectual history of Europe. His sculptures - life-sized mannequins clothed in the Dutch wax fabrics associated with Africa - offer a dramatic, playful, irreverent examination of identity, history, and politics. [The] show focuses on education, enlightenment, and opportunity, ideals embraced by Dr. Barnes." (-taken from The Barnes Foundation website)

The exhibition was fascinating.  I loved the fabrics, the mix of patterns, the striking images.  The mannequins were bold and arresting and each portrayed a powerful message.  My favorites, of course, were the child-sized figures climbing ladders of books (volumes taken from Dr. Barnes' own library) representing the growth that is attainable through knowledge and education.   

The exhibition was sponsored by Anthropologie and select stores will have pieces inspired from the art.  I hope Dallas is one of these select stores!  

The visit to the Barnes Foundation was an unexpected addition to the trip, and such a treat.  I highly recommend a stop here if you are ever in the Philadelphia area.

** ALA Youth Media Award Announcements
The award announcements is always one of the highlights of Midwinter.  There is such excitement in the air as early risers line up to enter, last minute predictions are being made, the doors finally open, the crowd scrambles for seats, the selection committees enter the room, and the officers take the stage.  When the announcements begin, there are wild cheers as favorites win and gasps or even stunned silence when suprise titles are named; but it is always exciting and a wonderful celebration of the literary excellence created the previous year.  

I was so pleased with the outstanding selections and congratulate the authors and illustrators on their awards and the committees on their hard work. A few of my personal favorites that received acknowledgement this year were: 
  •  Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (Newbery Winner)
  • One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Newbery Honor)
  • Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle (Caldecott Honor)
  • Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner (Caldecott Honor)
  • P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (Coretta Scott King Author Award)
  • When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kook Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop illustrated by Theodore Taylor III (CSK/John Steptoe winner)
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Printz Honor, Odyssey, Honor)
  • Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle (Odyssey Honor, Stonewall Honor)
  • Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Pura Belpre Illustrator Award)
  • The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle (Pura Belpre Author Award)
  • The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults)
There are always some books you would like to have seen come away with an award.  For me, I really would like for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown to have received Caldecott acknowledgement.  I felt the color, contrasts, pacing, and humor in this book were all brilliant. I also would love to have seen Winger by Andrew Smith and All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry earn Printz recognition.  Both of these unforgettable teen voices and their powerful stories were unique contributions to young adult literature that I would like to have seen celebrated. 

But, so it goes. Comparing our favorites to the winners is all part of the fun!  I appreciate the work of the committees, trust the process, and look forward to next year's announcements.  I also hope to someday serve on one of the committees and get to be a part of, what I am sure, is an intense, arduous, but incredibly rewarding experience.  

**Friends, Food & Fun
Of course, the best part of these conferences is enjoying good food in fun cities with good friends! 

A late dinner with  Karen & Mary!


  1. Sweet memories, my friend!! Loved reading this post! xo

    1. Love ALL my adventures with you, Dr. Pruitt! xoxo



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