Being a teen services librarian and lover of YA fiction, I naturally had to spend the 30-some-odd dollars necessary to attend the 2012 Michael L. Printz Award ceremony while in Anaheim, CA (aka Disneyland Land) for the American Library Association Conference. And man, was that money well spent. I listened to incredible authors discuss their stories, how the ideas came about, and how books and librarians forever changed their lives, whether as children visiting the library, or by choosing their book as one of the best of the year. I’d like to share with you some inspiring messages and funny lines that were shared on that awesome night.
Daniel Handler wrote (with Maira Kalman illustrating) Why We Broke Up (<– my review), a story where, as the Printz committee chair said, “heartbreak becomes art”. As Handler and Kalman took the stage and the crowd went wild (no, seriously…) two young-ish librarians behind me squealed, “He’s so cuuuuute!!!” And I just died. And then stopped. Because really, Daniel Handler is one of the cutest guys in literature. He wore a stunning suit vest in a shade of brown that was perfect on him, and his salt-and-pepper hair with that perfect cowlick just really did me in. Then he picked up his accordion, and I was smitten. He sang the most hilarious song titled (I think?) “Without Libraries We’d be Dum”. (The ‘b’ is missing for a reason. To see the reason, watch this video of the hilarious performance.) Oh, and Maira was spot-on with the extra percussion sounds (book slamming, bag popping). Their chemistry as performers was impeccable, making them the epitome of “a hard act to follow”.
But follow, someone must. And Brit Christine Hinwood, author of The Returning, did so, opening with her story of the moment she found out her book was a Printz honor title. Where Hinwood lives is far enough away from London that she only gets Internet reception from the front porch of her home, which is fine…except that Printz Awards are announced in the very chilly month of January. Hinwood missed numerous emails and phone calls until a week or so later, when she was on the train going into the city. She so rudely picked up the phone (something you just don’t do on British public transportation…cough*whycan’tAmericansdothat*cough), heard the news, and flipped out. Upon hanging up the phone, the man next to her said so softly, “Um, couldn’t help but overhear. What’s your book?” And proceeded to download her newly-awarded book onto his Kindle.
Something Hinwood said about her own reading experience as a child really stuck out to me. she said, “the fantasy I read as a child wasn’t childish,”. And, if you read my review of her book, you’ll see that I said that same thing about her novel. She knew she was writing for young adults, but wrote about adult themes, trusting that teen readers would understand the themes and ideas, and appreciate them. I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.
Following Hinwood was Craig Silvey, the Australian author behind the book Jasper Jones. Silvey was a very humble and humorous winner. I could have listened to his stories for hours, which is indicative of a good storyteller (as is, you know…that award he won). He said that upon hearing he won a ‘prince award’, he said, “I’ve been honored by Prince? I had no idea he’d been following my career!”. He also thanked YALSA “for being so absurdly kind to Australians” (quite a few Australians have won, or been honored, since the award’s inception). He then thanked a part-time librarian that absentmindedly handed him A Clockwork Orange at age 10; “We both made mistakes that day,” he said of the incident.
He spoke for a while on stories – reading and writing them – and their impact on him as a young person and as a writer. As a reader he was drawn to fiction moreso than non-fiction because “the truth…was hidden in the lies.” Meaning, he was able to garner from the fictitious stories the reality of whatever situation he was reading about, be it love, war, or any other theme that adults try keeping from children. He learned that “words are public, but the story is private,” which is why readers react with such fervor to their favorite books (or, conversely, their most hated books). I truly enjoyed his musings and am eagerly awaiting his next book.
Up next was the adorable Maggie Stiefvater, author of the honor winning title The Scorpio Races. She spoke about the books and authors that influenced her love of other worlds, which was very appropriate because her creation of the island of Thisby was absolutely perfect. She really pulled the reader into the story using all of their senses, and it was nice to hear where she learned that skill from.
Lastly…was the winner. John Corey Whaley gave a wonderful speech about how the came up with the idea for his book, and how he came up with character names: driving to visit his parents in Louisiana in 2005, names for characters came to him in the form of city names…one of which was Cullen. He said he remembered thinking, “Surely there won’t be another literary character with the name Cullen, in the near future.” teehee
Whaley thanked the Printz committee because, “you have forever given me the power to shake off the haters,”.
Whaley broke up his speech into segments that had their own “book title” (much like his main character). He is a funny guy, and was very humble in his thanks to the people who helped him earn his way onto that stage. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book(s).
I hope my wrap-up of the night’s events gives you an accurate glimpse into a night at a book award ceremony. If you can ever attend one, do so. The inordinate amount of praise of librarians aside, the authors are gracious and funny, and it is fascinating to learn about how, or why they wrote that particular book.