In case you’ve never been there (as I hadn’t before the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference a couple weekends ago), the first thing you need to know about Las Vegas is: they don’t mess around. When you visit, you can be playing the slots seconds after deplaning.
I kinda love the idea that someone can show up, blow all their money at the airport slots, turn around and get on a plane back home.
It’s a fascinating place. It would be disturbing if it weren’t so completely ridiculous.
This particular conference was different for me in that the social side of things was turned up to 11. Lots of breaking bread, friends. The reason? It was the last hurrah for our outgoing Caldecott committee.
Always wanting to stay on theme (set forth by 2014 Caldecott Honor Flora & the Flamingo), we bunked at The Flamingo hotel. And, indeed…
And speaking of flamingos, an early frontrunner for the 2014 SotY (Swag of the Year) is this flip book based on the aforementioned Flora:
On Saturday I was able to stop in at the Disney-Hyperion preview, and was altogether impressed with the books they have in the works. I was also altogether impressed with the ice cream bars they had on hand:
A group of authors were there to read from their upcoming books. Caldecott Honoree John Rocco (Blackout) was there in support of his new book Blizzard, which will likely be my go-to snow book as soon as it comes out. I think it’s going to work well with a group.
Comet of a picture book creator Greg Pizzoli was there sharing his upcoming book, Templeton Gets His Wish. A great book right on par with the excellent The Watermelon Seed and Number One Sam. It also proved to be a time when I thanked Twitter. You see, I noticed this tweet from Mr. Pizzoli earlier in the day:
So after the preview I gave it a shot. Worked like a charm. Banana.
Last up in the preview was The Bill Murray of Children’s Literature, Mo Willems. He read from the next Elephant & Piggie book, Waiting Is Not Easy:
It’s really great. To my eyes, one of the series standouts (in a series full of standouts). But perhaps the news of the day came when Mr. Willems explained that the Elephant & Piggie series is winding down. A few more books, and that’s all she (nay, he) wrote. You knew it had to come eventually, but sad to hear nonetheless.
After that, it was Wonka slots til sunrise:
The next day was Sunday – the day of the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet.
Early on I checked out the exhibits, with publishers big and small showing off their upcoming books. There was no way I wasn’t going to take this picture:
Then one of my favorite events of the whole conference went down – the Ultimate Picture Book Sketch-Off. I did a full write up for School Library Journal. It was a riot!
Any time you get Jon Scieszka in a bedazzled ladies v-neck tee, it’s a solid event. Extra bonus points for the doughnut buffett:
After that it was Newbery/Caldecott banquet time. You know what that means: Paris (Las Vegas).
I came prepared:
(For the few non-conductors that read this blog, that’s a train whistle.)
So did others. Author Tom ‘Rail Road Tracks” Angleberger and John “Ulysses the Squirrel” Schumacher battled it out for tie of the night:
The Newbery and Caldecott committee members had a little fancy gathering beforehand and who went and showed up?
Yep. Madame Tussauds created wax figures of Brian Floca and Kate DiCamillo for people to photograph.
I’m joking, but I’ll be danged if they didn’t look as close to perfect as you’re gonna see.
On to the banquet! The requisite program shot:
Every year the Caldecott Medal winner illustrates the awards banquet program. It’s always really cool. I’ve seen die cuts (The Lion and the Mouse), 3D paper engineering (A Ball for Daisy), and georgous library book recreations (A Sick Day for Amos McGee). Floca’s Locomotive pop-up this year was just as astounding.
Members of the Caldecott committee traditionally sit at the table of one of the winning publishers. Who was I sitting with? Here’s a hint:
It was fun to get a peek at the sequel to Flora and the Flamingo during the dinner. And in case you missed it, Watch. Connect. Read. just premiered the book trailer:
Up first was Caldecott. Each honor winner was announced and received a plaque and an ovation from the audience. After that Brian Floca took the stage to accept his medal and deliver a speech. It was great to hear him talk about the process of bringing Locomotive into the world, and the folks who helped make it happen.
Next up was Newbery. Kate DiCamillo’s speech was wonderful. There was a lot of hankie-reaching by those in attendance.
A beautifully subdued end to the banquet.
Then I look over and Jon Scieszka is filming Oliver Jeffers and Jon Klassen having a race across the cavernous banquet hall.
(screen cap from Jon Scieszka’s Facebook page)
The winner? Honestly, too close to call.
The next day, bright and early, I was on my way back to Michigan. It was a great conference.