Wednesday, April 9, 2014

2014 Kerlan Award for Children's Literature

The University of Minnesota Library system has an incredible special collection of children's literature called the Kerlan Collection.  When I was at school there, the collection was housed on the East Bank at Walter Library in a room which required special permission to enter.  I had a few classes taught by Karen Nelson Hoyle, who was the curator of the Kerlan collection and so we were able to meet in that collection room of the library.  It was, hands down, my favorite place on campus.  I've searched the internet for photos of the room to share with you but...weirdly...can't find any.  Walter Library is beautiful itself, with gorgeous sculpted ceiling panels, massive arching windows and deep wood paneled walls and reading tables.  But the room of the Kerlan Collection (was it called the Upson Room?  That is ringing a bell...hmmm) was like being inside of a fairytale with warm colors of soft yellows, berry reds, and mossy greens.

Every year, since 1975, a Kerlan Award is given in honor of a singular contribution to the world of Children's Literature.  In 2012, shortly after her retirement, the award was granted to Karen Nelson Hoyle, my former children's lit teacher and long time curator of the special collection.  I wanted to attend the award ceremony but, for whatever reason, was unable to do so.

Then in 2013, I read that the Kerlan was to be awarded to Kate DiCamillo.  We LOVE Kate DiCamillo and, again, I really wanted to attend the ceremony - actually see her in person!!  But, again, the timing just didn't work out and I missed it.

This year, I saw that the award was going to two authors, Russell Freedman and Linda Sue Park.  We have read several of Linda Sue Park's books and our mother/son book club even read The Kite Fighters, discussed it and had a blast making our own kites.  Kate's love of Abraham Lincoln means that we, of course, have a copy of Russell Freedman's biography of the 16th president!  And the timing worked out so...Kate and attended the Kerlan Awards on March 29th.

The collection has moved from the east bank to the west bank, into the Anderson Library which didn't even exist when I was there.  This new library has two monstrous caverns beneath it (each larger than 2 football fields, we were told).  Here's a link to pictures of the building of this library and the caverns - incredible!

There was a delicious lunch followed by various speakers and then the acceptance speeches.  As Kate and I looked at the program, we noticed that Russell Freedman was not going to be able to be there to accept his award.  It would, instead, be accepted for him by the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature - Kate DiCamillo!  Yay!  I mean, I'd love to have seen/met/heard from Russell Freedman also but it was pretty darn cool to be having lunch with the author of Mercy Watson (John's favorite) and Edward Tulane (Kate's favorite)!  She read Russell Freedman's acceptance speech and then spoke as herself also.

Linda Sue Park spoke and was so delightful.  She shared with us the various drafts of her latest book, Zander's Panda Party.  The first draft was terrible - which is why she shared it with us.  Then she donated it to the collection's archives.  She ended by reading us the final story while flipping through the pages on a large smartboard, saying how surprised she was when a STEM school teacher contacted her with praise and gratitude for having provided a STEM book.  The teacher had been searching for a book that could help in an animal classification science unit that she was starting.  This book is perfect.  The funny thing?  Linda Sue Park didn't even know what STEM was (or maybe she kinda did but wasn't being intentional in any way) so it was totally by accident. I find that influence between writer and reader so very cool.  We had John's copy of The Kite Fighter's with us and asked her to sign it for him.  We also bought a copy of Zander for a birthday party gift the following day.

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