Anyone who has ever attended the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet at Midwinter knows the place is always packed, and it’s not the food that draws the crowd. It’s not really the company either, however fine that may be. It’s the opportunity to pay tribute to the winners and the anticipation of getting a tiny glimpse of the people behind the books. A compilation of the speeches from the last decade, In the Words of the Winners, allows us to enjoy the speeches anew, in print this time and enriched by a personal profile of each medalist contributed by a friend or colleague. Below are a few teasers….
“Anyone who has reached this podium has traveled a long trail. Few have traveled a longer than I have, across thirty years and thirty books. I am not a quick study. It has taken me this long to find the key that unlocks a Newbery: a naked woman and a snake. There is no accounting for taste, and I am grateful to the Newbery committee for theirs.” --Richard Peck
“Writing is naming the world.” --Avi
“I am often asked, “How do you write for children? How do you know what they’ll like? I’m always surprised by the question because I’d never give it much thought. I feel as if I’m being asked, “How do you write for penguins? Or wombats?” The shocking truth is: I myself was once a child.” --Mordicai Gerstein
“Libraries fed our passion as children, and feed it still.” --Cynthia Kadohata.
“I did not write stories to get people through the hard places and the difficult times. I didn’t write them to make readers of nonreaders. I wrote them because I was interested in the stories, because there was a maggot in my head, a small squirming idea I needed to pin to the paper and inspect, in order to find out what I thought and felt about it. I wrote them because I wanted to find out what happened next to people I had made up. I wrote them to feed my family.” --Neil Gaiman
“My favorite Newbery speech advice came from a Texas librarian who told me to speak for the shortest time allowable and to remember that I am among friends. She’s here tonight, and I have given her a flashlight, and when I have been talking for twelve minutes she is going to give me a few blinks. And after fifteen minutes, she’s just going to throw it at me.” --Rebecca Stead
In the Words of the Winners: The Newbery and Caldecott Medals 2001-2010, coauthored by the Association for Library Service to Children and The Horn Book. (Editions, 2011)