2012 EJK Book Award Ceremony
My daughter Rebecca and I traveled to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to attend the 2012 EJK New Writer and New Illustrator Awards, and our plane was delayed at JFK for three hours! We arrived in New Orleans at 2:15 a.m. and didn’t get to sleep until almost 4 a.m. Rather the worse for wear, the next day we made the two-hour drive to the University of Southern Mississippi for the Children’s Book Festival. It was quite a beginning for three lovely days of celebrating with people who make and love children’s books. The days started early in the morning and ended late, with luncheons, workshops and speeches.
I am happy to say that the EJK Book Award presentation was one of the highlights of the Festival, bringing particular joy to everyone who attended. Ellen Ruffin, Curator of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, spearheaded the event and did a brilliant job. A Silver Medallion is awarded every year for a lifetime of achievement. (The 2012 winner is Jane Yolen.) This year the same group was also gathered to honor and encourage artists just starting out—our 2012 winners, Meg Medina and Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. The poetic symmetry was lost on no one, and it was especially sweet when Jane Yolen approached me afterward to tell me that she would be honored to serve on the EJK Book Award jury to help select future winners.
My daughter Rebecca came with me to all the events, and to her teenage eyes it probably seemed like a crazy quilt of grown-ups getting excited about books that she has long outgrown. But when she is a parent reading to her children, I think the importance of the people she met this past April will become clear.
The winners gave heartfelt speeches as they accepted their awards. Here are brief excerpts.
Meg Medina, EJK New Writer Award winner:
This is the story of bicultural children today, I think. They speak a different language than their parents. They know a different country; they experience a different geography of growing up. And now, thanks to our sad immigration debate, these children can be cut off literally, too, through deportations that leave them here alone and in limbo. To illustrate, between January and June of last year, the federal government reports that it removed more than 46,000 undocumented immigrants who claimed to have at least one child who is a natural US citizen. Let us put politics aside for a moment and imagine this through the eyes of a child. What will be the long-term impact on these children who are left suddenly in the foster care system or in the care of neighbors or overwhelmed relatives? If my story brings comfort to anyone, I hope it brings comfort to them most of all.
Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, EJK New Illustrator Award winner:
When my editor, Christy Ottaviano, called to surprise me with the news I was receiving this award, the biggest smile spilled over me like my first cold bucket shower in Nepal. Ezra Jack Keats is a long-time hero of mine. I can relate to his big-kid nature and traveler’s spirit, his love for color and passion for collage. He inspires me to write and illustrate books from my heart. Receiving this honor in his name is an affirmation to me that I am on the right path. That my voice is a gift. It is also a priceless energy boost in these awesome and exhausting first years of motherhood. And, this award inspires me to create more books fueled by my love and curiosity for cultures around the world.