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Macaulay Honored at Children's Book Festival

Every spring for the past 33 years, children's literature afficionados have gathered on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi for the annual Children's Book Festival. The original purpose of the book festival was to introduce the University library's new collection of children's literature begun in 1966. This collection was later named in honor of its founder, Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond.

The first festival, held in 1968, was an international book fair, highlighting children's literature from throughout the world.

The focus changed slightly in the second year and a new feature was added - the awarding of a silver medallion for the distinguished body of work of an author or illustrator. Lois Lenski was the first recipient in 1969 and was followed by a veritable who's who of children's literature: Ernest H. Shepard, Roger Duvoisin, Marcia Brown, Barbara Cooney, Scott O'Dell, Madeleine L'Engle, Leonard Everett Fisher, Ezra Jack Keats, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary, Katherine Paterson, Arnold Lobel, Jean Fritz, Richard Peck, James Marshall, Tomie de Paola, Eric Carle, E.L. Konigsburg, Russell Freedman, and the 2000 recipient, David Macaulay.

A crowd of more than 600 librarians, teachers, and others interested in children's literature were on hand to honor Caldecott Medalist David Macaulay at this year's Children's Book Festival, held March 22-24. Macaulay delighted the audience with "All Roads Lead to Rome," a slide presentation about the trials and tribulations surrounding the creation of Rome Antics, published in 1997. He fell in love with Rome during his college days and wanted to prepare a guide to its attractions. Unsure of how he would present the information, Macaulay struggled with plot, perspective, characters and format, developing four totally different ideas before creating the one that finally worked. Rome Antics involves a pigeon, who, while carrying an important message, takes the reader on a unique tour of both ancient and modern parts of Rome.

Macaulay was born in Burton-on-Trent, England, in 1946. When Macaulay was eleven, his father took a job in America; the family moved to New Jersey, and five years later, to Rhode Island. It was during his high school years that Macaulay developed an interest in drawing and amused his classmates with sketches of the Beatles. He attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), where he received a bachelor's in architecture, and spent his fifth year in the European Honors Program, studying in Rome, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. After graduation in 1969, Macaulay worked as a junior high school art teacher, an interior designer, and a teacher at RISD.

During this time, Macaulay created preliminary studies for several books which he took to Houghton Mifflin, where Walter Lorraine, then manager of the children's department, saw the possibilities in his illustrations. Spurred on by Lorraine's enthusiasm for a book about cathedrals, Macaulay went to Amiens, France, where he spent two weeks sketching the cathedral during the day and writing at night. The resulting book, Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, published in 1973, received a Caldecott Honor Medal and was named one of the ten New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year.

This initial success was followed by an astonishing seven books in seven years:City (1974), Pyramid (1975), Underground (1976), Castle, (1977), Great Moments in Architecture (1978), Motel of the Mysteries (1979), and Unbuilding (1980). Help! Let Me Out!, Mill, The Amazing Brain, BAAA, and Why the Chicken Crossed the Road preceded the 1988 publication of The Way Things Work, a magnum opus of technology. It is an illustrated guide to the principles and mechanics of hundreds of machines, from the zipper to the airplane, the telephone to the television, the car to the computer, the key to your home to the atomic bomb.

Already the recipient of two Caldecott Honor Medals, Macaulay received the Caldecott Medal in 1991 for Black and White. Quite different from his other titles, Black and White is a picture book with four brief "stories" that overlap in a collage effect. Macaulay's books have sold more than two million copies in the United States alone and have been translated into a dozen languages. Four of his titles -- Cathedral, Castle, City, and Pyramid -- have been made into PBS television programs. He is now working on a five-part television series on engineering.

Other speakers at this year's festival were Will Hobbs, Anita Lobel, Diane Wolkstein, and Ezra Jack Keats Lecturer, Richard Peck.

WILL HOBBS

Author Will Hobbs receives inspiration for his books partly from personal experience and partly from his reading. The majority of his award-winning novels are set in the wilderness of the southwestern United States, where Hobbs and his wife, Jean, live in a self-constructed rock house. Hobbs writes about the things he loves most in life -- white water rafting, climbing, mountaineering, backpacking, and the wilderness in general. One glance at the compelling dust jackets for Far North, River Thunder, Ghost Canoe, and The Maze reveals the adventure and excitement of the story within.

Hobbs was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1947, but his father's position as an engineer in the Air Force caused the family to move frequently. He and his family lived in the Panama Canal Zone, Virginia, Alaska, California, and Texas. Hobbs studied English at Stanford University, receiving a B.A. in 1969 and an M.A. in 1971. He began his seventeen-year career as a teacher of reading and English in 1973 in the public schools of Colorado. It was not until 1980 that Hobbs began his first novel, Bearstone. Six different manuscripts and eight years later, it was accepted for publication. It was an outstanding first novel, chosen as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, among other honors.

Bearstone was soon followed by Downriver (1991), Beardance (1993), Far North (1996), The Maze (1998), and Jason's Gold (1999). In all, Hobbs has written eleven novels for young adults and two picture book stories, the first of which is Beardream, a companion book to his novels Bearstone and Beardance. All three titles deal with the relationship between native peoples and bears.

Hobbs' stories of adventure and daring are favorites with adolescents of both sexes, and he is in demand as a speaker both for adults and for his young readers. Hobbs at tributes his writing success to the many years he spent in the classroom and tries to maintain that closeness through numerous school visits. He freely offers advice to young writers, "Put the readers in your characters' shoes. Let them smell, hear, see, taste, and touch through your characters' senses." Learning to write, he says, takes practice and dedication, like learning to play a musical instrument or a sport.

Hobbs' one hope is that his novels tell a good story that will keep the reader turning page after page, hating to see the story end. His list of awards and honors indicates that his stories are well-respected by both the adults and the children who evaluate his work. Six of his novels were named Best Books for Young Adults by the American Library Association, Downriver was named one of the 100 Best of the Best Young Adult Books from the past 25 years, and Ghost Canoe received the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1998 for Best Young Adult Mystery. His books have won many other awards, including the California Young Reader Medal, the Western Writers of America Spur Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the Colorado Book Award, and nominations to over thirty state awards lists that are chosen by children.

ANITA LOBEL

Born in Poland in 1934, Anita Kempler had a normal childhood until she was five years old, when Hitler's troops occupied her home town of Krakow. There was a better chance of survival if the family was separated, so Anita and her younger brother spent four and a half years posing as the children of their Catholic Polish nanny. They were eventually captured and sent to a concentration camp in Germany where they remained until freed by the Swedish Red Cross in April 1945. Astonishingly, they were reunited with their parents in Sweden several years later.

The family emigrated to the United States in 1952, where Anita completed her high school education at Washington Irving High School and then went on to the Pratt Institute to continue her studies in art. It was here that she met fellow student Arnold Lobel: she acted in a play that he directed. They both graduated from Pratt in 1955 and were married the same year. In the early years of their marriage, Anita designed textiles, while Arnold wrote and illustrated children's books.

Arnold's mentor and editor, Susan Hirschman, suggested that Anita might try her hand at children's books. She soon discovered an ability for both storytelling and drawing and produced Sven's Bridge in 1965, published by Greenwillow. Hirschman's ability to spot new talent was confirmed by the editors of the New York Times when they named Sven's Bridge as one of the Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Lobel's new career was off to a wonderful start, and the next year saw the publication of The Troll Music and Puppy Summer, followed by Potatoes, Potatoes in 1967, and The Seamstress of Salzburg and Under a Mushroom in 1970. Although Lobel often both writes and illustrates her stories, she has illustrated works of other authors such as Charlotte Huck, Charlotte Zolotow, Janet Quin-Harkin, Meindert De Jong, and F.N. Monjo. Some of her most successful collaborations have been with her husband, Arnold, who wrote How the Rooster Saved the Day (1977), A Treeful of Pigs (1979), On Market Street (1981), and The Rose in My Garden (1984). She received a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1982 for On Market Street and the Boston Globe Horn Book Illustration Honor award was given to both On Market Street and The Rose in My Garden.

Recent collaborations include The Cat and the Cook and other fables of Krylov by Ethel Heins (1995), Toads and Diamonds by Charlotte Huck (1995), Mangaboom by Charlotte Pomerantz (1997), and My Day in the Garden by Miela Ford (1999).

Lobel joined a writers' group in the early 1990s because she had always "liked the idea of writing words without pictures." After writing "any old thing" for some period of time, Lobel began to focus on the experiences of her childhood. She showed her writing to her longtime editor Susan Hirschman in the summer of 1997. Hirschman saw that these short episodes could easily be transformed into a book and Lobel began working with Greenwillow's executive editor Virginia Duncan. No Pretty Pictures, A Child of War was published in 1998 and is a gripping memoir of surviving the Holocaust. No Pretty Pictures received unanimous critical acclaim and was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in 1998. Her newest book, One Lighthouse, One Moon, published this year by Greenwillow, presents the days of the week, the months of the year, and numbers from one to ten through the activities of a cat and people in and around a lighthouse.

DIANE WOLKSTEIN

Multitalented Diane Wolkstein is a master storyteller, mythologist, author, and teacher who has traveled extensively in Europe, Italy, Haiti, Canada, and throughout the United States. Wolkstein was born in New York City and spent her childhood in a New Jersey suburb. She received a B.A. in drama from Smith College and supplemented her formal education with a trip to Europe, where she taught English and studied pantomime in Paris. She soon found that her greatest love was telling stories to children, so, upon her return to the United States, she enrolled in the Bank Street College of Education, where she earned an M.A. in childhood education.

It was in the summer of 1967 that she applied for the position of "recreational director" within New York City's Parks and Recreation Department. Her storytelling career had begun and, for $40 a week, Wolkstein visited two parks a day, five days a week. Her fame spread and she soon began to tell stories to families at the statue of Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park. More than 25 years later, these Saturday morning sessions are legendary and have been celebrated by articles in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Village Voice.

Wolkstein's talents do not stop with the oral interpretation of stories. She is the author of more than twenty award-winning books of folklore. The Magic Orange Tree and Other Haitian Folktales (1978) and Inanna: Queen of Heaven and Earth (1983) have become classics. Other titles include White Wave (1979), The Banza (1981), Little Mouse's Painting (1992), Esther's Story (1996), Bouki Dances the Kokioko (1997), Glass Mountain (1999), and Grass Slipper (2000). Three of Wolkstein's albums --Hans Christian Andersen in Central Park, Romping, and The Story of Joseph -- have won the Parents' Choice Gold Seal Award.

RICHARD PECK

This year's Ezra Jack Keats Lecturer is no stranger to the University of Southern Mississippi. Critically acclaimed young adult author Richard Peck received the USM Medallion in 1991 and was a featured speaker that same year at the International Children's Literature Association conference hosted on the USM campus. Peck is a frequent contributor to the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection whose holdings include typescripts and related materials for nearly thirty of his novels for both young adults and adults.

Born in Decatur, Illinois in 1934, Richard Peck formed an early love of learning and literature while listening to his mother read to him. He received a scholarship to attend DePauw University and graduated in 1956. He spent his junior year at the University of Exeter in southwest England, where he took most of his literature courses. Shortly after graduation he entered the army and served in Germany for two years. His writing ability kept him safely in office jobs and led him to ghostwrite sermons for chaplains of all denominations. He went directly from the army to graduate school at Southern Illinois University where he earned his way as a teaching assistant, graduating in 1959. He did further graduate study at Washington University from 1960 to 1961, and later took a position teaching high school in Northbrook, Illinois. He taught school for ten years before it "had begun to turn into something that looked weirdly like psychiatric social work." He searched for a new way to communicate with the young and found it in his writing. His first novel, Don't Look and It Won't Hurt (1972) is about a teenage pregnancy told from the viewpoint of the young mother's younger sister. Enormously successful, this novel was the start of Peck's distinguished writing career. The most difficult young adult problems of suicide, drugs, alcohol, death of a loved one, unwanted pregnancy, and rape find realistic and unflinching treatment in Peck's works. His novels have found an enthusiastic young adult audience and have won critical acclaim for their realism and emotional power.

Thirty years later, he has written more than twenty-five novels for young readers including Representing Super Doll, Are You in the House Alone?, Ghosts I Have Been, Father Figure, Secrets of the Shopping Mall, Voices After Midnight, The Great Interactive Dream Machine, and Lost in Cyberspace. He has received numerous awards and honors for his body of work, including the 1990 Margaret A. Edwards Award, a prestigious award sponsored by the Young Adult Library Services Association of the American Library Association in cooperation with School Library Journal, the 1990 National Council of Teachers of English/ ALAN Award for outstanding contributions to young adult literature, and the 1991 University of Southern Mississippi Medallion. His books are always among those selected as ALA's Best Books for Young Adults; his A Long Way From Chicago received the 1999 Newbery Honor Book Medal and was the finalist for the 1998 National Book Award.

For the full text of Richard Peck's spectacular lecture, Books for the Readers of the 21st Century, click on the title.
 

 

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The de Grummond Children's Literature Collection
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Hattiesburg, MS 39406
(601) 266-4349
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