Artist and children’s book illustrator Nonny Hogrogian won her first Caldecott Medal in 1966 for Always Room for One More (Holt, 1965), the story of a generous Scotsman who welcomes guests into his little home. She then won her second in 1972 for One Fine Day (Macmillan, 1971), the humorous retelling of an Armenian folk tale about a red fox who steals milk from an old farm woman.
Born in the Bronx to an Armenian family, Hogrogian earned a Caldecott Honor in 1977 for The Contest (Greenwillow, 1976), also based on a tale from Armenia.
Hogrogian talked with SLJ about the medals, her work, and cold New Hampshire winters.
What do you remember about winning each medal?
When I won the medal for Always Room for One More in 1966, I was working at home as an illustrator four days a week and as the art director for Scribner’s children’s book department for the other three days.
Friends from Scribner’s began to call me in the afternoon asking me if I had any news about the award. I said “No,” and continued with my work.
Much later, I received the call from the Caldecott committee chairwoman, Winifred Crossley, and was excited beyond belief. I called back my co-workers at Scribner’s, who had been waiting for me to hear the news. They told me to hurry on down to the office, where they were waiting to have a celebration. It was great.
In 1972, I was newly married to the poet and writer David Kherdian, winner of the 1980 Newbery Honor for The Road from Home: The Story of an Armenian Girl (Greenwillow, 1979). We had just bought a home in New Hampshire and we were broke. The winters there were very cold, and we weren’t sure that we had enough money to pay for oil through the winter.
We were both rather impractical. After looking over many picture books published that year, I told David that I thought I deserved the medal for One Fine Day, a folk tale I had retold and illustrated. He didn’t take me seriously.
At around midnight, we went upstairs to bed when the phone rang and the news came that I had in fact won the Caldecott Award for One Fine Day. We were jumping up and down and dancing on the bed, we were so happy. The next morning I called my editor, Susan Hirschman, to ask whether we might get an advance on the sales, and, of course, she said “Yes.”
What do you remember about the ceremonies?
I was very nervous at the Holt awards party preceding the 1966 event, so nervous that I lost my voice. The sales manager at Holt took one look at me and said, “You need a drink.” He presented me with one and later another. It helped a lot, and by the time I gave my speech, I looked out at the audience and realized that they were friends, and I was totally relaxed.
What impact did winning the Caldecott have on your career?
The Caldecott Award changed my life. It meant that I would not have to work in an office again. I would be able to work at books I loved in my own home without worrying too much about paying the rent. In addition, I would be able to pick and choose my own material and even tell my own stories, so that I could be totally involved with the material.
Where do you keep your medals?
David and I have moved many times, and for safekeeping, my early work is stored at the University of Southern Mississippi, and my later work and my medals are at the University of Connecticut.
Any other special memories from those times?
We have enjoyed our life and our work, with many thanks to Caldecott.
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