November 17, 2017

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Allen Say, Lee and Low, Regina Hayes, and Steven Heller at the Carle Honors Gala

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Eric Carle and Allen Say. Photo by Luann Toth.

The 11th annual Carle Honors took place this past Wednesday evening, September 28, at Guastavino’s in New York City. In addition to celebrating four honorees, the evening was a celebration of Eric Carle, who was in attendance; the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art; and the invaluable contributions of picture book authors and illustrators to the enrichment of children and literature. With more than 20 pieces of original art for auction, from Sophie Blackall, Ashley Bryan, Ezra Jack Keats, Leonard Weisgard, and others, the event was a stirring tribute to children’s book artists and their masterpieces, past and present.

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Eric Carle speaks to the audience.

The presentation of the honors was fittingly kicked off by a tender but humorous speech from Carle. He emphasized the utmost importance of fostering creative talent in young people, retelling a story from his own experience about his first grade teacher in Syracuse, NY, who encouraged his artistic talents. Carle mused that he is “essentially a cave painter,” that his books are a wall where paint and written words meet. But with 70 titles under his belt, Carle acknowledged that he has come far, attributing much of his success to his late wife and cofounder of the Carle Museum, Barbara Carle, and his longstanding relationship with his editor Ann Beneduce, who he referred to as both a friend and a “soulmate.”

Gregory Maguire, the host of the evening, then took the stage to begin the awards presentation for the categories Artist, Mentor, Angel, and Bridge. But before he got to that, Maguire asked the audience to reflect back on the past state of children’s book rooms in libraries, rooms that were typically relegated to basements “coagulated with mold” or airless attics. “Look at us now,” he cheered, pointing to the lavish decor of Guastavino’s and this night, dedicated to individuals whose tireless work and innovation have made a lasting impact on the world of picture books, art, literature, and literacy. “We are each books, too,” Maguire revealed, referencing the accumulated weight of the audience’s knowledge making each attendee a potential source of vision and experience such as that being honored.

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Regina Hayes honored as Mentor.

Regina Hayes, currently editor-at-large at Viking Children’s Books, was the honored Mentor for championing picture books. Over the years, Hayes has worked with such famous authors and illustrators as Jon Scieszka, Sophie Blackall, and Rosemary Wells. Hayes thanked all of her colleagues at Viking and her publisher Ken Wright for their support.

In his introduction of Steven Heller, the cochair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Design program and the recipient of the Bridge honor, Maguire slyly jabbed that Heller “is a bridge that has never intentionally blocked any of its lanes,” bringing a whoop of laughter from the audience. Upon accepting the honor, Heller joked that he, too, prepared a Governor Chris Christie–related joke, but he went on to thank his wife, friends, collaborators, and Eve Titus’s picture book Anatole for his inspiration.

Jason Low represented publisher Lee & Low Books, the recipient of the Angel award, for its commitment in bringing diversity to the forefront of its mission. Low asked the audience to consider the potential impact if the term diversity was replaced by “human” and promised to continue to bring more diverse, nay, human stories to life.

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Allen Say accepts the honor of Artist.

In his last introduction of the night, Maguire praised the type of artist, who not only sees but who also perceives deeply—wonderfully deserving and appropriate statement for the recipient author and illustrator Allen Say, who was awarded for his “lifelong innovation in the field.” Say expressed his deep gratitude to Walter Lorraine. Without him, he (Say) would not be here, according to the Artist honoree.

Maguire ended the awards presentation by urging the homeward bound audience to “drive or fly safely.” As a final touch, a slideshow of illustrations by some well-known visitors to the Carle Museum were displayed as the crowd dissipated. Click through the slideshow below to see photos of some of the illustrations featured.

Della Farrell About Della Farrell

Della Farrell is an Assistant Editor at School Library Journal and Editor of Series Made Simple

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