Horn Book @ Simmons Colloquium: The Recap

Autumn in New England…. a sunny Saturday at picturesque Simmons College…. a gathering of some of the superheroes of children’s literature including Roger Sutton, Rebecca Stead, Helen Oxenbury, John Burningham, and Peter Sis (just to name a few) along with librarians, teachers, students, publishers, editors, and general lovers of kidlit.  Needless to say, Libraryvoice was in state of perfect nerdy bliss at the first ever Horn Book at Simmons One-Day Colloquium.   [I truly hadn’t had this much fun talking about kid’s books (with grownups, that is)  since the amazing Bill Morris Seminar at last Midwinter!]Sadly, my train was late getting into Boston, so I missed the Boston Globe-Horn Book awards ceremony on Friday night.   (Although Read Roger has some lovely pics from the evening as well as the colloquium. )  Several of the winning authors and illustrators honored Friday evening stayed to give presentations and speak on panels at Simmons on Saturday.   The theme for the colloquium was collaboration.  These were some of my favorite moments and quotes from the day……

  • Roger Sutton interviewing Wendy Lamb (editor; Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House) and Rebecca Stead on the nature of an editorial partnership.  Wendy and Rebecca related the story of how they met: a writer’s workshop at the 92nd Street Y.  It wasn’t until years later, after Rebecca had been a stay-at-home mom working on a children’s book (First Light), that she reconnected with Wendy.  Asked about an editors primary job, Wendy Lamb explained, “My job is to see potential.  I like ambitious writers who try to take on too much.”
  • Some interesting facts about Elizabeth Partridge : She is the granddaughter of Emma Jean Cunningham and the goddaughter of Dorothea Lange.   She is also capable of making an entire audience weep.  From her reading of excerpts from Marching for Freedom, to relating the story about the genesis of her upcoming book (a work of fiction about a Vietnam vet), Betsy Partridge’s love of history and love of the people who tell it comes through powerfully and beautifully in her writing and in person.  She’s a speaker I would love to hear again.  (She also demoed an awesome website, googlelittrips.org, that uses Google Earth to map out the journeys of characters in children’s books.  The lit trip for Marching for Freedom includes many supplementary photos, quotes, and videos.)
  • Megan Lambert (who teaches at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art and Simmons College) led a breakout session on using the Whole Book Approach in storytimes.  The WBA method, in brief, focuses on reading with children, rather than to children.  The adult (librarian, teacher, parent) takes time to create a dialogic reading environment in which we become facilitators of a discussion about the book (including the art and design) rather than function as performers telling a tale.  I was initially suspect (What happens if the kids get out of control?  What if you lose the thread of the story by stopping too often for discussion?) but was quickly won over by Megan’s examples and anecdotes about her many successes at The Carle and in classrooms.
  • John Burningham on creating the illustrations a 1983 edition of The Wind in the Willows: “I had not read it as a child.  I had not seen the Shepard illustrations.  When I agreed to illustrate it, I asked my publisher to send the text with the illustrations blacked out.”
  • Laurel Croza (BGHB award-winning author of I Know Here) on the process of having her story illustrated: “You have to give up control.  You have to trust your publisher, your editors.  And you have to trust the artist.”
  • Matt James (illustrator of I Know Here) on working with an author’s vision and characters: “I have to respect the text, but also make it mine.”
  • Helen Oxenbury on words versus pictures: “Always start with the text.  Don’t overwhelm it.”  On collaborating with husband John Burningham for There’s Going to Be a Baby: “I was glad to work on it….because our styles of work are so different.”
  • Peter Sis on the physical effects of using pointillism for The Dreamer: “Thirty years ago I could do dots for six hours and go out dancing that night.  Not now.”
  • Megan Whalen Turner on not underestimating readers: “I don’t believe in bait-and-switch.  I rely on the intelligence and willingness of my readers.”

Check out these other attendee recaps:

Anna Staniszewski

Walk the Ridgepole

Sommer Reading


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