What was the first thing that went through your head when you found out you had won the Caldecott Medal?
For the first moment, while the committee was still in mid sentence, absolutely positively nothing. I was still shocked that I was receiving the call and I was utterly speechless. The first actual thought to form was that I must have heard them wrong. In my most secret, wildest dreams I thought maybe I could pull off an Honor in my career. But not the medal, and not this year. I just must have heard them wrong.
Who was the one person you couldnt wait to tell about your award?
Philip! He knew I was getting a very important phone call when the phone rang (I did not). I think he thought he should let me have the moment for myself. Also, he had to take our dog out! So, after I received the call and stumbled off the phone, I then called my editor to ask him to repeat everything to me slowly. I took one deep breath and found my feet, then threw on my coat and snow boots and ran to the park to tell Phil.
Do you have a favorite past Caldecott winner?
I love books and have a suspicion that my answer would change depending on when I was asked and what I was looking at during that time. But oh, how I love Evaline Ness, David Small, Marc Simont and Alice and Martin Provensen. If I am including Honors, then I could go on and on. I am honored this year to be listed with Bryan Collier and David Ezra Stein, both of whom I am a tremendous fan. Leo Lionni, Kadir Nelson and Peter Sis are some others. I could make this a very long list.
What's the best part of illustrating books aimed at a younger audience?
There are so, so many good things about illustrating books. I love the idea of being checked out from the library or told at the local store's story time. If I'm really lucky and someone likes the book enough to buy it that feels very special. But I think the best books (the books that Philip and I try very hard to deserve to share shelf space with) aren't necessarily aimed at a younger audience. I think they're just aimed at people. I think it's just as hard to be a kid as it is to be an adult. If you can tug at a person a little (whether they're small or big) and make them feel sincerely happy, or sad, or silly, then that is a real book. The best part for me about being an illustrator is that it keeps me honest. If I can make a book as honest as I can and my book makes someone (small or big) feel something honest, than maybe I have made a real book.
What artists inspire you?
Like the Caldecott question, I could go on and on. William Kentridge tends to stop me dead in my tracks. Tara Donovan, Giacometti, Robert Motherwell, Ray Johnson to name a few. James Whistler and Paul Klee. This could be a very long list.
Have you read or listened to past Caldecott acceptance speeches? Are you excited (or worried!) about your own speech?
I have read and listened to acceptance speeches for the Newbery and the Caldecott in the past, but never truly thought I would have to make one myself. It was the second thing Neal, my dear editor, said to me after he had told me I won. I think he knew I would be pretty terrified about this. I am shy in front of three people, let alone a large group. I am worried but I'm glad I will have some time to get my head around it.
As long as Phil and I can make this our job, this is what we'll be doing. He has a book coming out this spring entitled Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat. I have a book coming out next winter written by my friend Julie Fogliano. It will be called And Then It's Spring. Phil has written me another story (!) which I am working on right now. It's about a bear and will be out Fall 2012.
Also in BookPage: Read a review of A Sick Day for Amos McGee.