"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The one where Midwinter earns its name

It's hard to believe that only a week has passed since I was trudging through the streets of Chicago, hauling a rolling suitcase heavy with books along with a bag of books over my shoulder. Did I mention there were approximately six inches of snow on the sidewalk with five foot berms of grey slushy salt-soaked snow at each curb? Did I also mention the horizontally-flying snow carried on winds of 35-40 miles per hour?  Yes, that is EXACTLY what I was doing one week ago at this hour. I wish I had artistic talent because I would draw myself in this scene.

Don't mistake my tone, I was not that upset. Snow is snow. Storms are storms. And it was better then what I had just been through: an airport limo ride to O'Hare that included a person spinning out on the highway and facing us in our lane.  This experience, along with seeing more accidents than I could count, had me happily riding the train back into Chicago...once I learned that my flight was cancelled, which made perfect sense given the weather. I traveled from Boston after the sixth worst storm to Chicago, which was experiencing it's sixth worst storm. #funnynotfunny

Why was I trying to fly out in this mess? My father was in the hospital and I needed to get to him and my mother. The happy ending to that story is that my father is improving and by the time I got to him on Tuesday, we was much better.

But wait! Keep reading, because this post is about the ALA Midwinter Conference and, despite the family emergency, and many great and memorable experiences. I got to see wonderful bookish friends. I learned about books I am looking forward to adding to my library collection. I have shared memories because of the storm. It was a journey with a happy ending. Here's a recap!
I arrived Friday night...at rush hour...and spent a considerable time in an aiport limo hearing about the worldy travels of a young man from Wales. He was on his last leg of his journey: Chicago to New York to Iceland to home. I enjoyed hearing about his travels and am in awe of people who pick and leave the safety of their daily lives.

Finally, the limo arrived at my hotel and I was greeted by a bright and beautiful Chicago.

I attended a gathering where I learned about these upcoming Chronicle Books. I have already added them to my book order.
Leo by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson

Big Bear Little Chair by Lizi Boyd

The Bear's Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

Swan by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Keep an eye out for
Stella brings her Family by Miriam Schiffer; 

I attended the Candlewick Preview where we got to hear from Leslea Newman. She talked about the inspiration for Heather Has Two Mommies and the difficulty they had publishing it.  It's hard to believe it has been twenty-five years.  She is looking forward to a new generation of readers connecting with the story that has been republished with new illustrations. Heather's free-spirited self is celebrated in this new art. This is one we should all update in our collections. The Candlewick Catalog always has great books, here are a few that I am particularly excited about: Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina (YES!), and Look Both Ways in the Bario Blanco by Judith Robins Rose.   Two early chapter book sequels" Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon: Tales from Deckawoo Drive by Kate DiCamillo and The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale.

Saturday morning held my one visit to the Vendor floor. It's always fun to see the books you love along with get a glimpse of the books you know you will grow to love.

Here's one I read in the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth that I immediately fell in love with:
 And here's another:

At Penguin Random House, I came across a book, illustrated by Christian Robinson, that I had not yet seen:
 This is one I need to get my hands on:

A stop at Little Brown included a look at WOLFIE THE BUNNY by Ame Dyckman. I love anything she touches.
The other one I am eager to get is Outstanding in the Rain by Frank Viva, this one is incredible with its die-cuts and humor.

(yes, this is upside down - sorry!)

I left the vendor floor to head to an American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Affiliate Assembly Meeting where we grappled with the question, "What is the Affiliate Assembly and what does it do?" It's a question I am often asked by school librarians at ALA meetings and conferences. If the people active in the school library world are confused, I can imagine what school librarians back in the trenches are thinking. "What value does the Assembly bring to my work?

I am happy to report that we are trying to remedy this lack of understanding about Affiliate, all while strengthening the organization. The AASL Affiliate Assembly met today to begin a conversation around community building that will be continued into the Annual Meeting in San Francisco in June. The thing that caused the most buzz was this: A business card for AASL with an "elevator pitch" on the back. This is the type of proactive advocacy we need.

After the Affiliate Assembly, I traveled with my MSLA peeps to the Scholastic Art Reception and Literacy Event, where we were treated to six readers' theatre performances. The authors performing each other's scripts were Blue Balliett (Players and Pieces), Ally Carter (Embassy Row: All Fall Down), Dan Gemeinhart (The Honest Truth), Pam Munoz Ryan (Echo), Augusta Scatergood (The Way to Stay in Destiny), and Sarah Weeks (Honey). It was incredible.  The Massachusetts contingent is particularly excited about Blue Balliet's new novel, which is based upon the Gardner Art heist. 

Next stop with the Massachusetts crew was a gathering that had old beauty salon chairs. We stayed here long enough to snap some pics and headed off to a quieter place for dinner and conversation. Love my MSLA peeps, the awesome Amy Short was a willing photo partner in crime!

By the time we got back into Chicago the first few flakes had started to fall...

A conference recap would not be complete without a shout out to my friend and roommate, Laura Given. She makes these trips special.

I met Judi Paradis, our MSLA President, at 7:15 am  and we headed off on a 1.2 mile walk - through the blizzard - to our Affiliate Assembly Meeting.  The Chicago streets were fairly deserted and I am sure many people thought we were a bit odd, but it felt good to get some exercise and fresh air. We arrived, sat down with some breakfast and the call came that my father had been taken to the hospital. Cue the above story and add a few hours of phone calls. Here's a sense of how Chicago looked and sounded - the wind was so strong you can't see the snow!
After getting back to Chicago from the airport, I headed to the Penguin Random House Preview. Hearing Rebecca Stead, Liesl Shurtliff (Jack), and Chris Grabenstein (The Island of Dr.Libristalk about their books and writing process was a fabulous way to take my mind off of my father, who I knew was in good hands. I have many wonderful stories to share with my students!  

There's more to look forward to from Penguin Random House: There's No Such Thing as Little by LeUyen Pham and a new Penderwicks! 

Laura and I got back to the hotel, where we gathered more winter belongings and headed back out into the snow. 
The Houghton Mifflin Harcourt gathering was filled with intrepid and bookish people! We got a preview of 2015 books and heard from Michael Buckley about his upcoming novel.

Bright and early (5:00 am), Laura and I got ready for the BIG day. The American Library Association Youth Media Awards (ALAYMA) were being announced at 8:00 and, like last year, we wanted to be in the front of the line! Finding a taxi in Chicago after the city's sixth worst storm was a task we had not anticipated, so we hopped on a shuttle bus. We were safely delivered to the convention center, where we took our places in line (not within the top ten like last year, but within the top 25!). 

It's amazing how fast an hour passes when you are with friends and having fun. The energy and anticipation in the line was palpable.
The line grew and grew and grew...
Soon, we were in the room
And the Awards ceremony began...

Here's what Laura and I sounded like when they announced the Caldecott Medal and Honor books:

The rest of the morning passed quickly and soon I was in a taxi heading to the airport. Without dragging this part out, I'll just say that the storm was now raging in Boston, so flight after flight was cancelled, including mine. I made it to Charlotte, where I slept for about five hours before heading back to the airport at 5:30 am to wait standby for a seat on this plane,
which I thankfully did get and headed home. 

What was that? You asked how I feel about Midwinter 2016 taking place in Boston? Excited! 


  1. So fun and you captured it beautifully!

  2. I was really sad that I missed ALA Midwinter - especially since I was still stuck in all this Chicago snow (doing stuff that was much less fun than ALA). The weather was crazy!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  3. I should like to visit Chicago when the weather is NOT so crazy!

  4. Thanks for allow us to experience ALA MW vicariously, Jennifer! Here's to next year in Boston!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read it, Victoria! I am still processing :)