Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CLA Annual Conference Day 2 (evening): CLA Book Awards Reception

As you likely already know, the book awards went as follows:
  • Book of the Year for Children Award: The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, by Anne Laurel Carter, published by Groundwood Books.

  • Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Illustrator's Award: Mattland, illustrated by Dusan Petricic and written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, published by Annick Press.

  • Young Adult Canadian Book Award: Chanda's Wars, by Allan Stratton, published by HarperCollins.

I spent a few anxious minutes looking around for BOYA's head judge, Helen Kubiw, who I have had lengthly phone conferences with over decision-making, but had never met in person. It's always embarrassing to wander around, asking at random if people are named Helen. I did finally find her, and also our fellow judge Donna, and it was a great pleasure to meet them both in person, and Donna and I clicked exactly as I knew we would.

Lovely speeches were given, of course, but even lovelier than I expected. Appalling photos were taken, as you can see at right and below. I have an old camera. Deal.

Tragically, it was difficult from the angle I was sitting at to hear all of Dusan Petricic's speech, but what I heard was inspiring and very moving. He struck me as a very kind and gentle soul. Anne Laurel Carter was a joy to listen to. She spoke about going kibbutzing twice, in 1971 and 1974, I believe, and how she later (after becoming a librarian in 1983) travelled to the West Bank in 2005. She had realised by then, when teaching about media awareness, that there were some stories that had not been told - there nothing on the bookshelves in the library where she worked to represent a Palestinian point of view to her Muslim students in Toronto. She decided that there was only one thing to do when she found herself ignorant about a certain group, and that was that she would have to go and meet them. She traveled to the West Bank in 2005, was welcomed by many Palestinian families, and met many people that we don't hear about in the media. One Palestinian man, grazing his sheep illegally on land that had been in his family for generations, told her that if the ICOD and other organisations (Christian groups, Rabbis for Human Rights) hadn't helped him, he wouldn't believe in God. Carter eventually decided that she would simply have to write something about these people herself, and she came to change some of her earlier views. She also mentioned working with the Tamar Institute, who recently won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (I noted it while blogging for Librarian Activist!), saying without them she would not have seen what she saw, and subsequently changed her views.

Whew. The emotional bar had been set pretty high, but Allan Stratton raised it again, talking about how "we all share the same human heart," and talking about the importance of emotional literacy, literature as a bridge across divides, and particularly about YA literature as coming at a point in people's lives in which the stakes are high and readers are vulnerable. He observed that "all of us in this room (writers, publishers, librarians) have devoted ourselves to a field as real as it gets."

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