Once Upon a Time
Last week, a week of big announcements from me, the children's book world said goodbye to two of the greatest author/illustrators picture books have ever known. Lois Ehlert was famous for books like Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Eating the Alphabet, Feathers for Lunch, and many more.
The other great loss is Eric Carle. I've loved seeing all the stories and posts celebrating Eric's work. I feel so lucky that in my life, I had many great experiences reading Eric Carle books, plenty of opportunity to honor him before he left us, and one actual time where I got to be in the same room with him.
|When you bring a toddler to a museum.|
Our last trip to the Carle before quarantine.
|My best friend, Marcus, for scale|
|Met Oliver Jeffers at the Carle Museum|
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is a magical place tucked in the hills of Western MA. When I was a 2nd grade teacher, I packed up 20-ish kids and took a 2 hour bus trip there for a field trip. I had a chance to also visit for a special mad hatter tea with my best friend and his family. I drove out a few times by myself to check out new exhibits and meet authors.
Then, there was one very, very special year when I got to attend the Carle Honors Benefit - a gala held annually in New York City. This event features an auction of commissioned artwork by the best illustrators in children's literature and awards given in four categories, "celebrating individuals whose creative vision and dedication are an inspiration to everyone who values picture books and their role in arts education and literacy."
The gala is the most magical night in children's literature with all your favorite authors and illustrators sipping on fancy drinks, eating delicious food, and chatting. All of this, of course, has been hosted and put on by Eric Carle. For a few years, the event offered several sponsored seats to educators. In 2013, having just moved back to Boston, I put my name in for a sponsorship AND THEY CHOSE ME!
I missed two days of school to travel to the city, got my hair done at a fancy spot, put on a new dress I picked out for the occasion and took an Uber to Guastavinos. I showed up, got checked in, walked in the doors and immediately in front of me was Eric Carle talking to Jerry Pinkney. In an instant, instead of feeling excited, I regretted my decision, imposter syndrome absorbing me. I turned right around and ran to the bathroom. There I hid in a stall and texted my sister wondering what was I thinking for coming to a place I clearly didn't belong. How could I, nobody really, even begin to insert myself into a conversation with my most revered group of people in the world??
Jessie reminded me that I had come this far, was all dressed up, and needed to suck it up and get out there. So I took a deep breath, took a selfie in the bathroom mirror so I had at least some evidence that once upon a time I was there, and walked out.
|Proof! Photo by Johnny Wolf Photography 2013|
I found myself in a circle of people including Jon Scieszka and Tony DiTerlizzi. Despite being starstruck, I managed to have a conversation with them and even thought to let Tony know that my favorite high school teacher was a huge fan of his work. Later I got to sit in the 3rd row to see Eric speak and the awards given out.
I'm so glad I got myself out of that bathroom and managed to enjoy a bit of the night. Mostly I shuffled around, awkwardly trying to talk to anyone who would talk to me. I doubt anyone even remembers I was there. However, for that one night I felt honored and proud to be there, even if nobody else noticed me. More than anything I wish I had had a chance to say thank you to Eric. Thank you for the books, for the museum, for the evening, and for welcoming teachers into a night that was so special.