Radioactive Pocket Lint and the 2007 Scott O'Dell Award
Usually when I've detached myself from an event that involved delicious food and kidlit chatter I like to give myself a few days to decompress before hammering out some kind of encapsulation of the event. That works especially well if no one at said event knows who I am. Yesterday, however, Sharyn November (editor extraordinaire, y'all) asked if I'd be blogging about the thingy thing I was attending and my reaction was peppier than I'd intended. I seem to have said, "YOU BET!" Then again, why not? Let's try the whole while-it's-still-fresh-in-your-mind approach. What have I got to lose?
So yesterday was the day the Scott O'Dell Award was officially bestowed upon author Ellen Klages for her book The Green Glass Sea. The bestowing, as it happened, occurred at a little restaurant called Choice. Inside, the place was reserved entirely for the O'Dellolites (well YOU try to come up with a name for them then) and I was happy. Roger Sutton was there. The charming Laura Lutz from Queens (who should seriously consider blogging, missy) was there. Rita Auerbach. TWO (count 'em) TWO Newbery committee members including Monica Edinger and my BPL homie Michael Santangelo. There were numerous others who will forgive me for not mentioning them by name, and of course, star of the evening, author Ellen Klages.
Let me tell you a little something about Ellen Klages. I love her. I'm not saying I didn't love her before I met her or anything. Sure, her book was well-written and a helluva lot of fun. And it certainly fulfilled every requirement a person could possibly have in mind regarding smart historical fiction. But see, the thing about writers is that you just never know. It would be nice if every book gave a clue as to how cool its respective author is, but this is simply not always the case. Ms. Klages, however, is the kind of person you want to sit down with over a cup of coffee for hours at a time just so you can pick her brain for a while. She was much in demand, however, so brain picking had to be foreshortened. I was able to ask her about the cover change The Green Glass Sea went through. As you might recall, Roger Sutton displayed the before and after of that particular image and it turns out that the girl in Cover #1 was from an old photograph owned by Ms. Klages herself. And yes, sure as shooting, people assumed that the kid was Anne Frank so the entire look was reworked before publication.
The presentation of the award was in fine fettle. Ms. Klages was introduced by, I believe, chair Hazel Rochman. She in turn gave props to her fellow committee members Roger Sutton and Ann Carlson. She also happened to mention some interesting facts regarding Mr. Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. Many people turned the book down, it seems, because they wanted the lead character to be a boy rather than a girl. Huh.
Then Ellen Klages stood up to speak and she killed, brother. Killed. It was one of those speeches you wish Horn Book would consider reprinting in one format or another. Klages has the enviable ability of speaking naturally in front of a large group while at the same time never straying off topic, losing her train of thought, or being anything less than truly interesting. She described her fascination with the original glass sea, and how no one ever took a single color photograph of it before it was bulldozed out of existence. She mentioned that she has a piece of the glass which she carries around in her pocket within small black pouch. She used to carry it around in her own homemade lead container, but the glass tended to shatter that way. We then got a rousing explanation of how Ms. Klages melted down lead soldiers on her stove, then poured the lead into an Altoids container to create the box. Someone had apparently pointed out to her that the melting of lead was probably more dangerous than the radioactive glass, but she certainly took precautions. The conclusion drawn by one and all was that there was more than a drop of Dewey (the book's protagonist) in Ms. Klages. That's for sure.
Another thing I took away from the evening was that Ms. Klages has previously worked on adult sci-fi. This caused me to prick up my ears. Perhaps... perhaps she might consider writing some sci-fi children's books? I'm waiting for that particular trend to pick up and take wing, but so far no great sci-fi American children's author has appeared in the last decade or so. Perhaps Ms. Klages could fill this void.
The tables about the room were spotted with lovely roughened green sea glass which was just enchanting, if also mildly unnerving. The food consisted of tender meats, cheeses, wine, crab-like balls of something, wine, brownies, fruit salads, quesadillas, and wine. All in all, a brilliant little ceremony and proof positive that the Scott O'Dell Award is making some excellent choices these days.