The California Young Reader Medal banquet at the CSLA conference is always an elegant affair. One of the wonderful conference exhibitors sponsors a chocolate and champagne reception just before the dinner and this year was no exception. In case you didn’t know about the California Young Reader Medal (CYRM) program, there are three books that are nominated in each of five categories each year: primary, intermediate, middle school, young adult and picture books for older readers. The students/children of California vote for their favorite each year and the winner in each category is awarded the coveted CYRM medal at a conference banquet of one of the four sponsoring organizations of the award.
This year, the picture book for older readers CYRM award was presented at the CSLA conference banquet. The winner this year was Cats in Krasinski Square by Karen Hesse and illustrated by Wendy Watson.
Wendy Watson was the featured speaker at the banquet because Karen Hesse was not able to attend the banquet. Turns out the Wendy and Karen live around the corner from each other in Vermont and are morning walking buddies. Wendy shared how, as the illustrator, she was very hesitant to sign on to this project. Even more unique was the fact, that after Karen wrote the manuscript, Wendy drew a few illustrations and they sent in the book proposal as a whole (usually the publisher chooses the illustrator after the manuscript is written). Wendy went on to explain that event though the project was accepted by Scholastic that she was doubtful that anyone would read it. Who would want to read a picture book about the Holocaust? She admitted that she was wrong on this as well. It was a wonderful story from the illustrator of a picture book – a story we don’t often get to hear. The CYRM medal and the author or illustrator is always introduced by one of the students who read the book. In the picture below, ninth grader who presented the medal is on the right and Wendy Watson is on the right (in the center is the father of the young man who presented the medal).