Kidlit County, Little Elliot's Neighborhood

An Award, A Collection, and the Best Shrimp & Grits Ever

Last week I headed down South to accept the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor at the 48th Annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi. My partner in crime, Ruth Chan, and I landed in New Orleans, Louisiana, and ate our way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

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Ruth and I at City Park in New Orleans

First, Little Elliot and I had a reading and drawing demo with our friends at Octavia Books.

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It was Ruth’s first time in NOLA, so we walked around the French Quarter and ended the day with a show-stopping plate of shrimp & grits at Mr. B’s Bistro.

Ruth and I talked about this about every 2 hours for the rest of the trip.

Ruth and I talked about this about every 2 hours for the rest of the trip. (photo credit Ruth Chan)

There’s no place quite like New Orleans. We enjoyed an impromptu after-dinner entertainment on this corner of Frenchmen Street.

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First thing in the morning, we went to Cafe du Monde for their famous beignets, delicately deep fried to perfection.

They're not cupcakes, but that's not stopping Little Elliot!

They’re not cupcakes, but that’s not stopping Little Elliot!

 

Little Elliot, Big Easy

Little Elliot, Big Easy

Soon, we were off to Hattiesburg, MS, with our guide, Nadine. On the way we stopped at Paul’s Pastry in Picayune, MS, for some fried green tomatoes topped with crab and hollandaise.

the real deal

the real deal (photo credit Ruth Chan)

We made it to USM just in time to hear Peter Brown speak at the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. The festival is widely attended by librarians and educators from all over the South and beyond.

Our escort Sherry took us to see the current exhibit at The de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection. Calling the collection “a gem” is an understatement.

“The collection houses original manuscripts and illustrations, produced by more than 1,300 children’s authors and illustrators, which document the entire creative process. The original materials are complemented by an ever-expanding book collection of more than 160,000 volumes dating from 1530 to the present.”

Little Elliot, Big Collection

Little Elliot, Big Collection

a piece by one of my favorite illustrators of all time, Tibor Gergley

a piece by one of my favorite illustrators of all time, Tibor Gergley

My new buddy Chris Haughton and I at a book signing

My new buddy Chris Haughton and I at a book signing (photo credit Walker Picture Books)

The next day, we got to see our friend and fellow Brooklynite, Paul O. Zelinsky, receive the 2015 Southern Mississippi Medallion, an award for distinguished service in the field of children’s literature. Paul has written and/or illustrated 35 children’s books, and won a Caldecott medal and three Caldecott honors. If you grew up with books, you’ve read his work. Paul is an active member of the kidlit community here in Brooklyn, and a fountain of knowledge to author/illustrator newbies and veterans alike. We’re so proud of you, Paul!

Paul O. Zelinski's Southern Mississippi Medallion. Nothing quite says "I've made it" like having a coin minted with your head on it.

Paul O. Zelinsky’s Southern Mississippi Medallion. Nothing quite says “I’ve made it” like having a coin minted with your head on it.

Next up, several other authors/illustrators and I received our Ezra Jack Keats Awards! Though it was the first time I met any of these folks, I feel like I can call them friends! The awards were established by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation “to recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children’s books.”

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left to right: Adam Auerbach, Chieri Uegaki, Chris Haughton & me (photo credit Ruth Chan)

Awards

Chieri Uegaki
EJK New Writer Award for Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Chris Haughton
EJK New Illustrator Award for Shh! We Have a Plan

Honors

Adam Auerbach
EJK New Writer Honor for Edda: A Little Valkyrie’s First Day of School

Alan Rabinowitz
EJK New Writer Honor for A Boy and a Jaguar

Misty Copeland
EJK New Writer Honor for Firebird

Evan Turk
EJK New Illustrator Honor for Grandfather Gandhi

Mike Curato
EJK New Illustrator Honor for Little Elliot, Big City

Little Elliot accompanied me to the stage to give my acceptance speech. He made some new friends.

Little Elliot accompanied me to the stage to give my acceptance speech. He made some new friends.

After the award ceremony, the winners got a special tour of the archives at the de Grummond Collection. It was basically Christmas morning times infinity.

The stacks go on and on and on!

The stacks go on and on and on!

Part of the reason why the EJK awards are part of the Kaigler festival is because his original work lives here at the de Grummond!

Part of the reason why the EJK awards are part of the Kaigler festival is because his original work lives here at the de Grummond!

photos of Ezra Jack Keats alongside his personal tools

photos of Ezra Jack Keats alongside his personal tools

Adam, his wife Sarah, and I are GIDDY as I flip through James Marshall's sketchbook! (photo credit Ruth Chan)

Adam, his wife Sarah, and I are GIDDY as we flip through James Marshall’s sketchbook!

a page from James Marshall's sketchbook (photo credit Ruth Chan)

a page from James Marshall’s sketchbook (photo credit Ruth Chan)

Just me holding an original Arnold Lobel ink drawing of Frog. No big.

Sketches for Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel.

original sketches for Owl at Home by Arnold Lobel

I was floating on cloud nine after our visit to the de Grummond. My heart aches for all of the other work that’s housed there that I didn’t get a chance to see. Later we got to hear Pat Cummings speak about Ezra Jack Keats.

The next day, I saw Gene Luen Yang speak about Asian Americans in Comics. It was inspired. Gene’s work has meant so much to me, especially American Born Chinese, and Boxers & Saints. I bought a copy of his latest book, The Shadow Hero, which he autographed for me as I yammered on about who-knows-what for 90 seconds. I’m a fan-boy. ‘Nuff said. I also got a copy of Bronx Masquerade signed by Nikki Grimes.

We listened to David Levithan give a dreamy reading of one of his earlier works before we cut out for the airport.  It was a wonderful trip, and I’m happy to say that I’ve made lots of new friends in Mississippi! Needles to say, I will be back someday.

Little Elliot waves goodbye to his new friends, "See you later, y'all!"

Little Elliot waves goodbye to his new friends, “See you later, y’all!”

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “An Award, A Collection, and the Best Shrimp & Grits Ever

  1. Nadine P says:

    Awesome, vivacious account of your journey down south! Feature pic of you & Ruth turned out great 😉
    Such a pleasure meeting you!!

  2. Pingback: Big Family Tour Recap | mike curato

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