By Dennis Abrams
The sixth annual Carle Honors gala and celebration took place on September 22, 2011, as writers, authors, and industry professionals gathered to celebrate the achievements of four individuals who have contributed their talents to the world of picture books.
Sponsored by the Eric Carle Museum of Amherst, Massachusetts, awards are given in four categories: Bridge, Angel, Mentor, and Artist. In their opening remarks, Christopher B. Milne, chairman of the board of trustees for the Carle Museum and Alexandra Kennedy, executive director, both noted that the Carle Honors were created to cast a “shining light” on the heroes of children’s literature and upon the roles that they play.
This year’s Bridge Award, which acknowledges an individual’s efforts to draw broader audiences to celebrate picture books, was presented to Karen Nelson Hoyle, curator of the Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota. Hoyle played a vital role in expanding, curating and archiving 100,000 item the Kerlan Collection of children’s literature, which includes Judy Blume’s manuscripts and the preliminary art for Goodnight Moon.
Jeanne Steig, museum donor and multimedia artist, was presented with this year’s Angel Award for her generous support of the Carle Museum. Steig, the widow of cartoonist and children’s book author William Steig, remarked on receiving the award that “Shucks. Never thought I’d be an angel. Bill would be surprised as well,” before thanking the Carle Museum for housing her husband’s collection, allowing his art to be kept “safe, seen, and studied . . . exactly what should have happened.”
Maurice Sendak appeared via Skype to present the Mentor award to his long-time editor, Michael di Capua. Sendak made particular praise of di Capua’s intelligence, despite the fact that he spends “so much time reading books for children . . . I can’t imaging anything more grotesque.” Di Capua, on accepting the award noted the “lovely coincidence” that he received the honor in his 50th year of book publishing.
The final award of the evening, Artist, went to Lois Ehlert, who presenter Ashley Bryan described as having a “purity of child-like form.” Ehlert, who won the Caldecott Award in 1989 for Color Zoo, accepted her award by declaring that “picture book art and early literacy: it is my life.”
The ceremony concluded with the unveiling of a new bronze Very Hungry Caterpillar maquette, designed by Nancy Shön, which will be offered for sale to commemorate the Carle Museum’s upcoming 10th anniversary.