"People of the Books" Blog

ALA Midwinter: A Goat's Eye View

by Marjorie Ingall

It was my first library conference, my first time serving on the Sydney Taylor Award Committee, my first time trying Old City Coffee in the Reading Terminal Market. All highly recommended.

I was determined, as I roamed the exhibition floor staring goggle-eyed like a chimp at a banana plantation, not to pick up a single book. I could always request copies of appealing titles when I got home, I told myself. This meant I left the floor so laden with tote bags of books, I could barely walk. 

I am weak. 

The highlight of the conference was, of course, the Youth Media Awards. We Sydney Taylor Committee members in attendance got our pics taken by a professional photographer, even though it was 6:05am and my undereye bags had bags. (They were almost as big as my totebags full of books.) We were given instructions in how to wave for the cameras: Stand, smile, 180 degree turn, 90 degree turn, 180 degree turn, keep smiling, keep waving. 

We were ushered into the cavernous, buzzy conference room and discovered that AJL had been seated in the front row! It felt like being at the Oscars, except more literate! The ceremony began, and everything was thrilling. The air felt charged; it was as if champagne bubbles and nitrous oxide were being pumped through the ductwork. Books and authors we loved in other categories were recognized, and we gasped and cheered and stamped our feet. When our award was announced, we stood up as directed and waved our little stuffed goats. (They were a tribute to the logo of Aaron Lansky’s Yiddish Book Center, the subject of Sue Macy’s gold-medal-winning picture book, The Book Rescuer. Lots of committees bring props to brandish when their name is called. It’s a Thing.) 

I was proud of our slate of winners: Books about Jewish circus-acrobat refugees in 1940s China; about a contemporary MacArthur Genius grant winner; about friendship and bravery in Vichy, France (in graphic novel form, no less); about an Eastern-European Jewish girl and an elusive dragon in a magic-infused world; about a Sephardic woman guitarist; about a new little immigrant to Ellis Island; about an American basketball team in Berlin; about a Supreme Court justice; and about a pair of contemporary snarky teens with chronic illnesses and a lot of spark. 

After all the awards were announced, we dashed back to the exhibition floor to put shiny medal stickers on all the Gold, Silver, and Notable books. Everyone around us seemed to be beaming; everyone was thrilled to see us. This is very good for the self-esteem. If there is any way you can get in on this action, I highly recommend it. 

I slept the whole way home on the train, my suitcase stuffed with books and a furry goat. He is now is my kid’s room, among the books, going by Goaty McGoaterson. 


Jews! Jews on the poster! Jews!

I liked the nerdy ribbons people added to their badges. This is AJL’s Susan Kusel’s badge. 

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