I know it’s been a while, but I thought I’d finally publish my speech from the Geisel Award Ceremony at the ALA Convention in June. Here it is, along with a few pics for good measure.
Thanks, first off, to my wonderful wife, Janae. She made the trip out here nigh unto nine months pregnant, despite my protests. Janae insisted on coming, stating that this was the Oscars of children’s books. “The Geisel is the biggest award you’re ever going to get,” she said, “so, you’d better let me come!” I’m glad she’s here, and I love her for it, but I still worry that she’ll go into labor in the middle of my speech.
Congratulations to David Adler, Jonathan Fenske, Kevin Henkes, and Steven Savage. Your talents inspire me. I’m still uncertain whether I’ve done anything that warrants Dr. Seuss’ likeness on the cover. All the same, it’s a joy to be here.
I’ve always loved film, illustration, and writing. In second grade, I wanted to be Arnold Lobel. In fourth, I wrote a letter to Chris Van Allsburg telling him how much I idolized him. In middle school, I geeked out on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. In high school, I wanted to be like Peter Weir and Stephen Spielberg. Later, I discovered Mary Blair and Lane Smith, William Steig and Quentin Blake—artists I’d neglected as a child. I realize now that what I wanted all along was to tell a story—to share the power of make believe with other people. So, maybe I just wanted to be a combination of LeVar Burton and Mr. Rogers.
I’m not there yet as an artist, though if my wife’s prophecies hold true, I may have already peaked. This might be my Orson Welles/Citizen Kane moment. Still, I relish the idea of creating books that evoke wonder, that speak to kids where they are, and that say something meaningful (though not necessarily seriousful). I hope the future will let me make things that stand the test of time, even if I never get another gold sticker.
Thank you to the Geisel Committee, to Denise Cronin and Kate Renner at Viking, and to my agent, Minju Chang. And here’s to all the kids out there like Mo Jackson, who have huge dreams and are just waiting for their big break. Keep moving forward, and magical things will happen.