Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Newbery Honor Author Adam Gidwitz


Wow! I have not stopped smiling for Kelly Barnhill, Ashley Bryan, Adam Gidwitz, and Lauren Wolk since the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference on Monday. It is a WONDERFUL week for children's literature. 


Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast


For the fourth year in a row, I asked the Newbery winners to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. Adam Gidwitz, the author of The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dogkicks off the series. Thank you, Adam! I'm thrilled for you and Hatem Aly. 



Congratulations, Adam! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Newbery committee was clapping and cheering for you? 

Adam Gidwitz: Well, I hadn't been sleeping much the night before. The phone was plugged in next to my bed, and enough inconsiderate people had told me The Inquisitor's Tale had a chance to win a shiny sticker. They were trying to be nice, these people. I'm sure they were. 

Anyway, I lay there, sleepless, wondering if my life would change tomorrow. There are plenty of life-changing moments in the course of one's days, but most of them are either totally unexpected or totally expected. Either you get hit by a bus (unexpected) or you have a baby (nine months to "plan"; which is useless, by the way, new parents, but feels helpful). But I can't think of many experiences where you're lying in bed and thinking, "My life may change tomorrow. And it might not." How do you go to sleep under those circumstances? Auditioning for American Idol? That's about it. 

So I didn't sleep. Around 6 am my baby started to cry, and my wife turned over and said, "We're not going to sleep now anyway..." So we got the kid and went downstairs for breakfast. I decided to make blueberry and chocolate chip pancakes, either as a consolation to myself, and, in the unlikely event that I got a phone call, as a celebration; I figured they would work either way. As I cooked, my baby was eating pieces of exceptionally sweet cantaloupe. I came over to give her another piece. My cellphone, in the pocket of my pajama pants, rang, but I couldn't place the sound. My wife looked at me. I looked at her. She said, "Aren't you going to pick it up?!?!?" I scrambled to get the phone out of my pocket. It was the committee.  Thom Barthelmess, the chair, asked how I was. I said, "I'm good now!" He told me I'd received a Newbery Honor. I hung up and raised my fists in the air. My baby raised her piece of cantaloupe in the air. Then she put it in her mouth.  I was celebrating the Honor. She was celebrating the cantaloupe. My wife sat down on the floor. Then we ate pancakes.

It was a good morning. 


What does the Newbery mean to you? 

Adam Gidwitz: I hope the Newbery Honor means that people will share this book with more children. There is a lot of self-censorship these days, a lot of living in our own informational bubbles, our own cultural and entertainment and educational bubbles. I hope that shiny sticker encourages people who would be put off by a) a diverse cast of characters, b) a religious topic, c) a large pile of poop, d) medieval philosophy, e) farting dragons, or f) any of the other stuff in my book, to pick it up, give it a try, and share it with kids. I know that The Inquisitor's Tale is at a higher reading level than some of my other books, and asks more, due to the setting and subjects, than many middle grade books do. I hope this sticker encourages people to give children a chance to aim high. They can handle it. Trust them. They know what they need. If they say they hate it, please don't make them read it. But encourage them to get at least as far as the giant pile of poop. 


Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is the cornerstone of a successful and meaningful life. No matter where you live, or what you do, your head will always be your home. Why not make it a rich and interesting place to live in?

School libraries are oases in the desert. The palm trees there grow solace, knowledge, understanding, advice, and encouragement. And the lake there is made of love, and it is cool and deep. 


Borrow The Inquisitor's Tale from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

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