Caldecott Honor Illustrator Yuyi Morales
I hope you enjoyed reading about the phone calls Newbery Honor authors Jacqueline Woodson and Cece Bell received last week. This behind-the-scenes information makes my booktalks and presentations more interesting and unique.
I thought it would be fun to check in with this year's Caldecott winners. I cannot guarantee every illustrator will agree to an interview, but I hope to hear a YES from most of them.
Today's special guest is Yuyi Morales, the recipient of a Caldecott Honor for Viva Frida.
Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping?
Yuyi Morales: On the previous afternoon I had received a call from the Pura Belpre committee and I went to bed happy and late, still spinning with excitement. I had put on my alarm to wake up on time to watch the broadcast of the announcements, and it felt like I had just closed my eyes when my Mexican cellular rang. A No Caller-ID display on my phone made me panic, since it usually means it is a call from the USA. It took me a moment to know what to do, for I knew calls from the awards were made that morning. More panic: I went to sleep in my natural pajamas! Should I run and get dressed? Then I remembered that nobody, not even librarians with super-powers, could see me all the way in Mexico still in bed. Junko Yokota had such a soft and fluid way to speak, her words were like a river full of little fish I could not catch, "Can we speak to Yuyi Morales."
"Yes, this is Yuyi Morales"
Junko's words became Jello, she might have said something like, "We have some good news for you." Jello and more jello. I wanted to ask, "Are you calling from…ALA?" I thought of the possibility this was one of those calls you don't realize someone is trying to sell you a cruise trip. In my early years of living in the USA I had inadvertently signed in for things and services I didn't want due to my insufficient English. I have ever since developed a resistance to pick up the telephone, and specially to continue chatting with strangers. Oh, no, this must be one of those time again!
"...For your book Viva Frida…"
This was not a dream, was it? Or was I going to wake up at any moment from now, like many times since I was a child, from a dream that felt so sweet that I would declare right before waking up, "This time it is real!"
But this time the dream WAS real. Or wasn't it? I didn't have the courage to ask what award they were calling me from; what if they told me I had won a cruise?
Where were all the speeches I always imagined I would say if some day I received such a call? The committee must be so disappointed of me: no speeches, no crying, no dance on the bed, only me, stunned, lying down on my bed, with my phone still held by my ear even though the call was over, me still saying , "thank you," while trying to guess who had really called me.
What does the Caldecott mean to you?
Yuyi Morales: The Caldecott means to me that a light has been shed, and a ladder has been placed, and now we can tell readers to, "come and look, look! We have created and chosen this for you." The Caldecott, like the Pura Belpre, like the Coretta Scott King, like the Stonewall, and all of these prestigious awards, are presents for children, for readers, that are given with the hope that the pages of books will be opened, and that with that, we all together can make a difference.
Reading is a most heroic act of falling in love with possibilities. It is through reading that we learn and practice how to be the heroes of our own life stories.
Borrow Viva Frida from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops.