Caldecott Honor Artist R. Gregory Christie

Happy Tuesday! I have not stopped smiling for Javaka Steptoe, Vera Brosgol, R. Gregory Christie, Carson Ellis, and Brendan Wenzel since the ALA Youth Media Awards press conference ended on January 23.

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards webcast. 

I asked this year's Caldecott winners to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Today is R. Gregory Christie's turn to shine. Thank you, Mr. Christie! 

Congratulations, R. Gregory Christie! 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 and cheering for you? 

R. Gregory Christie: Thank you so much for the kind words and for the questions. Yes, I am over the moon about this personal career benchmark! When the phone rang it was after the 7AM Coretta Scott King Honor Award call and I was equally anxious and happy because I knew it would be good news, but I didn't know which specific news I'd be getting, the only way to know would be to pick up and hope that I would I hear an unfamiliar voice asking to speak to "R. Gregory Christie". 

R. Gregory Christie phone callers want children's book related matters while Richard Christie people want money. I wanted to yell like I'd scored a touchdown but actually steadied my voice as I was nervously walking around the room that early morning and as soon as I hung up the phone jumped around as if I was a 49'er who'd discovered gold.  Before all this I really didn't want to get my hopes up and usually put my joy in to doing projects that speak to me. Projects that I feel are asking me to give them a visual voice, I am compelled to do them and if they get some acclaim, great; but through all my projects, I've never expected it. This is a time when the work spoke back through a Caldecott committee honor selection I wondered what it would mean for this book and for my career. Would it be in more classrooms; would it change the definition of this book from a Black History month's subject title in to an American history's subject title? Will this guarantee a longer or even indefinite print life? 

I suppose that every person wants something that stays behind after their time on this planet. Anything that lets people know that they were here. For me it's my art and even more specifically the books that I'm doing. It's even more special to me that I could tell a visual story of enslaved West Africans in Louisiana. Perhaps this book is a message to the world that they were here as well. That opportunity, to speak for people who I imagine weren't allowed a voice, is also a great honor.

What does the Caldecott mean to you? 

R. Gregory Christie: It means the height of excellence and something historical in regards to children's literacy. Personally it means a much sought after career goal but not one that drives me. I was prepared to never see my name or projects associated with this honor. At the end of the day it's amazing to have steady work as a freelancer, to expose young people to perhaps what will be their first interaction with visual art. These paintings are for the world's future... our children. I don't take it lightly and try to never forget how lucky I am to have set a goal and see it come in to fruition.

Please finish these sentence starters: 

Reading is wisdom through another person's sensibilities. It's the closest you will get to any particular life experience without actually living it. These life experiences are endless and great books touch your mind and soul intimately lets you know that you are not alone in your viewpoints.

School libraries are where it all begins. They are the opportunity to know yourself and to develop the great habit of reading. No matter what you are in to there's a book waiting for you and it starts in that place.

Borrow Freedom in Congo Square from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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