Newbery Honor author Veera Hiranandani

Click here to watch the 2019 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference. 

I asked Meg Medina, Veera Hiranandani, and Catherine Gilbert Murdock to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters.

Hello, Veera Hiranandani! Congratulations on receiving a 2019 Newbery Honor for The Night Diary. I love 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?

Veera: THANK YOU, Mr. Schu, for all the support you’ve given to The Night Diary!!! I can’t lie--I didn’t sleep much the night before! There had been some buzz and some lovely Mock Newbery wins leading up to the big day, so I thought there could be a chance, but I also knew it could go many different ways.

I had a good friend come over that morning. She brought me these amazing dark chocolate brownies and we were eating them when I got the call. I figured if I didn’t get a call, I’d be better off with a mouth full of chocolate and a good friend to hang out with. When the call came, we froze. I don’t even remember what I said, I just sort of whooped and yelled and thanked them over and over. They all cheered and clapped and it felt like everyone was just cheering, laughing, and clapping and then they hung up.

Stunned, I told my husband, called Namrata Tripathi, my editor, and my agent, Sara Crowe, and my parents. I basically spent the whole morning laughing, yelling, and jumping up and down with my hands on my cheeks.

I still don’t quite believe it. It’s such a tremendous honor. I didn’t cry then, but the next day at the gym on the elliptical machine, I started crying. I blame it on the Sia song I was listening to. To everyone at the gym, I’m okay. They were good tears.

What does the Newbery mean to you?

Veera: It means (and I’m including some honors in here—how can I not?) Charlotte’s Web, A Wrinkle in Time, The Cricket in Times Square, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Number the Stars, Missing May, Walk Two Moons, The Giver, and some of my more recent favorites, When You Reach Me, Inside Out and Back Again, The One and Only Ivan, The Crossover, Brown Girl Dreaming, The War that Saved My Life, Last Stop on Market Street, Piecing Me Together, and I could go on. To be part of this group of distinguished writers, this huge legacy, is still unbelievable to me.

I think of my younger self, a shy insecure kid, an inconsistent student, a bit of a misfit, but always a reader and a dreamer—and now to be here in this place where people of all ages respect and appreciate my work like this—well I’m not sure it will ever fully sink in. And that is probably a good thing. I’m working on my next book, and each manuscript is a big mountain to climb. You start from scratch every time no matter what you’ve done in the past.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Did you know that I’m the second person with a South Asian background to be recognized by the Newbery Committee? The first was in 1928 when Indian American author, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, won the Newbery Medal for Gay Neck: The Story of a Pigeon. He was also the first person of color to win the award. I hope for the continued recognition of South Asian voices and people of color in the future! (Source: Oct 3, 2017 article in The Atlantic by Pooja Makhijani).

School libraries are so many wonderful things, but what they’ve always meant to me above all is a place where students get free access to books. Whether a child has many books at home or not, there is something so empowering about finding a book you like and just being able to take it home with you. You don’t have to ask anyone to buy it for you and it’s your responsibility to care for it. This says to a child--we trust you. School libraries also provide a place to make exciting discoveries and connections. They provide community. They provide a safe and quiet space to read and think. I’ve always loved the quiet expected in libraries. I remember relief in this expectation as a quiet kid.

Borrow The Night Diary from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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