Caldecott Honor Artist LeUyen Pham
|Click here to watch the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.|
Hello, LeUyen Pham! I love 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?
LeUyen Pham: HELLO JOHN SCHU!!! EVER SINCE I WON THIS AWARD, I’VE BEEN WRITING IN ALL CAPS TO REPRESENT MY CRAZINESS!!!! I’LL TRY TO PULL IT TOGETHER TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION!!!
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the call, I’d managed to forget that the whole thing was happening, and I was deep asleep because I’d been up late working. When the phone rang, I jumped and grabbed the phone, assuming something bad had happened to my parents or something. There was a split second when I was sure it was some sort of prank call, because MAN those librarians are a rowdy bunch, and it WAS 3:30 in the morning for me. I don’t remember what I said, or what I did, I just know my stomach dropped and they started cheering, and my head swam about and I’m only hoping I didn’t make an idiot of myself. But mostly I kept thinking, “This is a mistake! This ISN’T happening!”
LeUyen Pham: That’s a big question. The truth is there’s no easy answer. It means so much to me, and for deeper reasons I’m realizing now than just the glory of having that shiny sticker on the cover of my book. I didn’t think I’d feel this, but somehow my work feels validated now. Like I can truly call myself a picture book illustrator. I know that sounds ridiculous, having created over a hundred books, but to have my name mentioned now with those artists who I’ve long revered and worshipped in my library… There’s no way to express what that means to me. That little kid in me who used to go to the picture book section of school library and would flip through the pages of books and wish to go there… That little girl grew up to win a Caldecott. I’m in awe, and so overwhelmed.
Picture books are the closest you can get to a child. They sit on your lap and tell stories that tell you that you’re okay. They are hugs made portable.
School libraries are the beginning of your introduction to the world. Once you’ve entered, you’re changed forever.
And on a side note, John, THANK YOU for being so supportive of this book! I know that the book stayed relevant because of your good word of mouth, and I’m so happy it struck a chord with you. Next time I see you, we’re going to celebrate!