Caldecott Honor Artist Rudy Gutierrez

Click here to watch the 2020 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference. 
I asked Kadir Nelson, LeUyen Pham, Rudy Gutierrez, and Daniel Minter to answer the same questions and finish a series of sentence starters.

Hello, Rudy Gutierrez! 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?

Rudy Gutierrez: Hi John, thanks so much for asking and for your interest! The call came about 6:30 am and I had just woken up and wasn’t near the phone and actually missed the first call. I remember thinking, “who is calling so early?” and then I caught the excitement on the speaker of my answering machine and heard the word ALA mentioned along with the statement that there would be a call back in a few minutes, please pick up!

So many things went through my head, like maybe I would be invited to a conference but why would they call so early for that? Or that maybe that the book had been nominated for an award. So, I wasn’t allowing myself to go to the to the idea of a possible award and what award? Well that was cleared up a few minutes later as I was informed that I had been awarded a Caldecott Honor Award for my art in the Double Bass Blues picture book by Andrea J Loney!!!! I was thoroughly surprised and a bit shocked because I had never seen this on the horizon. I have had many a dream come to be as an Artist and in fact I feel so blessed to be living out the big dream of getting to do art as a livelihood but I had never expected a Caldecott Award. My art covers a lot of different areas with children’s books being one of them and I’ve had some nice moments of acknowledgement but this feels so unexpected and special to me! It truly seems to be a miracle of sorts that this book would get this attention!

The call was amazing the committee member’s words and applause felt like a beautiful offering of colors coming out of the phone to surround me! I’m so grateful to the Committee for their heartfelt enthusiasm and energy that they displayed on the phone call! I can still hear them laughing and applauding and I remember the feeling of how much they enjoyed making that call and hearing my response! Like I said, I was shocked and not even sure what I said, so I’m not sure that they could feel my spirit jumping up and down in excitement but also disbelief! I’m so thankful for them for “seeing and feeling” my art in Double Bass Blues and will never forget their beautiful acknowledgement! 

What does a Caldecott Honor for Double Bass Blues mean to you?

Rudy Gutierrez: This award is an affirmation that I am walking the right path within the Children’s book world with the idea of never underestimating the brilliance of children! The goal for me in whatever I do in any facet of my art or even as a Professor at Pratt Institute where I teach is to elevate spirits and inspire them and in fact the highest achievement is to honor the possibility of speaking for those who maybe cannot speak for themselves, to indeed hold a mirror up with my work so that viewers can see their own validity. This is especially true in underrepresented communities, cultures and people of which I am very much a part of, being of Puerto Rican heritage. For me there is a responsibility that comes along with so-called talent that I must live up to and an award like this means that I can better fulfill this with the knowledge that more children will hopefully see their own validity as opposed to many of us who found this revelation to be hard earned. In addition I’m thankful for this award and accept it on behalf of my ancestors, family and other artists who have not received this kind of recognition but are so, so deserving. 

Illustration Credit: Rudy Gutierrez
Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are so often a marvelous experience to behold, which allows each viewer to plug into their particular inspired imaginations, as well as into this beautiful energy that surrounds us that I call magic! There is nothing like the wonderment of a child and for me this is what many of us struggle to maintain as we “grow” and when we do this is indeed magical. Not hocus pocus but a fantastic vehicle to what is within us all the time if we allow it and feed it. It is at the same time a great vehicle for writers and artists to enhance the world in our small ways. Big thanks for picture books!

School libraries that I’ve encountered are like interactive museums and caretakers assuming the huge responsibility of informing, teaching, and farming minds and experiences! I have so much respect for libraries and Librarians from the smallest little towns to the large cities and their incredible energy and devotion towards knowledge, evolution and the planting of important seeds of truth which is needed as much as ever. Much gratitude to all Librarians who work in these sacred places!

Borrow Double Bass Blues from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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