With the annual announcement of the American Library Association's Newbery and Caldecott prizes, January is always an exciting month for anyone interested in children's literature, and even more so for those of us who write, illustrate, translate, edit, publish, or have any connection with this vibrant field of literature. But what many people don't know is that the ALA awards other prizes each year as well. One of them is the Mildred L. Batchelder Award. Yesterday, I was thrilled to learn that Laura Watkinson's translation of "Soldier Bear,"written by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman, translated by Laura from the Dutch, and published in the United States by Eerdmans' Books for Young Readers has been awarded the 2012 ALA Batchelder award for translation of an outstanding children's work from a foreign language. Only the very best translators receive this award, and Laura is more than deserving: the story is beautifully and seamlessly rendered in English. When I read it last December, after happening upon it at the Eerdmans' booth at the NCTE conference in Chicago, I was both moved and delighted. BRAVO, Laura! And Bravo as well to Eerdmans' Books for taking a chance on a story from outside our sometimes very insular American borders!
Children's author Erica Silverman recently visited our school. Erica's books, from "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa" to "The Halloween House," from "Liberty's Voice: Emma Lazarus" to "Big Pumpkin," are well known and loved by the children at Rochambeau. The CE1 students were particularly lucky to have two hours with the author at the library where Madame Domenge graciously welcomed us. During the first hour, Erica explained how, after growing up in New York in an apartment and never owning a horse, she was able to imagine the latest story in the "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa" series: "Spring Babies." She talked abou ther love of the library, mwhat fun it is to do reserach about subjects she knows very little about, and how reading (and writing) books allow us to travel to faraway places and enjoy some "make-believe." After an eye-opening Question + Answer, Mrs. Paul's and Mrs. Ermler's students performed a Readers' Theatre of "Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa," which Ms. Silverman thoroughly enjoyed and applauded. She was especially thrilled when she got her "surprise!": The students sang Cocoa's lullaby… in French.
After the recess break, during which students from all grades crowded around Erica for a quick chat, it was back to the library for her presentation of the story behind "Big Pumpkin." She explained that as a child, her grandmother would take her to the most wonderful place in the world: the New York Public Library, where there was an entire room just for children's books. Erica's love of books as a child, and in particular, her of of an old Russian folktale called "The Turnip" were an inspiration for "Big Pumpkin." After playfully reading the book all together (…and that pumpkin just sat!), there was again time for a Q+A, followed by another surprise: Jules, a student from Ms. Dorit's ESL class, read "La Nuit de Halloween," in French, to Erica, who doesn't speak more than a few words of la langue de Molière. When the bells rang at the end of the school day, we all wondered how the time had passed by so quickly.