Early-morning calls bring news
Sachar, Azarian win prestigious ALA awards
Web posted on: Monday, February 01, 1999 4:22:47 PM
By CNN Interactive Senior Writer
PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- By early Monday it was clear to Louis Sachar and Mary Azarian that this would be a memorable day.
Sachar, 44, awoke to a telephone call with word that his book "Holes" had garnered its second major award in three months as the American Library Association announced it recipient of the 1999 Newbery Medal for outstanding writing.
"(My wife and I) were both still in bed," Sachar said from his Austin, Texas, home. "They called at seven o'clock, and we were very excited. I have a daughter -- she's 12. I woke her up and told her the news. She said, 'Can I tell people?' I said, 'Sure.'"
'I was quite overwhelmed'Azarian, 58, had begun the day trying to change a tire in 10-degree weather outside her Vermont home. When she went inside to thaw out she got word she was winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal for outstanding illustration in the book "Snowflake Bentley". Azarian, who runs her own printing company along with being a book illustrator, thought the call was an ill-timed interruption. "I thought, 'Can't people wait until business hours to call?'"
She answered the phone to find out that she had won the Caldecott. "I was quite overwhelmed," she said, and promptly "forgot all about those stinging toes" from working out in the cold.
Excitement aside, both Sachar and Azarian are now facing in the aftereffects of winning: the phones won't stop ringing, and they're both flying to New York to be on NBC's "Today" show on Tuesday.
"I tend to freeze up on camera, so I'm kinda nervous about going on the 'Today' show," Sachar admits. "My feeling is, even if I freeze up, it's better if I haven't been on at all."
Sachar's "Holes" -- which won the 1998 National Book Award for young people's literature -- tells the tale of Stanley Yelnats, a boy who is wrongly accused of stealing a famous baseball player's sneakers and is sentenced to a hellish term digging holes every day at a juvenile detention center. Ultimately, Stanley overcomes a family curse and discovers a new sense of self.
The Newbery and Caldecott medals are perhaps the most coveted prize in children's literature. The Newbery was established by the ALA in 1922 to encourage creative work in the field of children's literature. The Caldecott, meanwhile, was established in 1937 when the ALA became concerned that artists creating picture books for children weren't receiving as much attention as their literary counterparts.
The winner of either award is lifted to the upper echelon of children's literature, as the book is immediately deemed a classic in it's category, and libraries and bookstores clamor to stock the book as the title heads to just about every summer reading list.Just ask Karen Hesse, last year's Newbery winner for "Out of the Dust," a moving tale of how a 14-year-old girl deals with her mother's death. Hesse says she's still enjoying the afterglow from her win. "When I walk down the street in my hometown people give me the thumbs-up sign through their car windshields, children follow me through the library, the phone rings often and everyone, it seems, wants to talk about children's literature," she said in an interview with CNN Interactive last week.
The ALA announced the winners at its annual mid-winter conference, held this year on Philadelphia.
Several other awards were also handed out, including the Coretta Scott King Award, which honors African-American authors and illustrators for outstanding contributions to children's and young adult literature.
Angela Johnson won this year's Coretta Scott King Author Award for "Heaven", while Michele Wood won illustrator honors for "I See the Rhythm".
The Coretta Scott King Award, named after the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is currently in its 30th year.
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