Reading is the magic key that took some local students where they wanted to be – Atlanta.
That’s where the American Library Association held its annual conference, June 15-17, 2002, at the Georgia World Conference Center. Librarians, authors, editors and publishers from around the country received top billing, but it was 25 members of the Eva Perry Library Newbery Book Club who stole the show.
Now in its fifth year, the Newbery Book Club is the brainchild of Eva Perry Youth Services Director Teresa Brantley, who has served on the National Newbery Award Committee. The students, ages 12-15, and 10 parents traveled to the ALA conference with hopes of picking up several “galleys” (books that haven’t yet been published) from their favorite children’s authors. They gained, and gave, much more.
“What turned out to be the biggest surprise of all,” Brantley says, “is that the authors, publishers and editors don’t actually see kids very much. So the kids were made as much of as the authors, and they were showered with attention.”
Named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery, the Newbery Medal is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
For five years, the Eva Perry Newbery Book Club has met every Friday night to discuss children’s literature. Like its namesake committee, the club reads every new children’s book published by American authors over the course of a year; and on the same January weekend the Newbery committee chooses its winner by consensus, the Newbery Book Club does likewise.
Although Brantley notes that picking the Newbery winner is not the goal of her club, the Book Club’s list of winners and honored books usually closely matches the Newbery committee’s honorees.
Such a track record grabbed thye attention of the 25,000 librarians, editors and publishers on hand, who asked book club members to sit on a panel to address the topic, “Best Books for Young Adults.”
“People hung on their every word,” Brantley says. “They really valued their opinions.”
Linda Sue Park, 2002 winner of the Newbery Medal for her book A Single Shard, met and spoke with the group while they toured the ALA conference exhibits at the Georgia World Conference Center. At the dinner that evening, book club members were asked to stand, and Park led a standing ovation for the group.
It was a dream come true for Brantley and the book club, who last year began making plans to attend the conference upono learning it would be in Atlanta. The group (and their parents) planned their trip, made hotel reservations and purchased tickets well in advance.
The children and their parents funded the trip completely, including gas for the County van, which was the only County resource used in addition to staff time.
Many of the students saved money all year for the trip. The greatest expense was tickets to the Newbery banquet, which went for $85 apiece, but Brantley says it was well worth the price.
“I knew it would be a great experience,” Brantley says, “but I didn’t know it would be such wonderful encouragement. It was the greatest thing! I think they’ll remember it for a long time.”