So I was sitting in my living room this morning, reading some book about Lateral Thinking and sipping my coffee, when my phone rang. The screen on my iPhone told me the call was coming from Seattle, and I remembered that I have dinner plans later this week with Seattle friends who’ll be in town. But then I realized that, in Seattle, it was 6:30am, which would have been a really weird time for my friends to call me. I was confused.
I answered the phone and instantly heard the unmistakable din of a room full of giddy librarians. A voice said, “Peter, this is the Caldecott committee calling you from Seattle, and we’re thrilled to tell you that Creepy Carrots! has won a 2013 Caldecott Honor!” And then I heard the committee burst into giggles. My girlfriend, Gwen, was sitting beside me at the time, close enough to hear the whole conversation, and she gave me a celebratory punch right in my shoulder when she overheard the news. She’s got a mean jab. My shoulder still hurts. Anyway, I responded to the committee with something like, “Get OUTTA here! No way!!! This wasn’t even on my radar!” To which the committee replied, “Well Creepy Carrots! has been on OUR radar for quite some time now, and we’re so happy to give you this news!” Then they told me to keep my trap shut until they made the official announcement later in the day and I just kind of awkwardly stammered and said, “Ok, thanks, thanks so much! Um, bye! Ok? Ok, bye! THANKS!” And then I waited for them to hang up.
For anyone who doesn’t know, the Caldecott Medal and Caldecott Honors are awards given out annually by the American Library Association, to the most distinguished picture books for children published in the U.S.A. Since the U.S. has the biggest publishing industry, and the biggest library association, that makes the Caldecotts the biggest awards in picture books. Remember how some of your favorite kids books from childhood had those shiny silver or gold stickers on the front?
When I got off the phone my girlfriend and I hugged and danced and maybe even cried a teensy bit. Then I called my mom, who works in a small public library in New Jersey. She’d be proud of me just for putting on clean undies in the morning, so hearing that her son won a freakin’ Caldecott rendered her just about speechless. I called my agent, Paul Rodeen, who has a voice like an air horn, and his head almost exploded with the news. I called my assistant, Ellen, who calmly said something like, “Don’t plan on getting anything done today.” I spoke with Aaron Reynolds, the amazing author of Creepy Carrots!, and we basked in the glow for a moment or two. And of course I spoke to Justin Chanda and Lizzy Bromley at Simon & Schuster who have given Creepy Carrots so much love.
I’d just like to give a HUGE thanks to Aaron Reynolds for writing such a wonderfully weird story that I could really sink my teeth into. Creepy Carrots! was a joy to make, and it wouldn’t have happened without his warped sense of humor and impeccable writing skills. And a huge thanks to Paul Rodeen for managing my book deals and career with such gumption. And a huge thanks to my friends at Simon & Schuster who’ve been so good to me and to the books I’ve made with them. Oh, and of course I have to thank the ALA, ALSC and the Caldecott Committee for liking my work!
The Caldecott winners were finally announced publicly and then my email inbox began to fill up, and my facebook and twitter pages went ballistic. This year was a pretty amazing year for picture books, and as I said to the Caldecott committee when they called me, winning a Caldecott never even crossed my mind. It’s such an honor to join David Small and Jon Klassen and Laura Vaccaro Seeger and Pamela Zagarenski as this year’s winners of the Caldecott Honors and Medal.
Thanks everyone. It’s been a fantastic day.