This is late-breaking news to those who follow children's books, but anyway: I am so pleased that The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman has won the Newbery Award, the country's highest honor for contributions to children's literature.
This title is one that we selected for the Cybils shortlist, and without any dissent, so I whole-heartedly agree with the Newbery committee's choice! If you don't know the book, basically, imagine The Jungle Book if, instead of a human child being raised in the jungle by animals, the child is raised in a cemetery by ghosts -- while a murderer is on the prowl, looking for him. Sounds creepy, and it is, but not overwhelmingly so. It's sort of about connection, and finding your place in the world. The characters and situations are wonderful, the prose beautiful. And, it's fantasy, which doesn't always get noticed by awards committees, so YAY!
Another of our Cybils shortlist titles received a Newbery Honor: Savvy, by Ingrid Law. Yet another, A Curse Dark As Gold, won the Morris Award. A book that I would really have liked to see on our list, Nation by Terry Pratchett, got a Printz Honor. That one was an almost-shortlister which I enjoyed very very much. So many good books! I'm curious to see what the Cybils judges will choose as the *best* off those powerfully strong shortlists. A very tough decision! Though I loved Graveyard Book, of course there is a big part of me that wants to spread awards around, recognize books that aren't already #7 on Amazon and 7 weeks on the NYT bestseller list, you know? I mean, there was always that voice in my head, during the judging, wanting to lean toward the books that haven't already found huge audiences. If I was split between two books, I'd want to honor the one that wasn't famous yet. But you try to blot that out and just think of the work itself. Still, I root for new authors, up-and-comers, and titles that deserve attention but just, due to the turning of the wheel of luck and marketing dollars, haven't gotten it quite yet.
In a NYT interview yesterday, Neil Gaiman said this:
“You always have this Platonic beautiful ideal of a book in your head, and then you write something which isn’t as good as that,” he said. “The Graveyard Book’ is the first time I’ve had a Platonic ideal of a book and written the thing and looked at the book and said, ‘You know, I think you’re better than the thing I set out to write.’ ”
Interesting to note, the book had been gestating in his head for about 20 years, ever since he used to take his son to ride his tricycle in a graveyard. Sometimes books incubate for a long time; sometimes, I think, they have to -- not every book is ready to hatch immediately. Like a dragon egg -- legend has it they incubated for years. So. I'm just saying. Some books are dragon eggs. I like this quote by Mark Twain:
"There are some books which refuse to be written. They stand their ground year after year and will not be persuaded. It isn't because the book is not there and worth being written -- it is only because the right form of the story does not present itself. There is only one right form for a story and if you fail to find that form the story will not tell itself."
The book I am ensconced in now had a bit of an incubation period while I took a break and wrote a different book for NaNo. By the time I was done with that (and not in love with it, by the way), this one was ready to be written, and this one I am in love with. Like it's found its proper form. There are other books in my head which have been waiting MUCH longer, and I do wish there was a magic spell for getting them all out and down on paper, but there's only the old-fashioned way: one word at a time!
Meanwhile, you know what would be FABULOUS??? If this honor accorded The Graveyard Book were to coincide with fabulous ticket sales and much success for the movie Coraline (also written by Neil Gaiman), opening February 6, and the stop-motion film studio, Laika, here in Portland, were to immediately embark upon an adaptation of The Graveyard Book, thereby reemploying all those amazing animators and set builders and model makers who worked feverishly on this stunning movie. I would love to see Portland become a new hub for animation -- especially this kind of animation, where things are made and built by hands. You know? Where models are painted with tiny paintbrushes and trees are made out of popcorn and giant scale dollhouses are built with. . . wood and nails and glue. Wouldn't that be AWESOME???
(I was just reading this awesome book about renovating an old mansion in Casablanca, and the author notes that the reason traditional crafts in Morocco (like bejmat tilework and tadelakt plastering) are still alive and well there, while crafts die out in so many other countries, is because the royal family has kept them alive -- has commissioned so many building projects over the years that the apprenticeship system has kept on. I love the idea of people building things and making things, which is why I love stop-motion so much. Keep people building and making!)
Go see Coraline when it opens! Help build a stop-motion industry in Portland, Oregon! Help employ artists!!!
Here's the trailer. And I don't know about you, but when I'm watching it I have to remember: this is not CG, this is not all done on computers. Those are dolls, every single one of them, every single movement is a fraction of film, with puppeteers (OCD puppeteers?) moving every single finger, every single everything, in tiny increments) and all those background are sets. Every flower was made by hand. It's AMAZING!
[Added: for a small inkling of the craft involved:]
[Added: two people commented to tell me about the knitter of tiny sweaters for the movie; this I had to see for myself. Check it out!]
(there are a bunch more Coraline-related clips and stuff on youtube if you're keen.)
P.S. It's snowing again in Portland!!!!!!!!!!