Monday, January 28, 2013

The One and Only Ivan - Dreams Really Do Come True

Ivan - headed to school
I woke this morning with the familiar feel of anxiety – my heart pounding with anticipation. For a minute I had to let my mind catch up with what my body remembered already – the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards were today. I haven’t written a book, I have no stake in these awards, but nerves were taking over. There were so many books I have loved this year, so many I wanted to win. I got dressed, pulling on my Charlotte’s Web t-shirt, my son – Liam – handed me his stuffed animal for luck. It is a webkinz – a mighty silverback. Liam kissed it and said he wanted IVAN to win. With tears in my eyes, we headed to school.

My students entered, bubbling with normal Monday morning chatter. They talked about what they had done that weekend, what we had in store for us this week. Finally one asked when the awards would be announced. There were groans as I told them it was 10:00 our time, they’d be in computers. I promised to keep them updated and reminded them that the Caldecott and Newbery would be announced when they returned to our room.

In reading class we discussed the award. I shared with them Colby Sharp’s video from this past Saturday. The students watched in silence. We talked about what it meant to lay our soul bare and why we thought the video was a brave move by Colby. I read to them the book Woolbur and we talked about how leaders do not follow the crowd, leaders do their own thing. Mr. Sharp is absolutely a leader in their eyes, as is Mr. Schu and many of the authors and illustrators we discussed this morning.

Finally, it was time. They headed to computers and I turned on the webcast. It was lonely to be by myself cheering at first, but exciting. I gasped when two books I wanted to win – The Fault in Our Stars and Wonder didn’t win the Printz and the Schneider respectively. However, I trust the committee and am sure the winning books are wonderful in their own right. I look forward to reading them.

At 10:40 I headed to pick them up and was thrilled to see that the library class (one of my other reading classes) had joined my group and they were watching the webcast. My colleague, Mrs. O’Brien, and I stood as the Sibert books were announced. My two classes stood and cheered for Moonbird, Electric Ben, Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, and then Bomb. I had book talked each one of these amazing books, the kids were excited to recognize each. Mrs. O’Brien and I smiled at each other as they screamed over each title.

I whispered to my group that if they hurried to the room, they could see the conclusion. In record time we sat down in our own library. The Geisel was announced. I lost control of the class after Rabbit and Robot was announced. The screams reached epic proportion. I’m sad that I missed hearing Tom Angleberger yell on the live webcast as his wife won the award, but it was unreal to be in my room.

The kids finally settled down for the Caldecott. I reminded them that just because our favorite books don’t win doesn’t mean that the award isn’t wonderful and it would be a chance to “meet” new books. Then we heard them say FIVE honor books. Cheers met that announcement. Then they opened with Creepy Carrots, the kids flipped out. They loved all of the winners – with the exception of Sleep Like a Tiger, which I need to purchase so they can read, I’m sure we’ll love it too. The winner, This Is Not My Hat is such a hit that we gasped out loud.

And then, the big moment, the Newbery announcement. They looked at me, we took a collective breath. Three honors. Each one we knew, each one we had discussed, each one we loved. My heart fell. I thought there was no way for The One and Only Ivan to win – there was no way I would know all four books. I felt sick. I almost didn’t want to look at the screen. I briefly debated video taping their reaction to the winning book but quickly convinced myself it would be too much, too sad, so I didn’t. I regret that decision.

High fives, hugs, screams greeted the announcement 
The announcer got out: The winning Newbery is The One and… and they lost it. I lost it. Screams, high fives, hugs, tears. It was unreal. I don’t think I would have been happier if I had won the lottery. Kids flew at me, begging me to call Mr. Sharp on my cell in my hands. I couldn’t. Even trying to send him a text I realized my entire body was shaking. I looked up at a student in front of me, Rye, and laughed. I said, “I’m loosing it over a book, Rye.” He laughed and agreed.

We took a deep breath and kids ran off to inform my reading classes. Our stuffed IVAN was passed around, hugs given to him. He brought us luck. My RTI class came in, we discussed the awards. After lunch my other reading classes met, we read Woolbur, watched Colby’s video, and talked about how it was easier to view after the announcement.

And now I’m home. I can’t believe this day. I wish I could have taped the reaction. I wish that a school board member, my administrators, the folks who write standards or create our standardized tests could have seen that. I had 65+ kids celebrating books today, celebrating authors and illustrators. It was incredible and I know it is a day I will not forget, ever.

Slice of Life is sponsored every Tuesday by Stacey and Ruth from Two Writing Teachers.