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AN UNBELIEVABLE MOMENT
October 26th is a bright fall morning. I am standing outside a tent at the Texas Book Festival. I’ve run almost a mile to where I stand, running late as I juggle the Austin Film Festival I’m attending as animation lead for Minnow Mountain (Amazon Prime’s ‘undone’) and my SCBWI Austin chapter illustrator coordinator duties at the festival—which this morning meant finding some last-minute dry erase markers for our booth.
The weather is cool, but I’m sweating. Working to breath. Cool down. Take in the moment. A local news personality and pairs of kids from local elementary schools are announcing the master list for the 2020-2021 Texas Bluebonnet Awards.
Of the 20 books being announced, I’ve missed the first 10. The author of our book had emailed me to tell me From an Idea to Disney was on the list, but I still didn’t believe it. The Texas Library Association’s Bluebonnet Award is one of the highest literary awards there is. Texas sets the stage for libraries across the country. Being on the list vaults the books on it to a higher awareness across the country.
The children have written their own descriptions of the books they present. Each time, I hit the record button on the video. Three presenters. Three times, it’s not our book. Each time I stop recording, erase the video.
As I said, I’d approached this award with a sense of disbelief. I realize I’m holding my breath. I exhale and then breathe deeply. Just take it easy.
Then a presenter read the words, “A long time ago, two imaginative brothers, Walt and Roy Disney had an idea…” My heart beats faster. All the cool I’d tried to be evaporated into excitement. We are on the list!
Books are made by teams. The author of From an Idea to Disney, Lowey Bundy Sichol, has written a great book (series actually, with books on Nike, Google and LEGO too). Phil Caminiti at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, was the art director and designed a beautiful book for my illustrations (C.S. Jennings, Hi there!) to live within. (Not only that, he ran a complicated schedule, with overlapping deadlines for the four books—all with 40+ illustrations.) I know the book had an editor who worked with Lowey on the words of the book, but I didn’t have the privilege of working with them.
I have the honor of being on the list with another Austin writer, Chris Barton. Chris is a friend and a powerhouse in the kidlit industry. Chris’s What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, is beautiful in both words and Euka Holmes’ gorgeous illustrations.
As I worked through the four books in the From an Idea to series, I wasn’t thinking about awards. I was concentrated on making each book the best it can be. We’ll find out which book wins the Texas Bluebonnet Award in a few months. There are so many wonderful books on the list and all deserve the award. I’m content and happy just to have our book on the master list. It was so much fun to draw, and I’m so glad to get to share the book with everyone—which is award enough.
WHAT IS THE TEXAS BLUEBONNET AWARD?
FROM THE TLA SITE: “Each year, 20 books are chosen for the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List. Schools and libraries around the state participate in the program, encouraging students to read a minimum of five books from the list. In January, students vote for their favorite title. The author of the book receiving the most votes wins the Texas Bluebonnet Award (TBA) which is presented at the Texas Bluebonnet Award Luncheon held during the TLA Annual Conference in the spring.”