Catherine Cate Coblentz (1897-1951)
Catherine Coblentz, a tall, slender woman with fine, lustrous brown eyes, once said of herself, "I am a born crusader," and indeed she was. Her books and many community activities all showed a strong idealism which she turned into definite accomplishments. In her writings she tried to retell history realistically, in a way that would appeal to a child's sense of fantasy.
Her first book,
Animal Pioneers, published in 1936, was the outgrowth of undergraduate research at George Washington University, from which she was graduated with distinction in 1930. It was a collection of stories about such historical animals as the cat the Puritans hanged for catching mice on Sunday, the dog that sailed the Pacific with Balboa, and the Dutch spaniel that came over on the Mayflower.
The Blue Cat of Castleton was a runner-up for the 1949 Newbery Award. Illustrated by Janice Holland, it was cited by the American Institute of Graphic Arts as one of the 53 most distinguished children's books published in the previous five years. In 1945 her accomplishments in the field of children's literature brought her the GWU Alumni Association Achievement Award.
Chief among her civic efforts were the successful appeal for $30,000 to build a new public library branch in Cleveland Park, and a campaign for the creation of a children's division in the Library of Congress. Unhappily, although she knew the first was a certainty, Catherine did not live to see it, nor was she ever to know that her hope for a children's division in the Library of Congress was finally realized.
Alberta Powell Graham (1875-1955)
The following is taken from a tribute to Mrs. Graham written by Eloise Lownsbery:
Alberta Graham was distinguished in two fields, music and writing. At one period in her life when she lived in Ottumwa, Iowa, she played and sang professionally, and for several years she was the supervisor of music in the public schools in Ottumwa and elsewhere in the state. In addition to all that, she wrote both the words and music of operettas, pageants, and cantatas and had published some 200 songs for children from kindergarten to high school. Many of these were gathered into volumes for use in public schools across the nation.
After the death of her husband in 1938, her sons grown, she chose (at age 65!) to enter a new field-historical writing for children. She came to Washington in 1940 to take advantage of the research facilities afforded by the Library of Congress and four years after her arrival, Thomas Nelson & Sons published her first juvenile book, Thirty-One Roads to the White House, revised twice since. A few years later, her Child's Guide to Washington appeared and provided thousands of visiting youngsters with a guide of their own to the Nation's Capital.
Continuing her historical research, Abingdon Press published a series of biographies for younger children on Columbus, LaSalle, and LaFayette. Her Clara Barton biography was finished the week before her final illness, in time to help celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Red Cross.
Although Alberta's education at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, Columbia, Cornell, and Northwestern Universities was in formal music, she was interested as well in modern music and published two books on the bands of America, Strike Up the Band and Great Bands of America.
She received many honors for her work in both her fields but none pleased her more than the choice by the Division of the Blind of the Library of Congress of her Christopher Columbus and her Great Bands, for talking books. Others of her books have also been chosen for Braille transcription.
Eloise Lownsbery (Mrs. Carl Clancy) (1888-1966)
When the editor of our first history tried to learn something about Eloise Lownsbery, these are the impressions people offered: lovable, ethereal, absent-minded, so very kind, idealistic, a fine researcher, a good writer- and a determined one despite her great gentleness of manner. All of her books were beautifully written. A reviewer once pointed out that she had a wonderfully convincing way of weaving historical detail into the text of her stories.
Eloise grew up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and attended the local schools. Then she went east where she was graduated from Wellesley College. Afterwards, for her father's health, she moved with her family to California. Here she fell in love with the mountains and wrote:
"What a joy to catch a glimpse of the first high remote white peaks! Friends soon took me up to them. A swift electric car left us at the foot of Mt. Wilson, up which we toiled all night, arriving at the 6,000-foot summit at dawn, exultant in the glory, in spite of feet that shrieked at every step. And soon I was camping out in the mountains, leading groups of Camp Fire youngsters up to the top of Old Baldy, ten thousand feet and more.
"Then came World War I and the impelling need to go over and help with the Quakers. And now intimately I knew France and loved it with its people. And I knew her cathedrals: Chartres, Notre Dame, and especially Rheims.
"So that was how I came to visit far lands. And later, after I had married Carl Clancy, he promised to show me the beauty of far places. So we motored through Europe and later, because he must film Egypt's new king and queen, we visited Egypt and Palestine."
Eloise the traveler had finally to settle down. She chose to do this, along with her husband, in a home not far from George Washington's, one that also looked down upon the Potomac River. Here she often entertained the Guild at its annual August picnic.
The Charter Members
Of the twenty-six charter members, some were authors of children's books: Catherine Cate Coblentz, Martha Ward Dudley, Delia Goetz, Alberta Powell Graham, Frances Carpenter Huntington, Eloise Lownsbery, Helen Nicolay, Cornelia Spencer, Helen Orr Watson, and Hazel Wilson. Iris Beatty Johnson was an illustrator; and Ellis Credle, Janice Holland, Miriam Clarke Potter, and Hilda Van Stockum were authors as well as illustrators. Barbara Nolen was an editor and an author.
As is the case today, some early Guild members were not creators of books but people whose work was concerned with children's reading. These were librarians: Margaret Carmichael, Helen Evans, and Isabel Stephens; Nora Beust of the U.S. Office of Education; Harriet Houdaille of the American Association of University Women; Matilda Young of the Children's Museum of Washington; Sallie Marks of the Institute of Interlarding Affairs; and last, but by no means least, a rather large contingent representing the Association for Childhood Education International: Mary Leap, Frances Mayfair, and Vireo Van Darn.
The charter members were a remarkable group of women, and we wish that time and space might permit complete biographies of each.
Book Fairs - Book Week Luncheons
The Guild was involved with book fairs when it was only one year old (1946). That fair, put on in cooperation with the Cleveland Park Community Library Committee in the local Congregational Church, was successful beyond anyone's expectations. Hundreds of children and their parents and teachers flocked to the church, and hundreds of books were sold, the proceeds going to a fund for furnishing and equipping the Cleveland Park Branch library, which, although unbuilt, was being partially funded by Congress and by private citizens. All Guild members' books were available, and the chief attraction appears to have been the talks by the authors. The Guild was generally in charge: Mrs. Coblentz organized the activities, and the programs were arranged by Barbara Nolen.
The church fair was held for three years, when presumably sufficient funds were collected for the library because there was never a fourth. The idea had taken root, however, and after a lapse of a year, the Guild had a fair again, sponsored by The Washington Post. This partnership resulted in a spectacular series of twenty-three book fairs, from 1950 to 1974. (Two years were skipped-1968 and 1969.) All but two were held at the Department of Commerce; in 1952 the fair was held on the second floor of The Washington Post Building on L Street, and in 1955, at the Pan American Building.
The fairs were directed by Enid Reque of The Washington Post's communications department, a member of the Guild. Other members who worked with her agree that the fairs' success was largely due to Enid's enthusiasm, hard work, and careful planning. Besides arranging for the speakers, the publicity, and the school visits, she supervised the exhibits-the best new books, old favorites, classics, and books by Washington authors and illustrators-which made a colorful display throughout the Commerce Building's lobby. On opening day in 1950, 1,200 books, donated by the publishers, were on view, and attendance topped 3,000. As time went on these figures increased until 3,000 books were being shown and an estimated 50,000 men, women, and children were looking at them.
It was an exciting time. The Post ran a story every morning and followed through with stories and photographs of the many activities. Bus loads of children came from most of the local and some suburban schools, filling the Department's 800-seat auditorium several times a day. Suitable programs were arranged for them, geared to their ages, which ran from kindergarten through the sixth grade.
Visiting authors and artists joined Guild members in telling stories about their books and giving chalk talks, which the children loved; and it should be mentioned here that Marion Holland and Hazel Wilson were among the stars of these performances. All in all, the fair was a festive occasion and it went on for ten days. It was a sad moment for everyone when the government needed the space for its own purposes and the book fair had to be discontinued.
The Book Fair Luncheon, now the Children's Book Week Luncheon, was the natural outgrowth of this gathering of book lovers. Initiated in 1952, to honor authors, artists, and editors, it has been held every November since and has become our largest and most successful yearly function. It is the only one, incidentally, for which others than Guild members may purchase tickets.
Following is a list of the speakers at the early Children's Book Week Luncheons:
1952 Louise Bonina, Paul Brown, James Daugherty
1953 Marguerite Henry, Oveta Culp Hobby, Munro Leaf, Lynd Ward
1954 Glen Blough, Marguerite Di Angeli, Alfred Friendly
1955 Richard Chase, Erico Verissimo, Dr. Herbert S. Zim
1956 Virginia Fowler, Nancy Larrick, Bill Martin
1957 Fritz Eichenberg, Patricia Lauber, Virginia Sorenson
1958 Phyllis Fenner, Joanna Foster, Munro Leaf
1959 Genevieve Foster, Louis Slobodkin, William Steele
1960 Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, Ingri D'Aulaire, Agnes E. Meyer
1961 Wesley Dennis, Justice William O. Douglas, Marguerite Henry
1962 Elizabeth Enright, Louis Untermeyer, Elizabeth Gray Vining
1963 Virginia Haviland, Maurice Sendak, Noel Streatfield
1964 Olivia Coolidge, Beatrice DeRegniers, Roy Gallant
1965 Patricia Beatty, Jean Karl, Burke Wilkinson
1966 Natalie Savage Carlson, Mrs. Robert S. McNamara
1967 Irene Hunt, William Jay Smith
1968 Rebecca Caudill, John Langstaff, Lavinia Russ
1970 William M. Armstrong, Barbara Cooney, Julia B. Hamblett
1971 Natalie Babbitt, Arna Bontemps, Walter Lorraine
1972 Annis Duff, Virginia Hamilton, Jane Langton
1973 Marianne Carus, Lucille Clifton, Jean George
1974 Olivia Coolidge, David Macaulay, Sharon Bell Mathis
1975 Tomi de Paola, Scott O'Dell, Jane Yolen
1976 Nancy Bond, Arnold Lobel, Johanna Reiss
Note: The November Children's Book Week Luncheon was replaced by a Spring Nonfiction Award Celebration in 2008.
The Children's Book Guild of Washington became a reality in March of 1945, at a meeting in the YWCA, then located at Seventeenth and K Streets, Northwest. The new organization was an outgrowth of an informal workshop which Catherine Cate Coblentz, Eloise Lownsbery, and Alberta Powell Graham had started two years earlier. The three, who shared adjacent desks in the Library of Congress Reading Room, where they were researching children's books, had found that discussing their work over a weekly luncheon in the Library cafeteria was a stimulating and rewarding experience, so much so that they began to invite other writers to join them there. However, it was not long before their numbers became too great and the cafeteria could not accommodate them.
When that happened, to quote an early member, "the group had no name, no form, no officers, no specified purposes." More importantly, perhaps, it had no base, no place to gather, eat, talk, listen, and exchange ideas. Meetings continued, somewhat sporadically--occasionally in someone's home, occasionally in a restaurant--but it was difficult keeping to a schedule and, not surprisingly, attendance began to dwindle.
At this point it became evident that something had to be done if they were to hold together, and a decisive meeting was called for March 24th, at the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. There, Mrs. Coblentz presented a proposal which she and others concerned for the group's survival had drawn up for the consideration of those in attendance:
"..to establish a permanent association which would include writers, artists, librarians, teachers, editors, publishers, and distributors dedicated to the production and dissemination of high-quality books for young people."
There was total and enthusiastic approval from everyone present. Several ad hoc chairs were appointed and instructed to prepare an agenda for discussion on April 27th.
At that meeting Mrs. Coblentz became president, with Barbara Nolen, editor of Story Parade, a popular juvenile magazine of the time, named program chairman, and Alberta Powell Graham, secretary. It was voted that meetings would be held on the last Friday of the month throughout the year, in a private dining room on the second floor of the Seventeenth Street YWCA (now nonexistent, torn down and replaced by an office building). However, after 1949 the July and August meetings were canceled, and at some later point meeting-day was changed to the fourth Thursday of the month, September through June.
The declared purposes of the Guild were three:
There was a fourth, unwritten, but understood: "to share our experience and our friendship." After forty years they still stand.
Active membership in the Children's Book Guild of Washington is limited to area authors and illustrators who have had at least two children's books published by recognized houses, and to area editors and specialists in children's literature. Active institutional members represent associations, school and library systems, book stores, and other groups concerned with children's reading. Inactive and nonresident members are former active members who continue to pay dues and to receive the monthly newsletter.
Throughout the years Guild members have written hundreds of books. They have received Newbery Awards, National Book Awards, the Edison, Golden Kite, and Child Study Awards, among others. Also, they have been selected by the American Library Association for its catalog of Notable Books and by the Junior Literary Guild for national distribution.
To hold and stimulate higher standards of writing and illustrating for children
To increase knowledge of, and use of, better books for children in the community
To cooperate with other groups having similar purposes.
Today the District of Columbia prides itself on its school library system. Librarians and library services are available to students in all of its public schools, elementary through senior high. This was not always the case. Not very many years ago only the senior high schools had them. Libraries in the lower grades were for the most part makeshift affairs, often comprising only a few shelves in one of the regular classrooms and staffed by parents or substitute teachers. It took years of battling to get sufficient funds into the District's budget before the present level of excellence was achieved, and our Guild was in the front lines all the way.
The subject of school libraries was brought to the Guild's attention in the spring of 1959 by Katherine Scrivener, then Director of D.C. Elementary Education. After describing the serious lack of books, libraries, and librarians in the District schools, Ms Scrivener suggested that the Guild might do something to awaken the public and the elected officials to this pressing need.
The Guild responded. Immediately after that luncheon, four members--Will Barker, Barbara Nolen, Dagmar Wilson, and Hazel Wilson - held a meeting to consider possibilities. Later a number of concerned individuals and city-wide organizations were invited to join them and together work on the problem. The result was formation of the Action Committee for Public Schools, which operated for seven years, 1959 to 1966.
Every year was a struggle, but the Committee was indefatigable. Membership fluctuated from year to year, sometimes as few as thirty, sometimes as many as sixty. Volunteers all, their efforts financed wholly by themselves, they kept a constant stream of information flowing to the public through every available channel: news releases, newsletters, pamphlets, and graphic displays.
The newsletter, edited by Barbara Nolen during its entire existence, was sent free of charge to as many as five hundred individuals and groups: Board of Education members, school administrators, school principals, PTAs, home and school organizations, civic associations, editors, and friends of libraries. It provided a running account of the Committee's major activities, its legislative program for getting librarian positions and funds into the local budget, the efforts of the volunteers to establish libraries in individual schools, and expressions of school library philosophy.
Of the greatest importance for later developments was the Committee's presentation of its views at budget hearings before the Board of Education, the District Commissioners, and Congressional Committees, stressing always the need for money, money, and more money to hire librarians and buy books.
The Superintendent of Schools, in a statement before the House Committee on D.C. Appropriations, paid tribute to the Action Committee as having been, under the leadership of Barbara Nolen, "unusually effective in providing library improvements in the District of Columbia School System." Barbara also received awards from the D.C. Education Association and the American Association for School Libraries.
Slowly the necessary support was given and funds provided, first for the junior high schools and finally for the elementary grades. Then, after seven years of unremitting labor, its goal reached, the Action Committee closed up shop, a shining example, if ever there was one, of the influence that can be exerted by concerned citizens of any community.
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The Guild also took part in the crusade to have a consultant in children's literature appointed to the staff of the Library of Congress. The Library had, among its many collections, a wealth of materials - books, catalogs, periodicals, and other relevant matter pertaining to the history and the development of children's books throughout the world - and it was felt in the children's book field that these were not being used to their greatest advantage.
Acting jointly with such organizations as the American Association of University Women, the American Library Association, and the Association for Childhood Education International, the Guild petitioned the Librarian of Congress, at that time Dr. L. Quincy Mumford, to establish the position of Consultant, pointing out that it would greatly facilitate the best use of the materials which were available for research and reference.
Dr. Mumford was in favor of the new appointment but was up against the inevitable question of finding money to pay for it. However, one way or another, this problem was solved, and sometime in 1962 sufficient funds were on hand so that the following year Virginia Haviland came down from Boston to set up the Division, now flourishing as the Center for Children's Literature.
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The Guild enjoys a special relationship with the Cleveland Park Branch of the Public Library, where children's books are housed in the Catherine Cate Coblentz room, named in honor of our first president who lived and worked in that area. This was appropriate, states the program distributed at the library dedication, "not only because she left a rich heritage for young readers in her many books, but because of her tireless efforts in behalf of this new branch."
In 1955, when the library was two years old, a lasting tribute to Mrs. Coblentz, in the form of ten beautiful panels executed in intaglio relief on glass, was installed on the walls of the children's room. The subjects - all from her books - reflect the basic ideas of liberty, beauty, and tolerance which run through her writings. The designs include illustrations by Guild artists: Janice Holland's
The Blue Cat of Castleton and Hilda Van Stockum's
The Bells of Leyden Sing and
The Beggar's Penny. The panels were the joint gift of the Cleveland Park Community Library Committee and the Connecticut Avenue Citizens' Association.
It is the Guild's practice to contribute a sum of money to this branch library for the purchase of books in memory of its departed members. These books are identified by a handsome bookplate also designed by Janice Holland.
A Medium of Contact
Meetings: It is stated in the bylaws that one of the purposes of the Guild is "to provide a medium of contact between authors, illustrators and other specialists in children's literature." As we look over the now-fading records of early membership meetings and the colorful lists of programs in recent years, it is obvious that this purpose has been well accomplished. Despite heavy snowstorms, restaurant closings, and other unexpected hindrances, hundreds of meetings have been held since the first one in March 1945; and this number does not include the large luncheons which used to be held by the Guild each November to commemorate National Children's Book Week.
Reading through old records, we find that besides the regular monthly meetings, additional group excursions were made to see special book exhibits. Here we get a sense of the early members' enthusiastic interest in every aspect of children's reading - as well as their enjoyment in each other's company. Although the July and August meetings eventually were given up, Guild members continued to get together for picnics away from the city's heat at Frances Carpenter Huntington's estate, "Journey's End," above Bluemont, Virginia, or at the home of Eloise Lownsbery near Mount Vernon.
For the most part in the early years, regular luncheon meetings were held in the YWCA or AAUW dining rooms, or at the Iron Gate Inn. There have always been programs with one or more speakers, arranged in advance by the program chairman. Visiting speakers were rare at first, and members were delegated to discuss subjects pertinent to their particular interests. Our charter members tell us that by and large these talks or panel discussions were very stimulating.
Some of the subjects discussed in the 1940s and 1950s were similar to those that interest us now, such as creating characters and plot, methods and means of research, author-illustrator's work, rights and contracts. Specialist members representing local organizations talked about their work with children's reading, trends in new books, and award-winning titles. "What Librarians Look for in Choosing Children's Books" was the subject of one discussion, and this was followed the next month by a panel of youngsters on "What Children Look for in Choosing Their Books." In the minutes, this program was described as "challenging." Possibly equally challenging was a talk on "Books in Search of an Author," and we wonder how many books by Guild members may have been conceived at that meeting.
Topics which would have little interest for us in the 1980s included "The Use of Word Lists in Writing for Children," "Adapting and Abridging the Classics," and "Do Contemporary Children's Books Have Too Many Happy Endings?" Occasionally New York editors would come to talk about the functions of their departments, or booksellers spoke on recent popular titles. The greatest number of speakers from outside the Guild described children's literature in other countries, which included Italy, England, Holland, Poland, Siam, Israel, India, Japan, China, and countries in Latin America. This concentration on the international scene is rather surprising until one remembers that the time was just after World War II, when Americans were especially concerned with world recovery.
Around the Guild's twentieth birthday, in 1965, a remarkable change in the children's book field began to be reflected in the programs of Guild meetings. In the vanguard was Louise Bonina of Random House, who took the bull by the horns, eschewed the usual editor's noncommittal words, and instead told the group "What Editors Really Want." She was soon followed by a panel of three Washington area Supervisors in Charge of Libraries, whose topic was "ESEA Title II." With government funds pouring into schools and libraries across the land, a new era had begun, not only for libraries, but also for publishers, writers, and illustrators. The editors of juvenile books became increasingly agreeable about accepting invitations to come to Washington and speak at Guild meetings, as well as representatives from their production, promotion, and sales departments. Guild members were also hearing talks by editors of children's magazines, book clubs and paperback houses, agents, jobbers, reviewers, and people working with children's books in television and films. Nevertheless there were still at least two or three meetings each year with members of the Guild as speakers, and this practice continues today.
In the 1980s, the publishing world continued to speak frequently at Guild meetings, even though ESEA funds were not as widely used for children's books as they were formerly. Over the past forty years Washington has become what publishers call a "book town," rivaling Boston and San Francisco, and membership in the Guild has about trebled. Picnics in Virginia and group excursions are no longer feasible, but Guild members continue to flock to meetings and enjoy the programs and each other's company as much as ever.
Newsletter: Another "medium of contact" which should be mentioned here is the Guild's Newsletter. Of special interest to active members, it also enables inactive and nonresident members to keep in touch with the Guild - and the Guild with them.
The idea was initiated in 1961 by Esther Douty, who compiled seven yearly issues to 1978, with news of members. For the last three issues she had the assistance of Esther Brady and Helen Jacob. Margaret Rasmussen compiled a "Biographical Newsletter" with Helen Jacob's help in the spring of 1980.
Larry Callen founded our Newsletter as it exists today. It is issued monthly from September to June, and besides carrying news of our members and their books, also brings information about exhibits, writing courses, reviews, awards, and other pertinent announcements.
Larry singlehandedly compiled two dozen Newsletters from September 1980 to January 1983, and by the time he had to give up this labor of love, his periodical had become indispensable to Guild members. A roving editorship was initiated, and this in itself has brought our members closer together. As of this writing twenty people have been responsible for different issues, and it is hoped that many more of our members will be as generous with their time and talents over the years ahead.
After having given much effort and talent to creating their books, authors and illustrators naturally want to do all they can to promote them, and as members of the Guild they have found that group promotion can be enjoyable as well as rewarding. The Guild has been equally useful to schools, libraries, embassies, and other organizations which have benefitted by our members' appearances at book fairs and exhibits of all kinds. The PEN Faulkner sponsorship of a December children's book lecture was one example, for which Phyllis Naylor was asked to arrange an accompanying sale of books in 1983 and 1984. These events were held in the handsome great hall of the Folger Library.
The work of our member illustrators has decorated many a gallery, hall, classroom, and library; and especially effective were the art exhibits at the Guild's Book Week Luncheons. Another book promotion was the Guild's collection of book jackets which was used for displays at Book Week Luncheons. During the 1970s and early 1980s members' books were promoted by the "Yellow Box Traveling Exhibit." The idea was Patricia Markun's, and Katherine Kahn designed yellow cartons for carrying, as well as displaying, the collection. It was offered to schools, libraries, and children's literature classes; and it served its purpose until storage and transportation became too difficult to manage, due to the increasing number of books in the collection.
Speakers Bureau: It almost goes without saying that the best promotion of reading occurs when creators of children's books and children meet - especially when the creators enjoy talking to young people and know how to capture their interest. Even nonreaders have been known to turn off the TV and start reading after attending stimulating book talks. The Guild's Speakers Bureau has been supplying the needs of librarians, teachers, and PTA members since its earliest days. At first there was only an informal network of recommendations, but we read in the minutes of a 1955 executive committee meeting, "a decision was made to limit the activities of the Speakers Bureau to groups of 100 or more, located within one hour's drive from the center of town." Here we see that this Guild service had already become a wide-reaching one.
The appointment of a chairman in charge of the Speakers Bureau seems to have been rather sporadic at first, and often as not the Guild president handled requests for authors' and illustrators' appearances. In the 1960s two questionnaires were prepared, one for Guild members and the other for groups needing speakers, to facilitate the service. These indicate that the Guild was by then recommending speakers for adult groups as well as for children. It is rather surprising to note that there is no mention of fees in either questionnaire of that time. The pleasure of speaking, plus the possible sales of their work, seem to have been recompense enough in those days. Free, too, were our members' talks at The Washington Post's city-wide book fairs held from 1950 to 1974 where books were not on sale. However, the fun enjoyed by all concerned has never been forgotten, and the attention of the huge audiences was far more valuable than honorariums would have been.
Speakers Bureau chairmen say they enjoy the many hours they give in telephone conversations with people seeking speakers. Here are the words of a recent chairman: "It really gives one a great feeling of satisfaction when the right people have been matched up, and it is wonderful to be the means of children discovering that there is a real live person behind every book they are reading."
An Award for Nonfiction
The establishment of an award for nonfiction to be presented annually by the Guild was first proposed by Patricia Markun when she was president in 1977. Several years previously when she was editorial associate at the Association of Childhood Education International, she had chaired a committee which was investigating the possibility of a nonfiction award to be given by the ACEI. She convened a committee consisting of Ruth Tarbox, executive secretary of the Children's Services Division of the American Library Association, and two members of the Children's Book Guild: Virginia Haviland, head of the Children's Book Division at the Library of Congress, and Mary Childs, former executive director of the Children's Book Council. All agreed that although a number of awards were being given for fiction and illustrated books, nonfiction was not receiving the recognition it deserved. There would be merit, they felt, in honoring the creators of lively and imaginative nonfiction. The plan they proposed was later discussed by the ACEI board, but no action was taken in the two years that Patricia remained on the staff.
When she became president of the Guild, Pat hoped she might succeed in what she had not been able to do at the ACEI. A successful book sale at the November luncheon had swelled the treasury, making it possible for the Guild to launch a new project. She decided that the time had come to propose an annual nonfiction award and she invited members of the executive committee to her home for lunch, asking each to bring suggestions for possible alternatives.
Guild records state that the executive committee was enthusiastic about the award proposal and accepted it with only one stipulation: after five years the award should be reevaluated and a decision made as to whether it would be continued. The committee also agreed that the Guild should approach The Washington Post suggesting cosponsorship in the award. In due course a letter of invitation was sent to the publisher, Mrs. Katherine Graham, but her reply stated that the Post must reluctantly decline.
At their March meeting the membership voted unanimously in favor of the Guild award, and the project was immediately set in motion. A jury was appointed consisting of Virginia Haviland, chairman, Marguerite Murray, and Christina Young, and it was decided that the winners would be selected for their total body of work, the award to consist of a handsome certificate designed by Gloria Kamen, as well as an honorarium. Two other authors of nonfiction would be chosen to receive honors also.
Minutes of the Book Week Luncheon on November 12, 1977, mention that "the highlight of the afternoon was the presentation by Virginia Haviland of the first Children's Book Guild Award for Nonfiction to David Macauley. He accepted the certificate and check and gave a graceful, amusing talk. Olivia Coolidge and Laurence Pringle, honor winners of the award, each said a few words." Pat Markun and those who supported her idea surely had a feeling of satisfaction on that day. They also must have been pleased five years later, in 1981, when the award was pronounced a success and the Guild membership voted to continue it indefinitely.
In 1982 Mary Childs, president of the Guild, reopened the question of The Washington Post's joining the Guild in cosponsorship. She met with Brigitte Weeks, editor of "Book World," who was most interested and asked for a letter of proposal which she could present to decision-makers at the Post. Our combined efforts were successful, and at the Guild's Book Week Luncheon in November, Vincent Reed, the Post's vice president in charge of communications, announced his paper's decision to accept cosponsorship, starting in 1983. He pointed out that once again, after a lapse of nine years, the Post and the Guild were to become partners in another worthy venture-the Guild having been a most active cosponsor of The Washington Post's city-wide book fairs from 1950 to 1974.
Soon thereafter, Mary Childs, Patricia Markun, and Peggy Thomson, representing the Guild, met with Brigitte Weeks and Virginia Rodriguez, representing the Post, to discuss what our cosponsorship would entail. It was decided that:
The name of the award would be "The Washington Post-Children's Book Guild Award for Nonfiction."
The Post would contribute an etched crystal Baccarat cube as well as a sizable sum of money to be given to the winners.
The Post would contribute promotion pieces and publicity for the award.
Over the next several months, Jo Carr, who was chairman of the 1983 jury, with Nancy Larrick, Deborah Weilerstein, and Brigitte Weeks, prepared guidelines for the selection of the winners. The purposes and standards of the award as delineated by this jury were presented to the Guild membership, and after considerable discussion and revision, were officially approved in June 1983. Following are pertinent excerpts from these guidelines:
Brigitte Weeks, or her deputy, would serve as a permanent member of the award jury.
Nonfiction to be defined as written or illustrated work which arranges and interprets documentable facts intended to illuminate, without imaginative invention, the following fields of knowledge: science, technology, social science, history, biography, and the arts.
Purpose: To honor an author or author-illustrator whose total work has contributed significantly to the quality of nonfiction for children. In the words of the original designers of the award: "creatively produced books that make a difference."
Eligibility: Any living American author or author-illustrator. Illustrators to be eligible only if they have written, as well as illustrated, their books.
Timing: Deliberations from the first of February until the announcement of the winner at the May business meeting of the Guild. Timing changed when the Nonfiction Award Celebration was moved to Spring in 2008.
Members' Participation: All members of the Guild to be encouraged to suggest nominees for the award.
Award Jury: A committee of four, three from the Guild and one from the Post. (In case of tie: the president of the Guild, as ex-officio member of the committee, to cast the deciding vote.)
Standards for Judging: 1. Quality in writing and illustrating: Not just clarity and accuracy, which are essential to all nonfiction, but evidence of literary distinction in writing and-in the case of author-illustrators-artistic excellence in illustrating. 2. Quantity: A substantial body of work published, all of consistently high quality. 3. Stimulating presentation of ideas and facts: Demanding intellectual participation and challenge from young readers. 4. Reader appeal: Lively writing or illustrating leading to pleasure, as well as curiosity, in the pursuit of knowledge.
The Guild can take pride in reinforcing the visionary intent of the original founders in 1977, for we have truly honored the creators of the best nonfiction and paid tribute to the demanding intelligence of America's young people.
THE CHILDREN'S BOOK GUILD AWARD FOR NONFICTION - Early Years
Other Considerations: 1. Balance: If feasible, the award--over the years-to honor as many fields of knowledge as possible, as well as levels of child appeal. 2. Unrecognized Quality: If feasible, the award to honor authors whose fine work has not received the critical attention it deserves.
Winner: David Macaulay
Honors: Olivia Coolidge, Laurence Pringle
Winner: Millicent Selsam
Honors: Jean Fritz, Milton Meltzer
Jury: Virginia Havilland,
Winner: Jean Fritz
Honors: Milton Meltzer, Laurence Pringle
Jury: Virginia Haviland, Chairman
Winner: Shirley Glubok
Guest Speakers: Leonard E. Fisher, Walter Dean Myers
Jury: Abby Hunt, Chairman
Winner: Milton Meltzer
Guest Speakers: Katherine Paterson, Nancy Larrick
Jury: Elizabeth Hoke, Chairman
Winner: Tana Hoban
Guest Speakers: Joan Aiken, Karla Kuskin
Jury: Jo Carr, Chairman
THE WASHINGTON POST-CHILDREN'S BOOK GUILD AWARD FOR NONFICTION - Early Years
Winner: Patricia Lauber
Guest Speakers: Ashley Bryan, Cynthia Voight
Jury: Jo Carr, Chairman
Winner: Jill Krementz
Guest Speakers: M.E. Kerr, Vera Williams
Jury: Nancy Larrick, Chairman
Winner: Isaac Asimov
Guest Speakers: Jack Prelutsky, Trina Schart Hyman
Jury: Nancy Schifrin, Chairman
Winner: Kathryn Lasky
Guest Speakers: Betsy Byars, Charles Mikolaycak
Jury: Maria Salvador, Chairman
Winner: Gail Gibbons
Guest Speakers: Norma Fox Mazer, Paul Zelinsky
Jury: Charlotte Berman, Chairman
Winner: Jim Arnosky
Guest Speakers: Alice Provenson, Gary Paulsen
Jury: Phyllis Sidorsky, Chairman
Mary June Roggenbuck
Winner: Leonard Everett Fisher
Guest Speakers: Lois Lowry, Jerry Pinkney
Jury: Mary June Roggenbuck, Chairman
Mary Downing Hahn
Winner: Brent Ashabranner
Guest Speakers: Eve Bunting, Bruce Degan
Jury: Mary Downing Hahn, Chairman
Winner: Joanna Cole
Winner: Russell Freedman
Guest Speakers: John Scieszka, Pat Cummings
Winner: Seymour Simon
Guest Speakers: Phyllis Naylor, Patricia Polacco
Winner: Jim Haskins
Guest Speakers: Johanna Hurwitz, William Joyce
Winner: Albert Marrin
Guest Speakers: Steven Kellogg, Jean and Mous-Sien Tseng
Winner: James Cross Giblin
Guest Speakers: Helen V. Griffith, Ted Lewin
Seminar on Writing for Children
The idea to use Guild talent to benefit beginning writers was first proposed by Mary Childs during her 1982-83 tenure as president of the Guild, and in October of 1983, Larry Callen took up the ball and met with Mary, Joanne Gartenmann, and Milton Lomask, to discuss a general structure and time for the seminar. Planning continued through the fall and early spring, with more than a dozen additional Guild members assisting.
The first seminar on writing for children to be sponsored by the Guild was held on April 11, 1984. The site was the Unitarian-Universalist Church of Silver Spring. Fifty-five beginning writers attended the seminar, and its success encouraged Guild leaders to consider sponsoring a similar event in the near future. The program offered a full day of discussion on the writing of fiction, nonfiction, the picture book, and marketing. Mary Childs acted as Mistress of Ceremonies.
The fiction panel included Phyllis Naylor (mood and plotting), Larry Callen (the creative voice and the writer's block), and Colby Rodowsky (where characters come from). The nonfiction panel consisted of Marjorie Fribourg (defining aims and organizing materials), Delia Goetz (uncovering areas of need), and Peggy Thomson (research). Gloria Kamen and Nancy Patz teamed up to discuss the art of writing and illustrating the picture book. All panelists participated in a question-and-answer discussion on marketing.
Many other Guild members helped assure the success of the day. Gene Namovicz developed a list of recommended books, which was a part of the workshop package given to participants. Pat Strickland coordinated all food activities. Helen Jacob developed the list of courses in writing available in the metropolitan area and handled seminar registration. Caroline Levine assisted with the development of the program and with food purchases. Claudia Mills and Brenda Seabrooke handled the book sales. Mary June Roggenbuck assisted wherever needed.
Written comments from seminar participants at the end of the day were extremely favorable:
Very well organized and professionally run; a nearly perfect blend of speakers, questions and answers, and informal discussion.
Presentations had a one-to-one quality, personalized, that was welcome and warming.
I felt that the panel members gave good, specific information, instead of dealing in generalities.
So kind of those of you who have made it to look back and help us struggling on the foothills. I was really energized today. Got a lot of ideas for my own work.