Susan M. Veltfort, the chair of the Geisel committee, came over to meet us at the RAW Junior office (once her formidable research skills allowed her to find us.) We hosted a lunch to celebrate our sweep of the awards given “to the author and illustrator of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year.” In attendance were, left to right: (seated) Françoise Mouly and Susan M. Veltfort; (standing) Geoffrey Hayes, Michael Rockliff, Leonard Marcus, Leigh Stein, Jon Scieszka and Trade Loeffler; (photo) Iru B.
While Susan could not talk about the committee’s deliberations, she could tell us her opinions of the TOON Books. She’s also hugely knowledgeable and the selection librarian for a large and well-funded library system in Washington State, so we were all ears.
Susan talked about how well the Geisel Award winner, Geoffrey Hayes’ The Big No-No!, holds up when you dissect it with careful scrutiny. She appreciated the way the story and the words are perfectly suited for beginning readers or for older ‘reluctant’ readers. She loved the fact that the story starts out on the cover and draws the reader in. She pointed out how the title page echoes a ‘hole in the fence’ motif that recurs through the book. She noted that a TOON Book carefully blends easy and difficult words, that the harder words are made clear visually, and that it involves a lot of repetition, a thrill for the young reader. She appreciated the way the soft palette (done in colored pencils) underscores the mice’s gentle personalities. Susan also mentioned that, while the twist ending in Geisel Honor Book Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith (of Bone fame) defies reality, she kept in mind that mice don’t ‘really’ talk. She talked about how the TOON Books expand what’s possible for beginning readers. Her committee’s awards greatly expand what’s possible for the TOON Books, so we could only chime in with a love fest of mutual appreciation.