Yesterday I attended Reading Roundup in Augusta, Maine, where the Maine Library Association gave me the Katahdin Award, a "lifetime achievement award (which) recognizes an outstanding body of work of children’s literature in Maine."
With Lupine Award winners Maria Padian (l) and Melissa Sweet (r)Here's the text of my acceptance:
"Thank you to Laurel Parker, members of the awards committee, and the Maine State Library Association.
This has been a week of wonders. One week ago today, our daughter gave birth to a baby boy, our first grandson. And now I’m here with all of you, receiving this extraordinary honor. It makes my head spin.
I must say that I was astonished when I got the call from Laurel Parker. Although my husband and I moved to Maine 34 years ago and all 31 of my books were created on Peaks Island, my content is global, not local, full of diverse children and cultures, many of which have only recently become part of the Maine community. It’s very moving for me to be claimed, by the bestowing of this award, as one of your own.
All of my work is rooted in the pivotal childhood experience of moving from New England to South Korea, where my parents were hired to serve as medical missionaries. At age seven, I encountered a world strikingly different from the New Hampshire farmhouse and meadows of my early childhood. Not only was I immersed in a new language and new culture, but I witnessed the devastating impact of a war that had ended only 7 years before our arrival.
My parents’ dream was not to deliver relief or salvation to the 'poor' Koreans, but to learn, work and live with Koreans as colleagues, friends and extended family. As a result, I came to know, not just other words, but in my cells and my bones, other ways of looking at at the world. And most of all, I learned, in my heart, that these “different” people were in fact 'my' people, and I was theirs.
I realized recently that what I’ve been trying to do, with all my work, is to say to all my readers, 'Look! Here is your family!'
Our brand-new grandson’s name is Taemin. Our daughter, who was adopted from Korea as a baby, chose it to honor their shared Korean heritage. When Taemin enters kindergarten in Saco, Maine, in the fall of 2019, his class across the nation will be more than 50% children of color. Thank you for honoring books in which he and his classmates can see themselves and for building the library collections that reflect the children of America."One of the highlights was the two women who came up to congratulate me, who turned out to be Laura (l) and Brooke (r) of Dyer Library in Saco, Maine - my grandson's librarians!
Looking forward to taking Taemin to "Bouncing Babies," their Friday morning reading hour for babies 0-18 months.