Although he was not to be found in the taupe-tinged atmosphere of Banana Republic, my trip to New York was otherwise full of tasty moments--haute Polynesian with Elizabeth, schnitzel with the Germany girls, Starbucks with Fuse #8, panini with Richard Peck, and Emerald City (Key lime) mousse on a yellow-brick road (made of chocolate) with Eric Carle. The theme of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art benefit bash was, in homage to their current exhibition, the land of Oz : Dorothy et al wandered through the crowd selling raffle tickets, and each guest received a pair of green-tinted shades. When I told an enquiring Peter Sis that the glasses would allow him to see all the party guests naked, he replied, "in this crowd, why bother?" Terribly ungallant, I know, but he did make an exception for one titian-haired publisher I won't embarrass here.
The party celebrated the inauguration of the Carle Honors, given this year to an artist (Rosemary Wells), an "angel" (philanthropist Helen Bing), a mentor (Carle's chief editor Ann Beneduce), and a "bridge" (Weston Woods' Mort Schindel). All, thankfully, kept their remarks brief and gracious; Rosemary Wells opined that while we were living in an era akin to the fall of Rome, "we have something Rome didn't: 'Eric Carle.'"
Well, can't argue with that (except to say that Rome had something we don't: Virgil). Not to pick on Rosemary, who was just being gracious, but her remark reminded me that we in this field do have a tendency to plump the importance of children's books up to a point that can seem self-deluding. As when Philip Pullman said, in his Carnegie Medal acceptance speech for The Golden Compass, "There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book." Balderdash. Old-timers may remember when Horn Book editor Ethel Heins and School Library Journal editor Lillian Gerhardt practically came to blows over this very issue. Literally: Lillian threatened, in print, to come up to Boston and hit Ethel over the head with a chair. Ah, those happy golden years.