In my excitement, I had forgotten about all the political protests that are wracking the state of Wisconsin and especially the capital Madison, where I went to collect my award!

On Saturday they were expecting a hundred thousand people to march on state legislature, a white building with a cupola that looked a bit like the congress in Washington D.C. There were even rumours that Michael Moore was going to speak.

Madison is a pretty little city nestled on the shores of a lake.

I heard all about the protests on the way to the restaurant we were to have dinner, on Friday night.

My old friend Rachel Weiss joined us, and it was SO good to see her!

She was the one who brought me to Madison that last time, for a children’s literature conference.

I was worried that I wouldn’t recognize her. I am terrible at recognizing people. I will walk right by a person I’ve met half a dozen times! And it’s nothing personal.

We got into the restaurant and she was standing right there. And yup, I didn’t recognize her! I used the excuse that my glasses had fogged up so I didn’t see her properly. It was partly true anyway!

The Charlotte Zolotow award is run by a group of very dedicated librarians who make up the Cooperative Children’s Book Centre.

It was probably not a good idea for me to ask the head of CCBC, Katie Horning, right out, why they’d chosen BIG RED LOLLIPOP for such an honour.

I guess some people would have construed it that I didn’t think it deserved the honour. But that wasn’t my intention. I was just thinking that there are so many amazing picture books, what set BIG RED LOLLIPOP, apart?

Katie said that the way they chose the winner was they actually tested the books on children audiences. Being working librarians most of them had access to kids in the age group that the award catered to: up to 7 years old.

She said that BIG RED LOLLIPOP consistently got the best feedback from all the test audiences. Also she said that they looked for a book that could be read aloud perfectly by a non-professional reader.

Again, BIG RED LOLLIPOP fit the bill.

The next day, I got to meet one of the runners up.

Phil C. Stead and his lovely wife Erin E. Stead. Yup the same Erin E. Stead who won the Caldecott award for their book A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE.

The Caldecott is none other than the TOP picture book prize in children’s literature. But it’s for illustration.

So Erin won the Caldecott, and Phil was runner up for the Charlotte Zolotow for best text! How cool is that!?

And you know how old this couple is? 27 and 28!!!

They were high school sweethearts in the same art class, and now they live in a restored one-hundred year old barn in Ann Arbor Michigan.

Erin won the Caldecott for her first book and Phil won this award for his second!

I was getting more and more nervous as the board members got up and talked about the books that were commendable and then honour books, and then it was Phil’s turn to speak and can you believe it? He actually said at the end of his speech how much he admired BIG RED LOLLIPOP and was glad it had won!

How gracious can you get!?

I got up to do my presentation. I’d written out a good amount but once I was up there, I abandoned the words on the page and just told them how I felt.

I think it went well.

My award consists of a type of Newbery-style medallion, carved in bronze.

It is beautiful.

Later that evening we all went out to dinner, several members of the CCBC committee, Erin, Phil and myself.

We exchanged war stories over good Indian food!

I was still flying high when they dropped us back to the hotel.

I had bought A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE at the bookstore and got  them both to sign it, and now, back in my hotel room, I got a better chance to really savour this gem of a story.

It’s what an editor would call a ‘quiet’ story, and it really really works.

Erin really deserved the Caldecott. Her artwork has a quality to it that just sings on the page.

The only reason I went to sleep in a timely manner was because I needed to get up at 5:45 am to catch my plane back home.

What an amazing experience.

I am so grateful!