Wednesday night, the Katonah Museum of Art hosted a panel discussion on children's books featuring Scholastic editorial director David Levithan (also a major novelist in his own right), Schwartz and Wade co-founders Anne Schwartz & Lee Wade, author and illustrator Istvan Banyai, and Roaring Brook Press co-founder Deborah Brodie. Jude Watson, a writer for young readers who served as a judge on last year's National Book Award jury in the category, was one of the organizers of the event and shared a choice moment from the evening:
"Anne Schwartz told a great anecdote about spotting a New Yorker cover and asking the illustrator to come in," Watson emails. "He arrived, a 'weird-looking guy with a goatee' and announced that he wouldn't illustrate anyone else's text, but he happened to have a 95-page book he'd illustrated for his niece. These are things you do not want to hear at a first meeting with an illustrator. Then, he opened the book. Anne said he had page after page of incredible black and red drawings. She'd never seen anything like them before. His niece's name? Olivia. Ian Falconer got a book contract on the spot and a childrens book legend was born."
Later, Levithan discussed "the curse of Goodnight Moon," wherein the simplicity makes people imagine it would be easy to do a similar book if they just come up with the idea...but studying the book closely would reveal the meticulous crafting that went into its creation. Picture books may seem easy to write, Levithan warned, but they are extremely hard to do well.