Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Jerry Pinkney - December 22

Happy Birthday Jerry Pinkney - December 22

I have never written a belated-birthday post.  I am usually very particular about publishing the night before the author's birthday so that it is ready for the next morning.  This time, however, my idea for an activity was just not feasible before Jerry Pinkney's birthday.  However, many other blogs including Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac recognized the very special day.

I enjoyed reading many of the comments made about Jerry Pinkney on his birthday.  Jean Holmbald posted on Facebook, "I shouted for joy when he finally got a Caldecott; so deserving."  In 2010, Jerry Pinkney received the Caldecott Medal for his book The Lion and the Mouse. Before winning this award he received the Caldecott Honor distinction five times. His first was in 1989 for Mirandy and the Brother Wind written by Patricia C. McKissack.

Deborah Taylor also commented on Facebook, "He is such an elegant man who means so much to the field."  He began illustrating children's books in 1964.  According to Anita Silvey, "he was one of few black illustrators at the time" and he helped service the "emerging body of black writers who needed illustrators."  Since then he has published over 100 books.  He has collaborated with great authors like Julius Lester, Patricia C. McKissack, Mildred D. Taylor and his wife Gloria Jean Pinkney.

Sondra Eklund (@sonderbooks) mentioned on Twitter, "Happy Birthday Jerry Pinkney! Such a nice man. (I've heard him speak 3 times and really love him!)"  I missed an opportunity to hear him speak this past November at the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio which I really regret.  However, there are numerous videos that he has issued that give a sense of how wonderful he would be to hear speak.

I read Patricia C. McKissack and Jerry Pinkney's book, The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll to my children twice before Christmas.  I chose to read it one night and then three nights later my daughter asked for me to read it again!  She was intrigued that the three sisters in the book, (Eddy Bernice, Laura Nell, and Odessa Mae), received only a sack filled with treats and a Baby Betty Doll for Christmas.  I asked her, "What if we didn't have a lot of money like the Pearson's and were only able to afford one big gift for the three of you?"  My daughter responded, "Well, that wouldn't work, because their family had three girls.  We have two boys and a girl. So, there would have to be at least two presents!"

The Pearson family was living during the Great Depression. Laura Nell wanted the doll she discovered in the newspapers they were covering their walls with to insulate the house for winter.  Her sisters were appalled that she would ask for such a gift when she knew her parents didn't have the money.  However, after a letter to Santy Claus and many day dreams her wish came true on Christmas Day!

Reading this book through the second time with my children made me curious to find out more about the Christmas experiences in our family.  On Christmas Day, when the chaos of the holiday meal and gift giving festivities were complete, we gathered in one room.  I read The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll to four generations -- my grandparents, my mom, dad, uncles, my sister and brother-in-law, my nephew and my own children.  At the conclusion of the book, I asked if anyone would be willing to share their memories of Christmas or how Christmas has changed for them over the years.

My mom, who grew up on a farm with two brothers and a sister, talked about how Christmas stockings used to be filled only with fruit -- an orange and an apple.  My mom and her brother, the youngest of the four, remembered Christmas as "generous"and always having many gifts like books and toys, but many of the gifts were things that they needed like pillow cases, sheets, socks and underwear.  All these gifts were then kept in a pile under the tree to show guests that came to visit for the holiday.  My grandmother, a child of the depression herself, remembered getting very little for Christmas, maybe a doll. My brother-in-law shared that his grandparents were very generous with gifts.  He explained that even though they didn't have a lot of money, they saved a little each month to give him and his brother the Christmas experience they never had.  My grandfather, our family's favorite storyteller, reminisced of a time  around the age of 6 or 7 years old, when he was with his friend's family gathered around the Christmas tree to light  the candles.  The candles were lit, the lights in the room were out for ten minutes as they enjoyed the sight, and then the candles were blown out. My dad, an only child who was born in Belgium but grew up here in the United States, shared that he was asked to select one thing that he wanted the most and that was the one big gift he received on Christmas Day. Lastly, my grandfather recalled a Christmas gift from his father of savings bonds that were lost in the shuffle of the day and were probably burned up with the trash.

I had the video camera rolling throughout the discussion. It ran out of memory, but the stories continued for over an hour - then, into dinner, and beyond.  As I listened to the stories, I realized that the Christmas experiences from the past are still alive today.  My dad's family tradition of one special gift he received as a child continues as he always gives one special gift to each of us with a label that reads "From Santa."  My grandparents give savings bonds to the children every year at Christmas -- now the savings bonds come in the mail which keeps us from losing them! My wife and I provide an abundance of gifts for our children on Christmas Day but many of the items are things that they will need throughout the year.  My kids were actually excited to get socks and underwear this year -- they really needed them!

At the end of the day, we concluded that at every family gathering a video camera needs to be placed in the room to capture the stories. These stories and memories from the people we love are gifts that need to be cherished. Just like in The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll, Laura Nell realizes that it isn't the Baby Betty Doll that makes Christmas special but whom we spend time with on the holiday that matters most.

Check out Jerry Pinkney's latest book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star which was released October 3, 2011.  We loved the chipmunk!

1. Jerry Pinkney's Website
2. Video Interview with Jerry Pinkney - Reading Rockets
3. Text Interview - RIF, SchoolLibrary Journal, KenLaird Studios Part 1 and 2
4. Witness the Art of Jerry Pinkney: Norman Rockwell Museum - YouTube
5. Jerry Pinkney on Sweethearts of Rhythm: Norman Rockwell Museum - YouTube
6. Jerry Pinkney on The Little Match Girl: Norman Rockwell Museum - YouTube
7. Jerry Pinkney on The Three Little Kittens: Penguin Young Readers - YouTube
8. Jerry Pinkney at the National Book Festival: Library of Congress - YouTube
9. Jerry Pinkney's Birthday - Children's Book-a-Day Almanac
10. Jerry Pinkney and Erin Stead: A Caldecott Conversation - 100 Scope Notes
11. Anita Silvey talks about Jerry Pinkney -


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