Lifetime opportunityPuntney, who has worked with the Lakeshores Library System since January 2000, said she was surprised and thrilled to get the phone call from the Association for Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association), asking her to serve on the Caldecott Committee. She and six other committee members were appointed to the task by the president of the ALSC, whichadministers the Caldecott Medal.
In addition to those who are appointed, seven other members, plus the chair of the committee (for a total of eight), are elected by the general membership of the ALSC, explained Diane Foote, the ALSC’s executive director.It is a job that some committee members through the years have described as the highlight of their career, Foote said. It is also one that the ALSC obviously thought Puntney would do well.“Rhonda’s done great things for ALSC and it has been an honor to work with her,” Foote said.In addition to her experience as a librarian, Puntney brought her background in art with her to the committee, having earned her undergraduate degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. One of the classes she took during that time — illustration in children’s literature — made her realize how much she enjoyed picture books and eventually she returned to UW-Madison to get her master’s degree in library science.Those things, coupled with her lifelong love of reading (“I was the librarian’s best friend all through school”) seem to make her a perfect candidate for choosing winners of the Caldecott Medal — an award given each year to the artist who has created “the most distinguished picture book” in the nation, named in honor of the nineteenth century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott.Picture book partnersHer time on the Caldecott Committee not only allowed Puntney to study hundreds of wonderful new picture books, but to travel to places ranging from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and to meet and share her passions with other children’s literature enthusiasts from all over the country. One of the highlights of the year, she said, was attending the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, at which the winner of the Caldecott, as well as the Newbery and other children’s literature awards, were announced. A couple thousand people attended the event, which took place in Philadelphia, she said.“It was like being at the Academy Awards,” Puntney said. “The crowd just went crazy when they announced that Selznick was the winner.”What makes “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” such an exciting read?“It’s the whole package,” Puntney said about the book, which tells the story of a young orphan named Hugo who lives in the walls of a train station, where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father.Selznick really stepped outside the box in his presentation of the illustrations and text in this book, she explained.“The way the book is put together is very cinematic,” Puntney said. “The page turns are perfect.”When considering a book for the Caldecott Medal, committee members look at everything from the book jacket to the end papers to how consistently the colors are printed, Puntney explained.“We looked at whether or not the illustrations fit the text; the drawing style; how the colors blend together; and how the story flows from page to page and illustration to illustration,” she said. “You have to look at the entire package.”All of that adds up to a lot of hours of reading and evaluating ‑ which Puntney said she devoted some part of every day to for a year. Every minute of that time was worth it, she said.“I thoroughly enjoyed it.”Enough to do it again if she was given the opportunity?“I’d love to,” she said.
Article By LEE B. ROBERTS Journal Times
Monday, March 10, 2008 12:25 PM CDT