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Wiesner: "Wonderful to be In That Company" of Southern Miss Medallion Recipients PDF Print E-mail
Friday, April 09, 2010
Contact David Tisdale, 601.266.4499   

David Wiesner took his audience on a trip down memory lane Thursday at the University of Southern Mississippi’s 43rd Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival as he reflected on the inspirations for his work as a children’s literature illustrator.

In a slideshow presentation that included some of his early drawings from childhood, many saved by his parents, he discussed how his work progressed into the art that earned him the festival’s highest honor, the Southern Miss Medallion.

“I wanted to convey what I saw as a child in books and how it affected the work that I do, not only stylistically, but through the ideas of different artists and how they connected with me,” Wiesner said.

“I believe my work is the process of keeping the inspiration of those ideas alive. You imagine them, you revisit them and, motivated by them, you do something new.”

Wiesner’s credits include “Tuesday,” “The Three Pigs” and “Flotsam” with two more, “Sector 7” and “Free Fall” earning the Caldecott Honor Book award. He is also a three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal, only the second person to achieve this feat; a past recipient of an International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) honor; the Japan Picture Book Award; and the Prix Sorcieres, the French equivalent of the Caldecott Medal.

Hundreds of teachers and librarians from all over the country, as well as Southern Miss faculty, staff and community members turned out for this year’s festival, being held through today at the Thad Cochran Center on the university’s Hattiesburg campus. It is sponsored by the School of Library and Information Science.

Other noted authors and illustrators making presentations at the festival included Richard Peck; Walter Mayes; Lulu Delacre; Frank McGarvey; Dan Yaccarino; Sharon Draper; Maureen Johnson; and Charles Ghigna.

“It’s always great when so much thought is put into who (authors and illustrators) is invited to such an event, because you get to hear such varied viewpoints and ideas,” Wiesner said. “I’ve been as interested in what they have to say as any of the other (festival) attendees.”

Only after touring the university’s de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection and interacting with festival visitors and fellow authors and illustrators did Wiesner feel the full impact of being a recipient of its highest honor.

“Being here makes it so much more real that you’re part of the incredible history of the festival,” he said. “It’s wonderful to be in that company (of past medallion recipients).”

Karen Rowell, assistant director for the festival, said she’s been impressed with the turnout for the festival considering the impact the weakened national economy has had on school districts across the country that send teachers and librarians to the festival.

“Some have held fundraisers or paid out of their own pocket to attend,” she said. “I think that really speaks well to the quality of this event and devotion of those who have attended over the years. Their support is truly gratifying.”

Nancy Posey, a children’s librarian at Shrine School in Bartlett, Tenn. has attended the festival the last three years and enjoys the opportunity to not only hear presentations from noted authors and illustrators, but also meet them.

‘I’ve been to many conferences (on children’s literature) but I’ve never been to one like this. It’s wonderful, well-organized and held on a beautiful campus,” she said. “I’m fortunate that my school funds my trip here, but if I had to pay to attend, I’d find a way.”

Bonnie Dommert Benkard, a graduate student in library and information science at Rutgers University in New Jersey, serves as a Children’s Book Festival Ambassador. The ambassador program is an opportunity for the festival to promote itself outside the state while giving participating students the chance to interact with top authors and illustrators in children’s literature, and share ideas and information with those working in their field. 

For Benkard, a Baton Rouge, La. native, it was her first time back on the Southern Miss campus since 1979 when she and other members of her sixth grade class travelled to Hattiesburg to attend that year’s Children’s Book Festival. She said she still has the book “Letters from Italy” signed by that year’s medallion winner, illustrator Leonard Everett Fisher.

“One of the many appeals of the festival is that it has one of the largest arrays of authors and illustrators gathered in one place, whose work I love and admire,” she said. “I remember a lot of people being here when I came as a child, and it still has quite a following.”

Children’s literature illustrator David Wiesner, left, accepts the Southern Miss Medallion from University of Southern Mississippi Provost Dr. Bob Lyman Thursday during the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival on the Hattiesburg campus. The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of children’s literature. (University Communications photo by Steve Rouse)

About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities.  In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world.  Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at
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