Wednesday, May 11, 2011

CCBA Gala recap - the host's perspective

I think I have now fully come down from the momentous high that was hosting the Children's Choice Book Awards. What a night! It could not have gone better. Which is a relief, because I'd been thinking about the night since I was invited to host back in November! That's six months of thinking, planning and pitching jokes to my my poor wife. My monologue went off without a hitch and if you were there and thought it was funny—thank my wife. Because there were plenty of jokes that I would throw out there and she'd look at me and say, "Please don't tell that joke." We watch a lot of "Modern Family" in our house and the episode where Phil Dunphy was invited to host the Southern California Realtors Banquet hit especially close to home.

But thankfully, I listen to my wife, scrapped the lame jokes and it was such a wildly successful night for all involved. Huge props to the Children's Book Council and Every Child a Reader for throwing such a fabulous party. It seems just about everyone with an ISBN was there that evening. Here are a few photographic highlights:

In the weeks leading up to the CCBA gala, I threw lots of stuff out on the social networks, mostly in jest. One week, I posted that I would demand only yellow M&Ms backstage and asked if people could give me more suggestions for my hosting contract. Imagine my surprise then, when before the program began, the CBC crew presented me with this gift for hosting the festivities.

This brings the diva level to a whole new level—that's my face!

First rule as host, coordinate your outfit with the set.

Just before the ceremony began, I ran into Jeff Kinney's editor, Charlie. "Hey what do you think Jeff would think of this joke?" I asked. "You have to do it!" he responded. It made me a little nervous, because I don't know Jeff personally. But poor guy has been nominated for "Author of the Year" three times running now and hasn't won. So I called him the Suzan Lucci of children's books and told him he wasn't the only guy in town with a fancy balloon. I met Jeff after the event and he not only appreciated the jokes, but told me his kids liked my books. What?! That hardly seems to make sense.

It was such a thrill to not only get to meet so many amazingly talented legends of the field, but to get to introduce them, too. I was star struck with all the presenters, which included Hilary Knight, R.L. Stine,  Walter Dean Myers, Laurie Halse Anderson, Erin E. Stead, Clare Vanderpool and Katherine Paterson. Here I am chatting with Madame Ambassador before the awards presentation began:

By the time rehearsals rolled around, I still had no idea if I had won or not. In fact I didn't until seconds before it was announced. But in rehearsals, RL Stine looked down the list of nominees, looked at me and said, "Oh you're not going to win, look at all of these nominated books." I responded, "I know, I don't expect to." Turns out he was ribbing me. Who knew he could be as funny as he can be scary! Seriously one of the funniest people I've ever met.

But just in case, I gave away cash to the fine youngsters who assisted with the presentation.

When it came time for me to introduce this year's Newbery and Caldecott medalists, Snooki stormed the stage. She always seems to be turning up where those award winners are . . .

Snooki was, of course, Jon Scieszka. Now Jon gets a lot of credit for getting dulled up like this, but his wife Jeri made him look like this and his daughter Casey lived through this. How did this happen, you might ask? Well when Snooki was on the Today Show back in January, I knew this would be ripe for lampooning. And I knew Scieszka was the man for the job. So right before he took the Meltdown stage back in March, I made sure to ask him in front of his wife. He wasn't so sure, his wife thought it was hysterical. And there you go . . .

Another fake social media update that I threw out there was that I was planning a musical number. And The Flannery Brothers responded with, "Let us know what you need!" Little did they know . . .

. . . that LeVar Burton would be attending. And wouldn't it be cool to lead the crew in a rendition of the Reading Rainbow theme song?

LeVar was every bit as awesome as one would hope he'd be. More so! In rehearsals, he asked, "What tone are you singing in?" I replied, "Tone deaf." Afterwards, LeVar pulled me aside and told me my voice was better than I was giving myself credit for. Wow - if LeVar can make me feel better about my voice, he really is the nicest person in the world. (Hear my voice for yourself in the video below.) What a thrill for me though—I grew up with Reading Rainbow. As a kid, when I saw the Reading Rainbow logo on a book, I knew that book was for me!

Congratulations to all of the winners. Here's a full list:

Author of the Year 
Rick Riordan for The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1) (Disney-Hyperion) 
Illustrator of the Year 
David Wiesner for Art & Max (Clarion/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)                                                                      

Kindergarten to Second Grade Book of the Year 
Little Pink Pup by Johanna Kerby (Putnam/Penguin)                                                 
Third Grade to Fourth Grade Book of the Year  
Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Knopf/Random 

Fifth Grade to Sixth Grade Book of the Year  
The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion) 

Teen Choice Book of the Year 
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Dutton/Penguin) 

A few videos did surface on the Internets. I will warn you ahead of time, I do not have a good singing voice. And this seriously was a huge act of bravery on my part to sing in front of people, but here I am singing the Reading Rainbow theme song:

And here's Snookieszka trying to hijack the show:

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