When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Award yesterday. I first read this book several months ago, upon recommendation of fellow Inkpotter Anne Ursu. I’m delighted Stead’s book won the big award; there are times when you read or listen to or look at a work of art and can only murmur, Holy Cow.
Though I’m quite certain I’ve had those moments throughout my life (though perhaps not always responding as eloquently as “Holy Cow”), the first time I can pinpoint such a reaction was about thirteen years ago. I was in New York City for the very first time. I was in NYC for the Edgar Awards. My novel Thin Ice was a finalist, and it did not win. The day after Not Winning, my editor and I went to Ellis Island, an excursion that will, I assure you, put most disappointments into perspective.
The next day I was on my own and I went to the Guggenheim in hopes of seeing some of the museum’s Kandinsky collection. There wasn’t much of that hanging, but I did find two small galleries covered with paintings by Helen Frankenthaler. I lead a small, quiet life and until then I’d never heard of Frankenthaler. That afternoon I spent about two hours sitting on hard gallery benches staring at her paintings.
I’m a happily married woman but–just between you and me–I’m not sure that falling in love with the good man who is my husband and the father of my four children knocked me out the way Frankenthaler’s paintings did that day.
Art is personal and art is powerful. With that sentimental thought in mind (and with a salute to Rebecca Stead), here’s my list of artistic perfection:
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (Maud Hart Lovelace)
Mountains and Sea (Helen Frankenthaler)
My Fair Lady (Lerner and Lowe)
The Ninth Symphony (Beethoven)
And I’ll know I’m in Heaven when I open my eyes and discover I’m in a front row seat in Carnegie Hall and Judy Garland is on stage.