Irene Smith to Armstrong Sperry, May 5, 1941

Letter about selection of Call It Courage for the Newbery Medal

From the Armstrong Sperry Papers at the Thetford VT Historical Society, used with permission.

American Library: Association
Section for Library Work with Children

Irene Smith, Chairman
Public Library, Brooklin
New York

May 5, 1941

Mr. Armstrong Sperry,
Colonial Road,
New Canaan, Conn.

Dear Mr. Sperry:

The pleasantest duty that has fallen to my lot in a long time is this announcement to you that your distinguished book Call it Courage has been voted the winner of the Newbery Medal for 1940. This medal, donated by Mr. Frederic Melcher, is as you probably know awarded annually by the Section for Library Work with Children of the American Library Association, to the author of the most outstanding contribution to American children's literature during the year. Our choice this year is sure to please lovers of children's books from coast to coast, and I am proud to have a winning book of such quality in my year of chairmanship. Until the presentation this is a strict secret between Miss Patee, Mr. Melcher and ourselves. You can appreciate the dramatic value of the suspense.

The American Library Association meets this year in Boston, from June 19-25th, and June 20th is Award Day, the great day for children's libraries. At 2:30 o'clock that Friday afternoon we shall hold our presentation meeting, and since it attracts one of the Conference's largest audiences, Harvard's Commencement Tent has been assigned for this event. The penalty of all this is that a long address will be expected of you and of the winner of the Caldecott Medal. I have heard that you are a highly successful speaker, so I feel extremely lucky in the security that we shall have a finished program. As it consists only of the brief ceremonies of presentation, and then the addresses of the two honored guests you must not let me down: we shall expect you to hold forth for a half or three-quarters of an hour!

Immediately after the meeting there will be a nationwide broadcast of the awards, on which program each winner will be asked to speak for about five minutes. The radio talk is often a fragment of the winner's main address, so is not much additional obligation. Miss Patee will tell you all about the medal-winning business and take good care of you after you reach Boston, to see that no one guesses your identity ahead of time. Naturally we want Mrs. Sperry to come with you to share what we hope will be a happy day. It will wind up with the banquet at Symphony Hall that evening, the winners, their wives, and their publishers being the guests of honor. Your last penalty will be to respond to a toast after dinner. Now you can guess why children's librarians feel that the Conference is over when Award Day ends, it is such a great day.

You certainly have my personal congratulations, along with those I officially offer on behalf of my organization. Call it Courage is the book I fervently wanted for the winner and my elation is hard to contain.

Sincerely and heartily yours

Irene Smith

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