Leo Politi was the ultimate California writer and California illustrator. His books, with their colorful depictions of children, animals, processions, and everyday life, capture the heart of Los Angeles. I actually once met Leo Politi, at a luncheon sponsored by what was then known as SCCLCYP, and is now CLC (Children's Literature Council of Southern California). The luncheon that day was held in a ballroom at the Biltmore Hotel. I had just published my very first book, an easy read story about birds, and I was feeling totally intimidated by the roomful of other much more established authors. We were seated two at each table, along with librarians and other guests, and it was my luck to be paired with Leo Politi, winner of the Caldecott and the author and illustrator of dozens of books. Because of his fame, I expected him to be larger than life, but discovered that he was completely unassuming. During the program I noticed that he was much more interested in drawing pictures than listening to speeches. One by one, he took the programs off the table, drew our portraits on the back of them, and then gave us the drawings. When I realized what he was doing, I sat very still to make it easier for him to draw his picture of me. I wish I could say that I still have the drawing, but I don’t. It disappeared at some point when I cleaned out my files. I do have the memory, though, and the lesson that all the time, all around us, there is always something interesting to see, to write about, to draw.
Held on the last Saturday in February, the "We love California Authors & Artists " luncheon honors California authors and artists, especially those chosen to be in the California Collections. It also includes the presentation of the Ed Pert Awards, the President's Award, the Bonnie O'Brian Award, and the Leo Politi Golden Author Award. The keynote speaker at the luncheon is always an author from a California Collection. In 2008, I was honored to be the recipient of the Leo Politi Award.
For more information about the luncheon go to Californiareaders.org.
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