What’s wrong with morning-show producers? Were they not read to as children? Were they bullied by school librarians? Were they traumatized by the end of Charlotte’s Web? What could have possibly happened to the current crop of morning-show producers that they would disregard entirely the winners of the highest children’s book awards in the land?
Last year, our own Claire Kirch broke the news that the Today Show, which had always invited the Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners for an interview the morning after the prizes were announced, was abandoning its 11-year-old tradition, seemingly to make room for a buzzed-about new author named Snooki. Though they’re still denying that one (Snooki’s appearance) had anything to do with the other (snubbing the Youth Media award-winners), it’s hard to take their justification seriously: that because Snooki had been booked weeks in advance, her scheduling had nothing to do with preempting the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott. The reasoning seems to be that Today didn’t know when the awards would be announced, I guess because the ALA keeps the date of their midwinter meeting so top-secret.
This year, Today again failed to invite the medalists—Chris Raschka and Jack Gantos, who learned about the honors on Monday—and not one of the other morning shows—Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Fox and Friends, Morning Joe—bothered to pick up the slack. I guess because there aren’t any parents watching morning news shows? And besides, they're each constrained to a mere 4 hours every day—one tight broadcasting schedule! You work in a 10-minute interview with an award-winning children’s author, and when will you have time to survey the latest low-fat chocolate-covered energy bars with nutrition and health editor Joy Bauer? How will America’s workers get through the day without hearing pros and cons of the "new dairy alternatives," or watching a live performance by iCarly?
We should all take a moment of thanks, then, for Comedy Central.
I sincerely believe that if not for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the nation’s authors might be relegated to C-SPAN2 for the rest of televised history. Which brings me to my Favorite Book Thing of the Week: Colbert’s amazing two-part interview with legendary children’s book author-illustrator (and 1964 Caldecott Medalist) Maurice Sendak, aired on Tuesday and Wednesday nights (and decidedly not for children). In what was probably the best author interview I have ever seen, Colbert riffed with the famous curmudgeon on everything from kids (“Children: Eh”) to Newt Gingrich (“There is something so vile about that man”) to illustrated children’s penises (Sendak is so old school Yiddish he’s never heard the term “Johnson”) to the qualifications of celebrity children’s book authors (“You’ve started already by being an idiot”) to the dangers of keeping Curious George in the house (“So you’re in favor of children getting their faces bitten off?”). The work, imagination, and joy that went into the interview are obvious: I don’t know which is more brilliant, Colbert’s proposed sequel to Where the Wild Things Are—subtitled Still Wildin’ and featuring Vin Diesel—or the rhyming, full-length picture book story the Colbert team put together called I Am a Pole (And So Can You). It’s literally the best video on the internet since "The Joy of Books" from two weeks ago.
And it makes me proud, once again, to be a television watcher. I can only hope Matt, Al, and Anne are taking notes.