Beloved beyond her years: Grace Lin receives prestigious Children’s Literature Legacy Award

  • Grace Lin of Northampton received the prestigious Children’s Literature Legacy Award at the American Library Association’s annual conference. CONTRIBUTED

For the Gazette
Published: 7/7/2022 5:15:05 PM
Modified: 7/7/2022 5:12:28 PM

Northampton resident Grace Lin received the prestigious Children’s Literature Legacy Award at the American Library Association’s annual conference on Sunday, June 27.

It would be a remarkable accomplishment at any age. But for Ms. Lin to win an award heralded as a lifetime achievement award in the field of literature for young people while still in her 40s? That is nothing short of astounding.

Previous recipients include Eric Carle, Jacqueline Woodson, EB White, Beverly Cleary, Ashley Bryan, Katherine Patterson and Maurice Sendak.

Like many of our author and illustrator colleagues, I am not surprised by the Legacy citation but am certainly thrilled beyond measure. Grace made her debut on bookshelves with her picture book “The Ugly Vegetables” in 1999. I was fortunate to attend that book’s launch event at Curious George Bookshop in Cambridge.

Since then, I, along with the entire children’s book community, have tracked her career from that singular picture book to novels that earned Grace award stickers heralding her as a National Book Award finalist and a Newbery Honoree. Novels such as “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon” and “When the Sea Turned Silver” have become modern classics.

More important, because of Grace’s tenacity and steadfastness, she has published the books she always needed as a kid but never saw. Every superhero has a moment in their origin story that sets them on their path, and for Grace, that came in the third grade.

Grace, born of Taiwanese immigrants, grew up in a predominantly white community in upstate New York. Young Grace was giddy about the prospects of playing Dorothy in a school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” That was until a classmate bluntly told Grace that she would never be able to play Dorothy as a Chinese American kid.

The Grace Lin of today would make that deflated kid so incredibly proud of what she went on to accomplish. Many of Grace’s children’s books center on the Chinese or Chinese American experience. Grace is often quoted as saying, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And now, Grace has created stacks of books that affirm to countless young readers that they are important, valid, and can be the star of the show.

Shortly before her debut publication, I met Grace via a Yahoo group for illustration alumni from the Rhode Island School of Design. While our initial conversations were held via a dial-up modem, it turned out that we lived on the same street in Somerville.

We would meet up at Someday Cafe in Davis Square to talk publishing, and it was there that Grace offered me advice that led to my first book contract. I know I am just one of the many authors who have benefited from Grace’s generous spirit. Be it through her advocacy, her podcasts, or her speaking engagements, Grace Lin has proved herself a legend on so many levels.

The world of children’s literature is richer because of Grace Lin and her work. Our community here in the Pioneer Valley shares in that prosperity. And I am proud to call Grace friend — and once again, neighbor.

Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a children’s book author and illustrator. He lives in Florence.
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