Sunday, January 16, 2011

Giant Trees

Although I spent most of my Saturday in my office at Central Library, butt in chair, eyes squinting at my computer screen as I tried to catch up on work, there was a very pleasant interlude at lunchtime - the 31st Annual FOCAL Award luncheon.

The FOCAL award, which is presented annually to an outstanding book with significant California content, was presented to Jason Chin for his book Redwoods, which is about a boy who finds a book about these California trees while riding in a New York City subway train and is transported to a very different landscape.

One special feature of the FOCAL award luncheon is that it features the kids who win that year's essay contest on why they liked the winning book and why they would like to meet the author. Those kids do get to meet the author - and even sit next to him or her at lunch - and read their essays aloud. I got to sit at the parents' table, where a very proud dad nevertheless confessed his worry at whether kids would still be reading for pleasure 10 or 20 years from now, what with the ubiquity of computers and handheld devices.

When that topic became too fraught, we admired the centerpieces, created by kids at the Palms Middle School. Each featured a redwood tree mounted on a real, hand-tinted page from Mr. Chin's book, with a squirrel and a backpack alongside it - all kid-created and completely amazing. I wish my cell phone photo above did them more justice.

By the way, were you wondering what the difference might be between a sequoia and a redwood? Both live in CA, both grow humongous and are reddish, and in fact they are related - but they are very different in several key ways. Author Caroline Arnold, who wrote a book called The Biggest Living Thing (about sequoias), kindly took the time to explain some differences to me.

A bonus to the luncheon was that it took place at a restaurant just two blocks from Central Library. The short walk to and from the luncheon was utterly blissful, as the temperature had heated up to a glorious 80 degrees. Yes, you read that right! It won't last, but for now we Angelenos are getting plenty of vitamin D and loving every minute of it.

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