Last night hundreds gathered in the Manhattan Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel for the ABFE Art Auction to Benefit Free Speech in Children’s Books. The art, as always, was stellar. The selections were great, including a special tribute section to Judy Blume who was the evening’s honoree. This gathering has been fun through the years. Every year the children’s auction changes. In previous years it has been held in the Javits Center in a variety of rooms, some too big, some too small. Sometimes the food was stellar (the show in Los Angeles stands out in particular for great food) and sometimes, well, the food, was lacking.
But regardless of the nitpicky things (though I will always mourn the lack of the mashed potatoes in martini glasses), it’s really about the art for me. To see such a collection of art from kids’ books always makes me happy to be part of this rich world of books. Part of the fun for me with the auction was selling raffle tickets for ABFE. Last year I volunteered to help out and this year I did it again. Fun was had by all the raffle sellers. There was a subtle competition and honestly, ABFE was the richer for it. By the end of my selling time I clearly was tired and just said to Robie Harris, “Just buy some tickets, please.” And God bless her, she did.
The auction is also the very best way to meet the most wonderful people. That’s how I met Elizabeth Bluemle, and consequently Josie Leavitt, (hooray!) as Elizabeth and I tried to outbid each other for the Remy Charlip design for Arm in Arm. Elizabeth won at the last minute, but in an ever-so-Bluemle act, she saw how desperately I wanted the piece, and withdrew her bid so I could buy it. I have it still — but the enduring friendships are, if anything, more important.
Second best auction conversation: a chat with the less-well-known Sherman Alexie.