You are here at the Kathdin Awards

To the Library Reception

Bruce's Children's Books with the Katahdin Award Bookends

The 2006 Katahdin Award
Honors Bruce McMillan

Bruce McMillan accepting the
award at the Reading Round-Up
Conference in Augusta, ME

About the Award

The Katahdin Award is a lifetime achievement award to recognize an outstanding body of work of children's literature in Maine by an author or illustrator. The award itself is a commemorative set of bookends. It is given by the Youth Services Section Interest Group of the Maine Library Association and the recipient chosen by their Lupine Committee.

The MLA Katahdin Award Page

Katahdin Award Acceptance Speech
Bruce McMillan, April 12, 2007
The 2007 Reading Round-Up
of Children’s and Young Adult Literature Conference,
Augusta Civic Center, Augusta, Maine

"Well I guess I can retire my shirt." (Bruce holds up "Unknown Author" T-shirt, laughter.) "I use this shirt when I teach my class when we talk about getting started in publishing; we all start here.

One minute." (Bruce holds up one finger, overcome with emotion)

Kaleen (Goodrich) can tell you when she called to tell me about the award, Brucie was surprised. I had no idea I was even on the radar. I'm just curious, if I've visited your school or library over the years, could you just raise your hand?" (Almost half the hands in the room go up.) "Wow.

The first book came out in 1977, Finestkind o' Day: Lobstering in Maine. Since then, I have gone on and the forty-sixth book is due out this fall. My son, Brett was in that first book, photographed here in Maine. He has grown and two months ago I was in the Bahamas visiting him on their sailboat, with his wife and two grand children, my grand children, my two great grandsons," (Pause) "great meaning wonderful" (Much laughter). "I'm not that old. I love it. And I had my little camera with me and was photographing them, especially my oldest grandson. I'd come up with a possible book idea here on Brett's boat with his son.

The kids who read my books always look at the author photos on the back flaps. The thing is you can tell how old one of my books is. Just look at how much gray is in the beard.

When you honor me with this award, you honor all the people in the process. You honor the great editors I have been fortunate to have, Walter Lorraine at Houghton, the late Dorothy Briley at Lothrop, Marjorie Cuyler, who used to be at Holiday House and Diane Hess of Scholastic.

You honor the people who introduced me to literature, my father, the only person not here today who I truly wish was here. You honor him for taking me to the library. We moved from Boston when I was young, to Bangor for my elementary years and then to Kennebunk for my junior high and high school years. It was my father who always took us to the library. I remember going into the Bangor Public Library. I remember going on a Cub Scout tour, walking through the stacks, walking on the glass floors and looking up and thinking "hmm"ladies wear dresses and..." (Laughter) "They're no longer there, the glass is gone but the memories remain." (More laughter) "And I remember when we moved to Kennebunk the first place I went to was the library. I remember that's where we made our home. And he was the one who introduced me to books.

He was the one who never gave up on old Brucie when I was starting out in this career. Because at one point when I started, I was reaching that point where I had to stop and perhaps pursue something else. I gave myself a year. If I didn't achieve success at the end of that year I would have to do something else. And so I took pictures of the potato chip factory in South Portland, Maine, earned a hundred dollars, put it in my pocket put my thumb out on the road, headed down to NYC no appointments, got a ride with some nuns, can you believe that?" (Laughter) "The last ride was with a truck driver who left me off in Greenwich Village at 8:30 at night with no place to stay and no appointments. I left New York three days later with two books lined up with publishers.

You honor the librarians at my own present library, my lovely Springvale Public library that has a Brucie Corner. This library is a near and dear part of my career. I see Karen (McCarthy Eger) our librarian is here and Sheila Dube, our children's' librarian. Joanne (Vermette) was our children's librarian for so many years. Before my first book came out, they saw it at the library. Once, one of the librarians, Edwina (Hewey) even named one of my books, Kitten Can... . No, we didn't do the sequel, Doggy Do... ." (Laughter) "But last fall we did a nice program in the Springvale library with Friðrik, the boy in Going Fishing.

It’s been a real treat to meet so many people in my career. My books have taken me up and down the world. People say do you go all around the world? No, I remind them that I go up and down the world, up to Iceland, for Salmon Summer up to Alaska, down to Antarctica and the Caribbean for many books. But my nearest and dearest place has been Iceland. And if you've looked at the career, in addition to this award, you'll see that yours truly has the distinction of publishing more children's books set in Iceland than any other children's author in the US.

In Salmon Summer when the little boy goes and catches the fish, what does he do when he catches that fish? He lets it go because the joy is in the doing. For me the joy is in making the books. And as you can tell, I'm probably just a little nervous being up here because I'd rather be back making books than being here right now.

Although I'm certainly pleased to be here, and I wish some of my Icelandic friends could be here too, how much they've contributed, the families who I'm still close to and near and dear to. The little girl in Nights of the Pufflings is now a big girl. As a matter a fact on my last trip to Iceland, Halla has really grown. I bring things up to Iceland and she asked if I could bring some things? I said, sure, where's the package coming from? And she said, Victoria's Secret." (Laughter) "Unfortunately, it was all these lotions that are so heavy and you know how these baggage weights go. I wish little Friðrik could be here with his family. And Gunnella, my near and dear friend who illustrated The Problem with Chickens and our forth coming book which will be out next fall, How the Ladies Stopped the Wind. Yes, it's coming and will explain why there are no trees in the countryside of Iceland. All fiction and fantasy is based on reality and this is true; it’s a fantasy story but it's based on the reality of the Icelandic countryside where there are no trees. And you will see the ladies again, if you are familiar with The Problem with Chickens. I've got a picture book on shapes coming; I'm going back to some of my concept books. But guess where it's set? Yes, Iceland. Sorry." (Addressing the Maine audience) "I've got a rainforest book that I've yet to finish and design. I have books that I'm working on with some of my peers, some from my students in my class. You're going to see some really nifty books from people that I've mentored and agented. They'll be published in the next year or two. I'm really looking forward to that, as much as my own books.

I'll just close with the tease, the prologue, from the children's novel I'm working on. It opens with a newspaper article from Morgunblaðið, the New York Times of Iceland, and is headlined Boy Missing Feared Drowned. The article reads that the lighthouse keeper was found passed away due to natural causes in the lighthouse where he lived alone with his son, Ingi. But Ingi has not been seen and there is no record of him leaving the island by ferry or plane or fishing boat. The brief article goes on to say that it's known Ingi loved to stand on the cliffs and watch puffins fly. It's known there was a storm. It's feared that a gust of wind may have blown him off the cliffs and he could have drowned. There is notice that there will be a memorial service at the local church on Saturday and it gives the time. Below the article are just three or four sentences. They read something like this. Indeed, Ingi's father did pass away. Indeed, Ingi did like to watch the puffins fly. Indeed, Ingi was carried off the cliffs by a gust of wind, but Ingi was alive. Then the story begins with a flashback to the previous summer. Now, you'll have to wait to read the book to see what happens, but that's my hook. I have so many kids who I share this with at schools I visit who are upset with me because I have yet to finish the book and they want to find out what happens. So, one of my goals this coming summer is to finish this book.

In closing I would like to say, thank you to all of my friends in the state, my beloved Maine, and also to my friends in my beloved Iceland. Takk fyrir, and thank you very much." (Applause)

"As an aside," (standing next to the actual tricycle from the book) "many people know my tricycle book, The Remarkable Riderless Runaway Tricycle, is, in effect, my autobiography, and I've brought (pointing to stacks of books piled up in front of the stage) many tricycle books, maybe a couple of hundred, for your libraries and so please feel free to take them and enjoy. Thank you." (Applause)
Previous Katahdin Award Recipients
2005 Nancy Garden
2004 Lois Lowry
2003 Cynthia Voigt
2002 Ashley Bryan
2001 Dahlov Ipcar
2000 Roy Gallant
1999 Robert McCloskey

After the conference Bruce was further honored at a nearby restaurant by friends with a hand made replica of Mt. Katahdin sculpted out of fudge by Brenda Ferguson's family along with Kathy Mallat.

Bruce's comment?


Left to right:

Kathy Mallat
Bruce McMillan
Brenda Ferguson
Betty Lorber
Photos of Bruce by Brenda Ferguson (except the last one by the waitress)
Photos of the award by Bruce
Speech transcription by Betty Lorber

May 1, 2007
Email posted on the MELIBs listserv bulletin board

Dear Maine Librarians,

Thank you for your support over the past thirty years. The Katahdin Award bookends, all twenty-seven pounds of them, now hold all forty-four of my children's books, and there is still room for the forthcoming ones. Hey, I have to get ten more books out just to make it up to a half-a-pound of award per book. "How the Ladies Stopped the Wind" will be joining them in September so it's one down and nine to go.

The pleasure in receiving an award like this is the pleasure of hearing from the many librarians I've had the opportunity to meet all across our great state of Maine over the years. For those librarians who couldn't be at the events, yes, plural, events, you can at least visit vicariously via the web. There is a web page with my acceptance speech and photos at the April 12th Reading Round-Up Conference and also a web page of the subsequent reception at the Springvale Public Library on April 24th, where I've been a patron though my entire thirty-year book career, and where my Springvale librarians, past and present, celebrated the award. There is even a web page sharing the Springvale Public Library visit of the young Icelander and star of "Going Fishing" and our library presentation.

Please enjoy and share in the events via my web site, www.brucemcmillan.com.

As Kaline Goodrich can attest, the librarian who first called to tell me that I was being honored with the award, it was, truly, a complete surprise. To those of you who have shared my books with your patrons and students over the years thank you, or as we say in Iceland, takk fyrir.

I've had the good fortune and honor of having the puffling rescue in my blessed Iceland, which is chronicled in "Nights of the Pufflings", officially named after me, and now the good fortune and honor of receiving the Katahdin Award in my blessed home state Maine. I am a lucky fellow. Best of all, I have dear friends in both places and get to continue doing what I love to do.

I'm busy at work on the next books for your patrons, your students and you, and I'm one happy fellow.


Bruce McMillan

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