Summary of Gaiman’s Newbery Speech

By Judi Moreillon, Texas Woman’s University, Denton, TX

This summary of Neil Gaiman’s 2009 Newbery Award acceptance speech is a supplement to the planned four-part interview with Nick Glass, member of the 2009 Newbery Committee, conducted electronically by Judi Moreillon.

Please read The Horn Book editor Elise Howard’s introduction of Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman divided his Newbery Acceptance Speech into six parts, as he said “for no particular reason.” He shared the role of this award in impressing his own children; who doesn’t want to be a hero to his/her kids? He talked about his youth as a “feral child” who raised himself among the library stacks, where early on he satisfied his curiosity about “ghosts, witches, magic, and space.” He shared the surreal experience of being sleep deprived at the moment he first heard the excited chorus of the 14 members of the Newbery Committee, delivered via speakerphone to his Los Angeles hotel room. He talked about being on the side of books you love.

Gaiman shared from his heart the realization that fiction gives readers a way to cope “with the poison of the world.” He recently had the experience of releasing his grief over his father’s death through responding to a script. He believes fiction “saves lives.” He shared the influences on his craft and told us about composing the last two lines of the song at the end of The Graveyard Book: “Face your life/Its pain, its pleasure,/Leave no path untaken.” Finally, he reminded us of what is important: reading, books, libraries, and librarians. He noted that fiction is comprised of lies that say true things. Stories exist, he said, because someone may need them –- for hope, for wisdom, for kindness, for comfort. Thank you, Neil Gaiman, for sharing your heart and your talent with us and with readers everywhere.


Judi Moreillon is an assistant professor in the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman’s University. She teaches a variety of courses for preservice school and public librarians, including children’s and young adult literature. You can reach Judi at:

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