In this annual post, I share my thoughts on the Caldecott medal winner and honor books.
If you are as intrigued by the selection process as I am, you may be interested in the following link that I originally posted back in 2011:
http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottcomm/caldecottcommittee.cfm. Everything you ever wanted to know and more about the Caldecott medal and the awards process can be found there at the American Library Association’s extremely comprehensive site.
Congratulations to Dan Santat! His book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown and Company) is the recipient of this year’s Caldecott medal. This book proves the power of the imagination, not just because author/illustrator Dan Santat used his awesome imagination to write and illustrate it, but also because main character Beekle is imagination. He’s an imaginary friend who does extraordinary things. Instead of waiting to be imagined by a real child who will be his friend, he embarks upon a quest to find a child. And even though his travels take him far away from the island of imaginary friends, and he must face a scary, new world, he succeeds in the end. Good job Beekle!
Six, that’s right, six honor books were chosen! Looks like the Caldecott committee had an extra difficult time choosing this year.
Nana In The City (Clarion Books) by author/illustrator Lauren Castillo has a beautiful, quiet strength, both in story and illustration. The mix of vibrant and muted watercolors perfectly depict life in a bustling city, as well as a special relationship between a boy and his grandmother. I like how Nana helps her young grandson to feel brave by fashioning him a super hero cape, and how she helps him to appreciate the sights and sounds of the city.
One of three honor books this year that feature famous people, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art (Alfred A. Knopf) is an interesting look at the life of abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky. Through Barb Rosenstock’s descriptive text and Mary Grandpre’s dazzling, full-page illustrations, we get a window view into what it was like to be a boy growing up with a condition called synesthesia. According to the author’s note, “In people with synesthesia, one sense triggers a different sense, allowing them, for example, to hear colors, see music, taste words, or smell numbers.” Fascinating!
Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s book Sam & Dave Dig A Hole (Candlewick Press) is just so much fun! Designed primarily with deceptively simple text on one side and “earthy” illustrations on the other, this book stars two young boys, friends or perhaps brothers, who decide to dig a hole, and they won’t stop digging until they find something “spectacular”. But every time they get close, they decide to change directions, completely missing each successively larger gem. I totally understand why kids love this book. They are in on a secret. They know the gems are there even though our main characters do not. I can picture a classroom of children during story time pointing, yelling, and laughing, and having a great time listening to this story.
Viva Frida (Roaring Brook Press) by Yuyi Morales is lovely. I feel as if Beekle must have edged Frida out by the narrowest of margins for the medal. This book is about well-known Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The super-colorful mixed media illustrations are gorgeous. I especially like the spread that shows a closeup of Frida’s face, along with her monkey and dog friends, peering into a chest. What wonders will she find in there? The text is quite sparse, yet surprisingly, by the end of the book, I felt like I learned a lot about this creative spirit, Frida (in less than 35 words!). But for those who want to learn more, there’s an author’s note in the back.
I don’t talk a lot about nonfiction picture books on my blog, but that may change in the near future thanks to books like The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Eerdmans Books) by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. Jen and Melissa have presented a book about the life of Peter Roget, and they did so in a manner that feels very story-like and engaging, both in interesting text and eye-catching illustration. This is the kind of book that children will learn from without even realizing they are learning, because it will capture their attention from beginning to end.
This One Summer (First Second) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki caught me off guard. It’s not a picture book in the traditional sense, that’s because it’s a graphic novel. Although I do occasionally read manga, I’m truly not up on what constitutes a good graphic novel. Based on the art alone, I can see that it’s nicely rendered in black ink with great details and shading. But as I read through the story, though well-written, it struck me as being for an older audience than the other books on the Caldecott list. Despite my vague thoughts on this one, I’m glad that graphic novels are being considered for prestigious awards such as the Caldecott and that they are getting the recognition they deserve. Any and all books that get kids to read are winners!