Caldecott Quick Thoughts 2016

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:

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.

Winner of the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:


  • Opening line: “Could you tell me a story?” asked Cole.
  • This story within a story tells the true tale of the real bear who inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh. Period photographs are waiting to be discovered in an “album” at the back of the book. Especially interesting is a diary entry that states: “Bought bear $20.”, recorded on August 24, 1914.
  • The book is a combination of three different times in history: The start of WWI in 1914, Christopher Robin’s friendship with Winnie at the London Zoo in 1925, and present day. I like how the story comes full circle in two ways. At the beginning, we have Cole asking his mother to tell him a story about a bear. And the book ends with Cole and his mother. Also, we discover that Cole was named for his great-great grandfather Captain Harry Colebourn, the young soldier who rescued Winnie from a trapper on a train platform so many years before.
  • The Chinese ink and watercolor illustrations, a mix of vivid and muted tones, bring the story to life, especially the early 1900’s. 
  • Final word: Fascinating.

Four Caldecott Honor Books were also chosen:


  • Opening lines: Where y’at? Where y’at? We have our own way of living down here in New Orleans, and our own way of talking, too. And that’s what we like to say when we want to tell a friend hello.
  • This autobiographical picture book is overflowing with charisma. It’s written by Grammy-nominated multi-instrumentalist Troy Andrews, Trombone Shorty himself. It’s all about his life as a young boy, growing up surrounded by music in New Orleans, and it’s about how music permeated deep into his soul.
  • I adore the photographs in the back of the book of Troy as a little boy playing the trombone, which was bigger than he was.
  • The pen and ink, watercolor, and collage illustrations are extraordinary–full of vibrancy and life. It’s easy to see why this book was chosen for a Caldecott honor.
  • Final word: Uplifting.


  • Opening lines: CJ pushed through the church doors, skipped down the steps. The outside air smelled like freedom, but it also smelled like rain, which freckled CJ’s shirt and dripped down his nose.
  • This is a beautiful story about a boy and his grandmother. The boy is full of questions and his grandmother always has the right answers. She helps him to see the beauty in what surrounds him and appreciate all that he has. There’s a lesson for children here, but it’s so very subtle.
  • The illustrations, done in acrylic and collage, are bright and dynamic.
  • Final word: Lovely.


  • Opening line: (Sunflower County, Mississippi) Minister Malcolm X once called me the country’s number one freedom-fighting woman.
  • This emotional biography is all about the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, the youngest of twenty children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta in 1917. She would grow up to be a hero of the civil rights movement. 
  • The story is told in first person, which allows the reader to be carried along with Fannie and experience her joys and hardships. The subject matter is serious and doesn’t leave out the harsh realities of life for African American citizens from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. Fannie’s story is in many ways heartbreaking, but it’s also inspiring because we see Fannie pick herself up time and again and continue to fight for what she believes in. 
  • The collage illustrations are powerful–stirring up the emotions invoked by the text. They’re the perfect complement.
  • Final word: Inspiring.


  • Opening lines: There were five of them. And they were waiting…
  • Children will love the concept here: Five figurines standing on a window sill, waiting patiently for something special. Most people have a few figurines in their homes. Children often collect them, and play with them. When I was a kid, I collected owls and deer. What child wouldn’t love it if their miniature figures came to life?
  • Kevin Henkes use of the window as a frame for many of the scenes is ingenious. He has created an ever-changing backdrop for the little characters.
  • The book is colorful, yet soft. The illustrations were rendered in brown ink, watercolor, and colored pencil, and are lively, fun, and sweet.
  • Final word: Whimsical.


4 thoughts on “Caldecott Quick Thoughts 2016

  1. I love this, Lauri! Thanks for sharing it. I haven’t read the Honor books yet, but the librarian I work with has been reading the winner all week to the older classes at my elementary school. It’s wonderful! So many layers to it, done so beautifully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I may have chosen one of the others for top honors, myself. But it is a fun read. I’m glad you appreciated the info about the selection process. It must be extremely difficult to choose a winner out of all the beautiful, wonderful picture books published each year. I’d love to be on that committee though! Thanks for commenting! 🙂


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