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:

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.

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

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  • 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:

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

 

Caldecott Quick Thoughts 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July)

I count myself lucky to know some really terrific people. And one such person is my colleague and friend Brian Abbott. Brian is the coworker who went to the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference back in January and brought me back several ARCs. (Read more about that by clicking Here.) A few weeks ago, he attended the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and he came back bearing swag, and lots of it! From posters, to prints, to magnets, and even CDs, they were giving it all away at ALA. And Brian gave a bunch to me! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But his generosity didn’t end there. He waited in line and managed to grab me a signed copy, yes, a signed copy of Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s book Locomotive! (Read my review of Locomotive Here.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, that’s definitely sweet, but the most unique item Brian brought back was a seven-page, full-color booklet that was given out to attendees of the Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet. Brian was invited to attend! (Okay, push down the author envy.) The booklet is so cool; it even has a pop-up in it! Swoon.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Brian, you’re awesome! To learn more about adult mystery novelist Brian Abbott, check out his site, The Poisoned Martini, and look for his debut novel Death On Stoneridge, coming soon.

Caldecott Thoughts 2014

Congratulations to this year’s Caldecott medal winner Brian Floca for his picture book Locomotive! Each year, I am eager to see what picture book is chosen by the ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) to be the recipient of the Caldecott medal and what books are chosen as honor books.

If you are as intrigued by the 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.

Product DetailsLocomotive (2013, Atheneum Books), written and illustrated by Brian Floca, showcases a very important and, in my opinion, very interesting time in American history: the building of the transcontinental railroad, the first railway that connected the east to the west and helped settle our great nation. The book is so detailed in its description of what is was like to ride and run the railroad back in the late 1800’s, you almost feel as if the author had been there personally. The illustrations too, done in watercolor, ink, acrylic, and gouache, are wonderfully detailed and a perfect complement to the text. You will learn a train load of fascinating facts if you read this book, for example, when traveling in mountainous areas where the train had to go uphill, two engines were used at the same time, attached together, in order to make the climb. And sometimes the engineer had to pull a handle to drop sand onto the tracks to aid in traction. Fascinating!

Flora and the Flamingo (2013, Chronicle Books), written and illustrated by Molly Idle, is one of three honor books this year. This is a wordless picture book that all fans of flamingos, dancing, and the color pink will love. It is beautifully illustrated and even contains some hidden flaps that create more opportunities to present the blossoming of an unusual friendship. The author worked as an artist for DreamWorks Feature Animation, and her skills shine through in this creative and sweet book that may have you dancing by the end.

Author and illustrator David Wiesner does it again with his Caldecott honor book Mr. Wuffles (2013, Clarion Books). Virtually wordless (unless you count the alien and ant dialogue), this super colorful, super fun, sci-fi picture book is out of this world! The watercolor and ink, graphic novel-like illustrations are bold and  jump off the page. Cat owners will recognize their own cat in the humorous antics of the story’s feline antagonist. I like the interaction between the tiny alien heroes and their new insect friends. Kids will love believing that such a miniature world could really exist. My favorite element has to be the fact that the aliens wear different colors, perhaps representing captain, navigator, and crew. Nice touch!

Journey (2013, Candlewick Press), written and illustrated by Aaron Becker, is also an honor book this year. It’s easy to see why. The magical watercolor and ink illustrations transport readers to another world as they follow a young girl’s journey into the realm of her imagination and through the wordless pages. This book will leave you with a smile and the desire to take the journey all over again. The full-page spreads are worth the trip!

Caldecott Thoughts 2013

This is not my hat  This year’s winner of the Caldecott Medal is This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2012).  This story is a big fish tale, but not in the way you might think. It’s also a small fish tale about a small fish who stole the hat of a big fish. He’s pretty sure he can get away with it, but stealing is wrong, isn’t it? Do you think he’ll get away with it? Do you think he should? This story certainly made me smile. Mr. Klassen does a superb job moving the story along with short sentences and illustrations that change ever so slightly as they move to the right and off of the page.

Creepy carrots! The ALSC chose five honor books this year! Among them is Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). This fun picture book is cleverly illustrated with just enough color to set an eerie mood. If picture books were horror movies, this one would be rated G. It’s just so much fun; I read it three or four times. Jasper Rabbit has this terrible feeling that carrots are following him. Is it his imagination? Or have the creepy carrots devised a plan to keep Jasper out of the carrot patch?

Extra yarn Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer+Bray, 2012) is my favorite of the picks this year. The story includes everything from a magic box of colorful yarn, to an evil archduke, to a sweet, young heroine who cares very much for her town. I like how the town gets more and more colorful as the story goes along. But the best part is the quiet, unassuming, and peaceful ending.

Green This honor book simply titled Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) is beautifully illustrated in different shades of green, one of my favorite colors. It sports minimal text and peek-a-boo cut outs on several of the pages, which tie one page cleverly to the next. As you may guess, all of the illustrations depict the great outdoors and the natural beauty of the world, and showcase trees, flowers, animals, vegetables, and more.

One cool friend One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small (Dial Books, 2012) stars a polite, young boy named Elliot who decides he wants a penguin. I like Elliot; he has a lot of character. I like the combination of color and black and white for the multimedia illustrations. My favorite picture shows Elliot and the penguin skating in his room. This is a fun story that will make you laugh. And the twist at the end is the best!

Sleep like a tiger Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books, 2012) is a dreamy, bedtime story with muted colors that fill up the pages. The paintings are a mix of fantasy and reality and, along with the solid text, tell the story of a young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep. I just love the pictures of the dog asleep on the couch; just gorgeous!