It's awards season! And in the world of Children's Literature that means it's time for the American Library Association to announce the most prestigious awards of the year. Early tomorrow morning a few hundred Children's librarians will gather at the ALA Midwinter Conference to witness the Youth Media Awards in person. The rest of us will congregate impatiently in front of a live stream of the event, waiting to see if our favorite titles will show up on screen!
The Randolph Caldecott and John Newbery Medals are probably the most well known of these awards, but other important honors to be announced include the Coretta Scott King Awards (for outstanding African American authors and illustrators), the Michael L. Printz Award (for excellence in Young Adult literature), the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award (for the most distinguished American book for young readers), and many more. Today we're talking about the Randolph Caldecott Medal, or in reality, our favorite picture books published in 2014. From the ALA website, here's the official description:
The Caldecott Medal "shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award shall go to the artist, who must be a citizen or resident of the United States, whether or not he be the author of the text.
The Caldecott committee may also award an unlimited number of Honor books, aka the runners-up. Last year there were three Honors awarded, all to wordless picture books. So which books do we think could win? There were a ton of fantastic picture books published last year so, for the sake of organization, we've broken them down thematically into a few very general groups.
First up, a perennially popular theme, Animals and Pets.
Gaston - written by Kelly Dipucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson – A clever and very sweet book about mixed families.
Sparky - written by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans – This is a lovely book about a girl who wants a pet and, after a little help from a friendly librarian, ends ordering a Sloth by express mail (I think this is how we ended up with Henri…) Kathy felt a special connection to this fun book.
A Boy and a Jaguar - written by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Cátia Chien – A beautifully illustrated and incredibly moving autobiography about Dr. Rabinowitz, a conservationist with a stutter and a special connection to animals.
If I Had a Raptor - written and illustrated about George O’ Connor
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird - written by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak – Lisa says this is a great book for inquisitive preschoolers with a lovely mix of images, sounds and informational content.
Big Bug - written and illustrated by Henry Cole
Born in the Wild - written and illustrated by Lita Judge
Books on the human condition, or books about navigating the minefield of childhood emotions and experiences!
And Two Boys Booed - written by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Sophie Blackall – We love Sophie Blackall’s richly detailed and interactive illustrations. They are a great complement to Viorst’s spot on story of childhood stage fright.
Bad Bye, Good Bye - written by Deborath Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean – This one drew mixed reactions (one librarian says ‘Meh’). But I enjoyed how Bean’s picture move across each spread, which, along with an aggressive color palette, illustrate the sometimes traumatic experience of moving.
The Adventures of Beekle : the Unimaginary Friend - written and illustrated by Dan Santat - Kathy thinks this one might win, and Ellen wants a Beekle of her own.
The Baby Tree - written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall – Another beautiful book full of fantastic little details. Blackall’s book about where babies come from feels so true to real life.
Hug Machine - written and illustrated by Scott Campbell
Where’s Mommy? - written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock – This one’s a real winner. Ellen loved the parallel worlds of Maria and Mouse Mouse, who are both missing their mothers, and the beautiful setting of a mid-century modern home.
Coming Home - written and illustrated by Greg Ruth
Books about the seasons, three of which happen to be books of poetry!
Firefly July : a Year of Very Short Poems - selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold - written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen
Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons - written and illustrated by Jon Muth – We have a soft spot for Muth’s signature penguins. This book is full of clever little haikus perfect for sharing.
Winter is Coming - written by Tony Johnston, illustrated by Jim LaMarche - Lovely illustrations, but one of our librarians pointed out a possible error that might keep this one from a medal.
Next up, books about literature and the arts.
Viva Frida - written by Yuyi Morales, photography by Tim O’Meara
The Right Word : Roget and his Thesaurus - written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet – A very cool book about Roget and his book of words. Kathy’s not sure if it can win but I think Melissa Sweet’s amazing mixed media illustrations are Caldecott worthy.
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse - written by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper
The Pilot and The Little Prince : the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry - written and illustrated by Peter Sis
Draw - written and illustrated by Raúl Colón – Another stunning wordless book that’s definitely in the running.
Remy and Lulu - written and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Firebird - written by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers – Myer’s collage style illustrations are fiery and bold, a perfect complement to Copeland’s sparely written story of an African American ballet dancer.
Stories about a grand adventure or journey!
Sebastian and the Balloon - written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead
Quest - written and illustrated by Aaron Becker – Beautiful, but doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, the Caldecott Honor winning Journey.
Gravity - written and illustrated by Jason Chin – A strikingly illustrated book that simplifies the concept of gravity for young childen.
Voyage - written by Billy Collens, illustrated by Karen Romagna
Three Bears in a Boat - written and illustrated by David Soman – We loved the large format of this clever yet tender book. And the sneaky references to other literature are very fun.
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole - written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen – This book is a serious trip. Written and illustrated by previous winners, this could walk away with an honor.
The Storm Whale - written and illustrated by Benji Davies – Okay this one isn’t actually about a journey, in fact it’s a touching story about lonely boy who adopts a beached whale. Check this one out.
And finally the outliers. These books didn't quite fit in with the other titles, but the category includes a few of our favorites.
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads - written by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith – This book is laugh out loud funny but we wonder if the length might turn off the Caldecott committee.
Telephone - written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace
Rules of Summer - written and illustrated by Shaun Tan - Once again, Shaun Tan explores the truly epic proportions of the childhood imagination while crafting an intimate narrative of the intensity of family relationships. The Rules of Summer pushes the boundaries of the picture book without becoming inaccessible. Read it, then check out the rest of his remarkable work.
The Farmer and the Clown - written and illustrated by Marla Frazee – We saved the best for last. This amazing wordless book by Marla Frazee is our pick (and the pick of many Mock Caldecotts around the country) to win it all. Frazee’s moving story of found family is spare yet punctuated with tender humor. If this one doesn't earn at least an honor we will be shocked.