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1. Video Sunday: Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends

Aww. Didja miss these? It’s not like I see as many videos these days, y’know. Not for lack of interest. They just don’t float in front my nose the way they used to. Fortunately there are a couple that I’ve collected in my travels and I’m featuring them here today. They may be a bit old. You may have seen them 100 times before. But what the hey, right? Life is short.

First up, ALSC released the Newbery/Caldecott/Wilder reaction videos.  Grab your popcorn and enjoy:

I just saw this next trailer online (thank you, Monica!) and I cannot convey to you the avarice I hold for anyone who has already seen this.  It’s Matt Phelan’s latest.  And it’s gorgeous:

Another trailer to follow.  True, the violin brings to mind a kind of Ken Burns-y feel. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

A couple months ago young Marley Dias put out the call for middle grade black girl books. I missed the fact that she appeared on Ellen. Problem alleviated!


Thanks to Rita Williams-Garcia for the link.

I do not wish to take away from Travis Jonker his drop dead amazing compilation of peculiar I WANT MY HAT BACK videos he compiled.  So I will just put one here and tell you to go to his site to see the rest.

This does my little 1984 heart good.

It’s summer.  Everyone’s making summer reading videos.  This is my library’s.  My superintendent is sitting on a slide (at Penny Park, clearly).  It gives me great respect for the man.  Plus, check out that logo at the end.  I hate to say it, guys, but I think my library hosts the most attractive summer reading t-shirt this year.

Hm.  That would make a good blog post. . . .

And just to round this all out in a nice way, here’s the book trailer for Evan Turk’s The Storyteller (one of the most beautiful picture books of the year):

Happy 4th of July!


2 Comments on Video Sunday: Be Kind to Your Web-Footed Friends, last added: 7/4/2016
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2. Jolts of Thoughts on the Recent Spate of Awards

I’ve been privy to lots of interesting conversations about our most recent ALA winners this week.  And since it’s Friday and we’re all now able to step back and take into account what all just happened, here is a quick summary of some of the discussions, topics, and random facts surrounding the Youth Media Awards of 2016.  Just so that you’re playing along at home, here is the announcement of who the winners were.  First up . . .


We’ll begin with the most surprising choice.  Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book, won the Newbery.  The question was then whether or not it is the first picture book to win the award.  After all, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn won back in 1982, yes?  And it also won a Caldecott Honor, just like Market Street.  Yet William Blake’s Inn was poetry first, and picture book second.  Market Street is straight up picture book text, context, you name it.  So, in some ways, it is the first award winner, yes.

Next, there was a question as to whether or not Matt de la Pena is the first Latino to win the Newbery Award (not Honor but Award).  And it was Roger Sutton who pointed out that maybe not.  Remember, if you will, Paula Fox.  As he wrote, “from Augusta Baker’s profile of Fox, written for The Horn Book to accompany her Newbery speech in 1974: ‘Paula Fox knew her share of pain as a child. A New Yorker by birth, half-Spanish, half-Irish-English, she was sent at the age of eight to live with her grandmother in Cuba’.”  This is not something I’d heard before.  Thank you, Roger!

Jon Scieszka tweeted this during the week as well:

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.36.38 PM

You can read more about that night here, if you like.  My sole regret is that the evening wasn’t taped.  Matt killed in that tux.

Moving on, while Matt may not be the first Latino Award winner of the Newbery, it is certainly true that 2016 was the first time that there was a Latino winner of the Award and a Latino winner of an Honor in the same year.  Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was an early favorite in 2015.  I remember the book well and I also remember its swag.  Many galleys were sent out with little harmonicas.  In my office, just because of who works there, we received about four of five of these harmonicas.  They were cute but we weren’t entirely certain what to do with them.  Someone should write a middle grade called A Confusion of Harmonicas.


Someone should also tap Norton Juster to play a harmonica at the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet the way he did the year Raschka’s The Hello, Goodbye Window won a Caldecott.

Many were quite thrilled that The War That Saved My Life received recognition, including myself.  You can find my review of it here.  It was particularly gratifying since back in the day I wanted her to win an award for Jefferson’s Sons.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson was a surprise win for many.  If folks thought El Deafo‘s win last year was a fluke, Victoria’s latest Honor drills home that graphic novels are here to stay.  It also means that the push for a separate Graphic Novel award may fall by the wayside.  After all, they can apparently win Newberys now.  For fun, take a trip in the wayback machine to 2009 when Victoria solicited cool children’s literature-related roller derby names on this site.  My favorite remains Jacob Have I Shoved (with special honors going to Winnie-the-Pow!).

And speaking of Winnie . . .


I’m going to level with you.  When I read Finding Winnie I had a lot to say about it.  And though it was being published in October, I reviewed in May. I loved it so.

Sophie appeared at a Spring Little Brown & Company preview in early March of 2015 to talk about the book, as it happens.  While doing so she showed a lot of the research she conducted for the art.  Here are some of the tweets from that time:

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.58.16 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.00.22 AMScreen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.59.46 PM

On his post on The Relative Surprise-iness of the 2016 Youth Media Awards, Travis Jonker points out that Trombone Shorty wasn’t one of those books that made it onto a lot Mock Award lists.  Looking at the ALSC blog that collects these Mock Awards, it wasn’t shut out.  The 43rd annual Caldecott Read-In was held on January 9th at the Main Library for the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library (Ohio) predicted its Honor.  It was also the Award winner on December 21, 2015, when over 900 students in grades K-5 voted for the Mock Caldecott at Falmouth Elementary School in Falmouth, Maine.  Well done to both!

Far more people were familiar with Voice of Freedom:  Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford. Now there’s a book that could have won a Newbery as easily as a Caldecott as well.  The writing is so superb.  I’m happy to report that both this book AND Trombone Shorty appeared on New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list for the year as well.  Those NYPL librarians.  They’ve got their fingers on the pulse.

As for Waiting by Kevin Henkes, note this screenshot from a Harper Collins preview on December 29, 2014:

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.14.35 AM

Nailed It!  Or, to be more precise, Somewhat Nailed It!  I wasn’t entirely off anyway.

Other awards were interesting as well.  For example, the recent Printz Award winner spoke at LENGTH on this site about her soon-to-be-award winning book.  Here, I’ll save you the trouble.  Voila:

On the Coretta Scott King side of things, Rita Williams-Garcia was kind enough to talk about her book here:

For further final fun, do be so good as to read Travis Jonker’s post on  as well as the reaction tweets.  Also consider the Heavy Medal thoughts on the Newbery Award winner and their commenters thoughts on all the winners here.  And Calling Caldecott did the same here.


4 Comments on Jolts of Thoughts on the Recent Spate of Awards, last added: 1/15/2016
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3. And the Winners Are . . . .

In case you missed it, the ALA Youth Media Award winners (Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, etc.) were announced this morning. Best of all, I was on hand to offer Pre-Game predictions and Post-Game commentary. Here are the results. Please note that there is no heat in the room I was commenting in. So if I’m trembling I have just cause.

Here was the Pre-Game Show which worked okay:

And here’s the Post-Game Show which did NOT. For whatever reason, the camera didn’t work. Ah well. At least there’s audio:

Woohoo!  Now someone go and tell me whether or not a picture books has ever won the award proper before.


12 Comments on And the Winners Are . . . ., last added: 1/12/2016
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4. The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sís -- setting personal stories in the context of history (ages 9-16)

How do you help children understand family stories in the context of history? Our lives are impacted by the social and political climates in which we live--and these impact the stories we tell our children about our own family's lives. Peter Sís wrestles with these questions in his memoir The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, telling the story of growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sís
Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007
Sibert Award for Nonfiction, 2008
Caldecott Honor, 2008
Your local library
ages 9-16
Sís begins with a short introduction, giving context to the historical events. And then he starts his memoir by saying how he loved to draw for as long as he can remember. Throughout, he tells parallel stories of childhood and the political circumstances in Czechoslovakia. At home, he was able to draw whatever he wanted, but as soon as he started school, he was influenced by the state controlled propaganda.
"The Communists take control of the school. Russian-language classes--COMPULSORY.
Joining the Young Pioneers, the Communist youth movement--COMPULSORY."
"After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told to at school."
Sís conveys the historical context while giving his personal experience at the same time. The short chunks of text with small panel illustrations helps make the information more accessible and immediate. I find that kids like reading this more than one time, as they notice different details each time.

After the liberation of Prague Spring in 1968, the Soviets imposed strict controls once again. But Czechs found ways to push back and share ideas.
"Phones are bugged again, mail opened, people watched... Banned books are secretly translated, copied, and circulated as samizdat."
Sís struggled to keep his artistic identity and independence. He describes both in his journal entries how he was pressured to join the party. And yet, as he wrote, "he had to draw. Sharing the dreams gave him hope." The journal entries (a sample is below) help give even more immediacy and details to how the political climate impacted his life.
"To get a permit to have a studio in my own house, I have to prove that I am an artist in good 'social standing,' that is, a member of the Community Party."
My family and I recently visited the Czech Republic, meeting with several members of the university who have developed a program to honor my great-uncle, George Placzek (a long article about his scientific legacy is in the Cern Courier, the International Journal of High Energy Physics). I was fascinated to hear about how the Communist era impacted their lives, much as it had for Peter Sís. They faced limitations on their professional careers, and even brought a samizdat to show me.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain provides a fascinating way to combine visual storytelling, memoir and political history. I am grateful to Peter Sís, not only for persevering to follow his art, but also for telling this story. I know, from my own family history, the pressure to move forward and put difficult times behind you--and the Czech Republic is blossoming once again. But this history, both personal and political, is important to share with our children. Kirkus Review sums it up:
"A masterpiece for readers young and old."
Illustrations ©2007 Peter Sís; used with permission from the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Macmillan. The review copy comes from our personal library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. Way Back Wednesday: The Canon of Picture Books

Walking Down Corridors with the Caldecott


Merriam-Webster defines the word “canon” as “a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related work” as in the canon of great literature.

I recently wrote a blog that intimated that just as most literate adults have read a canon of great literature that reaches a high water mark, so too in picture book literature there is a sort of canon of best books that define what a classic picture book is and should be in content and style and in the ability to move the imagination and heart of our youngest readers. That canon’s foundation, to some, starts with the list of Caldecott award winners and honor books begun in 1938. The Caldecott Medal “shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States the preceding year.” Awarded by the Children’s and School Libraries section of the American Library Association, it’s named in honor of Randolph J. Caldecott, nineteenth-century English illustrator.   

At the Snuggery, in our Way Back Wednesday segments, we’ve tried to shine the spotlight on these gems that might have fallen off young parents’ picture book reading radar or slipped their notice. This year, in fact, marks the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal and I’ve written blogs on many of them this year at the Snuggery. Have you ever had a feeling of perfect synchronicity, where things fall in an almost perfect alignment or “meaningful coincidence”?  I recently had one of those moments when I came face to face with the canon or at least large parts of it. I couldn’t take the smile from my face as if I were recognizing friends; friends that I wanted to introduce around.

I walked the halls of Penguin Young Readers, and there, as I turned corridor after corridor, lining the walls were the covers of the canon – framed. To see classic picture books in a store randomly displayed is one thing. BUT, to see one publishing house and its contributions to the canon was amazing! Many were books I’ve certainly read to children, my own included, and to other young ones in story hours I’ve done. It was a moment I’ll remember.

There was something about seeing row after row of great picture book covers that gave me a renewed hunger to share these books with young readers that haven’t heard the words and seen the pictures that make the stories come to life and to share with children something of the lives of the wonderful authors behind them. I didn’t just see the covers in those corridors. I saw the children for whom they were written who’ve read them and those who are still waiting to read them.

Don’t let your children and grands miss out on the start of the great picture book canon! And while you’re at it, add your own favorite “read it again” to the list! Back to school is the perfect time to “connect with the canon” and jump-start your children’s love of reading. You and your young reader can connect with all that lies beneath the covers of the canon!

Here is a list of just some of the extraordinary book covers I saw on those Caldecott corridors:




They Were Strong and Good – Robert Lawson – 1941                        

Make Way for Ducklings – Robert McCloskey – 1942

Madeline’s Rescue – Ludwig Bemelmans – 1954

Time of Wonder – Robert McCloskey – 1958

Nine Days to Christmas – Marie Hall Ets, illus., text: Marie Hall Ets and Aurora Labastida – 1960

The Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats – 1960

The Funny Little Woman – Arlene Mosel – 1973

Arrow to the Sun – Gerald McDermott – 1975

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears – Leo and Diane Dillon, illus.; text retold by Verna Ardema – 1976

Ashanti to Zulu – Leo and Diane Dillon, illus., text: Margaret Musgrove – 1977

Ox-Cart Man – Barbara Cooney, illus., text: Donald Hall – 1980

The Glorious Flight Across the Channel with Louis Bleriot – Alice and Martin Provensen – 1984

Owl Moon – John Schoenherr, illus., text: Jane Yolen – 1988

Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China – Ed Young – 1990

Mirette on the High Wire – Emily Arnold McCully – 1993

Officer Buckle and Gloria – Peggy Rathmann – 1996

Rapunzel – Paul O. Zelinsky – 1998

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat – Simms Taback – 2000

So You Want to Be President? – Judith St. George – 2001















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6. In Response to the Award Committee Conversation #alaac14

Dear fellow ALSC members:

Please pardon my delay in joining the current conversation surrounding the clarification of confidentiality in regard to reviewing, social media and electronic communication for members of ALSC award committees. My hotel does not have wi-fi and the business center closes at 4 pm, (apparently most of “what happens in Vegas” doesn’t happen online), and combined with required meetings yesterday my reading and response to email has been significantly delayed.

Over the past several years the ALSC office and officers have fielded a growing number of inquiries from members of award committees regarding appropriate written expression which maintains the confidentiality and integrity of the awards. The guidelines that had served us well were no longer sufficient to navigate the wildfire landscape of electronic communication and the exponential dissemination of opinion that occurs.

In response, the ALSC Board appointed a task force which including past and present award chairs, reviewers and a blogger and a representative from publishing to provide a broad and textured range of perspective. This dedicated group diligently consulted with colleagues, discussed and deliberated before presenting their recommendation to the ALSC Board last January during midwinter. There was further careful consideration and conversation between the Task Force and the Board in a public meeting which ultimately resulted in adoption of their recommendations. Mahnaz Dar from School Library Journal interviewed me and reported on this issue shortly after Midwinter.

The intention of this clarification is to support, not suppress the members of the award committees. Some recent responses have labelled this action as “preemptive” in a pejorative manner. To return to the wildfire analogy, it is better to prevent a fire than try to contain one that has been set ablaze. Indeed, there have been cases when an individual has (inadvertently) crossed the line of confidentiality and has later removed a blog post.

That is becoming ever more difficult in this age of instant re-tweeting and “sharing”. Once information and opinion has been unleashed, it can no longer be retrieved. Even traditional means of disseminating information can unintentionally go awry, (e.g. the unfortunate premature release of this year’s acceptance speeches prior to the awards banquet, ironically by The Horn Book). By providing clear and, yes, cautious parameters members have a better sense of the expectations of conduct and can avoid these missteps which are potentially embarrassing for the poster.

The issue of reviewing while on an awards committee predates the current communication climate. During my tenures on award committees, I elected to review only titles that would were ineligible for that committee: books from other countries, books for young adults, etc., as did many of my fellow committee members. The editors of School Library Journal understood and, indeed, expected and respected that discretion.

The Task Force and the Board carefully considered the implications of these clarifications regarding the service of editors of review media on award committees. It was determined that there would not be an issue if those editors did not publish signed reviews of eligible books. Again, titles outside the parameters of the committee’s consideration could be individually and specifically reviewed. We recognize the expertise and experience of these professionals and value their contribution to the process.

Award committees have structures in in place that preserve the integrity of process and thus the award itself. Indeed, I have twice had the privilege of serving as a judge for The New York Times Best Illustrated Books, (both times with Roger Sutton). We were strictly prohibited form telling anyone of our role until after publication of the list to avoid undue influence over selection and revelation. (This required months of keeping a delicious secret to myself, when I love to share information!) I am currently a judge for the National Book Award which has its own set of guidelines regulating conduct and confidentiality.

It is the responsibility of the Board to protect the integrity of the process of the ALSC awards in stewardship this very valuable asset of the association. We would have been remiss not to have responded to the changing conditions that necessitated this thorough examination and careful contemplation of practice.

I am grateful to all for your passion and professionalism surrounding this issue and for the opportunity to address your concerns and questions.

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7. ALSC Response to Horn Book July/August 2014 Issue Editorial #alaac14

As many of us begin to gather in Las Vegas for this year’s ALA Annual Conference, the excitement is building for the big event on Sunday evening, the Newbery-Caldecott Banquet, when we’ll celebrate the medal- and honor-winning book creators of two of the most prestigious awards in the world. This year there is a bit more buzz than usual as folks read and respond to this week’s editorial in Horn Book which expresses some concerns about a months-old revision to ALSC’s “Policy for Service on Award Committees”. As a member of the ALSC Board of Directors and chair of the Task Force that developed the recommendations that were subsequently adopted unanimously by the entire Board last January, I’m happy to provide some background about the updates.

This Policy, which applies to those ALSC members serving on the selection committees of the book and media awards administered solely by ALSC (including the Caldecott, Geisel, Newbery, and Sibert, among others), has existed for a long time with the purpose of supporting members in fulfilling the responsibilities that come with the honor of accepting the opportunity to volunteer on one of these committees. These include guidelines on issues ranging from the importance of attending the committee meetings to the fact that it wouldn’t be fair for an author or a publisher of an eligible book (or their close family members) to serve on a committee that could possibly consider their own book for a medal.

They also include guidelines regarding the confidentiality of the award process. This is an area in which the ALSC leadership and staff receive many, many questions every year from committee members who are anxious to respect the privacy of fellow committee members and creators of eligible titles. Those aspects of the guidelines, as they stood through last year, were causing more confusion than clarity, in large part because they were written before the full advent of social media and therefore couldn’t entirely take into account the increased number of forums which exist today where books and media are publicly and electronically discussed.

To address that, last year the ALSC Board appointed a Task Force which I chaired and which included members with backgrounds in blogging, reviewing, marketing for a major publisher, serving on many different award committees, chairing the Newbery committee, and consulting for chairs of award selection committees. Our objective was “To review and update the ALSC Policy for Service on Award Committees document with further clarification in regard to the confidentiality and conflict of interest guidelines as they pertain to bloggers and others engaged in social media activities while serving on an ALSC Award Committee” and to provide those recommendations to the ALSC Board for their action on them.

Task #1 was to determine if maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of the awards and the award process, as mentioned above, even still mattered in this day and age. After all, some media awards encourage open, public discussion (such as ALSC’s Notable Lists) and some present short lists of nominees (like the Academy Awards). Following conscientious discussion, consideration, and consultation with many stakeholders over many months, it became clear that confidentiality remains key to the success of these particular awards which are so important to ALSC members, the publishing industry, and kids around the world.

In today’s electronic environment, any recorded comments can quickly and uncontrollably go viral, and the Horn Book editorial is a perfect example of how words (like the revised ALSC guidelines), written with the best of intentions, can be taken out of context, misconstrued, and distributed within seconds. In short, when they’re no longer confidential the writer has no control over how they’re used.

Another change over time is that book reviews and their journals are moving further and faster away from being individual print copies in a pile on a desk seen only by collection development librarians and are very much part of the e-environment, quickly turning into database articles, tweets, posts, and marketing material for online shopping. When reviews (which by definition tell the writer’s opinion of the quality of the material—how “distinguished” it is, to use a word appearing in many an ALSC award criteria) go public in these and other ways, and the name on them is that of a committee member, it can be (and has been) easily interpreted as showing the hand of the committee. It also can be (and has been) very possible for committee members to hold off on tweeting, Facebooking, and posting about titles which are eligible for their specific award (and only their specific award) for the short time of their service.

An additional product of the Task Force was an expansion of the FAQs, which all award committee members receive, which offer guidance and support for how to talk about and promote books during award committee service, because it is extremely important, as the FAQs say, to “obtain a variety of critical opinions about books under consideration throughout the year,” and that can most definitely be done “without violating confidentiality guidelines.”

Please feel free to take a look at our Task Force’s documents, which are available on ALA Connect with no log-in necessary:

These are simply taking the guidelines which have been in place for many, many years, applying them to today’s digital reality, and clarifying the gray areas so that committee members may perform and enjoy both their committee work and their other professional responsibilities, which may or may not include publishing signed reviews, while respecting the integrity and excitement of the most important awards for children’s books and media.


Our guest blogger today is Andrew Medlar. Andrew is the Division Councilor for ALSC, serving on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and chaired the ALSC Award Service and Social Media Review Task Force in 2013.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

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8. Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Now we’re in the thick of it.  Do you hear that?  That is the clicking ticking sound of the reanimation of the Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott blogs.  They’re a little groggy right now, trying to get their bearings, figuring out which foot to try first.  But don’t be fooled by their initial speed.  Very soon they’ll be acting like well-oiled machines, debating and comparing and contrasting like it’s nobody’s business.  But why let them have all the fun?  Time for a little predicting on my end as well!  I’ve been discussing these books with folks all year and through our debates I’m getting a better sense of the titles that are more likely than others to make it in the end.  So, with the inclusion of some fall books, here’s the latest roster of predictions. Please note that as the year goes on I tend to drop books off my list more than I add them.  This is also my penultimate list.  The final will appear in December.

2015 Newbery Predictions

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardener Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

It’s so satisfying when you like a book and then find that everyone else likes it too.  This was the very first book I mentioned in this year’s Spring Prediction Edition of Newbery/Caldecott 2015 and nothing has shaken my firm belief that it is extraordinary.  It balances out kid-friendly plotting with literary acumen.  It asks big questions while remaining down-to-earth.  And yes, it’s dark.  2014 is a dark year.  It’ll be compared to Doll Bones, which is not the worst thing in the world.  I could see this one making it to the finish line.  I really could.

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

AbsolutelyAlmost Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

You know what?  I’m sticking by this one.  Graff’s novel has the ability to create hardcore reader fans, even though it has a very seemingly simple premise.  It’s librarian-bait to a certain extent (promoting a kid who likes to read Captain Underpants will do that) but I don’t think it’s really pandering or anything.  It’s also not a natural choice for the Newbery, preferring subtlety over literary largess.  I’m keeping it in mind for now.

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

WestMoon1 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Notable if, for no other reason, the fact that Nina Lindsay and I agree on it and we rarely agree on anything.  As it happens, this is a book I’ve been noticing a big backlash against.  It sports a complex and unlikeable heroine, which can prove difficult when assessing its merits.  She makes hard, often bad, choices.  But personally I feel that even if you dislike who she becomes, you still root for her to win.  Isn’t that worth something?  Other folks find the blending of historical fiction and fantasy unnerving.  I find it literary.  You be the judge.

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

BoysBlur Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

I could write out yet another defense of this remarkable novel, but I think I’ll let N.D. Wilson do the talking for me instead:

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

BrownGirlDreaming Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

The frontrunner. This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it.  I’m waiting to hear the concentrated objections to this book.  Waiting because I’m having a hard time fathoming what they might be.  One librarian I spoke too complained it was too long.  Can’t agree myself, but I noted her comment.  Other than that, nobody disagrees that it’s distinguished.  As distinguished as distinguished can be, really.  If it doesn’t get the gold (look at all the nice sky-space where you could fit in a medal!) I will go on a small rampage.

Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon

DoryFantasmagory1 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Betcha didn’t see that one coming.  You were probably expecting a discussion of Revolution or A Snicker of Magic or something, right?  Well darling, I’ll confess something to you.  I like simple books.  Reeeeally simple books.  Books so simple that they cross an invisible line and become remarkably complex.  I like books that give you something to talk about for long periods of time.  That’s where Hanlon’s easy chapter book comes in.  What do I find distinguished about this story?  I find the emotional resonance and sheer honesty of the enterprise entirely surprising and extraordinary.  And speaking of out-there nominations . . .

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

OnceUponAlphabet Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Face facts.  Jeffers is a risky Caldecott bid, even when he’s at his best.  The man does do original things (This Moose Belongs to Me was probably his best bet since moving to America, though I’d argue that Stuck was the best overall) but his real strength actually lies in his writing.  The man’s brain is twisted in all the right places, so when you see a book as beautifully written as this one you have to forgive yourself for wanting to slap medals all over it, left and right.  A picture book winning a Newbery is not unheard of in this day and age, but it requires a committee that thinks in the same way. I don’t know this year’s committee particularly well.  I can’t say what they will or will not think.  All I do know is that this book deserves recognition.

Let the record show that the ONLY reason I am not including The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos in this list is because it does require a bit of familiarity with the other books in the series.  I struggle with that knowledge since it’s long been a dream of mine to see a Joey Pigza book with the Newbery gold and this is our last possible chance to do just that.  Likewise, I’m not including The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis only because knowledge of Elijah of Buxton makes for a stronger ending to the tale  But both books are true contenders in every other way.

And now for the more difficult discussions (because clearly Newbery is a piece of cake….. hahahahahahahaha!!! <—- maniacal laughter)

2015 Caldecott Predictions


Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean

BadByeGoodBye Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

I only recently discovered that if you take the jacket off of this book and look at it from left to right you get to see the entire story play out, end to end.  What other illustrator goes for true emotion on the bloody blooming jacket of their books?  Bean is LONG overdue for Caldecott love.  He’s gotten Boston Globe-Horn Book love and Ezra Jack Keats Award love but at this moment in time it’s downright bizarre that he hasn’t a Caldecott or two to his name.  Hoping this book will change all that.

A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper

DanceStarlight1 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

I’m sticking with Floyd here.  The man’s paid his dues.  This book does some truly lovely things.  It’s going to have to deal with potentially running into people who just don’t care for his style.  It’s a distinctive one and not found anywhere else, but I know a certain stripe of gatekeeper doesn’t care for it.  It’s also one of three African-American ballerina books this year (Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, ill. Frank Morrison and Firebird by Misty Copeland, ill. Christopher Myers anyone?) but is undeniably the strongest.

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by  Tim O’Meara

VivaFrida 500x500 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

People don’t like it when a book doesn’t fall into their preexisting prescribed notions of what a book should do.  Folks look at the cover and title of this book and think “picture book biography”.  When they don’t get that, they get mad.  I’ve heard complaints about the sparse text and lack of nonfiction elements.  Yet for all that, nobody can say a single word against the art.  “Stunning” only begins to encompass it.  I think that if you can detach your mind from thinking of the book as a story, you do far better with it.  Distinguished art?  You better believe it, baby.

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

ThreeBearsBoat Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Seriously, look me in the eye and explain to me how this isn’t everybody’s #1 Caldecott choice.  Right here.  In the eye.

Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk

GrandfatherGandhi 478x500 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

What can I say that I haven’t said a hundred times before?  I’ve heard vague whines from folks who don’t care for this art style.  *sigh*  It happens.  I’ll just turn everything over to the author for her perspective on the story behind the story then.

Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison

RemyLulu Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

Okay, try to think of a precedent for this one.  Let’s say this book won the Caldecott gold.  That would mark the very first time in the HISTORY  of the award itself that two unmarried artists got a medal for their work, yes?  And yet the book couldn’t exist without the two of them working in tandem.  Remy and Lulu is an excellent example of a book that I dismissed on an initial reading, yet found myself returning to again and again and again later.  And admit it.  The similarities in some ways to Officer Buckle and Gloria can only help it, right?

I don’t think I gave this book adequate attention the first time I read it through.

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, ill. Kenard Pak

HaveYouHeard Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition

I heard an artist once criticize the current trend where picture book illustrators follow so closely in the footsteps of Jon Klassen.  And you could be forgiven for thinking that animator Kenard Pak is yet another one of these.  Yet when you look at this book, this remarkable little piece of nonfiction, you see how the textured watercolors are more than simply Klassen-esque.  Pak’s art is delightful and original and downright keen.  Can you say as much for many other books?

This is one of those years where the books I’m looking at have NOTHING to do with the books that other folks are looking at.  For example, when I look at the list of books being considered at Calling Caldecott, I am puzzled.  Seems to me it would make more sense to mention Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, or Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori (wait . . . she’s Scottish and therefore ineligible?!  Doggone the doggity gones . . .).

For additional thoughts, be sure to check out the Goodreads lists of Newbery 2015 and Caldecott 2015 to see what the masses prefer this year.

So!  What did I miss?

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9. Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

And thus, we end. Though, with such a late ALA Media Awards announcement this year (Monday, February 2nd!) my predictions are coming a bit early in the game.  Still, it’s not as though I’ll be seeing much that’s new between now and 2/2.  I have watched with great interest the discussions on Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott.  I’ve discussed and debated the contenders with folks of all sorts.  I’m eyeing the Mock Caldecotts and Mock Newberys with great fervor as they post their results (and I’m tallying them for my next Pre-Game / Post-Game Show).  I’ve gauged the wind.  Asked the Magic 8 ball.  Basically I’ve done everything in my power to not be to embarrassed when my predictions turn out to be woefully inaccurate.  And they will be.  Particularly in the Caldecott department.  Still, I press on!

I should mention that that throughout the year I mention the books that I think we should all be discussing.  This post is a little different.  It’s the books I think will actually win. Not the ones I want to win necessarily but the books that I think have the best chance. Here then are my thoughts, and may God have mercy on my soul:

Newbery Award

Winner: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

BrownGirlDreaming Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

What was it I wrote in my Fall Prediction Edition?  Ah yes. “This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it.”  Even without the National Book Award brouhaha and the fact that this book is being purchased by everyone from POTUS on down, Jackie would win in this category.  Why the certainty?  Well, I’m a big fan of thematic years.  I like to take the temperature of the times and work from there.  Look back at 2014 and what will we remember?  #WeNeedDiverseBooks for one.  The Newbery committee canNOT take such things into account, but it’s in the air.  They breathe it just like we do and it’s going to affect the decision unconsciously.  It doesn’t hurt matters that this is THE book of the year on top of everything else.  Magnificently written by an author who has deserved the gold for years, I haven’t been this certain of a book’s chances since The Lion and the Mouse (and, before that, When You Reach Me).

Honors: West of the Moon by Margi Preus

WestMoon1 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Not a certainty but what is? It’s just enormously difficult not to appreciate what Preus is doing in this book.  Mind you, my librarians were not entirely taken with it.  Some disliked the heroine too much.  Others found it dense.  And perhaps it is a “librarian book” intended for gatekeepers more than kids, but I cannot look at the title and not see the word “distinguished” floating above it like a Goodyear Blimp.

Honors: Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

BoysBlur Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Also not a sure thing but I think we’d do well to remember it.  Wilson’s one of those guys who drifts just under the radar until BLAMMO!  Amazing book.  Read the first page of this book all by itself.  Right there, he’s got you.  I can’t help but keep thinking about it.  I try to bring up other potential winners, but again and again I turn to this one.  Zombie Beowulf.  It’s about time.

Honors: The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

14thgoldfish Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Hm. Tricksy. Jenni has this magnificent ability to accrue Honor after Honor after Honor.  I’m not seeing gold written all over this book (that’s a lie . . . the gold would complement the blue of the cover so well and fit on the left side of the neck of the beaker, don’t you think?) but it’s a contender.  Committees adore her writing, and why not? She’s one of the best.  Newbery Honor best?  I’m going to say yes.

Wild Card: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

FamilyRomanov Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

YA but not too YA.  Certainly pushes the old 0-14 age range, but still a beaut.  With Brown Girl Dreaming as well, we might end up with a very strong nonfiction Newbery year (and won’t Common Core be pleased with that?).  Mind you, if I hesitate to predict this as an Honor it has more to do with the fact that my heart was broken when Candy didn’t receive any award love for her brilliant Amelia Lost  biography.  Shouldawonshouldawonshouldawonshouldawon . . .

Wild Card: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

NightGardener Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Doll Bones Honored so why not another creepy little middle grade book?  Auxier pulls out all the stops here and is seriously literary in the process.  Is it distinguished?  Yep.  There’s serious heart and guts and other portions of the anatomy at work here.  It’s a smart book but appealing too.  Never downplay child appeal.  It’s worth considering.

Wild Card: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

riverman Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

It’s probably a good sign when you can’t stop thinking about a book, right?  Again, we’re pushing up against the upper limits of the age restriction on Newbery Award winners here, but the book is worth it.  Objections I’ve heard lobbed against it say that Alexander doesn’t sound like a kid.  Well . . . actually, he’s not supposed to but you don’t really find that out until the second book.  So does that trip up the first one’s chances?  Maybe, but at least it’s consistent.  The objection that Aquavania isn’t realistic enough of a fantasy world would hold more weight if I thought it really WAS a fantasy world, but I don’t.  I think it’s all in the characters’ heads.  So my weird self-justifications seem to keep this one in the mix.  The only questions is, am I the only one?

Wild Card: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Crossover Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t even seriously considered this one until a friend of mine brought it up this weekend.  And OF COURSE it’s a contender!  I mean just look at that language.  It sizzles on the page.  I’m more than a little peeved that he didn’t garner a NAACP Image Award nomination for this title.  If he wins something it’s going to make them look pretty dang silly, that’s for sure.  They nominated Dork Diaries 8 and not THIS?!?  Okay, rant done.  In the end it’s brilliant and, amazingly enough, equally beloved of YA and children’s librarians.  The Crossover is a crossover title.  Who knew?

By the way, am I the only one with a shelf in my home of 2014 books that have Newbery potential and that I don’t want to read but am holding onto just in case I have to read them?  They ain’t gonna Moon Over Manifest me this year, by gum!  I am prepared!

Caldecott Award

Winner: Draw by Raul Colon

Draw Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Betcha you didn’t see that one coming, eh?  But honestly, I think this is where we’re heading.  First off, this isn’t one of my favorites of the year.  I’m just not making the emotional connection with it that I’d like to.  My favorite Colon of 2014?  Abuelo by Arthur Dorros.  But no one’s talking about that one (more fool they).  No, they like this one and as I’ve watched I’ve seen it crop up on more and more Best Of lists.  Then I sat down and thought about it.  Raul Colon.  It’s ridiculous that he doesn’t have a Caldecott Gold to his name.  He’s one of the masters of the field and this could easily be a case of the committee unconsciously thinking, “Thank God! Now we can give the man an award!”  We haven’t had a Latin American gold winner since David Diaz’s Smoky Night (talk about a book tied to its time period).  It just makes perfect sense.  Folks love it, it’s well done, and it could rise to the top.

Honors: The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

FarmerClown 500x406 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Again, not one of my favorites.  I love Marla Frazee and acknowledge freely that though I don’t get this book, I seem to be the only one who doesn’t (my husband berates me repeatedly for my cold cold heart regarding this title).  I mean, I absolutely adore the image of the little clown washing the smile off of his face, revealing his true feelings.  So since I’ve apparently a gear stuck in my left aorta, I’m going to assume that this is a book that everyone else sees clearly except me.  It could go gold, of course.  It seems to have an emotional hold on people and books with emotional holds do very well in the Caldecott race sometimes.  We shall see.

Honors: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean

BadByeGoodBye Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Could be wishful thinking on my part, but look at the book jacket, man.  Look at how it tells the entire story.  Look at his technique.  Isn’t it marvelous?  Look at how it’s not just an emotional journey but a kind of road trip through Americana as well.  Look at how he took this spare sparse text and gave it depth and feeling and meaning.  That is SERIOUSLY hard to do with another author’s work!!  Look at how beautiful it is and the emotionally satisfying (and accurate) beats.  Look upon its works, ye mighty, and despair.  Or give it a Caldecott Honor.  I’m easy.

Honors: Viva, Frida by Yuyi Morales

VivaFrida 500x500 Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Admittedly it’s not a shoo-in.  In fact I’m a bit baffled that it didn’t show up on the recent list by Latinas for Latino Lit called Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2014.  There are admittedly some folks who want this to be a biography and have a hard time dealing with the fact that that is not its raison d’etre.  Still others aren’t blown away by the text.  That said, we’re not looking at the text.  We’re looking at the imagery and the imagery is STUNNING.  I mean, it could win the gold easily, don’t you think?  Models and photography and two-dimensional art?  Yuyi Morales should have won a Caldecott years ago.  I think it’s finally time to give the woman some love.

Wild Card: Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

ThreeBearsBoat Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

“I still . . . I still, beeelieeeve!!!!”  Okay. So maybe it’s just me.  But when I sit down and I look and look and look at that image of the three little bears sailing into the sun with the light reflected off the water . . . *sigh*  It’s amazing.  I heard a very odd objection from someone saying that the bears don’t always look the same age from spread to spread.  Bull.  Do so.  Therein ends my very coherent defense.  It’s my favorite and maybe (probably) just mine, but I love it so much that I can’t give it up.  I just can’t.

Wild Card: Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

NeighborhoodSharks Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

Because how cool would it frickin’ be?  Few have looked at this book and considered it for a Caldecott, but that’s just because they’re not looking at it correctly.  Consider the cinematic imagery.  The downright Hitchcockian view of the seal up above where YOU are the shark below.  The two page attack!  The beauty of blood in the water.  I mean, it’s gorgeous and accurate all at once.  I don’t think anyone’s giving the woman enough credit.  Give it a second glance, won’t you?

And that’s it!  There are loads and loads of titles missing from this list.  The actual winners, perhaps.  But I’m feeling confident that I’ve nailed at least a couple of these.  We shall see how it all falls out soon enough.  See you in February!!

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10. Caldecott Award: Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner | 2015

Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner The most distinguished American picture book for children, announced by the American Library Association.

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11. 2015 Caldecott Awards: a terrific range & selection of books!!! (ages 4-14, yes really!!)

This year's Caldecott Committee broke boundaries by including a graphic novel for young teens among their seven (7!!) books awarded honors. This selection of picture books, meaning books told with and through pictures, serves a wide range of children -- from preschoolers who will adore Dan Santat's Beekle, to teens who are the perfect audience for Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's graphic novel This One Summer.

Before I get any further, if you're considering This One Summer for your child, please learn about it before you order it. I genuinely recommend this for kids who are 13 and 14, but not for elementary students. Skip down to the end if you're specifically looking for information about this book.

The 2015 Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American picture book goes to:

Dan Santat, the author and illustrator of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. This delightful story has charmed our young students at Emerson, with Santat's special message about loneliness, imagination and finding your own special, true friend.

My students are huge fans of Dan Santat's and will be thrilled to see this picture book, which comes so much from Dan's heart, honored and celebrated. Dan truly captures so much of what children value in this world -- playfulness, fun and friendship with an incredible eye and vivid imagination. Perfect for preschoolers, but enjoyed by older kids as well (ages 3-9).

Six (!!) Caldecott Honor Awards were given:

Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo, captures the relationship between a young boy and his grandmother, as she helps him overcome his fears by listening, understanding and helping him. I especially love how his nana never scolds him, but rather emotionally comes to where this little guy is. Another truly special book, perfect for kids ages 3-6.

The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary GrandPré and written by Barb Rosenstock, conveys the way abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors. It's fascinating--this picture book biography didn't appeal to me right away (I brought too many grown-up questions to it), but my 5th grader found it fascinating and the art captivating. Kandinsky listens as “swirling colors trill…like an orchestra tuning up,” and GrandPré shows him lifting his paintbrush much like a conductor. A fascinating intersection of art and music, for ages 6-10.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett, is another huge kid favorite at Emerson precisely because it makes kids laugh and wonder at the same time. Sam and Dave are indeed digging a whole, as you can see on the cover, and they are determined not to stop until they find "something spectacular." What I love best about it is the respect Klassen and Barnett have for kids who love to puzzle over things and think about questions that don't have easy answers, or necessarily ANY answers. They're totally comfortable with that uncertainty, something grownups often forget. Kids from 4 to 10 have loved this.

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, made me gasp in wonder the very first time I saw it -- and it's had the same effect on children and adults alike. Just look at the colors on the cover -- but then open, and you enter the dreamlike world that Morales creates, combining handmade puppets and carefully crafted stage sets. Morales conveys a sense of an artists' world, and how one artist infuses another artists' dreams and spirit. While this isn't a biography at all, it is an incredible testament to the artistic spirit that appeals to the very young as well as older readers who can put it into more context (ages 3-12).

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant. I adore this utterly splendid book that tells the life of Peter Roget and the creation of his thesaurus. Sweet uses playful illustrations to draw children into young Peter's life, showing them how he loved lists of words and discovered that words had power, especially when gathered together and organized in interesting ways. This is a book children will enjoy pouring over again and again, noticing more details each time. I particularly love showing kids (ages 6-10) the ways science, language and art intersect.

This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki. This fantastic graphic novel eloquently captures young teens on the cusp of adolescence, as they spend the summer together. For the first time, the Caldecott Committee said, YES, the illustrations in a graphic novel is a true form of art, one that is vitally essential to the story. It is utterly ground-breaking and I am so happy.

This book speaks to young teens about the way friendships change as they enter the murky waters of adolescence. Rose is so happy to spend the summer once again with her friend Windy, but she rejects many of their past activities as too childish and yearns to mimic the older teens in this beach town. I like the way Kirkus sums it up: "The realistic dialogue and sensitive first-person narration convey Rose’s naïveté and confusion, and Windy’s comfort in her own skin contrasts with Rose’s uncertainty." Teen pregnancy, gossip and a parent's depression all wind their way through this story. I've found it speaks well to young teens, ages 13-15.

Please seek out and share these books with kids in your life. They are each truly special. Early review copies were kindly sent by the publishers Little, Brown, Random House, Candlewick, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan and Eerdmans. We have purchased additional copies for our school library and classrooms, and we will continue purchasing more for gifts. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Summer Prediction Edition

The Summer Prediction edition of my Caldecott/Newbery ponderings is always a tricky beast.  If the spring edition is looking primarily at books coming out in the spring, summer, and early fall, then the summer edition is looking at almost the entire year. However, at this point I’m still relying more on buzz than the considered opinions of colleagues and friends.  Once we get to the fall edition I’ll have heard a lot of debates surrounding the books up for consideration and I’ll have a better sense of what folks feel about them.  Until then, here’s what I’ve seen this year that I think deserves a closer look.

2016 Caldecott Predictions:

Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

boatsforpapaSo this is a bit of a strange inclusion on my part, but you’ll get a hint of the background on this book from this recent Seven Impossible Things profile of the book and Ms. Bagley.

Here is my thinking on the matter.  When we hand a book a Caldecott, we say we’re doing it to celebrate the art.  I understand that.  I get that.  But if we’re being honest, the books that win are the ones that really reached into our chests, grabbed our hearts, and had the gall to make them pump a little harder.  Boats for Papa has the 2015 distinction of being The Official Weeper of the Year.  Which is to say, it makes folks cry.  A lot.  And YET it is not a Love You Forever situation where the writing is clearly for adults rather than kids.  So Ms. Bagley is to be commended for the text.  The artistic style, I admit here and now, is not for me.  But when you are a children’s librarian you must let go of your own personal prejudices towards one style of art or another (if I had my way every Caldecott would go to Sebastian Meschmenmoser, regardless of citizenship or whether or not he has a book out in a given year).  And while the style of Ms. Bagley is not to my own taste, I believe that in terms of conveying the storyline, the characters, and the heart of the writing, it does a stellar job.  Still, I’d be interested to hear how other feel about it all.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez


This is the book I most regretted not mentioning the last time I did a prediction post.  I’ve admired Mr. Lopez’s work for years (and honestly feel that The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred deserved far more attention than it ever received).  This book is one of those tricky little amalgamations of fact and fiction that will end up in the picture book section of the library while still managing to be CCSS aligned, to some degree.  I read it to my three-year-old and she was astonished at the idea that girls could ever be told they couldn’t do anything.  Plus it’s just so beautiful.  The art is the man’s best work.  I’d love to see this get a little attention.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall


A straighter nonfiction title.  Sometimes I wonder if the amount of background a Caldecott committee hears about a book affects their thinking come award time.  Perhaps not.  After all, I once attended a pre-ALA Youth Media Award lunch that feted some Caldecott committee members and was showing off books like Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, The Dark, and Pinkney’s The Grasshopper and the Ants.  None of whom won a thing.  Now if you knew the background behind Ms. Blackall’s art for Finding Winnie, you’d see how meticulous her work is on the book.  Yet even without that knowledge the book is a beauty.  The endpapers.  The red sunrise with the ships sailing to England.  The shot of a man, his bear, and Stonehenge itself.  Oh, it’s a contender.

In a Village By the Sea by Muon Van. Illustrated by April Chu


Periodically debut illustrators receive Honors (and, once in a great while, awards proper).  I know I keep harping on this book but I just think what the illustrator did to complement the text is just so darn brilliant.  It rewards multiple readings.  Sure, it may be a dark horse contender, but it’s a strong one just the same.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. Illustrated by Christian Robinson


It was a little surprising to me how many marketing dollars were placed behind this particular book.  Robinson has traipsed mighty close to award territory in the past.  With this book he may not be paying a direct homage to Ezra Jack Keats but that was certainly the flavor I detected emanating from the pages.  Even after all these months of seeing it I’m still having difficulty piecing my thoughts about it together.  All I know is that it’s worthy of discussion.

The Marvels written & illustrated by Brian Selznick


This could just as easily fit on the Newbery Prediction category but since Hugo Cabret won a Caldecott lo these many years ago, this could walk a similar line.  Separating itself into a wordless series of pictures in its first half and a text only novel in the second, it may be an even harder sell to the committee than Cabret was.  Particularly since the text both within and outside of the pictures is sometimes the only thing that gives them form and function and meaning.  But it’s rather remarkable, and committees have a way of rewarding books for that very quality.

The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle


Cut paper is a difficult art.  Again, we’ve a debut on our hands, and in judging the book one must determine how much credit to hand to the quality of the paper being used (which, as you can see, is rather luminous) and how much to the actual cuttings.  To my mind, this book is pretty much without parallel.  Just amazing.

Night World by Mordecai Gerstein


Much of the reception to this book is going to hinge on how well people react to the ways in which Gerstein has painted pre-dawn light.  One point in its favor: It contains a true moment of awe.  When the dawn arrives it’s a jaw dropper of a moment.  That’s what you want in an award winner.

Water Is Water by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Jason Chin


One might rightly ask, why this Chin of all Chins?  After all, it’s not as though Jason hasn’t been making similarly stunning books for years.  The fact that he’s never gotten award love (at least in the Caldecott area of things) is a problem.  I find that sometimes award committees have difficulty rewarding realism that isn’t surrealism (Wiesner wins awards but James Ransome, for example, does not).  Here, Chin brings to life this infinitely simple, but incredibly clever, explanation for very young children of the water cycle in its different forms.  And he does so with his customary beauty and skill.  It’s worth considering at the very least.

The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski


I’ve mentioned this one before with the note that I’m not usually a fan of Zagarenski’s work.  And though I’ve seen that some folks don’t enjoy the storyline quite as much as I do, I’m going to keep this one the list.  Of Zagarenski’s work (she is quite fond of floating crowns, you know), I do think this is her best.  And if her previous books have won Caldecotts then ipso facto . . .

2016 Newbery Predictions:

Caldecott predictions are generally much easier to include on lists of this sort than Newbery predictions because reading a picture book takes all of 5 minutes, max (unless we’re discussing the aforementioned The Marvels, and then God help your soul).  This year I’ve found a lot of books to love but few to seriously consider in this category.  However, there were a few exceptions:

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley


Let it be known that hype makes me wary.  Exceedingly wary.  So when I walked into a Penguin preview earlier this year and found they’d decked themselves all out in a circus-themed hullabaloo my warning signals lit right up.  And sure, author Cassie Beasley was charming with her Georgian ways.  Yet she read a passage from this book that would have had a lot more impact if I’d read the book already.  So I put it off, and put it off, and all the while my fellow librarians were reading it and telling me in no uncertain terms that it was remarkable.  I finally picked it up to read it.  The verdict?  It really is lovely!  See my interview piece on Ms. Beasley about the difficulty in writing a non-creepy circus for more info.  I also recommended it at Redbook, so win a copy here if you’re curious.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


I’m still pondering this one, months and months after I read it.  I think the supernatural element didn’t really need to be there since the three stories stand perfectly well on their own together.  But I can also tell you that every detail of this book has been etched into my memory.  And if you’ve any acquaintance with said memory, you’d understand why this must be a remarkable book.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


I had to do some research with my fellow librarians on this one before I could include it here.  Not because it isn’t good.  There is a vibrant undercurrent of truth running so strongly beneath this narrative that it almost hurts to read.  The relationships between the three sisters is one-of-a-kind and powerful.  In fact, if you’ve some free time in NYC on Saturday, August 1st we’re going to have a Children’s Literary Salon discussion between Jeanne Birdsall and Rita Williams-Garcia on their series and how it is to write about sisters.

At any rate, I had to determine whether or not the book stood on its own.  I’ve read the first two books, so I was in no place to judge.  So I handed it to some children’s librarians that had never read One Crazy Summer or P.S. Be Eleven.  Their verdict?  It works very well without prior knowledge of the previous books.  Which means, it’s a true literary contender.

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead


I’m just looking forward to the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet where all they serve (once this wins the award) is cinnamon toast and vanilla milkshakes.  We’ve hashed the middle school vs. YA elements of this book before, so I’ve no particular desire to do it again here.  I will say, however, that if Stead wins it may be the first time in the history of the award that the Newbery goes to a literary agent.

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower by Greg Pizzoli

TrickyVicActually, I debated placing this in the Caldecott category.  After all, Pizzoli did a rather remarkable job of finding a way to keep his subject anonymous but still visible from page one onward.  Yet it is the writing I think about when I consider the book.  Synthesizing a single man’s life and turning it into a child-friendly narrative is no mean feat.  Pizzoli did it with great cheer and fervor.  A nonfiction title that deserves some Newbery love.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


My continuing to include this book in the ranking may be due in part to affection more than anything else.  Still, I can’t help but think this has all the right elements in place.  If kids can get past the cover (a detriment to getting even my staunchest librarians to read it) they’ll be amply rewarded.

Honorable Ineligible Mentions

Every year I read a couple books that I think should win Newbery or Caldecott awards.  Yet, for one reason or another, they are ineligible.  Here are my favorite ineligible books I’ve read in 2015 thus far.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel. Illustrated by Jon Klassen


How have I not reviewed this book yet?  To my mind it’s the strangest, most wonderful, creeeeeeeeeepy book of 2015.  If Oppel wasn’t so inconveniently Canadian we’d be having a very serious debate about this book.  By the way – apparently Canadians can serve on the Newbery committee but cannot win the award.  How is that fair?  I demand new standards, doggone it!

Pax by Sara Pennypacker. Illustrated by Jon Klassen


The bad news is that this book is ineligible for a Newbery in 2015.  The good news is that this book is eligible for a Newbery in 2016.  Once you read it you’ll be convinced of its worthiness.  That said, how is it that Jon Klassen keeps getting to illustrate all the best novels?  Did he sacrifice a cow to the book jacket gods?  Or is it just that the man has exquisite taste?  Hmm.

This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary. Illustrated by Julie Morstad


Canadian.  Again.  Morstad has also illustrated Laurel Snyder’s Swan, which could also have been up for consideration.  I’m very pleased that folks are finally discovering Julie Morstad, by the way.  I still think her board book The Swing is just one of the best out there.

That’s all she wrote, folks!  I read most of your suggestions last time so if I missed something it may not have been accidental.  That said, I know I’ve not read everything out there.  What are your favorites thus far?


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13. NonFiction for Black History Month

Booklist provides information on the TOP 10 BOOKS FOR YOUTH for Black History Month.

Another title to add to this list, especially for younger readers, is this year's Caldecott Honor winner and Coretta Scott King Award: DAVE THE POTTER: Artist, Potter, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill & Bryan Collier. This biography explores the life of a 19th century slave, master potter, and poet.

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14. Architects of Memories

Wells, Rosemary and Secundino Fernandez. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood. Illus. by Peter Ferguson. Candlewick, 2010. Ages 8-12.

Memories can move us forward or backward, depending on how we use them. My Havana: Memories of a Cuban Boyhood evokes the intensity of one child’s connection to his home in 1950s Havana. Prolific children’s book author Rosemary Wells once heard a radio interview with the Cuban-American architect Secundino Fernandez and years later located Fernandez and worked with him to produce this resonant little historical novel burnished with hope and light.

Secundino, or Dino, relishes his city avenues “lined with coral-stone archways, ancient doors, and window frames painted bright as birds-of-paradise.” As twilight arrives, neighbors begin their checker games, and the cafes fill with people. Dino loves to sketch the buildings, with their porticoes and marble columns. The first time Dino leaves the city of his heart, he crosses the Atlantic to spend time with his grandparents in Spain. When he finally returns home, he expects to stay. Dictators — first Batista, then Castro — take over, though, and the family abandons their restaurant to join relatives in New York City.

So homesick in this dark and dreary new environment, Dino relies on his memory to recreate his beloved Havana in the confines of his bedroom. With great care, he cuts out cardboard to represent its archways, balconies and cafes. Aluminum foil glued to plywood and glazed with blue nail varnish becomes a sparkling turquoise harbor. The double-spread illustration depicting the imaginative boy, scissors in hand, beautifully captures his resourceful nature. The novel closes with Dino adapting to his new world: “New York sunlight, shimmering with the promise of summer, settles round my shoulders like the arms of my mother. It is almost like my Havana.” This brief novel would brighten units on immigration, Cuba, or architecture.

Macaulay, David. Built to Last. Houghton Mifflin, 2010. Ages 9 and up.

In my decade as a school librarian, I often watched children poring over Macaulay’s remarkable architecture books. Rather than merely compiling his acclaimed books, Castle, Cathedral, and Mosque, Macaulay has created new colored illustrations, revised the text, and clarified some explanations.

While some might still long for the previously published cross-hatched illustrations, Macaulay’s changes enhance the reader’s experience of the architecture of the past. He ushers us into his Castle, for instance, with a double-spread illustration of a purple-robed king surveying a map, with pawns awaiting strategic placement. The castle Macaulay highlights is imagined but based on castles built for the conquest of Wales between 1277 and 1305, His interesting perspectives of the workers and how they go about building still capture the hearts of readers, young and old. In Cathedral, Macaulay was inspired by the 13th-century Gothic cathedrals of France. It’s hard to resist sharing Macaulay’s passion for the plans, methods and tools used by those builders “whose towering dreams still stand today.” Finally, the least changed a

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15. Love It to Death BUT It’ll Never Win a Caldecott

Okay, here’s a thought for you.  Perhaps this is a conversation better suited to Calling Caldecott but I’ve been thinking about those picture books that folks love in a given year but that they know in their heart of hearts will never win a Caldecott Award.  And not because their illustrators aren’t American residents, but because there’s just something about the books that don’t feel Caldecottish.

Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back at my past Caldecott predictions in previous years I look at the titles I loved that didn’t get any attention and I sigh.  These have included:

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley

A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Michael Wertz

Dinotrux by Chris Gall

Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young

One Beetle Too Many by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure


My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The Boys by Jeff Newman

Oh No! by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat

At one time or another I thought all of these had a chance, but somehow they didn’t.  Now I look at this year’s crop of books and some that I adore I know for a fact will never get a chance. A person can always be surprised, of course.  Still, is there any picture book you’ve seen this year that is made of awesome but that you’re 99.9% certain won’t win an ALA accredited award?

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16. Newbery / Caldecott / Etc. 2012: Post Awards Edition

Since it’s apparently football season (or at least that’s what the trending topics on Twitter seem to imply) think of this as a kind of post-game recap of what went on yesterday in the land of ALA Media Awards.  Each year I like to look at what I got right, what I got wrong, what I got horrendously wrong, and what I got so wrong that it’s a miracle I’m even allowed to blog anymore.  And because I believe in eating my cake before my dinner, we’ll start at the top and work our way down (metaphorically speaking).

First up:

Newbery Winners: I Got Them Moves Like Gantos

When I posted my review of The Great Cake Mystery yesterday and happened to include at the end an image of Dead End in Norvelt: British Edition (called just plain old Dead End and shown here) I hadn’t even considered the possibility that the darn book was poised to win the greatest honor in the field of children’s literature.  Why had I recovered from my Gantos fever?  Well, I think Jon Scieszka put it best yesterday when he tweeted his congrats to Jack and applied the hashtag #afunnybookfinallywins.  Ye gods.  He’s right.  I ran over to ye olde list of past Award winners and while some contain elements of humor, none of them have been as outright ballsy in their funny writing as Gantos was here.  I mean, you can make a case for Despereaux or Bud Not Buddy if you want, but basically even those books drip of earnestness.  And on some level I must have figured the funny book couldn’t win.  I had forgotten myself the moniker I had applied to this year.  The Year of Breaking Barriers.  Well if giving a big award to a funny title isn’t breaking a barrier here or there, I don’t know what is.

It’s really funny to read my mid-year and fall predictions in regards to the Gantos title.  In the middle of the year I mentioned the book as a possibility but even then I wasn’t putting too much hope there.  I wrote:

This is undoubtedly wishful thinking on my part.  Gantos has never gotten the gold, and he deserves it someday.  This book, of course, has a weird undercurrent to it that may turn off a certain breed of Newbery committee member.  Not everyone is going to find Jack’s constant brushes with death as interesting as I do.  Still, I hold out hope that maybe this’ll be a Gantos-luvin’ committee year.  Stranger things have happened.

Stranger indeed.  By the fall I was mentioning it, but only in passing and with the feeling that it was an unlikely bet so that by my last prediction it had fallen off the radar entirely.

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17. Sydney Taylor Book Award: honoring books that portray Jewish experiences

Every year, I am excited to see the books selected for the Sydney Taylor Book Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award "honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience." This award is in honor of Sydney Taylor, author of The All-of-a-Kind Family, a classic series about an immigrant Jewish family in New York City in the early 1900s.

I'd like to highlight a few books from their list this year that particularly struck me as having wonderful appeal to children and families:

Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 7 - 10
2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers
available at your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda are honored with the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights, an intricate cut paper pop-up book that celebrates Jewish history and the Chanukah holiday. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”
Naamah and the Ark at Night
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
illustrations by Holly Meade
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 4 - 8
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
As Noah’s wif

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18. Fusenews: Gleep!

Durn.  This is what I get for not doing a Fusenews in a while.  A whole plethora of good stuff!  Let’s see what we can use up in a single day, eh?

For the record, if you haven’t read these Hunger Games comics (in the style of Kate Beaton, no?) then now’s the time.  They’re surprisingly good.

Good old poetry month.  From spine poems to 30 Poets / 30 Days the celebrations are magnificent.  Go ye, seek out and find.

  • I won’t normally link to podcasts but this recent Scriptnotes that covers how a screenwriter options a novel he wants to adapt includes a discussion of older children’s books that were considered for screen adaptation.  FYI!
  • On the one hand they’re 9 Barbies Based on Books.  On the other hand, if that Edward doesn’t sparkle and glow in the dark then I hope the people who purchased him got their money back.  Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.
  • When I worked the reference desk I got a lot of Stumpers.  Folks would ask me to come up with a beloved book from their childhood and I would try to figure it out.  If I couldn’t find it I’d take down all their information and ask PUBYAC on their behalf.  If that didn’t work I’d suggest Loganberry Books, even though they charge money.  Would that I had known about Whatsthatbook.com.  A free site where folks post their stumpers and other folks answer them, it’s pretty cool.  Sometimes I just like hearing the wacky descriptions. Current favorite: “Young girl reading to an older lady, girl almost gets caught in quicksand”.  I hate it when that happens.
  • Hello, under-a-rock denizens.  J.K. Rowling’s newest book is going to be released.  Hope you like community politics!!!
  • Do Childish People Write Better Children’s Books? Dude, if you want to walk up to Maurice Sendak and inform him that he is childish, be my guest.  I’m just gonna go hide behind this sturdy concrete pillar over here until the spatter of your remains stops with the spattering.
  • Stealing books from publishers is nothing new, but there’s something particularly slimy about doing it during the Bologna Book Fair

    6 Comments on Fusenews: Gleep!, last added: 4/19/2012
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19. Fusenews: Answer – The Horse

The laptop of my infinite sadness continues to remain broken which wrecks a certain special kind of havoc with my gray cells.  To distract myself, I plunge headlong into the silliest news of the week.  Let’s see if there’s anything here to console a battered Bird brain (something tells me that didn’t come out sounding quite right…).

  • The best news of the day is that Matthew Kirby was the recent winner of the Edgar Award for Best Mystery in the juvenile category for his fabuloso book Icefall.  My sole regret is that it did not also win an Agatha Award for “traditional mystery” in the style of Agatha Christie.  Seems to me it was a shoo-in.  I mean, can you think of any other children’s book last year that had such clear elements of And Then There Were None?  Nope.  In any case, Rocco interviews the two winners (the YA category went to Dandi Daley Mackall) here and here.
  • It’s so nice when you find a series on Facebook and then discover it has a website or blog equivalent in the “real world” (howsoever you choose to define that term).  The Underground New York Public Library name may sound like it’s a reference to our one and only underground library (the Andrew Heiskell branch, in case you were curious) but it’s actually a street photography site showing what New Yorkers read on the subways.  Various Hunger Games titles have made appearances as has Black Heart by Holly Black and some other YA/kid titles.  Just a quick word of warning, though.  It’s oddly engaging.  You may find yourself flipping through the pages for hours.
  • A reprint of Roger Sutton’s 2010 Ezra Jack Keats Lecture from April 2011 has made its way online.  What Hath Harry Wrought? puts the Harry Potter phenomenon in perspective now that we’ve some distance.  And though I shudder to think that Love You Forever should get any credit for anything ever (growl grumble snarl raspberry) what Roger has to say here is worthy of discussion.
  • And in my totally-not-surprised-about-this department… From Cynopsis Kids:

“Fox Animation acquires the feature film rights to the kid’s book The Hero’s Guide to Saving your Kingdom, per THR. A fairy tale mashup by first-time author by Christopher Healy and featuring illustrations by Todd Harris, revolves around the four princes from Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty. Chernin Entertainment (Rise of Planet of the Apes) is set to produce the movie. Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins Children’s Books release The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (432 pages) today.”

If y’all haven’t read The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your King

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20. Newbery / Caldecott 2013: The Fall Prediction Edition

A little late but still got it out before the end of October and the imminent arrival of Frankenstorm.  I spent a goodly part of yesterday preparing for the hurricane by baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.  Now you know where my priorities lie.

The year has passed like a blur and there’s an interesting consistency to the books being discussed for Newberys and Caldecotts.  Newberys anyway.  This may be an entirely Wild Card Caldecott year as far as I can tell.  There are no sure fire winners.  Only worthy contestants.  Let’s begin!

Newbery 2013

The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds – I stand by this one.  It was weird when I put it on my last prediction list and weirder still that I’ve not removed it.  But the fact of the matter is that when we think of the word “distinguished” and apply it to writing, Leeds’ book stands up time and time again.  If you haven’t read it yet, I think you’ll have to grab yourself a copy and take a gander.  Shield thine eyes against the brown-ness of the book jacket and enjoy the stellar writing.  Yes, it’s a wild card, but such a lovely fun one.

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin – In spite of having one of the more difficult names to remember, I think this is my current front runner.  Yep.  I think we’ve got a gold medal winner on our hands.  It isn’t just the fact that it’s better than its predecessor (which won an Honor back in the day).  It’s the fact that Lin seamlessly weaves her folktales into the narrative in such a way that you half suspect she made them up (she didn’t).  It’s the fact that the writing is cyclical, referring back to itself and to the characters both telling and listening to the story.  It’s the fact that it’s masterful.  Nuff said.

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed – My pet beloved, and STILL it is not out yet.  Is there any way to curse a book more than to release it in November?  Talk is minimal about it, though it has gotten starred reviews already and Travis Jonker gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up over at 100 Scope Notes.  Consider this one the stealth contestant.  Nobody will see it coming . . .

Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Normally when a book breaks as early as this one did in the year it is either forgotten or less discussed by the year’s end.  Not the case with Wonder.  This is a case of a book coming out in the right place at the right time.  It managed to simultaneously touch people on an emotional level, wow them on a literary one, and (most important of all?) it falls under the sway of the current Anti-Bullying craze sweeping the nation.  Whole schools are adopting it as their One Book reads.  I had a discussion with someone the other day about how many award winners win simply because of timing.  Could Smoky Night by David Diaz or The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein (or even Johnny Tremain for that matter) have done so well if they hadn’t be published precisely when they were?  By the same token, Wonder at least has a VERY good chance at a Newbery honor.  Note that it didn’t make it onto the National Book Award finalists, though.  That may be why I’m not so sure of its gold chances.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker – If the book is sunk by anything at this point it may be the ending.  Not the happiness found there, mind.  I was a-okay with all of that.  Rather, the lack of attention the press takes in the story and the mildest of mild slaps on the wrist to the characters.  Still, in terms of character development this is maybe the strongest children’s novel of the year.

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz – Shaking off the rather ridiculous notion that the book is boring (how much more blood would it take to be exciting exactly?) what has surprised me time and time again about this book is the reaction from patrons and librarians.  I expected to be the one lonely voice howling in the wind about its loveliness.  Instead I find myself just an average alto in a very large chorus.  Nina at Heavy Medals thinks it’s a love it or hate it title, but I have been surprised at how few folks I’ve run across dislike it or think it’s anything less than fantastic.  I recently did a Wolves of Willoughby Chase event and when asked who is akin to Joan Aiken, Ms. Schlitz’s name popped immediately to mind.  For writing alone, this should win something.

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin – Just as folks like Jonathan Hunt have their own tendencies when they talk about potential winners (he pushes YA, nonfiction, and easy/picture books) my personal bugaboo is the YA novel that wins a Newbery.  The award goes until the age of 14 so, technically, many is the book that could win.  However, I’ve always disliked it when a book meant for an older audience wins the day.  We have the Printz and though it does not receive the same press as the Newbery, I feel it covers the tween crowd quite nicely.  There are always exceptions, which is why I’m not exactly sitting down to rewrite the Newbery criteria.  Case in point, Bomb.  What I love about this is that while it does have an older audience in mind, the content is the kind of thing I’ve had many many 10, 11 and 12-year-olds asking me for over the years.  They want bomb info.  This book delivers and, amazing as it is to say, Jonathan actually agrees with me on this one.  Wowzer!

Crow by Barbara Wright – I have a co-worker with a near supernatural sense of ALA Award winners.  A year ago she kept harkening back to A Ball for Daisy.  Kept saying how worthy it was and how the wordless sequences really put it over the top.  This year she’s been getting the same feeling about Crow.  I will admit to you that it took a long time for me to pick this Reconstruction-era tale up but when I finished I was glad that I did.  It is worthy?  No question.  What may sink it is the question of kid-friendly reading.  Technically this is not a serious consideration on the part of the Newbery committee, but it’s still something they take into account.  Then again, my co-worker is so rarely wrong . . .

Not Mentioned (and why!):

  • The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate – I was very fond of this one but I’m not sure if I’m ready to stick my flag into it and declare it a whole new world. It does some great things and like Wonder is very timely (the real Ivan died this year). Trouble is, it relies on a plot point that I’ve heard contested in more than one circle, so I’m not sure if it will get all that far.
  • The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine – I was actually a big fan of this one. Really well done. Just didn’t quite have that little extra something to make it a Newbery.
  • No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson – Too YA.  Though if we consider the sheer lack of multiculturalism this year I’d be more than happy to have it seriously considered.
  • Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead – Love the book but I’m not sure of its long term staying power. A good one to be aware of in any case.
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage – I adore it but this has turned out to be a hugely divisive book. Please, oh please, dear sweet committee, prove me wrong!


(this kind of thing is so much easier to do when the New York Times Best Illustrated List has already come out)

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead – In a year that could conceivably be considered Stead vs. Stead vs. Stead (this, Phil’s A Home for Bird, and the duo’s Bear Has a Story to Tell) of all the Steadifying of 2012 this book remains my favorite.  It’s not just Fogliano’s delightful but careful and subdued writing.  It’s how Ms. Stead has chosen to portray the sheer swaths of time left waiting for something to grow in the spring.  This is a book about restraint (a notion foreign to most small children).  Let us hope the committee is not the least bit restrained and gives is a glorious little award.

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder – As a woman who spent her young adult life certain that she would become a professional photographer (ah, crazed youth) my heart is still firmly in the court of photography.  There is, naturally, the question of whether or not a book complemented by photographs constitutes “illustration”.  In the fine art world photography has always been pooh-poohed as a lesser art, and some of that prejudice slips down even to the world of children’s literature.  Indeed, no work of pure photography has ever won a Caldecott (the only near exception being Knuffle Bunny’s mix of photos and images).  Certainly I always thought that if any photographer got such an award it would have to be Nic Bishop.  If it happened to go to Rick Lieder instead, however, I would not mind a jot.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen – The last time I mentioned my predictions I failed to include this little gem.  The response from the artists out there was a universal cry of support.  Mr. Klassen is very big amongst his fellows.  That being said, there is some concern that the heroine of this book does not hold her knitting needles correctly. I can’t seem to find my copy but if true then this could potentially disqualify the book.  FYI.

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – I refer you now to Lolly Robinson’s discussion at Calling Caldecott where she waxes rhapsodic about the various traits worth celebrating in the title.  To my horror, however, she pointed out a small mistake.  It sounds like a mild design issue and hopefully not a dealbreaker.  Just the same, it could well reduce what I once thought of as the Caldecott frontrunner to an Honor.  Or maybe not!    I’m still counting on getting a green Newbery/Caldecott dress out of this.

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff – A smart mix of tribute and original storytelling/art.  One of the younger Caldecott contenders seen here, and I think that’s important.  It is restrained in its text, but to just the right degree.  Hopefully the committee will see it for the smart little book that it is.

Not Mentioned (and why!):

  • Z is for Moose by Kelly A. Bingham, ill. Paul O. Zelinsky – Hugely popular it is. Lots of fun as well. I’m just not certain it outshines the other potential candidates this year, that’s all. Still a stellar piece of work, no matter how you slice it.
  • This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen – No, I’m afraid his work on Extra Yarn has a better chance. This one is a visual stunner, but not quite there on the writing side.
  • Oh No! by Candace Ransom, ill. Eric Rohmann – Great book but alas someone showed me a perspective problem near the end that may sink it for the committee. Doggone it.

And your thoughts?

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21. Fusenews: Post-Sandy Edition

As I write this I don’t know what the election results are and I shall refuse to think about them all the livelong day.  Lalalalalala!  No images today, by the way.  I apparently hit my limit and need to beg SLJ for a little more space.  I’m good for it!  Honest!

  • So there’s lots of post-Sandy news and ways that you can help the libraries that got hit hard in the gut this past week.  First let’s start with something (relatively) cheery.  PW did a great series of interviews with folks in the publishing industry hit by Sandy.  There you can read how Lois Lowry and Laura Vaccaro Seeger dodged death (fairly literally) and why folks like Eric Berlin and Rebecca Stead are being namechecked in Hoboken.  They also did a piece on how folks like Kate Messner (with Kid Lit Cares) and Urban Librarians Unite have been coming together to collect books and money for hard hit systems.  Author/illustrator Peter Brown alerted me to this fantastic and continually updated list of what the various shelters and organizations in the community need desperately at this time.  Meanwhile I wanted to help out Hoboken in some way but it’s still too soon to find out how.  In the meantime, there’s a good site dedicated to Rebuilding New Jersey’s Libraries for those of you who want to help.
  • There are some interesting posts ah-brewing over at the Forum of the American Journal of Education.  Steven Herb, a fellow who has served on more than a few committees during his time looks at Caldecott Awards and Honors past and present with some interesting insights. I never knew the beef folks had with Marcia Brown’s Shadow until now, but I definitely get the grumbles.  Then he goes on to answer all your questions about how the darn Caldecotts are given out anyway.  Thanks to Vic Sensenig for the links!
  • One request: When I die, could someone please write a catchy song using my name that sounds as fun as this one made for picture book author/illustrator Bill Peet by the kids at The Calhoun School?  It’s all I’ve ever wanted.  Honest.  Thanks to Karen Walsh for the link.
  • Suppose I should mention some of the serious news out there.  This broke just before the hurricane did but even strong winds couldn’t distract us from the fact that Penguin and Random House are set to become as one.  Naturally the response over the blogosphere is to come up with a name for this new company.  The Random Penguin House is the most repeated, so why don’t we just simplify things and just call it Odd Ice Floe instead?  Has a ring to it, it does.

You may have missed it, and you’d be forgiven if you had, but the New York Times Best Illustrated list of 2012 is out and boy is it a doozy!  The winners include:

  • Bear Despair written and illustrated by Gaëtan Dorémus (Enchanted Lion)
  • The Beetle Book written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins (Houghton)
  • House Held Up by Trees written by Ted Kooser; illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick)
  • The Hueys in the New Sweater written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel)
  • Infinity and Me written by Kate Hosford; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (Carolrhoda)
  • Little Bird written by Germano Zullo; illustrated by Albertine (Enchanted Lion)
  • One Times Square: A Century of Change at the Crossroads of the World written and illustrated by Joe McKendry (Godine)
  • Red Knit Cap Girl written and illustrated by Naoko Stoop (Tingley/Little)
  • Stephen and the Beetle written by Jorge Luján; illustrated by Chiara Carrer (Groundwood)
  • Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad written and illustrated by Henry Cole (Scholastic)

I’ve read each and every last one of these and what strikes me is how international it is this year.  French, Irish, Japanese, Canadian, and more author/illustrators grace the list.  A special shout out to Claudia over at Enchanting Lion Books for getting two titles on there, but it’s just as nice to see little guys like Groundwood and Lerner having their day in the sun.  I haven’t reviewed a single one of these, but now I’m thinking maybe it would be a good idea.  Dunno.  They’re all rather . . . rather tasteful, wouldn’t you say?

  • Hey!  Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes went and had a baby on us!  Well, congrats to you, Travis!  Little bugger is one good looking dude.  Woo-hoo!
  • You know how college kids are always creating elaborate, relatively clever pranks in their Senior years?  Well, when I attended Earlham College back in the day I walked into our cafeteria (called, like every other cafeteria in the nation, Saga) to find that someone had managed to paint a huge image on the ceiling .  We’re talking a good 40 feet off the ground, there were some beloved character’s from the school newspaper, Plato’s Republic, as penned by Alexis Fajardo.  They were reenacting Michelangelo’s God touching Adam’s finger moment.  It was beautiful.  Fast forward some 20 odd years later (doing the math . . . not quite right but close enough) and that same Alexis Fajardo has started a Kickstarter page for his graphic novel series Kid Beowulf.  Seems that his publisher up and died on him as he was producing the third volume, so he needs a bit of a kick.  Check out the site and see what you think.  I guarantee you won’t find another comic starring Beowulf and his twin brother Grendel having adventures.
  • Finally, the following notice was sent by author Kathi Appelt.  I met Laura myself, so I know how important this can be.  In lieu of a Daily Image today, please read the following:

Dear everyone–

I have a favor to ask.  A few years ago I met a remarkable young girl named Laura Rodgers. When she was in the second or third grade she made a decision to read all of the Newbery books, along with honor books.  When she was in the fifth grade, she started her own  mock Newbery blog:  http://lauramitolife.blogspot.com/

Now she’s in the seventh grade and she is really struggling.  Laura was born with mitochondrial disease and it appears to be taking a huge toll on her, effecting primarily her muscular functions.  It seems to be mimicking something like MS, and she is no longer able to walk or to use her hands for small motor things.  I’ve been in touch with her mom, Rylin, and it’s not looking good right now.

Since the one thing that Laura loves above all else is books, I asked her mom if she thought some autographed books would cheer her up, and her answer was unequivocal.  So, here I am, asking you all to consider sending Laura an autographed book or two with your John Henry’s.  I know it would mean the world to Laura.  Over the years, I’ve sent her as many picture books as novels, along with non-fiction and poetry.  She loves all of them.

If you’re like me, I’m always getting asked for free autographed books, and I give an awful lot of them away, mostly for auctions and prizes, and always for good causes.  But in this case, I know exactly who is receiving my books–someone who loves them, and needs them too.

If you have the inclination, please send copies to:

Laura Rodgers
4060 W 400 S
Lebanon IN 46052

And please also, send this message to any other author/illustrator pals you know. As I write this, it’s late and I know I’m missing people.  I think it would be great to bombard our young reader with a whole boatload of autographed books.  I’m not going to post this on facebook just because I don’t want it to get that out of control, but it would be great to send it to anyone you know personally, along with my gratitude.

Thanks so much,
Love, Kathi

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22. Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 2

Emerson 2nd graders have **loved** reading and thinking about which picture book they would award with the 2013 Caldecott Medal. This project is really deepening their ability to articulate how pictures contribute to an overall story. In library language, we call this "visual literacy" - the ability to interpret and make meaning from illustrations. Here are four more of our favorite picture books from 2012.

Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzar + Bray, 2012
ages 4 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our students love Extra Yarn more and more with each reading. Even though the artwork is subdued, they respond to Annabelle's creative spirit, to her generosity and to her tenacious refusal to sell her precious box to the archduke. They love the surprising twists of this story, and the way that the illustrations add to the visual surprises. The notice that the illustrations help make the pacing and details are perfect; in particular, the love the wordless pages near the end, as readers need to guess what is happening to the box of yarn.
Little Dog Lost
by Mônica Carnesi
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
ages 4-8
reviewed at Calling Caldecott
available at your local library or on Amazon
Children have really responded to this true story of a little dog who was stuck on an ice flow in Poland’s Vistula River, and rescued after drifting for two days on the open sea. Was it just because our students adore little dogs, or do the illustrations really add to this? After a hearty debate, our students definitely think Carnesi's illustrations are distinguished, making the story "pop", helping them connect to the dog and understand how he felt. Carnesi creates tension as one thing goes wrong after another. She creates empathy without overdoing the emotions. In fact, today's class voted this as their winner! We'll see if the Caldecott Committee notices this sweet, quiet story - we sure hope so.
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed at Fuse #8
available at your local library or on Amazon
On the surface, this is a book about just one color; but as our students quickly realized, Seeger makes readers appreciate just how many variations there are for a single color. Students loved Seeger's inventive descriptions of different shades of green, from forest green to sea-green to khaki green. We talked about the texture of the oil paint and the canvas that shows on each page. And they loved the twist near then end when Seeger adds yet another layer with “all green / never green / no green / forever green.” This is certainly a book where the illustrations extend it far beyond its simple words, making reader think about color in new and different ways.
And Then It's Spring
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
While this book took my breath away, it did not stay with our 2nd grade readers quite the same way when compared to other favorites in our Mock Caldecott discussions. When we read it together, the students responded to the details in each illustration, noticing what different animals were doing on each spread. They liked the muted colors and the building of tension as the little boy waited and waited for spring. But I think this quiet book might be too slow and subdued for their tastes. But I wonder if the Caldecott Committee might appreciate the way Stead's artwork builds the themes and anticipation in this lovely story.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Penguin, Harper Collins and Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. Mock Caldecott discussions, part 3 - how our students are reacting

Our 2nd graders have loved sharing their thoughts and opinions about what the best picture books have been this year. We've talked lots about how the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator, and how we need to think about how the pictures add to the story above and beyond the words. We've talked about the color choices illustrators make, the way the convey emotions in characters' expressions, and the perspectives they use and how this brings readers into the picture books.

Above all, they feel part of the process and are excited to find out the winners of the 2013 Caldecott Medal. Are you looking forward to it? Check out this website: ALA Youth Media Awards. You can also check into Facebook for the announcements on Monday morning.

My students passionately discussed three more books today, declaring love and admiration for all three. They're convinced that the Caldecott Committee has a very hard job on their hands, comparing these different illustrations!

Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
reviewed here
ages 4-8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our second graders thought it was hilarious the way that the author and illustrator argued in this story. But more than that, they argued vociferously that the illustrations add to the humor and pizazz of this story. The love the combination of different media - with the puppet figures for Adam and Mac, the cartoon characters for Chloe, and the stage elements that give the story a 3-D feeling. They laughed at the way Adam's dragon is way-cooler than Mac's lion. And they loved the resolution at the end. This is a smart story that completely hooks its audience. In many ways, it reminds me of Interrupting Chicken, a Caldecott honor book in 2011.
by Henry Cole
Scholastic, 2012
reviewed at 100 Scope Notes
ages 7-10
available at your local library and on Amazon
This wordless book took our breath away when we read it. It's truly a book that makes you think at each step of the way, as you unravel and make sense of the story. As the pieces of the puzzle came together for my 2nd graders, they were amazed at the young girl's kindness and courage, and the runaway slave's daunting challenge escaping to freedom. We talk all the time about "reading is thinking" and Henry Cole asks his readers to do just this. On our first read, some of my students were frustrated that we never see the full face of the African American hiding in the corn stalks. But as we talked about it today, those same students talked about how much this story stayed with them. Cole's pencil drawings evoke the girl's emotions and the setting of Civil War Virginia, creating tension and mystery within this quiet book. It's a book that will stay with us for many years.
Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012
discussed at Calling Caldecott
ages 3-7
available at your local library and on Amazon
With giggles and pointing, our 2nd graders ate up every inch of Bingham and Zelinsky's mad romp in Z is for Moose. They loved the goofiness of the premise, but they also loved the heart of the story - declaring that this is really a friendship story in the end. We talked at length about how the illustrations add to the story. The love the chaos that ensues when Moose disrupts the story, but they also responded to the emotions in Moose's face as he felt left out from all the fun. Just look at Zebra's expression on the cover and you can tell the way Zelinsky adds tension through those angry eyes. Other children noticed the way the color frames contrast with the background and the stage. But mostly, our second graders just loved this silly, funny book and wanted to read it over and over again.

We did not have an official Mock Caldecott vote with our second graders. Over five weeks, I read three classes different sets of books. Maybe next year I'll rotate a set amongst the classes, the way that Travis Jonkers did (see his post here). Whatever the case, the children really developed their ability to talk about picture books they love, support their ideas with clear reasoning, and share their love with other children.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Disney / Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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24. Librarians Gone Wild! Celebrating the best books of the year: Newbery, Caldecott and more

Today was a certainly a day for Librarians Gone Wild! Across the nation, librarians gathered to watch the live announcements of the Newbery, Caldecott, Corretta Scott King Awards and more. Their were shouts of joy as favorites were honored, and sighs as others were not selected. But it is a happy day for all, as our profession celebrates the most distinguished and outstanding books for children.

I'll do a quick roundup today, and feature these outstanding books over the next several weeks.

Caldecott Award
As our Emerson 2nd graders know, this award honors the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book. One book receives the gold medal, and today four books also received the silver honor awards.

This Is Not My Hat
illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott Medal winner
available at your local library and on Amazon
This darkly humorous tale will take kids by surprise as they wonder about the little fish who steals the enormous fish's hat and thinks he can get away with it. I can't wait to have kids act out this book, telling it from different points of view.

Five Caldecott Honor Books also were named. I am so happy that such a wide range of books have been honored. Some, like Creepy Carrots, amp up the fun, while others, like Green, mesmerize you with their beauty.

Creepy Carrots! 
illustrated by Peter Brown
written by Aaron Reynolds
Simon & Schuster, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
my review
available at your local library and on Amazon

Extra Yarn
illustrated by Jon Klassen
written by Mac Barnett
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
our Mock Caldecott discussion
available at your local library and on Amazon

illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Neal Porter Books / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

One Cool Friend
illustrated by David Small
written by Toni Buzzeo
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Sleep Like a Tiger
illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
written by Mary Logue
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

This award honors the writer of the most distinguished American book for children. It can be a picture book, but much more often it is a full length book. It can be either fiction or nonfiction, although most commonly it's fiction. One book receives the gold medal, and today three books also received the silver honor awards.

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins, 2012
my review
2013 Newbery Medal winner
available at your local library or on Amazon
I have been giving The One and Only Ivan to kids all summer and fall - as birthday presents, pressing into their hands in the library, carrying it to classrooms as soon as it's returned. This is a book that will touch your heart, make you think deeply about the way we treat animals. Even more than that, it will lead to conversations about friendship, humanity and respect. What a joy that this wonderful book received the Newbery Medal.

Three Newbery Honor Books also were named. They also show us the splendid range of children's books. I adored each and every one, from the enchanting historical fantasy of Spendors and Glooms to the fast-paced nonfiction of Bomb, to the mystery that kept me laughing of Three Times Lucky.

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

I know I'm not able to say much about these books right now, but if you're willing to take a gamble, try one of them out. Each one of them is truly outstanding. That doesn't mean it will work for every kid, but rather that for the right audience they are exceptionally compelling, engrossing and memorable.
Well, I'm off to bed to rest after a wonderful weekend full of "Librarians Gone Wild". I feel truly lucky to be able to connect with amazing authors, inspiring professionals and enthusiastic publishers. But most of all, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share these books with children, thinking of just the right book for each different kid.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

3 Comments on Librarians Gone Wild! Celebrating the best books of the year: Newbery, Caldecott and more, last added: 1/30/2013
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25. Book Awards and BoB

I feel so much better.  Do you know why????

Battle of the Books Brackets have been chosen.  I knew there was a good reason to return to the land of ice and wind and Internet access.  i just knew it.

Here they are:

Once again, I have read some, but not all, of the books.  I have direction!  I have purpose!  I have a goal.  I love Battle of the Books.

Now, the brackets are chosen BEFORE the American Library Association announces their Book Award Choices - which ALA did last Monday right before I re-learned body surfing on a Caribbean beach.

For the complete ALA approved list of Newbery Award winners, here you are.

Caldecott Winners, click here.

To check on all the other awards - for best children's non-fiction, or YA book, or social justice book, concept book, go to the ALA Book Awards page and click on the individual links.  There are just too many great books written for young people.

If you go to BoB's current post, you will see how well the Brackets match the ALA Award winners.  As always, judge's comments and the Peanut Gallery responses will be some of the best blog-reading of the year. 

Oh, I wonder when we get to vote for the Undead.  Or, gasp, has that vote been cast?  And who will be this year's awesome author/judges?  So many questions!  So many books!  So little time!  Excuse me, I have to put books on hold at the various libraries of which I am a member.

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