Kiddosphere: Looking Ahead: Caldecott 2017
Back in June, I discussed my favorites (so far) for the Newbery, Caldecott, etc awards that will be announced on January 23rd (a rather late date, which gives me more time to read and order more potential titles). This has been an extraordinary year, in my opinion, for illustration. I have so many favorites for Caldecott 2017 that I don’t have room to discuss Newbery or Printz, so that will be for another post! After eliminating some titles due to the citizenship/residency requirement for illustrators (such as Cloth Lullaby unfortunately) here’s my shortlist (so far):
Few people would choose the coyote as a beloved animal. After reading Coyote Moon, however, you’ll probably gain a better understanding of this creature. As a coyote hunts late at night in a suburban neighborhood, a golf course, near a library, and by a lake, she uses her heightened senses to capture food for her babies. Not only is the artwork evocative and gorgeous, but the text (which is not evaluated for the Caldecott) makes this a perfect read aloud for young listeners, provided they aren’t too squeamish about the predator-prey relationship (information about coyotes follows the story). Nature in the suburbs is rarely depicted, which makes this quite special! Author Maia Gianferrari is a Virginia author.
Like many people, I have a long-held interest in World War II. However, my interests are not so much with battles and such, but with the way ordinary citizens lived day by day. The many home front campaigns (and the propaganda for them) amaze me, especially the Victory Garden project, which involved both young and old citizens. Diana’s White House Garden introduces us to Diana Hopkins, daughter of President Roosevelt’s chief advisor. Diana is quite the lucky girl, because she lives in the White House! Like many children, Diana wants to be part of the war effort; after a few false (and funny) starts, Eleanor Roosevelt seeks her help with the White House’s own Victory Garden. I adore this story; not only are the illustrations divine, but it also speaks to the importance of taking children seriously and involving them in important work. An afterword gives further information about Diana Hopkins (including photographs–yes, this is a true story!). Although there are many superb picture books about World War II, many are rather lengthy (The Greatest Skating Race and Boxes for Katje) and/or appropriate for older children (The Cats in Krasinski Square); this is a first-rate choice if you need a World War II read aloud for a lower elementary classroom.
Barbara McClintock has never won a Caldecott. Not even an Honor. Could Emma and Julia Love Ballet be the ticket? This sweet story about a young ballet student and a professional ballerina who also attends her school is among her best (and the perfect gift for young ballerinas).
Freedom in Congo Square has earned a ton of Caldecott buzz since its publication, and rightfully so. R. Gregory Christie’s skillful and unforgettable illustrations of enslaved African Americans gathering every Sunday in New Orleans’s Congo Square to market and socialize are among the best this year. Definitely would not be surprised to see this capture the Medal, or an Honor.
How This Book Was Made pairs two of my favorite funniest authors/illustrators into a book that is not only hysterical, but a genuinely informative story on the book making process. Everything from the author writing several drafts, the editor making her corrections, the book publishing overseas and being shipped on a boat back and forth (they don’t go into the economics behind that reasoning), and finally, to the book being made available to readers is included. A must read for classrooms writing, drawing, and “publishing” their own books!
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood is an inspiring and joyful testament to the power of art (and community involvement) in everyday life. No one would think Mira’s city neighborhood is beautiful or anything special, until an artist (inspired by Mira taping her artwork to a gray wall) helps her neighborhood create vibrant murals along their drab buildings. This is based on illustrator Rafael Lopez’s own experiences with San Diego’s Urban Art Trail; further information is included at the end of the story.
I agree with Betsy Bird that Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus might be an outlier for Caldecott 2017, but I share her appreciation for the exquisite artwork in this moving depiction of Jesus’s life. This is an extraordinary gem.
The Night Gardener is offbeat, wondrous, and a glorious reminder of the importance of mentorship and creativity–things that Caldecott committees tend to love. William (like Mira in “Maybe Something Beautiful”) lives in a dull-looking neighborhood (he actually lives in an orphanage). No one is really connected to their community or thinks much about it–until a mysterious gardener sculpts amazing formations. As the neighbors are awed by the transformations in their community, they also began to take pride in their houses and land, thus adding to their neighborhood’s vitality. This book has grown on me since I first read it, and it’s now one of my top favorites this year.
You think you have problems? Try putting a gorilla to bed! This gorilla wants to party. Unfortunately, it’s bedtime for both the gorilla and the little boy. Playtime? is nearly wordless (I think the only words are “playtime” and “bedtime” repeated throughout the story); the humor is all in the illustrations. This might not have a great deal of Caldecott buzz–and I don’t normally warm to most wordless or near wordless books–but this has tons of charm and fun. I would be very happy to have a book full of charm and fun win the Caldecott (or an Honor).
The Storyteller has Caldecott written all over it: the illustrations are detailed and immense, it’s quite a sophisticated and lengthy picture book (make sure you have time to sit with it), and it is all about the power of storytelling. A community is threatened by a Djinn and its monstrous sandstorm; can it be saved by a young boy and an elderly storyteller? This profoundly beautiful story is set in Morocco; Evan Turk includes an afterword, in which he explains that Morocco’s legendary storytelling tradition is being severely threatened by the proliferation of the entertainment industry and smartphones/tablets (however, steps are being made to preserve this ancient tradition with storytelling cafes).
I love, love, love Thunder Boy, Jr. Little Thunder admires his father, Big Thunder, very much, but he wants a name that makes him distinct. Father and son consider names before choosing the perfect name. The story is simple, but the illustrations are so sweet; this is a darling father-son story. As you might guess (or if you know who Sherman Alexie is), Little Thunder’s family is Native American. Modern representations of Native American children in children’s literature is maddeningly rare; this is a much-needed story.
The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Neighborhood will break your heart, but its strong message of peace and hope helps to balance the tragedy of Anne Frank’s life being cut short. Through the perspective of the tree growing near the annex in which Anne Frank spent two years hiding from the Nazis, this chronicles the legacy of both Anne Frank and the tree in inspiring peace and strength long after their deaths (seeds from the tree have been planted in places such as Central High School in Little Rock and the September 11th memorial in New York).
For some reason, seasonal books don’t tend to receive Caldecott recognition. When Spring Comes is just so fabulously pastel and adorable that I can’t leave it off. All the wonders of spring are celebrated, including the cool days of early spring. Spring doesn’t just happen overnight; you have to be patient for the animals to awake and for the flowers to blossom. This is one of the best spring books out there, and I hope it gets recognized.
What an incredible year for illustrations! I’ll update my list when we are closer to the actual ceremony in late January.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library