Friday, January 8, 2016

The Caldecott Medal by Tina Cho

I remember last January being glued to my computer screen watching the American Library Association (ALA) awards live. The Caldecott Medal was awarded to Dan Santat for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. I was happy because I owned a copy of that very book!

Next Monday January 11th, 2016, the new recipient of the Randolph Caldecott Medal will be awarded. And I hope to be there virtually!

You might be like me wondering—just who was Mr. Caldecott? And how is the picture book determined? I dug into some web sites and found some nitty-gritty.

Randolph was born in 1846 in England and was the third child of a family of thirteen children. (His father married twice.) As a little kid he drew mostly animals. He left school at age fifteen to work in a bank. During his free time he walked and rode the countryside which is depicted in many of his illustrations. After six years he moved to another bank and attended a night school at the Manchester School of Art. Some of his illustrations landed in London newspapers and publications. At age 26, he quit his job and supported himself as an illustrator. In 1877, he did illustrations for two Christmas children’s books for Edmund Evans which were very successful and led to two each Christmas until he died in 1886. He is most famous for illustrations in Nursery Rhymes. His illustrations were unique to his time due to their humor, vitality, and sense of movement. The illustration on the Caldecott Medal is an example of this from his illustration in “The Diverting Story of John Gilpin.” Due to poor health in his old age, he and his wife took tours in warmer climates. During of tour of New York and down the coast to Florida, he took sick and passed away.

1887 Illustration from This Is the House that Jack Built

Who & what can win the medal?

*an artist who is a citizen or resident of the U.S.
*a distinguished American picture book by an American publisher

This is the definition of a picture book according to the Caldecott Manual:

1. A “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised

2.    A “picture book for children” is one for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are to be considered.

And this is taken straight from the Caldecott Manual:

In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
·         Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
·         Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
·         Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
·         Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
·         Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

Who selects the winner?

An elite committee of fifteen members works year round to read picture books. According to the manual, in October, the first preliminary nominating ballot is due. And second ballot is due in November and the final ballot in December. In January, “late suggestions for books published in December” are offered, and awards are given.

Who won in the last five years?

2015 Dan Santat wrote and illustrated The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
2014 Brian Floca wrote and illustrated Locomotive
2013 Jon Klassen wrote and illustrated This Is Not My Hat
2012 Chris Raschka wrote and illustrated A Ball for Daisy
2011 Erin E. Stead illustrated and husband wrote A Sick Day for Amos McGhee

Hmm, I see a pattern the past four years. Do you?

Who and which book do you think will win this year? If you’re unable to attend the ALA Mid-Winter Conference, I hope you can watch it live.

Where: Boston Convention Center

When: Monday, January 11th

Time: 8:00 a.m. EST

For me, that’s Monday night in Korea 10 pm. So I can grab a bowl of popcorn while you grab your breakfast! See you there.


  1. It is fun to participate in real time, right, Tina? Thanks for the background.

  2. Great background, Tina. Thanks for posting Caldecott criteria. This helps us understand why a book we loved was not chosen (despite bitter disappointment). I join you in being very excited for Monday's announcement!

    1. Yes! And I thought it interesting that it mentioned the age up to 14 yrs old!

  3. Tina, Thank you for the background info. It will be exciting to see the winner.

  4. I love all of the books you've mentioned, Tina. Thanks for the background on the award. It's always cool to know the origins or reasons behind specific events, traditions, or awards.

    I'll never forget David Shannon telling a group at the SCBWI Asilomar conference a couple of years ago how an illustration error in "Duck on a Bike" possibly cost him the Caldecott. I've got a post about it. It might be fun for you to figure out the error. Here's the link, if you're interested:

    1. Thanks for sharing. I couldn't spot the error and had to read your comments.

  5. I watched for the first time last year and found it thrilling, especially! Can't wait for this year's awards.

  6. Hi Tina, Thanks for sharing the information behind the Caldecott Medal. I am going to take a "virtual field trip" and watch the ceremony. Is it ok if I link to this post?

  7. Here's another comment - it is interesting that all the winners are men especially since most picture book authors and illustrators are women!

  8. Interesting information, Tina. Thanks for sharing and enjoy your popcorn. :-)

  9. Hi, Tina. Appreciations for this detailed story about RC & the medal, which is much more famous to most people than he is. A children's literature friend of mine here in Florida made sure that his grave in St. Augustine was appropriately marked several years back. Happy ALA/Boston/Caldecott watching everyone. Feels like a virtual Group Blog party!

    1. Oh, that's great of your friend to do that! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Wonderful post, Tina! Sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear. There were some truly amazing books this year (many by close friends). Fingers and toes crossed one of them wins. :)

  11. Nice to have the details behind the medal, Tina. I wish I could've seen the announcement.

  12. Thanks for this post, Tina. Very informative.