Thursday, January 19, 2017

Anticipating Newbery and Caldecott Awards ~ by Patricia Toht

I LOVE this time of year! It's the week before the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting, and I'm filled with...

ALA Midwinter is where and when the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals are announced, the two most prestigious honors in American children's literature.

My store from 1988-1995
Perhaps my anticipation hearkens back to my days as a bookseller. For most small, independent bookstores, if you do not have the winning titles on hand, there's a great likelihood that you'll be out of stock for quite awhile. Current stock is immediately snatched up and further copies require a reprint. So each January, I played the guessing game of which titles would win.

As a reminder, the Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded to the best illustrated children's book of the year. The winner is usually a picture book. But sometimes a novel wins, like in 2008 when Brian Selznick's THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET took the prize. 

The John Newbery Medal is awarded to the best written children's book of the year. The winner is usually a novel. But sometimes a picture book wins, like in 2016, when Matt de la Peña's LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET won. 

Nowadays, I work in a middle school library. But I still try to guess at the winners, with the goal of having added those books to our collection before the announcement. 

An educated guess is so much better than a wild one, so here is how I go about it:
Nearly 22,000 children's books are traditionally published each year, and I'm a slow reader. To narrow the list, I rely on these sources:

1) Reviews (especially starred ones) from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, and Publishers' Weekly.

2) Blogs like Fuse #8, 100 Scope Notes, Nerdy Book Club, Pragmatic Mom, Brightly.

3) Bookstores, like our local Anderson's Bookshop, which holds a Mock Newbery vote for participants. They have great taste in books, so I try to read all of them.

4) Librarians and writing friends, who also have impeccable taste in books.

And then I read.

        And read.

                And read some more.

So what are my "educated" guesses?

For the Caldecott gold medal, I would love for the winner to be SOME WRITER!: THE STORY OF E.B. WHITE, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In this biography of the CHARLOTTE'S WEB author, the illustrations are integral and seamlessly woven with the text, and I found myself lingering on every page to soak up the details.

For Caldecott honors, I choose two books. THEY ALL SAW A CAT, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is a brilliant take on how different creatures uniquely view a cat.  

[Confession: While I would love for SOME WRITER to win, I really think THEY ALL SAW A CAT will win.] 

BEFORE MORNING, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, is a lyrical wish for a snow day. (I do have a creative crush on Joyce Sidman, so I confess to my bias.)

For the Newbery gold medal, I choose THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, by Kelly Barnhill. The language in this book is luscious! And the drawing together of the individual story threads into a knot of tension before the conclusion had me reading late into the night.

For Newbery honors, I'll choose two as well. WOLF HOLLOW by Lauren Wolk, the story of a girl, a war veteran, and a bully, and how kindness and honesty triumphs amid sorrow. Lovely "sense of place" to this one. 

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown maroons a robot in the wilderness and asks her to survive. I was very moved by this tussle between technology and nature, rooting for the robot with all my heart.

The awards will be announced on Monday, January 23, 2017, at 8 am ET. If you'd like to watch it live, the awards will be streamed on the I Love Libraries Facebook page.

I'm hoping my guesses are as good as the Mock Caldecott results in Colby Sharp's third grade classroom last year:

What are YOUR picks this year, readers??? 



  1. I am going to a Mock Caldecott on Saturday, Patty. I am not sure this. I can't get my hands on Melissa Sweet's book right now. I bet THEY ALL SAW A CAT will win, too. I've read it and liked it, but I also love ashley bryan's FREEDOM OVER ME. Sure do wish I could have visited your bookstore.

    1. That sounds like fun, Kathy! I can't wait to hear who wins the mock vote.

  2. Replies
    1. Due to the time zones, does that mean you're getting the news a day later or a day earlier than me, Tina?

  3. I also have a creative crush on Joyce Sidman, who I was able to hear at a children's conference at WWU in Bellingham a few years ago! I love her book, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature.

    Thanks for posting. I was not familiar with Pragmatic Mom. Looks good!

    1. Oh, my! I wish I could've been there, Stephanie! I'm sure you cheered enough for the two of us. :)

  4. It is very exciting, isn't it? This is a great list of books.

  5. Great post. You have great insight with your background. Don't you mean the 23rd, not the 3rd?

    1. Thanks for catching that typo, Sherri! JANUARY 23RD, EVERYONE!!!!

  6. Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes spin my mind and take me to another place-definitely BEFORE MORNING! Thank you for this post, Patricia :)

  7. So exciting! I loved hearing how you break down your decision. Great resources to rely on!

  8. Great post Patty! THEY ALL SAW A CAT is my favorite too. It kept me thinking about perspective days later and this book would not be possible without this art! So awesome!! Talk about weaving art into the story!
    I also love Melissa Sweet's SOME WRITER! It must have taken many many months to get that detail. Amazing!
    I'm not familiar with the Newburyport titles you mentioned so I'm going to grab them asap! Thx for your insight. I really liked to hear about your process!

    1. Thanks, Angie! I know you did a Mock Newbery at your library. What was the winner?

  9. Patty, You are way ahead of me. I have SOME many books to read, yet, which makes me lucky as I haven't had the lost-in-the-page experience with them, yet.
    This is an enticing post. I am so eager for Monday.
    I would love a children's poetry book, to win a Caldecott. Unless, one has?
    Appreciations for these great links. And for the Never Never Land logo. Of the 22,000 children's books yearly, if you ever come across an estimated breakdown of how many are picture books, would love to hear what that guess is. Onto Monday!

    1. Hi Jan! Interesting questions. SONG OF THE WATER BOATMAN, a collection of poems by Joyce Sidman with wonderful illustrations by Becky Pange, won a Caldecott Honor in 2005. Other than that, I can't recall any other children's collection of poetry that has won.