This is my third year judging for the Cybils and I don’t dare compare it to the Caldecott or Newbery awards but I wonder if there is the same dynamic that we have in deciding a winner. For the Cybils, we work off of a short list that is presented to us by first round judges so there is a set number of books to consider but only one winner. A few of the books in each category, I’ve noticed, get a strong reaction that’s either love or hate. Thus a compromise situation is necessary so there’s always a book that everyone likes though it might have also made everyone’s second tier. But this book is the book that tends to win.
I can see how picture books that win a Caldecott honor or award need to appeal to a young audience of 4 and older. Picture books that a four-year-old can not grasp might be eliminated and I can understand that but that might be why a picture book as gorgeously illustrated as Bird by Beatriz Martin Vidal might not win or even find its audience.
It’s fun to try to predict the Caldecott and Newbery, isn’t it? What books are you rooting for? Please share!
Caldecott 2016 Predictions
Nonfiction 2016 Caldecott Prediction
If I had to pick one nonfiction picture book, I’d have to go with Water Is Water.
Water Is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
The water cycle has never been more creatively presented or more beautifully illustrated! The water-color images have small details that make them look different from typical watercolor artwork, perhaps there is some mixed media included? For example, the page with the old-fashioned stove in the kitchen includes a white line on the cat’s back that makes it pop. But there’s also the corner of the living room with a lamp and side table that is barely discernible painted in shadowy fuzzy hues. The shading of the kitchen also brings drama to the image. Each page is a small masterpiece. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Queen’s Shadow: A Story About How Animals See by Cybele Young
The concept of the book is so clever; it’s a mystery about the queen’s missing shadow with animals as suspects. But because the animals featured have different types of vision, they each have a watertight alibi. The illustrations have an “Alice in Wonderland” classic feel to them but with a vibrant and imaginative twist. Even if this picture book doesn’t win a Caldecott, it’s worth seeking out as a mystery/nonfiction science picture book that will enchant your kids. [nonfiction picture book, ages 4 and up]
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López
If Drum Dream Girl doesn’t get a Caldecott nod, it will surely win a Pura Belpré Illustrator award. It tells, in free verse, the true story of a Chinese-African-Cuban girl, Millo Castro Zadarriaga, who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers. Rafael López captures the sunlight energy of the island. I would consider Trombone Shorty to be Drum Dream Girl‘s direct competition and it’s also very well done but I just find that the illustrations Drum Dream Girl tell the story a tad better. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Wordless Picture Book 2016 Caldecott Prediction
If I were to pick one wordless picture book, I’d have to go with Float.
Bird by Beatriz Martin Vidal
The story is told in gorgeous but sparse illustrations and it takes some pulling out and wracking of the brain to understand just what is happening. There’s a sophistication to this story as well that might make it seem too old for kids in the target picture book demographic. Still, this wordless picture book deserves consideration!
It reminds of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival but Bird has a fraction of the illustrations. I think what will hurt this book from winning is that it’s not an accessible story for younger kids to decipher. [wordless picture book, ages 6 and up]
Pool by Jihyeon Lee
I think someone might have said that Pool is ineligible for a Caldecott due to where it was published or the author’s citizenship but I am keeping it on my list as a wordless book that captures the imagination á la David Weisner but with a different aesthetic that also includes diversity. [wordless picture book, ages 2 and up]
2016 Caldecott Predictions
If I had to go with one fiction picture book, I would have to pick three: A Fine Dessert, In a Village by the Sea and The Moon is Going to Addy’s House. If I really had to pick just one, it would be agony but I think I’d have to go with A Fine Dessert.
A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins & Sophie Blackall
Sophie Blackall’s illustrations evoke each period in history from old England three hundred years ago, to a plantation in the Deep South two hundred years ago, to Boston one hundred years ago, finally to the present day San Diego. Tying these generations together are a simple dessert called blackberry fool. How each generation made their blackberry fool is a history lesson that can be enjoyed as much as eating this luscious dessert.
I think this gorgeous picture book that has the feel of a timeless classic will definitely win a Caldecott but whether it’s an honor or the award itself is what we will find out at the Awards ceremony! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
In a Village By the Sea by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu
The illustrations by April Chu evoke the lushness of landscape calligraphy paintings from Ancient China but as if they were modernized and painted in colors with a muted harmony that tie land and sea together. The poetic story hints at the circle that all ties all creatures together. I love the ocean images that evoke Hokusai. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle
I think it’s so difficult to render the human form in general, never mind using cut paper collage. And to get movement with this medium is even more remarkable. Ida Pearle’s illustrations make this “chasing the moon” story a visual treat for all ages! [picture book, ages 2 and up]
The Wonder by Faye Hanson
The Wonder is my longshot pick. The illustrations, particularly when the boy is allowed to dream, remind of Holly Hobbie on steroids which I like because Holly Hobbie is a little to saccharine for me. Those pages explode of the page in a riotious celebration of creativity. I love those pages! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett
What I love about this “afraid of the dark” picture book is how each page has something special about it. Emma Yarlett’s page layouts are endlessly creative; some pages are panels, some have a riotous mix of doodle art, while still others are painterly illustrations. There are even dye cut pages that play with words by allow one sentence to be read, while covering up others to be discovered after turning the dye cut page. The story itself is a different twist on the usual “scared of the dark” premises. This is a picture book that can be read over and over again and the reader will still find things to discover. I love those kinds of books! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Newbery 2016 Predictions
I haven’t read all these books yet but I am buying copies of ones that I can’t get fast enough from my library. There are books that I think are great like Rita Williams-Garcia’s Gone Crazy in Alabama. If her first book, One Crazy Summer, did not win a Newbery Honor, her third book in this series would surely win. Surely would. Personally, I hope this series never ends.
Many of these books have been raved about by KidLit bloggers over and over again like Circus Mirandus. The rest of this list was culled from various Mock Newbery lists though it tends to be heavy on authors who have previous Newbery accolades (which I think raises the bar for them to win again).
I’ll be updating this list as I read, read, read these books.
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
I really hope this chapter book wins. It’s a blow-your-mind debut chapter book that mixes elements of a magical circus, a wish that is finally fulfilled, and a multi-generational story of those who believe versus those who refuse. Fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society will like it but there’s not really a book I know of that is it’s close brethren. And I think that’s exactly what makes it special.
Circus Mirandus also reminds me a little of Roald Dahl books, but not exactly. The plot here weaves stories back and forth between generations and characters in a masterful kind of way that Roald Dahl doesn’t do. There’s magic as well but also evil characters that give the plot some tension and conviction.
I don’t know if the Newbery committee takes audience into consideration but we did when we judged the Cybils. Books that had an single sex audience were less appealing to us. I like how this book appeals to both girls and boys and in a wide age rage. Fingers crossed for this book to win a pile of awards! [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Many Newbery pundits have The War That Saved My Life on their list. It’s a well written and compelling story of child abuse set in WWII England which gives it a historical gravitas as well. If you like One for the Murphys, this story will grab you equally hard and never let you go. Still, I find these stories, though uplifting at the end, to be traumatic reads. It always makes me mad to read about horrible parents and I’m not sure I want my middle grade reader (pegged at ages 9 to 12) to be subjected to this kind of imagery of parental violence.
PickyKidPix, my middle child, likes these kind of harsh realistic fiction chapter books and she would like this book but I can’t see my 11-year-old son reading it happily. He’s currently reading Magnus and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer. We are at the part where we learn that an elf character named Hearthstone has grown up abused by his parents because he is deaf. Rick Riordan just touches on Hearth’s dark childhood and I think that’s the perfect amount for most kids.
My bottom line is that I don’t think it will get a Newbery because it’s not a book with wide appeal due to the graphic nature of the violent and abusive bad mother but for the reader who is drawn into learning about different life experiences, this is a great book. [chapter book, ages 9 to 12]
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
I feel like plot driven chapter books, rather than character driven books, have a harder time getting Newbery recognition, but do very well commercially. Book Scavenger is a lot like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein in that it’s also an action packed puzzle solving adventure. Reading this book makes you wish that book scavenging really exists — it’s like geo-caching but with books and with clues encripted into all kinds of puzzles. This is a well paced, well crafted adventure that makes the reader like they too, are exploring San Francisco. And while I personally would be hard pressed to solve any of the puzzle clues in the book, just learning about them made me feel a little smarter. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia
I loved One Crazy Summer but I think Rita Williams-Garcia just gets better and better at her craft because I honestly think this is even better than her Newbery honor book. Gone Crazy in Alabama wraps up her trilogy with a satisfying sense of “that’s all she wrote.” In a way, she’s telling a bigger story of the Deep South; how blacks and whites are really all connected if you go back far enough through the family tree. But this story sticks to its knitting revolving around a long standing feud between two half-sisters, Vonetta, Delphine and Fern’s great aunts. Their dysfunctional family stories really sings as both authentic and captivating.
In this large family tree of twisted branches, Rita Williams-Garcia manages to bring their extended family back together in Alabama. Pulling off this feat — which includes the girl’s divorced mother with their father and new wife — without using deus ex machina literary tricks is part of Williams-Garcia’s skill as a writer. As is her ability to make each character rich and full and as memorable as if we, the reader, were there too, sipping sweet tea on their porch. I still want to follow the girls as they grow up so I hope somehow there’s more to come! [chapter book, ages 9 and up]
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Was El Deafo the first graphic novel to win a Newbery Honor last year? I feel like graphic novels are a newish genre that just keeps getting better and better. My pick for graphic novel is Roller Girl though Sunny Side Up was a book that stayed with me long after I read it. Even if Roller Girl does not win, it’s perfect for Raina Telegemeir fans as there aren’t enough graphic novels for tween/teen girls.
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Here’s a great review from Story Time Secrets.
Listen, Slowly is unlike any middle grade novel I have ever read before. Author Thanhha Lai (whose 2011 novel in verse Inside Out and Back Again I have not yet read) fuses together the petty and superficial concerns of a boy-crazed middle school girl with beautiful observations about the Vietnamese culture, the impact of war, the differences between the Western and Eastern worlds and the experience of discovering one’s roots. The language is poetic and atmospheric, if a bit dense, and information about the Vietnamese language, food, and etiquette are worked seamlessly into the story. Mai is a completely believable tween, as she struggles to reconcile her easy life in Laguna with what members of her family went through during and after the Vietnam War. She is also extremely likable, with a great voice, sense of humor, and sense of loyalty to those she cares about. Her personality combines the appropriate amounts of sass and sweetness for her age.
Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper
Randomly Reading has a great review here.
It’s 1932 and the country is still in the throes of the depression. But for the black residents of Bumblebee, North Caroline, the depression may be the least of their troubles after Stella Mills and her younger brother Jojo see the Ku Klux Klan burning a crossing on night across the river from their house. And Stella thinks she recognizes who one member of the whited-sheeted group.
Written from Stella’s point of view, Stella by Starlight is a realistic portrait of a small community of African Americans, some of whom still remember slavery, who live isolated from the white world of Bumblebee, where they earn little for working longer and harder, and where they are forced to quietly accept the hate, taunts and mistreatment by most white people. But it is also a rich community that is seeped in tradition, stories, love and compassion for one another, relying on each other through good times and bad.
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
Alex’s Bookshelves (formerly called The Children’s War) reviews Echo.
Three different stories bound together in space and time by one harmonica marked with an M but how do their destiny’s connect? Ryan ends each story with a cliffhanger, but it all comes together in the end. In the meantime, she shows the reader how music can be a sustaining force even in the most difficult times. Each of the characters must deal with situations that are rife with hate, suspicion and intolerance to suffering for those who are different and helpless in some way.
Ryan uses the technique of a Rahmenerzählung, framing the three stories with the story of Otto and the fairytale story of the three sisters, giving it a nice magical element. Ryan holds the reader in suspense about every one’s destiny and how they connect until the very end, but it is a delicious kind of suspense.
Echo is an enchanting novel that carries a message of hope, even throughout the scary parts, but readers should still read it with a willing suspension of disbelief to really get appreciate the entire story.
The Marvels by Brian Selznick
The tourist attraction of Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields, England was the genesis for Brian Selznick’s unique genre of wordless picture book meets chapter book but he takes the fantastical “living diorama” Victorian house into a new realm, creating an intricate backstory that begins with a stowaway boy on a ship that gets rescued and brought to England. Selznick’s three books so far have the same unique format of heavily illustrated wordless illustrations that tell part of the story, coupled with a chapter book that takes the further deeper. The magic of his storytelling is that he crafts realistic fiction that wanders into fantasy, weaving several story lines together in a seamless way, leaving the reader to piece out what is fact from what is made up. It’s a fun journey of discovery from start to finish.
The only hurdle from winning a Newbery (or even an Caldecott!) is that the shiny newness of Selznick’s approach has worn off, which I would guess raises the hurdle for judges. Still, this is as good as or even better than his first book! [illustrated chapter book or picture book/chapter book, ages 8 and up]
Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Rebecca Stead makes storytelling look so easy with her spare prose and slow reveal. It’s a set up from the first page that, while drawing you into the story, also leaves you hanging because she’s giving you a lot of detail without showing you her whole hand. She also uses interspersed chapters written from the second person point of view. This gives the chapter a “something bad is about to happen” sense to the reader, the same way creepy dramatic music does in movies.
Her characters seem like everyday average students in middle school but each struggles under the radar of friends, family and school. The drama of middle school friendships here is presented in a way that feels authentic to the worst years of school, but Stead’s characters bring a fresh way of seeing and resolving adolescent problems. Her characters, too, are nuanced in a way that no one can be pegged as just one thing be it weird, bad, good or even ordinary. They feel like real people but as if the reader can see into them and suggests that all of us in real life are complex with deeper hidden stories that define us. And at the end, she gives us hope that even someone who has taken a bad turn can find a way back. [chapter book, ages 12 and up]
Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Randomly Reading review of Crenshaw made me want to read it:
In Crenshaw, [Katherine Applegate] addresses the problem of hungry and homeless families head on, and to help readers understand how this happens and that it can happen to anyone, she has brought Jackson’s old imaginary friend back to act as a catalyst towards that understanding. OK, Crenshaw is a plot device, but it works here because Jackson can’t be trusted to be entirely truthful – not yet, anyway.
The novel is narrated in the first-person by Jackson, who seems to be a relatively honest, understanding and sensible boy. Really, the whole family seem like ordinary, good people who really care about each other. So how did they end up homeless once, with a second time on the near horizon? Why don’t they get help from family, or food from a food pantry? “There’s everything wrong with asking for help.” my dad snapped. ” It means we’ve failed.”
Family homelessness is a serious problem in this country, affecting 1.6 million children just like Jackson and Robin.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.