I made a mid-year Caldecott and Geisel 2019 Prediction list (which is new for me! I’m normally not that organized to get a list out mid-year!). I haven’t read enough easy readers to add to my Geisel list but I did judge the first round Cybils Awards Picture Books and Board Books. I read about 300 books for this list so I am ready to expand my Caldecott prediction list.
Earlier, my Caldecott front runners were:
Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
I met Minh Le at The Color of Children’s Book Kweli Conference and he was kind enough to share both his manuscript and finished book of Drawn Together. Right there on the spot, I told him that I think his book will win a ton of awards. I think the only reason why this book does not get a Caldecott nod is that Dan Santat won fairly recently for Beekle. It’s not really fair, but I feel like the bar is higher for an illustrator who has already been recognized. Still, this should win an APALA and hopefully, a lot more awards. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
This book is just generating a lot of buzz. It’s the gorgeous artwork but also the message of tolerance for LGBTQ self-expression. I think Jessica Love does a nice job balancing the story that it leans towards transgender, but it could also be read as boy who is expressing his creativity and love for mermaids. I think a picture book needs to walk this line to win a Caldecott, because … politics. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
I’ll keep those and add these books:
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Raphael Lopez
This is a story that resonates with every reader of any age. I think it’s a universal experience to feel left out, different from everybody else, or “not in the popular crowd,” even if you don’t have a strong (traumatic) memory of this. The message here is that each person is special, and one that everyone parent wants to give their children. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb
War is scary and this picture book doesn’t shy away from what war is and the effects war has on a community. Still, war is portrayed accurately but is also sensitive to a young audience by showing how this directly affects a child. I really like the message about how war creates refugees and that everyone can play a part in pushing war back. The book concludes on a hopeful note of empathy and kindness. I almost feel like the message is more about understanding refugees than war. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Holes in the Sky by Patricia Polacco
If you are a big fan of Patrica Polacco like I am, you might notice that miracles seem to happen to her more than most people. Or maybe she’s just mindful to notice coincidences that communicate a karmic message. In this case, her story is a powerful one about kindness, signs from heaven, and the bonds that tie us together. Patricia Polacco is kind to share her miracles with us through her books. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
I like this picture book that reads like fiction but is actually an autobiography to inspire kids to dream big dreams. Most kids probably do not know poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, a son of migrant farmworkers who went on to become a poet, performer, writer, cartoonist, teacher, and activist. But couching his story in a picture book that reads more as fiction than a biography, Juan Felipe Herrara makes his life story relatable and inspirational to children. What really makes this picture book special is the illustrations that perfectly marry with the text and give this story wings. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
The Rough Patch by Brian Lies
This is one of the best coping with the loss of pet picture books that I’ve read. A fox goes through the stages of grief when he loses his faithful companion, a dog. It’s beautifully illustrated. I feel like Brian Lies consistently makes beautiful picture books and is deserving of broader recognition. This feels solidly in a top award category like the Caldecott. I hope the specificity of the topic doesn’t hurt him. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
My additional Dark Horses:
Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung
In a way, Mixed: A Colorful Story is similar to The Day You Were Born. Arree Chung cleverly uses color mixing to tell a story about tolerance. The story may feel simplistic but it’s powerful in its simplicity. Because the drawings are so charming, it draws the reader in, thinking that perhaps this is a playful and fun story. And it is. But it’s also deeper. That’s hard to do and that’s what is exceptional about this book. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros, illustrated by Dana Wulfekott
I think it’s hard for young children to understand dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and this book is genius for using an easy to understand visual for explaining loss of memory. The topic might be too specific to appeal to a wide audience which might hurt it for Caldecott contention but that would be a shame because I think this book cements Alzheimer’s disease in a way that kids might be able to comprehend it and retain this knowledge. I really like how it addresses the frustrations of those who deal with loved ones afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison
This nonfiction picture book blew me away! I did not realize how the children led the way in marching for Civil Rights. This is a well-told, beautifully illustrated, and powerful story. It reminds me of how I felt about Voice of Freedom: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story, Spirit of the Civil Rights. It might read a tad high, age-wise, to take it out of Caldecott contention. I hope not. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
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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.