Why not? If predicting the Newbery and Caldecott Awards is a futile experience at any point in the year, what harm could there be in placing your bets as soon as possible in the process?
By this point in time we’ve seen and heard about the bulk of the cool Spring releases. We’ve read the reviews, seen the books ourselves, and gotten a taste of what the year will bring. By this point last year the book that would become the Newbery winner wouldn’t even hit shelves until July while the Caldecott winner arrived by January. With that in mind, I would like to offer some of my own pseudo-predictions, if only because I think these books stand a fair chance (and, obviously, I am a masochist). I want you to tell me what you’ve read so far that I have missed. I don’t see everything and this year I want to get something right.
Newbery Predictions (Spring Edition!)
Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor – This one gets the popular vote, but I think it may stand an outside chance in the ring. Sure, it’s not the most surprising novel of the year but it has a nice voice. It slots neatly into the 14-year-old girl slot (a slot that is oddly vacant this year, by my count) so we’ll see how it fares as the year goes on. it could build some buzz yet.
Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell – My number one pick. Seriously. Dowell is making a name for herself with this one. Not that her previous books don’t fly off my shelves (Dovey Coe is one of those sleeper hits that took a couple years to find its audience) but with this book she pleases all comers. To my mind, this is the title to beat.
Brooklyn Bridge by Karen Hesse – I’m cheating on this one since it’s not due out until Fall. Heck, I haven’t even finished reading it yet, but MAN does this woman know how to write. It’s such a relief to be able to count on an author time and time again. I’m only 1/3rd of a way in, but if the rest of the book continues at this pace it will be a winner all the way through.
We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League by Kadir Nelson – Sure it looks all pretty and stuff, but did it have to sound so good too? Non-fiction with a fictional voice. Quite a twist, but in this forward thinking Newbery age this might garner a gold in two areas (Newbery and Caldecott) which hasn’t come close to happening since A Visit to William Blake’s Inn got a 1982 Caldecott Honor and a 1982 Newbery Award. Correct me if there’s been a more recent example of a book getting these two awards in a single year, though.
Trouble by Gary Schmidt – I include it because people are already talking about it, but to my mind it hits above the 0-14 age range. Great stuff, sure, but mature.
Caldecott Predictions (Spring Edition!)
In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa – I never ever ever predict this award correctly. I think Flotsam was the last time I even got close to knowing what would get an award, so maybe Tusa’s beauty won’t get much attention. I’ve always felt that Tusa doesn’t get enough credit, though. Fred Stays With Me? Brilliant. How to Make a Night? Brilliant. Aw, just give her something shiny, Caldecott committee. She’s entirely worth it.
Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton by Catherine Brighton – Please. PLEASE could we give this an award? What do I have to do? Do you want me to crawl in the dirt? I will crawl in the dirt. Do you want me to sing Amy Winehouse’s You Know I’m No Good? I’ll do that too. Just please give this book the attention it deserves. Seriously. Please.
We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League by Kadir Nelson – I think this is a given. Maybe those are famous last words, but I don’t think so. The Caldecott has been buzzing about Mr. Nelson for years. In 2007 it was for Moses. In 2008 it was for Henry’s Freedom Box. Now he’s got his eyes on the big shiny gold prize and Lord help those who try to bat it away from him.
How I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz – I tell ya. If it weren’t for Kadir’s grand slam, I’d say that Shulevitz’s book was a sure-fire win for the gold. It still could run away with it all, you know. It is without a doubt Shulevitz’s most personal, most extraordinary work. It’s like The Wall but with an emotional resonance that makes it just as child-friendly as it is charming to adults. Jaw-dropping work that you should watch with an eagle eye, this year.