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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Love It to Death BUT It’ll Never Win a Caldecott

Okay, here’s a thought for you.  Perhaps this is a conversation better suited to Calling Caldecott but I’ve been thinking about those picture books that folks love in a given year but that they know in their heart of hearts will never win a Caldecott Award.  And not because their illustrators aren’t American residents, but because there’s just something about the books that don’t feel Caldecottish.

Hindsight is 20/20 but looking back at my past Caldecott predictions in previous years I look at the titles I loved that didn’t get any attention and I sigh.  These have included:

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberley

A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Michael Wertz

Dinotrux by Chris Gall

Tsunami! by Kimiko Kajikawa, illustrated by Ed Young

One Beetle Too Many by Kathryn Lasky, illustrated by Matthew Trueman

All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Nikki McClure


My Garden by Kevin Henkes

Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The Boys by Jeff Newman

Oh No! by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat

At one time or another I thought all of these had a chance, but somehow they didn’t.  Now I look at this year’s crop of books and some that I adore I know for a fact will never get a chance. A person can always be surprised, of course.  Still, is there any picture book you’ve seen this year that is made of awesome but that you’re 99.9% certain won’t win an ALA accredited award?

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I’m just going to echo “My Garden”… (sigh) such a great book. I’ll be thinking on my loves of this year.

    Oh, I LOVE “Apple Pie ABC” but I think the author is Scottish–right? Doesn’t that rule it out?

  2. I will also echo IN A BLUE ROOM and THE BOYS. Other titles I adored but felt had little chance were CITY DOG, COUNTY FROG (2010) and CHALK by Bill Thompson (2010). On that note, I enjoy all of Thompson’s picture books, as does my three-year-old nephew.

    On a related note, my mock Caldecott group disqualified HUGO CABRET in our final meeting. But then it won, so what do we know?! :)

  3. Martha P. says:

    But Betsy, I think there’s a difference between books that for whatever reason didn’t happen to win (like The Garden) and books that we know in our heart of hearts didn’t have a chance (I don’t know the book but I’m guessing something like The Boys). That is to say, books that the committees take seriously and those they don’t. For me the interesting question is: Just what it is that would make a book not a serious contender? Choice of medium? Level of humor? Subject matter?

  4. Kristi Hazelrigg says:

    Well, I know they’ll never be considered for a Caldecott (they’re just too cute), but my favorites of the this last year are Patrice Barton’s illustrations in Sweet Moon Baby. That’s just the cutest baby I’ve ever seen in my whole entire lifetime. I am also a huge fan of Tricia Tusa’s work in Follow Me and Kamako Sakai’s in In the Meadow.

  5. I’m shocked that some of you think The Boys wasn’t Caldecottish! I loved that book and thought it was clever, well-designed, and showed a spectacular use of color and line. We’ll never know for sure, of course, but I would be surprised if the committee members that year did not at least have some interesting discussions about that book.

    I agree with Martha P on noting the difference between books that just didn’t make the cut and those tend to be dismissed outright (despite our love for them.) But I would disagree about the Caldecott and suggest that that is more likely with the Newbery. There is the long-held belief that funny books don’t win Newbery awards. Not totally true (Homer P. Figg, Holes) but it is rare that straight up humorous fiction garners serious awards. On the Caldecott side, however, if you look through the last few decades of winners, it is remarkably diverse. There are wordless books, funny stories, deep/somewhat esoteric stories, folk and fairy tales, non-fiction and picture books on a wide variety of reading levels.

  6. When you gonna share your personal picks?

    In a Blue Room is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite picture books of the last few years. It just makes me sigh with happiness.

  7. I wish I understood art well enough to even know what’s “good.” I respond to pictures so emotionally. I tend to assume the Caldecott is mostly: “Wow! That looks like it took a long time.”

  8. Prudence Wants a Pet is my favorite picture book of 2011. It probably 0% chance of winning:(

  9. Patrick McDonnell, Me . . . Jane