In a mere twelve days the world will sit down and hear what the official winners of the 2013 Newbery and Caldecott Awards officially are. Like you, I will tune in to the webcast to hear the announcements live. ALA says that the announcement will be made ” 8 a.m. PT on Jan. 28, from the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.” Um . . . 8 a.m. PT? So, that would be . . . 5 a.m. ET? Ruh-roh. Might have to go to bed a bit early that night. UPDATE: In spite of traveling to the West Coast on a regular basis, clever readers have pointed out that the announcements will be made at 11 a.m. ET. Clearly am incapable of math.
In the meantime, let’s speculate to our heart’s delight. We don’t have much to go on above and beyond the Mock Newberys and Mock Caldecotts springing up around the nation. I wondered if Heavy Medal or Calling Caldecott would tabulate these announcements, but apparently that’s not their bag. Next year maybe I’ll give it a try. Beats working. In any case, I feel like we’ve seen a real increase in Mock Awards nationwide recently. This is good news. If you’ve a chance, check out some of the newer blogs like For Those About to Mock, which have been amusing me considerably over the last few months.
But enough jibber jabber! Let’s talk about what I think will win for 2013. I’ve heard a couple folks speculate that 2012 was a strong Printz and Siebert year but a weak Newbery and Caldecott one. Not entirely certain how to account for that. One thing I do know is that this is a year without villains. There are some years where a book you loathe has a chance of winning it all. There were a two or three books like that for me this year, but I don’t think they have a chance in the world, so I’m not worried. I like pretty much everything. So let’s look at the top contenders, shall we?
And the gold goes to . . .
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin – Here’s my logic on this one. If you want a simple (and entirely off-base) bit of reasoning you could note that Lin’s previous Chinese folktale-imbued novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon won a Newbery Honor. This book is better than that one, ipso facto it deserves the gold. But Newbery committees don’t look at an author’s past work. They have to take every book as it comes and judge it on its own merits. Consider then, the merits of Ms. Lin’s book. Her subtle weaving of folktale and myth into the storyline is flawless, and so beautifully done that you’d suspect she made up those tale just to suit the tale (and you’d be wrong). The characters have depth even in the midst of their fairytale-like setting. Is it “distinguished”? No bones about it. Plus it’s funny, it has a snail- eating subplot (not a Newbery requirement yet, though it should be), and the tales are cyclical. You can trace how one tale repeats back on itself later. Long story short, there’s a reason NYPL made it the cover of the 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing list for 2012. I may be off-base, but I’ll be damned if Lin doesn’t at least get an Honor for this.
(the likelihood of there being 5 Honors is slim to none but a girl can dream, can’t she?)
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin – After a long talk with Monica Edinger of Educating Alice I came to the decision that Sheinkin’s book may have a real chance. Initially I thought it might play too old for the Newbery. After reading it, though, I can see how 13 and 14-year-olds could certainly get a lot out of the text. Then I worried that it would suffer the fate of so many other nonfiction books that came before. You know how it is. It’s 2 a.m., the committee is exhausted, and when the votes don’t make a clear cut winner then any small controversial fact in a nonfiction book makes it game for excising. But Bomb seems pretty strong. Some folks have questioned Sheinkin’s facts, but he can account for every windswept hair or fist hitting a table. Other folks questioned how important heavy water was to a Allied win/Nazi win. But if his facts are accurate then I don’t know that this is a real concern. The book reads like an episode of Mission Impossible, it’s fun, it’s smart, it shows multiple sides, and it is without a doubt one of the most intelligent titles of the year. So give it some lovin’ committee!
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed – Perhaps this is just stubbornness on my part when talking about this personal favorite, but when you’re bandying about the word “distinguished” this book hits on every level. I’ve been singing its praises for months now, but I’m not listing it here for no reason. I honestly think it has a shot. It’s the shortest of my predictions, but it does what it sets out to do better than most books of the year. If it Honored I would be honored.
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz – Admittedly when I read it I figured I loved it but that it wouldn’t touch other librarians in the same way. How wrong I was! Over and over again folks have informed me that they adore this book. Ms. Schlitz is one of our best children’s authors of the day, and this title was a long time coming. Clearly her talent just shines on every page and Newbery committees have a tendency to reward that sort of thing. Just sayin’.
Crow by Barbara Wright – My boss, as I may have mentioned, has a sixth sense about these things and her mental dowsing rod has been pointed straight at Crow for some time. If it walks away with the gold, don’t act surprised. Just watch her closely next year and put down some money.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – I would actually be right pleased if it walked away with the gold. Is it distinguished? Absolutely! And smart and funny and a talking animal book that will even please folks who can’t stand talking animal books. Ivan, you have my vote of confidence.
So that’s that. Which, inevitably, brings us to . . .
Where The Heck Is . . . .?
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – You know, I think this may be the Okay for Now of 2012. It broke early, giving folks enough time to get over their initial sense of . . . . well . . . wonder, before noticing some of the problems. For a complete listing of those problems I refer you to Peter Sieruta’s post on the matter here. I think it’s a lovely book and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but in the end it may just have to rest on its massive popularity for comfort. This book appears to have run its course.
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead – While I can see it winning, I’d be surprised. I enjoyed it very much when I read it but time has shown me that it may not have quite enough oomph to carry it over the finish line.
The Lions of Little Rock by Kristine Levine – Again, really enjoyed this one. Didn’t get a chance to review it (doggone it) but if it wins I’ve a copy sitting on my shelf just waiting for that announcement. Not sure if it’s the one that Levine’s going to be remembered for, though. I think she has some more good books in her. The next one she does may be “the one”.
And then there are the books that I adore but are so divisive I can’t see them winning anything. In my perfect dreamworld Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage is the surprise 2013 winner (wouldn’t that be a BLAST?) and everyone’s jaws fall to the floor. I mean, she’d be a perfect winner. It took her twenty-eight years between books, she’s charming, the book is funny as all get out, etc. Unfortunately some folks don’t much care for Southern humor or quirky small-town characters, so I can’t see it happening. Sara Pennypacker’s Summer of the Gypsy Moths is similar in that way. I love it, but I dunno. Louise Erdrich is routinely passed over for this award, though I’d be delighted if Chickadee proved me wrong. I loved The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds but since I’m the only one I’m fine with acknowledging it may not get so much as a wink or a blink.
So that’s Newbery for ya. Let’s do the harder award to predict. Which is to say, I almost NEVER get this right.
And the gold goes to . . .
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – Long story short, I think it does everything right. The die-cuts work, the descriptions work, and it has a low ebb of ecological sensitivity running through it that is VERY attractive to a committee. It’s not didactic, but it still manages to get its message across. Living as I do in a city that was hit hard by a hurricane this year, I can’t help but notice that few picture books have tackled the environment in any way, shape, or form. This is one of the few, so it’s timely as well as beautiful and well-written. If it doesn’t Honor at the very least I am going to pelt the committee with plastic styrofoam peanuts until my rage has abated.
More by I.C. Springmann, illustrated by Brian Lies – Saucy little magpie, isn’t he? This is a book that I didn’t pay doodly over squat attention to this year. I liked it. I thought it was cool. Heck I even cut up its F&G and turned it into a birdhouse for my baby’s bedroom. But Caldecott? Never occurred to me. Not until it started showing up on Mock Caldecott lists. Over . . . . and over. . . . and over. There’s something about this book that pleases large groups of people. Someone questioned whether or not it was adult friendly rather than kid-friendly, but I’d disagree heartily with that criticism. I mean, there’s a lot of enjoyable chaos in this book. I’m sorry I never reviewed it, but if it wins something I’ll make up for that sin pronto.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen – Another one that has come up enough times in discussions to convince me that it’s a real contender. There was some discussion over whether or not the knitting technique in this book is inaccurate and whether or not that would disqualify it. I happen to be the daughter of a pre-eminent knitter and this did not strike me a big problem. Trust me when I say that I’ve seen MUCH worse needle techniques in books in my day. The real question is whether or not the committee will deem Klassen’s restrained style as “distinguished”. Of that, I cannot say. I can only hope. Please read the speeches by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen after they won a Boston-Globe Horn Book Award for this book. It’ll be the best part of your day.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff – I almost forgot about this one until Travis Jonker reminded me of its existence. Forgive me, Baby Bear! And how great would it be if Wolff got some recognition for her beautiful style? It may be a long shot but by gum it’s MY long shot.
Jazz Age Josephine by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman – Forgot all about this one, didn’t you? It came out early in 2012 and Priceman, lest you forget, is a previous Caldecott Honor winner. There is a surprising LACK of diversity in the books we’re discussing this year, so let me at least bring this one up as a contender. The writing is top-notch and the visuals amazing. I don’t know how you can show Josephine’s banana dress dance and remain G-rated fare, but somehow Priceman pulls it off. She should get an award for that alone.
Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum – Who, may I add, is a Brooklyn resident. It’s a divisive book to a certain extent, but those folks who love it REALLY love it. Kids totally get the metaphor at work too, and it would be nice to see Yum get a little credit for her unique style. Don’t count it out. I could see this one pulling ahead from the rear.
Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder – Because this is Helen Frost we’re talking about this book has also been bandied about for the Newbery. I think it would be a very forward thinking Newbery committee to give the award to something quite this simple and refined. Come to that, it would take a very forward thinking Caldecott committee to give an award to a book of photography (something that has never happened before). Still, wouldn’t it be neat?
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex – Adam Rex is, for whatever reason, continually passed over for Caldecotts time and time again. I like to think that if he ever won one, it would be for this book. It’s so smart and funny and clever, and it seems to me that since this is the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott, a book that is entirely ABOUT the relationship between the artist and the author would be a no-brainer of a win. The timing couldn’t be any more perfect. *hint hint* oh, committee *hint hint*
Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee – Well she has a penchant for winning Honors, and this book’s delightful. I don’t know that it’s coming up in that many conversations, but it would be nice to see it get a little kick. Plus I’m a sucker for, as Kirkus put it, “erroneous bereavement”.
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown – Oh it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in h-e-double hockey stick. But a luuuuuuuurve it. I want to go live in the universe where this wins.
Where the Heck Is . . . ?
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogiano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead – Is it lovely? Oh yup yup yup. And I would NOT be surprised if it won it all. But for some strange reason I just don’t think it will. I can’t account for this feeling. We’ll see.
Oh No by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann – This one, alas, may be sunk because of perspective. There’s a moment when the animal p.o.v. in the hole makes it clear that they would not be able to see the tiger approach and yet they still cry “Oh no!” when he gets near. That’s a teeny tiny detail, but the kind of thing a committee latches onto (depending on the tenor of the committee). It’s gorgeous, though. Would be nice if it got something.
Unspoken by Henry Cole – I know it has its defenders, but I confess that this book didn’t do it for me. I can see what it was going for but the overall effect is (forgive me) Selznick-lite. I didn’t get the emotional punch from the material that some have felt. The committee may feel otherwise, of course.
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen – If the predecessor did not win, I don’t think the sequel will either. I do love the tiny hat, though.
For a larf, check out what I thought would win last year. That’ll show you why everything up here is wrongdy wrong wrong. I’m still mad about the Amelia Lost shut-out, but at least I had a vague notion about Inside Out and Back Again. I called A Ball for Daisy as an Honor and Grandpa Green, but that was as close as I got to correct. Ouch!