And thus, we end. Though, with such a late ALA Media Awards announcement this year (Monday, February 2nd!) my predictions are coming a bit early in the game. Still, it’s not as though I’ll be seeing much that’s new between now and 2/2. I have watched with great interest the discussions on Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott. I’ve discussed and debated the contenders with folks of all sorts. I’m eyeing the Mock Caldecotts and Mock Newberys with great fervor as they post their results (and I’m tallying them for my next Pre-Game / Post-Game Show). I’ve gauged the wind. Asked the Magic 8 ball. Basically I’ve done everything in my power to not be to embarrassed when my predictions turn out to be woefully inaccurate. And they will be. Particularly in the Caldecott department. Still, I press on!
I should mention that that throughout the year I mention the books that I think we should all be discussing. This post is a little different. It’s the books I think will actually win. Not the ones I want to win necessarily but the books that I think have the best chance. Here then are my thoughts, and may God have mercy on my soul:
Winner: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
What was it I wrote in my Fall Prediction Edition? Ah yes. “This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it.” Even without the National Book Award brouhaha and the fact that this book is being purchased by everyone from POTUS on down, Jackie would win in this category. Why the certainty? Well, I’m a big fan of thematic years. I like to take the temperature of the times and work from there. Look back at 2014 and what will we remember? #WeNeedDiverseBooks for one. The Newbery committee canNOT take such things into account, but it’s in the air. They breathe it just like we do and it’s going to affect the decision unconsciously. It doesn’t hurt matters that this is THE book of the year on top of everything else. Magnificently written by an author who has deserved the gold for years, I haven’t been this certain of a book’s chances since The Lion and the Mouse (and, before that, When You Reach Me).
Honors: West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Not a certainty but what is? It’s just enormously difficult not to appreciate what Preus is doing in this book. Mind you, my librarians were not entirely taken with it. Some disliked the heroine too much. Others found it dense. And perhaps it is a “librarian book” intended for gatekeepers more than kids, but I cannot look at the title and not see the word “distinguished” floating above it like a Goodyear Blimp.
Honors: Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
Also not a sure thing but I think we’d do well to remember it. Wilson’s one of those guys who drifts just under the radar until BLAMMO! Amazing book. Read the first page of this book all by itself. Right there, he’s got you. I can’t help but keep thinking about it. I try to bring up other potential winners, but again and again I turn to this one. Zombie Beowulf. It’s about time.
Honors: The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
Hm. Tricksy. Jenni has this magnificent ability to accrue Honor after Honor after Honor. I’m not seeing gold written all over this book (that’s a lie . . . the gold would complement the blue of the cover so well and fit on the left side of the neck of the beaker, don’t you think?) but it’s a contender. Committees adore her writing, and why not? She’s one of the best. Newbery Honor best? I’m going to say yes.
Wild Card: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming
YA but not too YA. Certainly pushes the old 0-14 age range, but still a beaut. With Brown Girl Dreaming as well, we might end up with a very strong nonfiction Newbery year (and won’t Common Core be pleased with that?). Mind you, if I hesitate to predict this as an Honor it has more to do with the fact that my heart was broken when Candy didn’t receive any award love for her brilliant Amelia Lost biography. Shouldawonshouldawonshouldawonshouldawon . . .
Wild Card: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Doll Bones Honored so why not another creepy little middle grade book? Auxier pulls out all the stops here and is seriously literary in the process. Is it distinguished? Yep. There’s serious heart and guts and other portions of the anatomy at work here. It’s a smart book but appealing too. Never downplay child appeal. It’s worth considering.
Wild Card: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer
It’s probably a good sign when you can’t stop thinking about a book, right? Again, we’re pushing up against the upper limits of the age restriction on Newbery Award winners here, but the book is worth it. Objections I’ve heard lobbed against it say that Alexander doesn’t sound like a kid. Well . . . actually, he’s not supposed to but you don’t really find that out until the second book. So does that trip up the first one’s chances? Maybe, but at least it’s consistent. The objection that Aquavania isn’t realistic enough of a fantasy world would hold more weight if I thought it really WAS a fantasy world, but I don’t. I think it’s all in the characters’ heads. So my weird self-justifications seem to keep this one in the mix. The only questions is, am I the only one?
Wild Card: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t even seriously considered this one until a friend of mine brought it up this weekend. And OF COURSE it’s a contender! I mean just look at that language. It sizzles on the page. I’m more than a little peeved that he didn’t garner a NAACP Image Award nomination for this title. If he wins something it’s going to make them look pretty dang silly, that’s for sure. They nominated Dork Diaries 8 and not THIS?!? Okay, rant done. In the end it’s brilliant and, amazingly enough, equally beloved of YA and children’s librarians. The Crossover is a crossover title. Who knew?
By the way, am I the only one with a shelf in my home of 2014 books that have Newbery potential and that I don’t want to read but am holding onto just in case I have to read them? They ain’t gonna Moon Over Manifest me this year, by gum! I am prepared!
Winner: Draw by Raul Colon
Betcha you didn’t see that one coming, eh? But honestly, I think this is where we’re heading. First off, this isn’t one of my favorites of the year. I’m just not making the emotional connection with it that I’d like to. My favorite Colon of 2014? Abuelo by Arthur Dorros. But no one’s talking about that one (more fool they). No, they like this one and as I’ve watched I’ve seen it crop up on more and more Best Of lists. Then I sat down and thought about it. Raul Colon. It’s ridiculous that he doesn’t have a Caldecott Gold to his name. He’s one of the masters of the field and this could easily be a case of the committee unconsciously thinking, “Thank God! Now we can give the man an award!” We haven’t had a Latin American gold winner since David Diaz’s Smoky Night (talk about a book tied to its time period). It just makes perfect sense. Folks love it, it’s well done, and it could rise to the top.
Honors: The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
Again, not one of my favorites. I love Marla Frazee and acknowledge freely that though I don’t get this book, I seem to be the only one who doesn’t (my husband berates me repeatedly for my cold cold heart regarding this title). I mean, I absolutely adore the image of the little clown washing the smile off of his face, revealing his true feelings. So since I’ve apparently a gear stuck in my left aorta, I’m going to assume that this is a book that everyone else sees clearly except me. It could go gold, of course. It seems to have an emotional hold on people and books with emotional holds do very well in the Caldecott race sometimes. We shall see.
Honors: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean
Could be wishful thinking on my part, but look at the book jacket, man. Look at how it tells the entire story. Look at his technique. Isn’t it marvelous? Look at how it’s not just an emotional journey but a kind of road trip through Americana as well. Look at how he took this spare sparse text and gave it depth and feeling and meaning. That is SERIOUSLY hard to do with another author’s work!! Look at how beautiful it is and the emotionally satisfying (and accurate) beats. Look upon its works, ye mighty, and despair. Or give it a Caldecott Honor. I’m easy.
Honors: Viva, Frida by Yuyi Morales
Admittedly it’s not a shoo-in. In fact I’m a bit baffled that it didn’t show up on the recent list by Latinas for Latino Lit called Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2014. There are admittedly some folks who want this to be a biography and have a hard time dealing with the fact that that is not its raison d’etre. Still others aren’t blown away by the text. That said, we’re not looking at the text. We’re looking at the imagery and the imagery is STUNNING. I mean, it could win the gold easily, don’t you think? Models and photography and two-dimensional art? Yuyi Morales should have won a Caldecott years ago. I think it’s finally time to give the woman some love.
Wild Card: Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
“I still . . . I still, beeelieeeve!!!!” Okay. So maybe it’s just me. But when I sit down and I look and look and look at that image of the three little bears sailing into the sun with the light reflected off the water . . . *sigh* It’s amazing. I heard a very odd objection from someone saying that the bears don’t always look the same age from spread to spread. Bull. Do so. Therein ends my very coherent defense. It’s my favorite and maybe (probably) just mine, but I love it so much that I can’t give it up. I just can’t.
Wild Card: Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy
Because how cool would it frickin’ be? Few have looked at this book and considered it for a Caldecott, but that’s just because they’re not looking at it correctly. Consider the cinematic imagery. The downright Hitchcockian view of the seal up above where YOU are the shark below. The two page attack! The beauty of blood in the water. I mean, it’s gorgeous and accurate all at once. I don’t think anyone’s giving the woman enough credit. Give it a second glance, won’t you?
And that’s it! There are loads and loads of titles missing from this list. The actual winners, perhaps. But I’m feeling confident that I’ve nailed at least a couple of these. We shall see how it all falls out soon enough. See you in February!!