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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

2009 Newbery and Caldecott Predic . . . . Whaaa?

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.

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. With love and respect, no, no, no! “Who’s going to win” is too much with us already as a guiding idea. Let’s stick with just enjoying the stories and pictures for a little while longer before beginning to polish the medals.

  2. LAURA LUTZ says

    Oh, I’ll go there. If this is the “Oscars for children’s literature”, I don’t think it’s too early to start buzzing. I do think Tricia Tusa needs metal (medal?), but not for In a Blue Room – I’m not a fan. I still think she should have gotten some love for Fred. And for heaven’s sake, please give Kadir something for We Are the Ship – he has outdone himself with this one. I’ve also heard whispering about A Kitten Tale by Eric Rohmann and My Friend, the Starfinder by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Perhaps A Couple of Boys… by Frazee? Or Monkey and Me by Gravett? These are all the books that seem to be ahead of the pack thus far.

  3. That’s the spirit! Pip pip and tally-ho! Since these speculations are as likely to hit their target as a shotgun hitting an ant, wondering what might win one award or another is my own personal way of enjoying pictures and stories. That said, I don’t think Gravett can get a Caldecott since she’s British. But A Kitten Tale is definitely in the running and I haven’t even heard of that Lyon book of which you speak. Frazee’s long overdue but like McClintock I can see her getting robbed year after year. Fine pen-and-ink lines do not get Caldecotts, unless they’re of a Wiesner variety. Now THERE’s a statement that needs to be taken down a peg. Have at me!

  4. Are you kidding me? Is this what it’s all about? Or is there some attempt here to start altering the river’s course? Let it flow a while. Let’s just enjoy the stories as Mole rows our boat down this lovely river, wherever it might lead us.

  5. Just 3 months into the year but “Shooting the Moon” definitely on my top five list. Jamie, the main character and narrator, is so real and her words resonate so clearly that, at the conclusion of this book, I would not have been surprised to see her sitting opposite me challenging me to a game of gin rummy.

  6. Re: “altering the river’s course” – You are sweet but I couldn’t alter a droplet falling down a windowpane. And originally I planned this post for February. You should be pleased I wait as long as I do. Badger me and I’ll start predicting 2010. I mean it! I’m crazy!

  7. working illustrator says

    Double-yes for the Eric Rohmann kitten book. I’m sure there are still countless delights to come in 2008, but the bar’s been set mighty high with that one…

  8. Anonymous says

    Fuse, don’t be coy.

  9. Aw. You’re no fun. Can’t I be a little coy? A little itty bitty teensy weensy smidgen o’ coy. By the way, I am definitely naming my band “Smidgen o’ Coy” should I ever get the wherewithal to put one together.

  10. Jules, 7-Imp says

    So good to see Tricia Tusa love here, too.

  11. Anonymous says

    You were batting your eyes while writing that bit about being coy, weren’t you, Fuse?

  12. I think “Smidgen ‘o Coy” would be a fantastic name for a rock band. As would “Pip Pip and the Tally Hos” or “Shotgun Hitting an Ant.”

  13. Jennifer Schultz says

    I like Waiting for Normal, but there are quite a few books that I am anxiously waiting to read!

  14. Jennifer Schultz says

    Is Brooklyn Bridge written in verse/diary form? There’s not much available (from what I can tell) other than what’s on Amazon’s site (Karen Hesse doesn’t have a website).

  15. dorothea prine says

    The Kitten is certainly a winner in my house with the granddaughters. Kids should pick the winners because they are the ones who will keep a book’s story alive.

  16. Nope. The Hesse is not in verse. I’m halfway through now (sloooow reading week) and it’s still strong. And I believe that the drummer of Shotgun Hitting an Ant would probably have been poached from the Smidgen o’ Coy, leaving fans livid in some fashion. >eyelash bat<

  17. Sondra Eklund says

    Thanks for this–You’ve given me a nice list of books to check out! I see nothing wrong with expressing which books you think are the most distinguished so far this year–and that’s what those awards are all about!

  18. There is somethng so dear and poignant about Tricia Tusa’s work. In every book she has ever illustrated, she chooses to respond (via the medium) in such a unique way to the words. Real heart and soul.

  19. What about Baseball Hour, illustrated by Bill Thompson. I think this is by far the best illustrated book of 2008! My kids love it and the dramatic perspectives make us feel like we are part of the action!

  20. A Kitten Tale is a wonderful book. I even bought one for my kitten, Tori Loretta to enjoy. By the way, she hates the snow.