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Newbery/Caldecott 2011: The Big Questions

Yes, it’s time yet again to try to figure out what might win this year’s Newbery (for the best written work for children) and Caldecott (for the best illustrated book for children) Awards for 2011.  Let’s try something a little different from Part One and Part Two of this year’s predictionfest.  Now with Heavy Medal restarting and sites like the ACPL Mock Newbery creating reading lists, the true debates are about to begin.  With that in mind, I need to step up my game.

Newbery 2011

I think that the best way to tackle this is to consider all the questions that need to be answered before the committees come to a final decision.  Questions like:

Does it stand alone?

There are a couple series titles this year that may wish to dip their toes into the ring.  The first could be Laurie Halse Anderson’s sequel to her shouldabeenaNewberyAwardwinning novel Chains.  With Forge, Anderson writes a sequel that may or may not be standalone material.  It’s on my old To Be Read shelf and should be due to be perused soon.

The other notable entrant into this category is A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner.  If you picked this book up with no prior knowledge of the books that came before it, would it make sense?  According to the Newbery criteria, it would have to in order to win.  And while we’re thinking of it, is this a book for the 0-14 set or it is clearly mature fare?  This leads neatly into the next question:

Is it too old?

Newbery committees often have a hard time resisting the siren song of those books that were clearly published with a teen audience in mind, yet don’t contain much in the way of inappropriate language, sex, violence, etc.  Technically a kid could read it.  So does it count?

This year the aforementioned Turner will have to answer that question.  So too will books like The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt.  The title opens with grown-ups leading their very adult lives.  It then turns into a kind of quest for self novel, set on the Oregon Trail.  A strong literary contender, to be sure, but is it for kids?

That question has been consistently asked, when thinking about the books of Lynne Rae Perkins.  Remember that her Criss Cross did win a Newbery, though.  So maybe As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth won’t be considered too old either.  A lot happens in that book and it’s a fun ride.  Speaking of previous winners:

Should we pay more attention to it if the author wrote a Newbery winner before?

Well, it doesn’t hurt.  However, you do have to wonder whether or not we’re talking about these books because they’re extraordinary or because previous winners make it easy to come up with a list of possible Newbery contenders.

Certainly Keeper by Kathi Appelt is worthy of the hype.  To some it comes across as more kid-friendly than The Underneath.  And when you consider how divisive that book was to some when it won, shouldn’t the universal love this newest Appelt book has garnered make it even more of a surefire winner?

Don’t discount The Cardturner by Louis Sachar either.  Though his writing wasn’t winning much love when he came out with Small Steps, this newest book about playing bridge has its fans.  Suppose I’d better read it, eh?

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz poses an interesting question.  It’s one of the youngest Newbery contenders this year, and I think there’s something to be said for that.  To my mind, it is far more difficult to write a good original book for younger children than it is to write a good original book for teens.  Plus the amazing use of language Schlitz utilizes here may mean that it gets more attention than its 12+ contemporaries.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm (I much preferred the original galley cover) is also a lot of fun, and best of all it has humor.  I wouldn’t call it a laugh riot or anything, but this was one of the most enjoyable books I read this year.  Some questions have come up regarding the ending and whether or not Holm brings the story to a close too quickly.  To this I say nay.  I think it wraps up beautifully, with great characters, superior writing, and just a dash of history for spice.

Is it noteworthy?

Always the question, right?  You can like a book until the cows come home, but then there’s that horrible sense of “noteworthy” hanging over your head.  For example, I’m rather fond of that Palace Beautiful novel by Sarah DeFord Williams (another victim of an unfortunately girly cover).  To my vast interest I’ve seen librarian after librarian become won over to this book’s clever writing.  But is it noteworthy?  I have no bloody idea.  Sure hope so.

One book that doesn’t have to ask that question is One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.  As mentioned before (before = millions of times) on this blog, this is my #1 Newbery pick.  Love it.  Adore it.  Want it to win.  And I’ll be MIGHTY interested to hear what Heavy Medal thinks about it as well (Jonathan, let’s get a male opinion in here, kay?).

Will the media inside of it hurt it?

While Countdown by Deborah Wiles is a great little book, does the fact that it’s a documentary novel hurt it?  Perhaps.  That’s a question that I’m sure will be bandied about for long periods of time in the Newbery committee room.  I’d love it to get some luvin’, but it may also suffer from the fact that there are mysteries left unrevealed by the story’s close (so maybe this book should belong in the “Does it stand alone?” category).

The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan is illustrated by Peter Sis and may suffer similar scrutiny.  If you take away the art of Sis, do the words stand up well enough on their own?  I’ve heard some folks say that this book felt a little too much like Newbery bait to them.  While I wouldn’t necessarily agree, I can see where they’re coming from.  It’s awful writerly.  Meaningful.  There’s room in the Honors for such books as this, though.  And wouldn’t a silver medal just look so purdy against the cover?

Booga booga! Non-Fiction!

Never gets any respect, does it?  I’d love to believe that books like Sparky: The Life and Art of Charles Schulz by Beverly Gherman or The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie by Tanya Lee Stone have a shooting chance.  But let us be honest for a moment.  A non-fiction title hasn’t won the Newbery proper since Lincoln: A Photobiography in 1988.  Unless we’ve a really pro-non-fiction committee this year, I can’t see this happening again.

Then again, this is a year where books like The War to End All Wars: World War I by Russell Freedman and Susan Campbell Bartoletti’s They Called Themselves the KKK are gaining attention.  The real question then becomes, are they meant for kids or for teens?

So no funny books, huh?

Well, there are moments of levity in some of these books.  But really, there’s nothing here on the same level as last year’s Honor winner Homer P. Figg. I’m somewhat tempted to consider Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg for a moment, but then I remember that the media inside (read: comics) almost certainly disqualifies it.  More’s the pity.

Wild Cards: The Trend This Year is Horror

In my mind I meld A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and The Boneshaker by Kate Milford tightly together.  Grimm has the edge in this race.  Though both are the products of debut Brooklyn novelists, Grimm got blurbs from not only a previous Newbery winner (Laura Amy Schlitz) but also the great-grandaddy of children’s literary scholarship, Jack Zipes.  Don’t discount the plucky little Milford novel, though.  With her references to the works of Ray Bradbury, I certainly think she has a shot.  The question then becomes, is it an homage or too similar?  I say homage.

Wait a minute!  Where the heckedy-heck did you put Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper and Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine?

Expect an answer to that query soon.  These two, somehow surprisingly tied to one another, cannot be discussed without a serious smackdown going on.  To be continued in a future post . . .

Caldecott 2011

I have more difficulty with Caldecott predictions than Newbery predictions.  Maybe this is because I find good writing less subjective than good art.  Still, certain titles come up again and again over the course of a year.  I know what to listen for at the very least.  So with that in mind . . .

What do other folks out there like?

At this point in the year two of the primary places to look for hints of the upcoming award season are the 2010 Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards for Excellent in Children’s Literature and the awards given out by the Society of Illustrators.  The Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards were pretty mute on the subject of great 2010 fare this year, so it’s to the Society of Illustrators I turn.  Two of their recent medalists do look particularly toothsome too:

I credit Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast with clueing me in on the love building out there for The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Renata Liwska.  Long before it won the Society’s Gold Medal, people were telling me that this was a book to watch.  A perfect melding of text and image.  I’ve been a Liwska fan for years, having fallen in love with the work she did on that amazing Barbara Joosse book Nikolai, the Only Bear.  This title has a sequel called The Loud Book slated for early 2011 already.  If it gets a big shiny Caldecott, that’ll make for a clever business plan on HMH’s part.

CORRECTION!: Travis at 100 Scope Notes has correctly pointed out that Liwska is ineligible for the Caldecott as she lives in Canada.  And another one bites the dust . . .

Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Dan Santat earned itself the silver medal from the Society of Illustrators as well and this pleases me beyond measure.  Santat has slaved away on his books for a couple years now and hasn’t been getting the right amount of luvin’ from the masses.  Who knew that pairing him with Barnett would get him the right accolades?  This particular book is a real work of art and funny to boot.  And as you know, I’m always trying to prop up the funny.

On the review side of things, Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio has gotten many a fine star.  There’s no denying that the art is original and beautiful.  There have been some mumbles about whether or not the representation of Italians here is stereotypical, to which I say piffle.  I don’t think it plays into serious consideration.  Still, something to discuss.

Well, they’ve won other awards before.

Just maybe not Caldecotts.  But having gotten a Scott O’Dell Award for his The Storm in the Barn, Matt Phelan crops up this year illustrating Flora’s Very Windy Day by Jeanne Birdsall.  The illustrations in this particular book have a kind of slow burn to them.  The first time you see them they seem okay.  The second them you read them, they seem clever.  Keep looking at them, though, and they grow on you until you’re convinced of their genius.  Matt’s got a shot with this puppy.  It’s subtle fare, but a contender.

Previous Caldecott Winners:

The man to beat in 2011 is going to be David Wiesner, no question.  With more Caldecott Awards under his belt than anyone else alive (not even counting his Honors) his Art and Max is already getting some serious attention.  And I got news for you, folks… it’s brilliant.  Pure Wiesner.

Don’t discount our other contenders so soon, though.  Moon Bear by Brenda Z. Guiberson is illustrated by Ed Young, and that book has some serious subject matter on the brain.  Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky is a sequel to a Caldecott Honor book.  Could the sequel trump the original and get the gold?  And has that ever been done before?  Finally, Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen is illustrated by David Small.  Small won the Caldecott before, but I’ve always felt it was for a book that wasn’t quite his best work.  It was, however, a book of non-fiction, which leads us to . . .

Booga booga!  Non-Fiction!

Non-fiction fares far better with Caldecott books than Newbery titles.  Why is this?  Haven’t a clue.  As recently as 2004 the award went to Mordecai Gerstein’s The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.  Here in 2010, I wouldn’t mind seeing Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier get the gold.   The book consists of Little Brown’s best chance for an award this year.  It’s their newest The Lion and the Mouse, if you will.

However, if I’m going to level with you then I must say that my heart belongs to Ballet for Martha.  Written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, the book marks the return of Brian Floca.  Each year I hope against hope that he’ll get a Caldecott.  Every year he has to be content with a Sibert Medal instead.  Don’t get me wrong.  The Sibert is a bloody difficult medal to win.  But can we just take a step back to examine the artistry of Floca’s work here?  The man’s a certifiable genius with the pen, and who else can capture bodies in motion as thrillingly as he?  Just give it a bloody Honor at least, oh committee.  That’s all I’m asking.  Give the man his due.

The Poetry Contingent

Poetry’s sneaky.  You’ll be minding your own business, doing nothing, and then WHAMMO!  They get a big old award.  And since poetry can’t win an ALSC award of its own, it must be content with the rare Newbery (1989’s Joyful Noise) and Caldecott.  Caldecotts are more frequent winners.

This year the first contender to burst out of the gates was Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse.  There’s been some talk out there about Mirror Mirror making a grab at the Newbery, and that would be nice.  Still and all, I think it has a better shot at Caldecott glory.  The combination of beauty and cleverness (the hidden images) give it a distinct edge.

CORRECTION: This time Marilyn Singer was the one to correct me.  The residence of Ms. Masse?   You guessed it.  Canada.  So this one’s out of the running as well.  Oh, Canada . . .

Illustrators have always done well when pairing with Joyce Sidman too.  Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors as illustrated by Beckie Prange is no exception.  And it’s technically a triple doozy.  It combines non-fiction subject matter with poetry with gorgeous art.  Keep a very close eye on this one.  It’s the kind of book likely to sneak a gold medal when nobody’s looking.

Wild Cards

I say Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee as illustrated by Tony Fucile.  And I mean it.  Seriously.  Fucile’s art is jaw-dropping.  Sure, there are books out there where the material is classier and the technique has more style.  But I ask you to sit down and consider the power of capturing the perfect emotion at the perfect time.  Fucile must have been the world’s greatest animator when he worked that his job.  Now let us consider the possibility that his art could earn an honest-to-god Caldecott as well.  Do I think it likely?  No.  But if I were on that committee, I know where I’d be pushing the hardest.

The Boys by Jeff Newman is another book that makes exquisite use of expressions.  And the art itself is magnificent.  I may be the sole voice shrieking in the wilderness about the marvelous stuff going on here, but shriek I shall, and loudly.

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills would be fascinating if it won, wouldn’t it?  Hills has a seemingly simple style but shouldn’t a Caldecott committee consider sheer appeal?  Appeal is hard to mimic.  It isn’t all long eyelashes and big baby blues.  Hills manages to be consistently cute without being cloying, and that’s worth noting.

Then we get to an interesting twofer.  Big Red Lollipop by Rukshana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall OR Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson, also illustrated by Sophie Blackall could win it.  Both are Blackall, through and through.  It’s funny that they were both released in the same year since they pair together quite naturally.  Both stories are about sibling friction in one way or another and the relationship between daughters and mothers.  They make natural complements to one another.  Will that hurt them in the long run?  Will folks just meld them together in their brains and not reward either?  Hope not.

Oh, Daddy! by Bob Shea would please me beyond measure if it won Mr. Shea an award.  I don’t think anyone gives him adequate credit for his style.  The remarkable melding of simple design with child-friendly situations is a trait he has perfected over the years.  This particular book is exceedingly pleasing to the old eyeballs too.  I think it has an outside chance.

Of course if A Sick Day for Amos McGhee by Philip Christian Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead wins, you’ll be hearing my whoops from here to kingdom come.  It’s a debut illustrator, sure, but this book reeks of charm.  A wild wild card, but a sweet sweet book.

And would someone just bloody give Meghan McCarthy an award already?  You missed your chance with her previous books but Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum is fantastic.  The problem here is that sometimes folks have a hard time distinguishing “simple” from “easy”.  Meghan’s illustrations are simple but they are not easy.  Take some time to appreciate the artistry at work here.  Just because something’s appealing, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t win pretty awards.

And finally…

Books I Haven’t Read But Probably Have to Now If I’m Gonna Keep Blogging About This Stuff

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar

A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz

Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

In December I’ll write up my final predictions. Until then let ’em rip.  What have I missed (either accidentally or on purpose)?

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. Of the four NF titles you mention, I think only SPARKY can really be claimed as book for kids vs teens. Yes, kids could read all the others but as for a book that would really appeal to the largest number of kids (and not just someone whose way into war history for example), then SPARKY is my NF bet and I thought it was fantastic. It’s well written and beautifully designed. It deserves some awards love.

    And PLEASE can Boneshaker at least get an honor mention? For all that it has in common with Bradbury let’s remember that it certainly creates its own mythology and the kids are funny and smart and it wraps in multiple other Americana folklore and it’s really scary (in the best Bradbury kind of way) AND how often to we see anything even remotely like this for kids? It’s well written, it’s 100% for a kid audience (although all ages would love it) and while it might be traveling along the Bradbury path, it certainly blazes it’s own unique trail.

    I’ll have to think about the picture books and get back to you on that one….

  2. I haven’t read a lot of these, since my reading skews more towards YA than MG, but I have read WATER SEEKER and THE CARDTURNER. WATER SEEKER will probably appeal more to older kids and I think could definitely have some crossover appeal with their parents, since there is so much about those adults living their adult lives. I find it interesting that SLJ lists it as a grade 5-8 title, while Booklist went with grades 7-10. There’s nothing preventing it from being read by a younger audience, but it struck me as more YA.

    Same deal with THE CARDTURNER. I loved the book, despite knowing nothing about bridge at the outset (and honestly, even though I read the optional bridge-heavy sections, I still don’t know too much about the game. I don’t blame Sachar for that, though; I just don’t learn well from diagrams). But again, it struck me as much more of a YA than MG title.

    I absolutely loved OUT OF MY MIND. I haven’t read MOCKINGBIRD, so perhaps I’ll try to pick that one up before you deliver your smackdown.

  3. This is fun – thanks for sharing your picks. The Caldecott race looks completely wide open, which makes for some interesting discussion. I was wondering about the eligibility of The Quiet Book, since the illustrator was born in Poland and lives in Canada. Here’s hoping it’s eligible, as it’s a great book.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Aw, phooey. Liwska’s Canadian? I always miss Canadians. Guess that knocks The Quiet Book out of the running then.

      Plain Kate suffers the same fate. The author lives in Canada.

      And I stand by my fightin’ words, Laura. Lay into me. I will take you DOWN! Hut hut hut.

  4. I had the same wonderings about COUNTDOWN – as an adult I could appreciate (and remember;) the artwork/propaganda/photos,etc, but I felt like it might be something most kid readers would skip over. If there had been just a few interspersed, and directly tied in to the story, I’m thinking the kids would pay more attention and see the connections?? An interesting format and I wonder if that is what’s pushing it onto many adult’s lists of contenders, tho the story itself is very kid-friendly and satisfying.

    Just finished OUT OF MY MIND and it’s GOT to be a contender. Slow start that, again, I wonder if kids will be patient enough to get through but a great, page turning ending that was very realistic (sadly) yet hopeful. This will be an IMPORTANT book and on mandatory reading lists everywhere.

    WATERSEEKER – great story, so very deeply researched but I did wonder also about the adult type beginning, This reminded me of books from my childhood, ones that took their time in the telling (in a good way;)
    Is it me or does it seem like some years the committee picks a book that is more appealing to adults than kids? Being adults themselves, I guess that’s a hard thing not to do!
    Any thoughts on the Sibert??

  5. Is Erin Bow’s PLAIN KATE not eligible for the Newbery? Perhaps not, as it only just came out on Sept. 1st — but if that’s so then I dearly hope it will be on the list for next year. It deserves to be.

  6. Emily Calkins Charyk says:

    Have dutifully added all the ones I haven’t read (most of them, sadly) to my GoodReads “to-read” list. Not that ratings necessarily mean anything, but I was surprised that of all the titles you listed, Countdown has the most stars on GoodReads.

    And while I haven’t read most of the Newbery contenders, I’m with you on One Crazy Summer. It somehow manages to feel both timeless and incredibly evocative of Oakland in the 60s. Can’t wait to read the rest of these!

  7. Oooh, did you really say that writing good original fiction for younger people is harder than writing good original fiction for teens? Oooh, Betsy, dem’s fightin’ words, you brave woman.

    TURTLE IN PARADISE is the book-that-got-away for me this year – I can’t believe I haven’t read it. And THE CARDTURNER has been sitting on my shelves for *months* – I don’t know…the topic isn’t grabbing me. Which is ridiculous, I know. But I will read it before December – I’m determined.

  8. I thought The Cardturner was definitely YA, rather than in the Newbery mix. I listened to the audiobook. I don’t know what kids have thought of it–I think it has a very narrow appeal, though (not that that would stop the Newbery committee!)

  9. I’m a huge Megan Whalen Turner fan and want her to get all the love* she can. On the other hand, I think both questions you brought up for A Conspiracy of Kings are very valid. I’ve heard of several people who started reading the series with King of Attolia and were mildly confused at the beginning but got it. So that one could be argued as a stand alone. Conspiracy? I’m not sure that it could. The age thing is even more difficult. Again, I do know of people who read the whole series when they were pretty young and loved it. I read David Copperfield when I was 12 and loved it. I read it when I was 14 and understood it. So where does that line fall?

    * LITERARY love. Of a non-creepifying kind.

  10. I think that CONSPIRACY OF KINGS stands alone as well or better than THE HGH KING or THE GREY KING. (I started humming WE THREE KINGS after writing the previous sentence.)

    PALACE BEAUTIFUL is a lovely book that with quiet intensity.

  11. The Cardturner is my Printz pick-LOVED it!! And if One Crazy Summer doesn’t take home the Newbery I’m crying and throwing a big huge fit-adored that book. It’s been my number one pick since I read it. And we’re both agreeing on Art and Max as being the book the beat-got that one last week and it’s amazing. I would love to see Dave the Potter be honored as well as The Quiet Book.

    I love The Night Fairy and think it might be that quiet little book that surprises everyone. I’m also wondering if Karen Cushman’s Alchemy and Meggy Swan will give Ms. Cushman a repeat honor.

  12. I concur that The Cardturner should be in your squeaky-clean YA category.

    I have serious doubts that A Conspiracy of Kings will make much sense to anyone who hasn’t read the previous three books. A lot of information about the characters’ pasts and relationships from books 1-3 isn’t spelled out for readers. Don’t get me wrong — I loved, loved the book. But I don’t think it stands alone.

    And I still say that Polly Horvath’s Northward to the Moon might be a dark horse contender. But apparently I’m the only one who thinks so. 🙂

  13. Nah, I won’t fight you. I’m a lover, not a fighter. But I am surprised that some YA authors haven’t already popped up here with their dukes up!

    You know I’m dying to dive in to this discussion, but alas…

  14. One Crazy Summer is breathtaking, it’s a winner!

  15. Anxiously awaiting Forge…agreed Chains shouldawonthenewbery, also loved Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper…another J/YA border book

  16. Clementine, Friend of the Week. It took a few Ramona books before a committee finally awarded Ramona a Newbery Honor. I keep hoping that eventually a committee will do a similar thing for Clementine.

  17. Betsy, I am so, so with you on Amos McGee. What a lovely book! And it would be a first: Caldecott winner has same surname as previous year’s Newbery winner! What a strange and completely random first that would be, but I would certainly dig it!

  18. Anne Schwartz says:

    For anyone who’s interested in HERE COMES THE GARBAGE BARGE!, and the issues that have been raised about the character Gino Stroffolino, here’s what author Jonah Winter has to say:

    The voices of my childrens’ books are often reflective of some ethnic or regional dialect (including, most recently, the Sandy Koufax book, which uses a lot of the same New-Yorkisms as Mr. Stroffolino’s character . . . ).

    In the true story of the real-life “garbage barge,” there were two main businessmen in charge of the whole fiasco. One of those two gentlemen was a member of the Lucchese crime family who was, in the 90s, indicted on racketeering charges by the Feds. The front for his racketeering was “waste management.” It is no secret that in New York the Mafia is indeed quite involved with the waste management industry. My story is a story about waste management. One of the real-life figures was a member of the Mafia . . . in the waste management industry. That’s a part of the story. And as I said in my author’s note, I condensed the two real-life characters into one character for simplicity, and, well, humor.

    I certainly meant no offense to Italian Americans. In fact, I have a book coming out on a famous Italian-American with another publisher in a couple of years—and in that book I deal with the pride he brought to his people here in this country. I have devoted my adult life to writing books which pay homage to the struggles of minorities and the oppressed—African Americans, Latinos, Jews, women, gays, anti-war advocates, and yes, Italian-Americans—and I am deeply saddened that anyone would accuse me of slandering any particular ethnic group. And I don’t believe that’s what I’ve done here. My own mother-in-law, who is very proud of her 100% Italian heritage, sat in my living room and laughed as she read my book aloud during her last visit.

    I meant no offense to anyone. And that’s the best I can offer here.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Fantastic quoting, Anne. I wasn’t particularly concerned on my part, but I know I’ve heard the issue raised elsewhere.

      Re: Plain Kate, Newbery criteria comes down to residency, right? I shall need to look into this.

  19. Drat! I thought PLAIN KATE should still be eligible because the author is American even if she isn’t currently living in the US, but obviously I misunderstood the criteria. Sigh.

  20. I don’t know the book PLAIN KATE, but if the author is American living in Canada, she should be eligible. Polly Horvath lives in Canada and she received a Newbery Honor. And wasn’t Sharon Creech still living in England when she won for WALK TWO MOONS?


  21. You have some good suggestions for the Caldecott, but I have to say that my heart lies with Jeff Newman’s The Boys. It is absolutely brilliant. And my choice for the Honor medal would be A Sick Day for Amos McGee,. Those two wins would make me h-a-p-p-y.

  22. Unless they’ve changed the crieteria you have to be an American Citizen or resident. Think about Sharon Creech , who I believe was living in England when she won,and Christopher Pual Curtis, who ws living in Canada.


  23. I’m still leaning toward One Crazy Summer, Keeper and The Dreamer. I also loved Night Fairy and think it deserves attention. So why not, a medal and three honors.


  24. Oh, Bink and Gollie just came across my desk this afternoon and I love it! The last page made me laugh out loud.


  25. I’m so tempted to do my own Caldecott post, but I love your choices, Betsy. I must must must throw in:

    Chris Barton’s SHARK VS. TRAIN, ill. by Tom Lichtenheld. I know Caldecott doesn’t usually go for humor, but still….Flawless.

    MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS (AND I DON’T) by Barbara Bottner and ill. by Michael Emberley — Ditto!

    CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG by Mo Willems and ill. by Jon J. Muth

    I don’t know about Caldecott, but dang, I Tao Nyeu’s BUNNY DAYS is still a big 2010 favorite for me.

    I also hope Margarita Engle’s SUMMER BIRDS, ill. by Julie Paschkis, gets some kind of awards-love somewhere, as well as David Ezra Stein’s INTERRUPTING CHICKEN.

  26. Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes will be on my Newbery shortlist. – The timing of this book is perfect and its really beautiful

    How I Nicky Flynn Finally get a life and a dog by Art Corriveau – is on it as well. Its one of my long shot picks. I hope it makes a few more short list, its a very good book no one is talking about.

    Since I only read The Thief, I couldn’t get into the Conspiracy of Kings. I loved Out of my Mind and One Crazy Summer

    I would love to see Chavela and the Magic Bubble by Monica Brown get a Caldecott honor. Is a picture book with a little foreign language in the text, eligible to win the Caldecott? This is Brown’s first non bilingual picture book, though there are some spanish words.

  27. A closer look at the ALA criteria confirms that the author must be EITHER a resident OR a citizen of the United States. PLAIN KATE is eligible because Erin Bow is an American citizen, even though currently living in Canada. Look into it, Newbery people! 😀

  28. Eric, what a nice thought about CLEMENTINE, FRIEND OF THE WEEK. I just recently discovered CLEMENTINE because of this blog, and I am a die-hard fan.

    As much as I love A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS, I’m on team ONE CRAZY SUMMER right there with Betsy.

    Interesting that you paired MOCKINGBIRD and OUT OF MY MIND. Because I read them fairly close together — and that detracted from the experience. It felt like I’d already read the same story.

    For the Caldecott, you didn’t mention either of the books that struck me with their art. Though now that I’m not in the library, I’m not running across picture books as much. One was Jon Muth’s illustrations of CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG. The other was LADYBUG GIRL AT THE BEACH. Though I am definitely no art critic, I loved both of those jobs of illustration.

  29. I say OH YES! to OH NO!

  30. I’m startled to see Palace Beautiful mentioned here–I didn’t think it was remotely Newbery quality. (overly maudlin in places, unclear characterization, huge plot holes.) I thought The Water Seeker started out fantastic, but I wasn’t enthusiastic by the middle or end–and I also think it’s going to be this year’s Season of Gifts for issues with the depiction of American Indians. I’ve read some of the tossed-about titles, but i don’t have a horse in this race yet myself.

  31. @Maureen E — YES to David Copperfield at 12 — and frequent intervals therafter (though I agree with Maugham that the whole Dr. Strong plot could go and it was YEARS till I understood what was up with L’il Emily.)

  32. How about Chalk by Bill Thomson? And agreeing with you and others, I also loved City Dog, Country Frog, Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum, and the Quiet Book. I don’t share your enthusiasm for The Boys. One Crazy Summer should definitely receive an award, but nothing has wowed me like last year’s winner. I’ve still got a lot of books on my “to read” pile, though.

  33. Excellent post. I like Big Red Lollipop very much, but I believe Rukhsana Khan lives in Canada.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ah. In that particular case it doesn’t matter. The Caldecott goes to the artist of a given book and, in the case of Big Red Lollipop, Ms. Sophie Blackall is NYC based.

  34. I just had to say the A Conspericy of Kings does not stand alone. It is the only book that I have not finished in my whole life. Even if I don’t like the book I keep going but this one was too confusing. I didn’t even make it half way.

  35. Great discussion, and several of the titles I’m cheering have already been mentioned. Quickly, though, I’d like to add: THE FANTASTIC SECRET OF OWEN JESTER, by Barbara O’Connor (Frances Foster/FSG 2010). Kid friendly, and multiple starred reviews.

  36. I love Jennifer Holm, but Turtle in Paradise didn’t blow me away. Neither did Palace Beautiful. Both had nice stories and were funny, but didn’t stick with me.

  37. I agree, Cynthia. This is a great discussion and a parade of great reads. (A few on the list I haven’t read just yet, so I am excited to pick them up! Thx, Elizabeth!) Right now, I’d also add FALLING IN by Frances O’Roark Dowell to the growing list of Newberry contenders. It’s fantastical, clever, and heart-melting (Did I make up that word?) all at the same time. PS Elizabeth: I look forward to hearing you speak in Chicago at ILA and at the SCBWI/IL + 57th Street Book Store event. PJM

  38. Fuse and KHazelrigg, I’m screaming loudly with you. “The Boys” is a huge hit with my system’s mock caldecott and I adore it. A lot going on there, indeed.

    Shelf-Employed, I’m also cheering for Bill Thompson’s “Chalk.”

    While “Out of My Mind” is excellent, “The Dreamer” and “Mockingbird” captured my heart. “Forge” also deserves some hardware (in my opinion, it absolutely stands on its own). “The Water Keeper” would be a hard youth sell. It’s in my system’s YA department.

  39. I didn’t know that only the artist needed to be based in the States for the Caldecott. That makes sense (I knew the medal went to the artist, but didn’t make the connection that it didn’t matter about the author). Good to know!

  40. Hey, Betsy! Don’t I count as a male opinion? Or maybe you just weren’t paying attention when I wrote about ONE CRAZY SUMMER last November.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      You do, my man! And I do indeed remember your fabulous review. Remember, I linked to it in my own. So do you think it’s Newbery bait?

  41. I second Jules mention of MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS (AND I DON’T) which is both touching and hilarious and a wonderful meld of wry, well-chosen words with the funniest pictures. The over-the-top librarian, the stubborn reluctant reader, the artist mom are all so wonderfully drawn with both words and pictures. I know so many kidlit folk who simply adore that book because it is what our business is all about — matching the right book with the right kid before they’ve given up on reading.

    And, even more important — KIDS think its funny and like it as well.

  42. Just read Bink and Golly and have to second your wild card vote: GIVE THIS BOOK AN AWARD! OR TWO OR THREE AWARDS!! Not just a Caldecott, either; there’s a subtlety and wit to the dialogue, the characterization, and the story episodes that is just as striking.

    And by the way, let’s say Conspiracy of Kings isn’t a standalone or is too YA-ish; Newbery medal aside, those of you who haven’t read all four books are missing out on some of the best writing in kidlit. Megan Whalen Turner’s work is the gold standard for a lot of other authors.

  43. A couple that I would love to see mentioned are WHAT HAPPENED ON FOX STREET, and more recently MOON OVER MANIFEST. It’s been such a great year for kid’s books, both committees are going to have lots to consider!

  44. Richard Wing says:

    No comments on David Diaz’ brilliant SHARING THE SEASONS for Caldecott? It’s his best.

  45. Interesting picks. Just one piece of info, not sure if it’s already been mentioned, but as far as I know Renata Lewska isn’t American. 🙁
    I’d love to see a discussion about what makes a book American. There are a handful of authors and illustrators in the world publishing in the USA because their books are more American than, say, Canadian, British, etc…
    I’d love to see Renata get a Caldecott. She’s an excellent illustrator.

  46. I read The Countdown and enjoyed it, but I have wondered if it would be appealing to children. While I found the historical references and documentary style unique and interesting, I am not sure if its intended age group would appreciate this aspect of the book. I’d be curious to know what others thought.

    -Shannon Knowlton

  47. I just finished The Night Fairy. While it is a beautifully written and charming tale, I’m not sure it is Newbery-worthy. But it is definitely on my list of wonderful family read-alouds.

  48. Have you seen Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe? It’s gorgeous & in my opinion Caldecott worthy – it got a starred review in SLJ this month & also in the October Kirkus.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I have not! Wouldn’t mind giving it a peek, too. I love me my Javaka. Had a kid come into my library once asking for everything Javaka ever did. Kid couldn’t have been more than six. It did my heart good.

  49. When is the smackdown??! When?? I must be a part of this, I must.

  50. I’ll be another voice for the guys and say I loved One Crazy Summer. It is equal parts funny and touching. I would like to see light shine on Candy Bomber which is the story of Berlin Airlift pilot Gail Halvorsen.

  51. I’m reasonably sure that ONE CRAZY SUMMER will win the Newbery. But there’s still room (and not just in my heart) for ALCHEMY AND MEGGY SWANN, THE DREAMER, THE BONESHAKER, and MOON OVER MANIFEST. Too many, I know. But it’s up to the Newbery Committee to give out as many honors as they wish (hint, hint). Actually, I guess they’re too busy reading books right now to read this comment.

    For Caldecott, like you, Betsy, I’m less certain. ART & MAX seems the obvious way to go here. But I also love MOON BEAR and absolutely adore CITY DOG, COUNTRY FROG. But then I love anything Jon Muth illustrates.

    Does anyone like THE EXTRAORDINARY MARK TWAIN (ACCORDING TO SUSY)? And is it even eligible for a Caldecott? It pubbed Jan 1, 2010. Edwin Fotheringham deserves highest praise for his illustrations, but of course the talented Barbara Kerley also deserves praise for her words — and it will probably get a Sibert Medal or honor, as this team did in 2009 for WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? I think it’s a shame that nonfiction tends to be less popular as a medal choice with both Newbery and Caldecott awards.

  52. Marie Kelsey says:

    Please seriously consider Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus, a superb work of historical fiction and multiculturalism. Has received many starred reviews.

  53. I have a problem with “Mirror,Mirror” . Unless a child is familiar with the fairy tale being written about, I don’t think they get much from the poem. Many children are not familiar with all the “traditional” fairy tales today.

  54. P.S. If I could only own one picture book from this year, it would be “City Dog, Country Frog” . It is sun-drenched, joyously free and grabs you by the heartstrings. The garbage barge and the quiet book are tied for second.

  55. Rachel Payne says:

    One little correction- the Caldecott Award (as stated in the award cristeria) is for the best picture book. Not all illustrated books are necessarily picture books. And in these post- Hugo Cabret years, the question of what a picture book is has gotten murkier and murkier. May sound like I am being nit picky, but I think there is a whole PhD dissertation on this topic!

    Going back to the Caldecott round up in the spring, Henry in Love by Peter McCarty does have a 2010 copyright date even though it might have been released late in 2009. It is my understanding, after serving on a previous Caldecott Committee, that if the committee does not discuss a book released late in the year, the next year’s committee can consider it. I think it may still have a shot!

    Sorry to be late to this party, but I am just back from infant care leave (a.k.a all board books all the time).

  56. Harriet Vane says:

    Betsy, have you read A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Nope. But I figure I’ll have to before the end of the year. Ditto the other books at the end of this post that I haven’t yet read.

  57. not a great year. or your choices are poor.

    The Garbage Barge looks like the only winner here

  58. Sarah Provence says:

    Am I the only one who thought _The Search for WondLa_ has a chance? I know it’s old fashioned, but I think the eco-ideas, and the strong writing makes it a dark horse. After Countdown, it’s the best book I’ve read this year.

    Just curious!

  59. I just finished reading the Cardturner and I really enjoyed it, but I think it’s too old for the Newbery crowd. Just read Matched too and it was great, but ditto on the Newbery possibility. We’ll all know pretty soon.

  60. My favorite illustrated book for 2010 is Summer Birds: The Butterflies of Maria Merian by Margarita Engle.

  61. I have a few questions for those who are willing to take a moment to respond.

    Can anybody submit a book assuming it qualifies for the criteria?

    Also, if a book is published in December, and submitted in late December, does this book actually have a chance? I note one response above indicated that a book submitted late in the year and not read by the committee, can be considered for the following year. Is this true?

    Thank you for any responses.


  1. […] favorite children’s book of the year, and now that the Newbery and Caldecott predictions have started in earnest I thought I should tell you about […]