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Newbery / Caldecott 2012: The Spring Prediction Edition

I know some of you just hate it when award talk starts too early. And certainly ten months before the awards in question. . . well that’s the very definition of early, is it not? But I’ve been doing these for three years now and I rather enjoy them. This is also the first year where I’ve been one-upped. Heavy Medal already came up with a pretty complete list of potential Newbery titles to keep an eye on.

With that in mind, I’ve little faith in my own prediction abilities. Note the following statistics (and read the comments on the posts for a lot of extra fun):

2008 spring predictions: I get one Caldecott right (How I Learned Geography)

2009 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The (Mostly) True Adventures of Homer P Figg)

2010 spring predictions: I get one Newbery right (One Crazy Summer)

2011 spring predictions: ???

Folks, I need to level with you. I’m just not feeling the love this year. As far as I can determine, there are a lot of books out there that are perfectly good, but only a few have I been able to find that carry with them the whiff of potential awards. That’s okay. It’s just springtime. Things don’t perk up until at least halfway through. Still and all, this will be a relatively short prediction list this year. With the full knowledge that I haven’t read everything out there this season:

2012 Newbery Predictions

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall – I have a good feeling about this, folks. A good feeling. Sequels, you will find, often win Newbery Awards and Honors long after their preceding novels have earned nothing at all. With that in mind, and knowing as we do that Ms. Birdsall gets better with every subsequent Penderwick book, if there’s going to be a year to hand something to Ms. Birdsall why not make that year 2012? Sure the first Penderwick novel won a National Book Award, but come on! I want a different breed of shiny sticker on these here books. It will, of course, rely on a committee that is inclined to notice how difficult this seemingly simple novel was to write. But if any title is distinguished this year, this one is.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming – I’ve dipped into a couple nonfiction titles this year and enjoyed what I’ve found. However, far and away and above, this has been the best. It’s not enough merely to have great content and writing. What’s so strong about Fleming’s book is how beautifully it all ties together. The interstitial search for Amelia old between the history of her life sort of raises this above and beyond the rest.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – This one has a slow burn. You put it down, then find yourself ruminating over it for long periods of time without quite realizing what you’re doing. And while the content almost feels like a How To in Newbery Award writing (verse, immigration, history, girl pushing against the boundaries and conventions of her time and place, etc.) there’s something noteworthy here. This book’s got it, babe. Moxie.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt – I don’t want to go pronouncing what my number one pick of the year is as early as all that, but if I were a betting woman I’d probably tell you straight out that this book is destined for at least an Honor. Of course Mr. Schmidt has had his fair share of Honors already (two, to be precise). With that in mind, this is by far my favorite of anything he’s written. More importantly, I’ve heard that sentiment shared amongst a LOT of people recently. If there is a book with buzz, it is this. Could it be the one that gets him the award proper?

2012 Caldecott Predictions:

The Secret River by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon – We discussed the eligibility of this title back in January and the general consensus seemed to be that this book could indeed win a Caldecott if the committee felt so swayed. They may indeed be swayed too by this lush new take on an old Newbery Honor title. The Dillons haven’t won a Caldecott anything for a couple years now, so the time may be ripe to honor them yet again. We shall see.

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman – I was a one woman Scribble fanclub member back in 2007 when Freedman’s first picture book came out. Golly I loved that book. Now Freedman is finally FINALLY back, and I’ve already heard some buzz surrounding this, her latest. Consider this your early warning system then.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall – I like to think this has a chance. Any book that invokes this much nostalgia for Lionni has got to at least appear as more than a blip on the Caldecott committee’s radar. The use of color and story and inventiveness . . . well, I’m a fan.

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg – Nonfiction almost never wins Caldecotts, but if one were to do so then it would have to be this. Van Allsburg is back, baby, and in the finest form we’ve seen in years. Not since 1992’s The Widow’s Broom have I been this excited about one of his books. It’s been a while for me, but this title more than makes up for the wait. Of every picture book I’ve listed, Van Allsburg may have the best chance.

All right! There are my thoughts then. Now I need to hear yours. What have you seen this year that you’re really really excited about? Give me some recommendations so that I know what to read next!

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. The front-runner has to be Franny Billingsley’s CHIME, with six starred reviews.

  2. CHIME is the front-runner for the Printz you mean right?

  3. How is Me . . . Jane not here?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Woah. Because my brain is apparently on hiatus. Me…Jane should DEFINITELY be on there. My bad.

      And yes to Chime for the Printz. Just a little too YA for the 14-year-olds, unfortunately.

  4. I love these conversations! Hmm..So far, I’ve got BLUE CHAMELEON by Emily Gravett on my Caldecott prediction list.

    For Newbery, I think YOUNG FREDLE, which has a few starred reviews so far, may have a shot, but I haven’t met any fiction so far that has absolutely stolen my heart.

    For Sibert, perhaps AMELIA LOST or QUEENS OF THE FALLS. The art in CAN WE SAVE THE TIGERS is breathtaking.

    There are a lot of new titles coming out in the next few months, so I’m excited to peruse the competition. I haven’t gotten my copies of Shaun Tan’s LOST AND FOUND or David Almond and Dave McKean’s SLOG’S DAD yet. I have high hopes for both.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Alas Emily Gravett, Shaun Tan, Dave McKean, and I believe Komako Sakai are all ineligible since they don’t reside here in the States. Durn them. I love those little books. Can We Save the Tigers is a gorgeous little offering, isn’t it? I should review that or something. And it is very good to know that the Chime contingent finds this book fine for the 12-14 crowd. I now have an excuse to read it!

  5. I think CHIME is just fine for 12 year olds — read it and see. It’s romance on the lines of Elizabeth George Speare; fantasy on the lines of Eva Ibbotson.

  6. Yes! Blue Chicken! Blue Chicken!

  7. My favorite picture book thus far of 2011 is still the Rosenthals’ I MUST HAVE BOBO! ( Not the kind of book typically chosen as a Caldecott winner, but it’s simply my favorite. ME…JANE is also wonderful. Tricia Tusa’s FOLLOW ME, which I’ll be posting about soon, is good. Phil Stead’s JONATHAN AND THE BIG BLUE BOAT (also coming soon to 7-Imp) is good stuff. Also: Yukiko Kato’s IN THE MEADOW, ill. by Komako Sakai. Barbara Lehman’s THE SECRET BOX.

    CAN WE SAVE THE TIGER? from Martin Jenkins and Vicky White is exquisite. Don’t know about eligibility there, though.

    I don’t know if anything’s made me scream CALDECOTT, but those are my favorites.

  8. It is early, but I like reading everyone’s predictions. I’m keeping a running tally of my Caldecott/Newbery/Printz/Sibert shortlists on my blog. I really loved Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt. As for Caldecott, I agree with The Secret River, but I also think Little White Rabbit by Kevin Henkes is terrific.

  9. Doh! I adore those three. Darn rules and criteria and whatnot. Sigh…..

    By the way, I’m curious about how people actually keep a running list of possible contenders. For the past few years I’ve just kept a little notebook in my bag. One year we kept a list in our office and every staff member was able to add to it throughout the year. This year, I’m playing with the idea of taking it “to the cloud” as an igoogle doc and inviting people to share and add titles to a common document (at least within my library.)

    How does everybody else track their faves over the course of the year?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Oo. I love that idea, Kiera. Very creative. I wonder if someone could set up something similar for patrons?

  10. Chris Raschka’s forthcoming (May) wordless picture book, A BALL FOR DAISY, would be on my Caldecott nomination short list were I on that committee.

  11. You can allow unlimited access and editing to a Google document. However, you can only have 50 editors per document. They would need a Google account, I’m guessing.

  12. I’m crazy about AMELIA LOST for the newbery. I would love to see a non fiction title win it all this year, so often I feel like they are only thought of as Sibert contenders.

  13. I’m only a few chapters into Chime and already want to give it a Printz, if not a Newbery. (Yeah, I’d say YA.)

    Young Fredle is incredibly well written, too. Funny and touching, with a fresh mouse-eye’s view of the world.

  14. What about THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMERLIA by Jennifer L. Holm? I loved it even more than the first.

  15. In 2008 I pretty much avoided blogs and reviews because I did not want them to influence how I felt about the artwork in those books eligible for the Caldecott. I did not see your Caldecott Predictions for 2009. What a treat now, in retrospect, to go back and read the comments about what folks thought our 2009 committee should have selected!

    Speaking of Kadir Nelson, I think his A Nation’s Hope book (written by Matt de la Pena) is a book that should grab the attention of the Caldecott Committee. The artwork is stunning (as Nelson’s artwork ALWAYS is) and the text is lyrical. The art and text make a fine package. I would not be surprised to see this one named in January.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      We’re having a pretty good Joe Louis year as it is, between the Pena title you mentioned and Ms. Pinkney’s Bird in a Box. Thanks for mentioning it, Ed!

  16. The Trouble With May Amelia is one that I’m eagerly anticipating. I wonder if I need to reread Our Only May Amelia before it comes out-it’s been a while…?

  17. Are we not considering SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS anymore? Early on it sounded like this got a few starred reviews and would be under heavy consideration. Yet now on here, it hasn’t even gotten a sniff!

    I’m reading it right now and enjoying it. Newbery worthy, I don’t know . . .

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I was wondering when someone would bring it up. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and heaven knows I’d love to see a straight out fantasy win a Newbery Award proper one of these days (it’s been a while). This one . . . I really liked it. I don’t know if it can stand up in the end, though. Be interested in your take when you’re done with your own read.

  18. Kristi Hazelrigg says:

    Gary Schmidt’s OKAY FOR NOW was fantastic. It gets my vote, hands down.

  19. I have Small Persons With Wings on my radar. I have it checked out, but haven’t started it yet. It’s just really, really early in the spring publishing season for those that don’t have access to many ARCs.

    (Totally off topic, but if you are looking for ARCs, I recommend that you sign up for School Library Journal/Booklist/Library Journal webcasts that highlight the current and upcoming seasons. I can usually request and receive at least 2-3 ARCs from each webcast, although this year is the first time I’ve noticed some publishers directing readers to digitial ARCs instead of paper ARCs.)

  20. Warp Speed!

  21. I got The Penderwicks on clearance, and no one has touched them. Same with anything Schmidt. I’m reading Okay for Now, and not seeing anything that speaks to middle school students in it. So you are probably right about these being on the Newbery list. Sigh.

  22. Sam Bloom says:

    Hey Betsy, didn’t you pick Amos McGee last year? I could have sworn you had that one pegged… Ed, I was interested to see that you stayed away from the blogs your Caldecott year. I didn’t stay away last year (my Newbery year) and I’m glad I stayed tuned in! It was really interesting to follow the buzz on certain books and the noted LACK of buzz for certain others (*ahem* Moon Over Manifest). Having said that, I agree with you that Kadir Nelson really needs to win one of those golden Caldecott Medal thingys at some point…

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Yep, I mentioned Amos McGee but not in my Spring round-up. That puppy didn’t catch my eye until later in the year. My Spring prediction selection is a lot more haphazard (and fun!).

  23. Sam Bloom says:

    Ah, good to know I’m not losing my mind… well, not losing it completely, anyway! Thanks for another entertaining round-up. I need to go back to Amelia Lost… I lost my way (pun intended) and didn’t finish it the first time. Too many books, not enough time. I need to pick it up again and give it a second go-round.

  24. Alexandra says:

    You know, I’m a teen and I can never put The Penderwicks down. The second one wasn’t as good, but the third one sounds great. I figured out why other kids don’t like the Penderwick series; because it is too pure and it doesn’t have a guy in tights with an unpronouncable name in it. I feel like Newbery books have a standard, and that they remind you of Green Gables or Margaret Henry. Maybe that isn’t the criteria, but it’s my opinion and I would love to see something from Jeanne Birdsal or Patricia Reilly Giff win. Not ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ or ‘Twilight’, simply because it’s ‘the only thing that kids will read’.

  25. Read THE TROUBLE WITH MAY AMELIA and loved it. Almost more than her honor book TURTLE IN PARADISE last year.

    Getting CHIME from our library this afternoon. Want to give a YA-ish novel a fair chance this year before I tear ’em to shreds.

  26. Read an ARC for Lane Smith’s Grandpa Green. Gorgeous artwork and beautiful story. That has my vote.

  27. Check out “Bernice” by Rob Adamowski.