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Newbery/Caldecott 2012: Mid-Year Projections/Predictions

Normally I’d do this kind of post for June 15th but there’s a possibility that I might be a bit busy on that date, so we’ll do it now for kicks.  It’s time for our mid-year Newbery/Caldecott querying.  I’ve already indulged in some Spring Predictions, but I prefer the Summer ones because at this point I’ve read and heard about a lot more.  So with that in mind, here are some of the titles that may at least get a fair amount of discussion around the old Newbery/Caldecott tables:


Lunch-Box Dream by Tony Abbott – I would greatly appreciate it if you all read this one and then told me what you made of it.  This year I’ve read a fair number of titles that have made me scratch my head, but not one of them is more head scratchier than this.  My notes in the back of the book could only be described as a jumble.  I just couldn’t figure out if it was genius or something else.  Please.  Somebody tell me.  I seriously haven’t a clue what to say about this book, except that I know it’ll be on all the discussion lists before the year is out.

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill – If I am allowed one dark horse Newbery candidate a year, then I would like to make Barnhill’s debut my dark horse.  I’ll admit to you right here and now that the title inspired no confidence in me.  Then I read it.  This has got to be one of the creepiest middle grade titles of the year and I absolutely adore it.  There’s a really nice  mystery, and Barnhill has the ability to dole out facts and clues in a slow manner that somehow keeps the reader from going crazy.  Keep a very close eye on this one and, while you’re at it, on Barnhill.

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette by Jeanne Birdsall – Ah, the competition is building and so I wonder if the third book in any series, even one as fun as the Penderwicks, can withstand the onslaught.  I’m keeping this title on here because I do feel that it’s a standalone and that the writing is more than above par.  That said, I’ve just preceded it with books about 1959 race relations and horror/fantasy.  Can a sweet tale of siblings remain visible against such subject matter?  Time will tell.

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming – This is still my favorite nonfiction of the year.  In fact, the more I think about it the more I like it.  I’ve had librarians tell me that though they usually hate it when an author splits a narrative into two, Fleming did such a good job that they didn’t mind.  I would add an additional point in its favor: It’s fun.  I know that fun shouldn’t count for anything.  Fun is irrelevant.  Nowhere in the Newbery criteria is there a call for “fun”.  But I figure nonfiction titles need as much help as they can Newbery-wise, so I call the fact that it is fun a definite step in the right direction.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos – This is undoubtedly wishful thinking on my part.  Gantos has never gotten the gold, and he deserves it someday.  This book, of course, has a weird undercurrent to it that may turn off a certain breed of Newbery committee member.  Not everyone is going to find Jack’s constant brushes with death as interesting as I do.  Still, I hold out hope that maybe this’ll be a Gantos-luvin’ committee year.  Stranger things have happened.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai – Probably one of the books with the best bets behind it.  If I were to make my absolute list of probable winners, Lai would be on there.  With an Honor, hopefully.  I think it has the power to win people over too.  Dunno.  Certainly it’s been a while since a verse novel won a Newbery proper.  Can’t help but wish it had a different title, though.

Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt – Still the one to beat and the number one choice of the year.  I’ve seen nothing that comes close to bumping it off its about-time-we-gave-Schmidt-a-gold-award pedestal.  Yes, I have heard the objections to the ending.  But I have also heard such objections 9 times out of 10 followed up with “but it’s so good I don’t care about that”.  Folks aren’t fond of the father’s sudden reversal, it seems, but it’s not a deal breaker.  Whew!

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu – Ooo.  We haven’t even begun to discuss this one yet, have we?  I’ll go into it soon, but this is one fantasy novel that is definitely going to get a lot of talk in the next few months.  If A Tale Dark and Grimm gave us new insights into the world of the Grimm brothers, Ursu’s novel may shed a lot of light on the legacy of Hans Christian Andersen.  If you haven’t heard of this one yet it’s a modern take on Andersen’s The Snow Queen and it’s remarkable.  More soon, I promise.

Now, by this point you may have seen that this is an unusually strong year for fantasy.  One fantasy novel I have not included, however, is the debuted-at-#7-on-the-New-York-Times-bestseller-list title The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente.  The reason for this is simple.  It’s ineligible.  You see, to win a Newbery a book must be an “original work”.  And according to the Newbery criteria on the subject, “Further, ‘original work’ means that the text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form.  Text reprinted or compiled from other sources are not eligible. Abridgements are not eligible.”  The problem?  Valente published her book in its entirety free and online for the masses before it was picked up by Feiwel and Friends for a printing.  This was quite nice of her, but it scupped her chances of ever getting a big time literary award.  Them’s the breaks, folks.

As for you Chime fans, I hear your pain and I sympathize.  However, Chime is destined for Printz greatness, not Newbery.  It’s a lovely book but even its biggest defenders concede that it’s YA, not children’s.


Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman – I still love it to pieces.  There’s something really pleasant about the storytelling on this one.  Something simple, but still complex enough to give it a little rise above the pack.  Gentle surrealism, let’s call it.

Perfect Square by Michael Hall – And not because there are ads for the bloody thing all over my blog as of this writing.  No, from the moment I saw this book I felt a buzz about it.  Some titles you hear about and you just feel that the book is important in some way.  This is one such book.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka – Here’s one that I’ve heard multiple people rave about, independent of one another.  Now I’m not a Raschka follower myself, if only because my preferred form of children’s illustration meanders more towards the thin-lined/tiny details school than the somewhat Impressionistic vibe Raschka cultivates.  Yet with this latest Raschka captures not just a doggy story, but an emotional journey.  It’s bright.  It’s cheery.  It’s bouncy.  It may yet win him a second Caldecott Award.  Keep your eye on the doggy then.

A Nation’s Hope by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Kadir Nelson – Even I couldn’t help but hear the buzz surrounding this one, and I see that as a good thing.  Nelson’s long since overdue for a Caldecott Award.  If he got it for a bit of nonfiction, all the better!  This is a good year for Joe Louis (his appearance in Andrea Pinkney’s Bird in a Box makes for a nice complementary title) and Matt de la Pena is definitely showing that he’s more than just a YA man.  I see legs on this book.  Long legs.

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell – Someone mentioned this in the comments during my last predictionfest, and I admit that it has some sterling qualities.  I do wonder about its eligibility, though.  Here’s the kicker: Some of the art in the book consists of original documents by Jane Goodall when she was a little girl.  Has the committee ever tackled the question of what to do about primary sources in picture books?  Would Goodall be considered a co-illustrator on this book because her art is included?  Do we even consider it “art” if it’s sketchbooks rather than images created solely for the purpose of forwarding the text?  I would love to get some other opinions on this, because I feel it has a lot of bearing on future Caldecott wins.

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip Stead – Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast featured Mr. Stead (husband of last year’s Caldecott winner) not too long ago and made a real case for the beauty of this book.  It would certainly be amusing to see a husband/wife team win the Caldecott two years in a row.  Collage is an interesting medium too.  If I’m right (and I could certainly be wrong about this) cut paper hasn’t won a Caldecott Medal proper since 1997’s The Golem by David Wiesneski.  And when was the last time collage won?  I’m hard pressed to say.

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg – I still believe.  Van Allsburg has Caldecotts to his name, so it’s not like he’s hurting.  Just the same, this is his best book in years and years and years and I just want everyone to notice it.  After all, it’s a story that needs to be told.

And then there are some other titles that I think have quite a chance to pull ahead in the fall season.  Heart & Soul by Kadir Nelson comes to mind, as does Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes.  For now, however, I’m just sticking with the books I’ve already seen.  There’s time enough for fall predictions in the future.

And just for fun . . . .


Press Here by Herve Tullet – How do you say “shoo-in” in French?

By the way, for more Newbery/Caldecott fun, be sure to check out the recent 100 Scope Notes piece Newbery/Caldecott 2012: Checking In.  Good stuff to be found there.

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. I did a “summer reading should be fun book talk” for the PTO last week and put myself on record with Okay for Now and A Nation’s Hope as my picks come next January. I just read Underground by Shane Evans and though it doesn’t quite nudge aside my love for Nation’s Hope, it should be a contender. My love for it grows each time I page through.

    As for the pronunciation of “shoo-in,” I had this sudden memory of Peter Sellers in one of his Pink Panther movies asking for a “rewhm” in a hotel. A what? A room! The exchange always makes me laugh. I don’t like that phonetic spelling I chose because then shoo becomes shew and that reminds me of Ed Sullivan promising the audience a really good shew.


    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Ala Peter Sellers, now I’m sad that I didn’t include any books starring a “menkey”.

  2. Okay For Now: Ive been thinking about that ending: Like many unspoken things in that book, the father changing his tune is subtle, but I think it’s there.

    I’m adding True (sort of) by Hannigan to my short list. It’s one if those circular stories that Newbert committees seem to like.

  3. Hmmm…. not sure if Press Here can meet the “Picture books should be considered only if the text is substantial and at least as important as the pictures.” criteria for the Batchelder. Not sure it can meet the “substantial” requirement.

    Otherwise, interesting list.

  4. Great list! Have you seen the new Linda Urban book yet? Hound Dog True is a September book, I think, and it’s wonderful.

  5. NOW I HAVE TO GO BUY MORE BOOKS… *grumble grumble*
    Err, um, who said that? Anyway, I have a gentle, starry-eyed dream that Joanne Rocklin’s ONE DAY AND ONE AMAZING MORNING ON ORANGE STREET will get some props from the Newbery committee, it’s quite fabulous.

  6. I’ve got a LOT of books to read, but at this moment in time Breadcrumbs is my favorite book of 2011. The writing is artful, without ever becoming precious. Part of me wishes the “storytelling” sections weren’t so distinct from the rest of the narrative, but that’s just my personal taste. In general, I thought the book was pretty flawless.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I love QUEEN OF THE FALLS. I read it to children aged 7-11, and they were spellbound. They appreciated not only the enormity of the Queen’s daring, but the ironies of her career. QUEEN OF THE FALLS is the kind of book that has become increasingly rare–a picture book for older children, a longish, detailed, many layered read-aloud. It has so much: adventure, history, humor, sadness, a touch of feminism, and a dash of technology. On top of that, the pictures are breathtaking. I think this one might have a chance at a Newbery Honor, as well as the Caldecott.

  8. Ooh! Serendipity! I posted about Raschka’s book today, showing some spreads. I really like it.

  9. Re Caldecott; Hugo Cabret also interpolated images from other sources and that clearly wasn’t a dealbreaker. And Perfect Square–it’s beautiful, but does anyone else wonder how the square rips itself up and puts itself back together every time? It’s like watching Glee.

  10. What about Pamela Dalton’s BROTHER SUN, SISTER MOON for some Caldecott attention? I haven’t managed to actually read the entirety of the text but the images are absolutely beautiful. The innovative style is something a committee could likely get behind in a big way.

    Also, while Jon Klassen appears to be of Canadian origin, the jacket copy on I WANT MY HAT BACK says he resides in Los Angeles. From my understanding that makes the book eligible, yes?

    On the newbery side of things, I’m still convinced that this year’s discussion can only focus on potential honor books as OKAY FOR NOW simply isn’t going to be topped.

  11. Yummy list! Must read my way through it. And, for the record, my favorite Clouseau (Peter Sellers) line is still (as a smoking bomb is delivered), “A beum… were you expecting one?”

  12. Anonymous says:

    It is impossible not to be moved by Kadir Nelson’s dramatic pictures in A NATION’S HOPE, but my appreciation of the artwork is greatly compromised by the text. Max Schmeling, who is referred to in the text as “Hitler’s German”, was not a Nazi. He refused to join the Nazi party, and he risked his life to save two Jewish boys during the Kristalnacht. He was friends with Joe Louis, gave him financial support, and helped to pay for Louis’ funeral. The picture book–like the Nazis themselves–casts Schmeling as symbol of Nazi power: a German thug. I realize that non-fiction for young children is often simplified, but it seems to me that A NATION’S HOPE would be both more truthful and more interesting if the author hadn’t decided to demonize Schmeling.

  13. p.s. I have to say: There are a few Caldecott contenders thus far this year in my book, and I agree with many of these and would add even more to the list, but one book I don’t hear a lot about that I LOVED—and was the first Wonderful Picture Book of 2011, in my humble opinion—is I MUST HAVE BOBO! by the Rosenthal duo. Just sayin’. I mean, I think we need to not forget it and I don’t see it mentioned often. It really is a fabulous book.

    Maybe I’ll just allright-already do my own Caldecott-predictions list for once. I always hesitate to do so, but perhaps I will. Anyway. Great list, Betsy. Always enjoy seeing these predictions.

  14. I’m finishing up BREADCRUMBS now, by the way, with my daughters and wondering where the actual hell it’ll be going. This is not a complaint, by any means. She certainly keeps us on our toes is my point.

  15. And going off Roger Sutton’s reference to Hugo Cabret, it will be interesting to see how Brian Selznick’s latest, Wonderstruck, will be received in the eyes of the Caldecott committee. Does Cabret’s win hurt Wonderstruck’s chances? I know you’re focusing on already released books here (and that pubs in Sept.), so maybe that discussion is best saved for the Fall.

  16. Jules, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the ending. For that very reason.

  17. As far as eligibility What does everyone have to say about Ness with his A MONSTER CALLS? I’m not willing to concede any golden ground around OKAY FOR NOW, but yikes if that monster can get through. I’m only half through with it and can’t shake the power. (At least there is no talking dog to kill off in this one.)

    As far as CALDECOTT goes I’m deliriously in love with SAY HELLO TO ZORRO. The physicality of those canines is something to draw a bit of awe. (I may also be missing my dog a little too much.)

    I was sitting around the other day wondering if Linda Urban was ever going to write another book. Thanks Kate Messenger.

  18. FAIRYLAND did already win the Andre Norton award when it was still an online text. I’m sad it’s not eligible for the Newbery, but hey–clearly it’s gotten a lot of readers and support already.

  19. KT Horning says:

    I don’t think “Press Here” is a serious contender for the Batchelder Award. It doesn’t have sufficient text, and even if it did — seriously? It’s clever but ultimately it’s a one-joke book. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to read it more than once.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      RE: Press Here – Good point about the short text, but this may be the most read and reread picture book to appear in my children’s room in years. I find it honestly extraordinary.

  20. KT, you have not met my Kindergarteners.

  21. I’m all about OKAY FOR NOW.

    But an outsider that I think is worthy of attention is THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU, by debut author Wendy Wan-Long Shang. For some reason, despite completely different plots, this one reminded me of MOON OVER MANIFEST. It’s got a nicely woven plot and is all about a Chinese-American kid dealing with her identity. But very well done, with lots more to it than just that one theme.

  22. Genevieve says:

    I really liked LUCY WU, and would love to see it get an Honor, but I don’t see it beating OKAY FOR NOW for the medal. I think it should get some debut novel award, at least. And if a gentler book is going to get a Honor, I’d like it to be THE PENDERWICKS AT POINT MOUETTE, though both would be lovely. INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN was extremely good and well deserving of an Honor.

    Haven’t read anything better than the stunningly good OKAY FOR NOW this year.

  23. DaNae, wow, hadn’t realize A MONSTER CALLS might be eligible, but hmm… Ness is indeed American and the book will be published here the same years as it was in England. Well, if it is eligible it shoots right up to the top tier of MY list!

  24. anonymous says:

    I heartily second Anoymous @ 2:32 about the text in A NATION’S HOPE. I hope this one (though I love Nelson’s work) will not stand up to research. I was horrified by the text that linked Schmelling with the Nazi party.

  25. karen kosko says:

    Terrific list -I’ve read a few gems and now have a list for my summer pile of TBR.

  26. CHIME is going to win the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award next week.

    And I suspect that next year Martha Brooks’ QUEEN OF HEARTS will either win the BG-HB or be an Honor Book.

    Anyone think THE FRIENDSHIP DOLL by Kirby Larson could be a Newbery Honor? Can’t imagine many boys reading this story, but it has an Honor Book feel to it.

  27. Pat Clingman says:

    I had a Kindergartner look up at me when I was in the middle of reading “Press Here” and he asked me if that book was magic. The power of a book should never be underestimated. It was a nice reminder for me and yes, I told him that it was magic.

  28. Jonathan Hunt says:

    The question with the Ness is not his citizenship (he’s American), but rather did the editorial originate (or co-originate) with an American publisher. If Candlewick simply published the British edition, then it’s not going to be eligible. The new appendix for Newbery manual specifically addresses this question.

  29. A Nation’s Hope is not about Max Schmeling. It is about the mood of the country, especially the Black community, during Joe Louis’s fighting career. Schmeling met with Hitler, perhaps convinced the US not to boycott the Olympics. Even more important than that, he was White and he was German and often the sound bite was in fact reported as Joe Louis against Hitler’s Germany (or German–regardless of whether that is an accurate reflection of the opponent). I do agree that this book is NOT a book that should contend for the Siebert. It would have been a better book if it had an author’s/illustrator’s note (and references and links…) that showed readers the multi-dimensional Max Schmeling who certainly should have his own fabulous picture book. If I remember correctly, Schmeling even paid for Louis’s funeral. However, I think the book fairly represents the mood of the country at the time and STILL should be a book that makes any short list for books with great, award winning illustrations, including the Caldecott.

  30. Jonathan Hunt says:

    Ed, it’s still hard to read the portrayal of Max Schmeling in THE BERLIN BOXING CLUB, a historical fiction novel with an author’s note, and then not feel less excited about the Caldecott and/or Sibert possibilities for A NATION’S HOPE.

  31. Jeanne K. says:

    Does anyone else do a double-take on those two covers (Dead End and Okay for Now)? I predict blue and yellow are this year’s purple and yellow…

  32. Jonathan, with you on the Sibert but not on the Caldecott. You want a different book. This book has an engaging and accurate text and its illustrations take the book to a whole new level. That’s Caldecott!

  33. Sam Bloom says:

    Betsy, because you normally do this kind of post around June 15 I waited until today (6/14) to read it. Well, maybe it has more to do with Summer Reading kicking my butt…. At any rate, I was delighted to see Baby Bird, and the multitasking picture is awesome! Many congrats to you and your husband.

    Having said that, I have to pick my jaw up off the floor at the lack of Selznick-ness on your Caldecott list! Wonderstruck is flippin amazing. I see that Travis mentioned your preference toward books you’ve already seen, so maybe that’s why you so sadly ignored it. At any rate, I’m sure the committee won’t discount it based on Brian already taking the gold – if that was the case, how do you explain David Weisner? – and hopefully it has struck them all with wonder.

  34. Sam Bloom says:

    Sorry, the last bit was directed at Travis’s comment about Selznick’s chances based on his already winning a Caldecott, not at you personally, Betsy. Just to clarify.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Not a problem. And the Selznick I have indeed not read yet. I’ll get to it, as I believe it will appear in discussion. However, it would take a particularly bold committee to give Wonderstruck a second gold. He might be able to get away with a silver the second time around, but we’ll see. To the reading!

  35. Mary E. says:

    I recently read an ARC of an upcoming Sept debut…WITH A NAME LIKE LOVE by Tess Hilmo. It was really something special and worthy of attention. I also adored OKAY FOR NOW but, like others, had some issue w/ the ending.

  36. Man, I’m really behind on my reading. I haven’t read any of the contenders that are out yet! And about the latest PENDERWICKS adventure… is it for the best if I read the other two first (I mean seriously I have not a once read the first or second)? I’d like to check the new one out because it’s got Newbery buzz and whatnot, but if it doesn’t quite stand on its own feet I’ll probably give it a pass for the time being. (I’d say the same for OKAY FOR NOW, but when buzz is THAT good you already know the answer, don’t you?)

    Out of all of the ones out now, the one I’m dying to read is AMELIA LOST. (Oh, how our childhood heroes never leave our thoughts.) The Gantos title and especially BREADCRUMBS have me drooling, but September… jeez, a long wait by my standards. A bit of Mock Newbery goodness might make the return to college a little less painful, though.

    One last thing, though: can I safely assume now that SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS is off the radar for the time being? Sad, since it’s the only formerly-talked-of book that I currently have on my shelf for a read-through and it seemed so interesting. (The whole “not historical fiction” thing helps too. Seriously, I’m burnt out big time on historical Newbery books.) Same with LUCY WU, which I haven’t heard a lot about. Then again, last year’s crop aside from the much-loved-by-me ONE CRAZY SUMMER seemed all dark horse candidates to me…

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I do feel bad about taking Booream’s title off my prediction list. If the universe proves me wrong and gives her a shiny medal you’ll hear no complaints from me. And you’re not the first person to mention Lucy Wu to me. Feel bad I mislaid my copy. Well, there’s always the library (ho ho!). And I definitely don’t think you need to read the other Penderwicks to enjoy the latest. Just my two cents.

  37. Alrighty, just wanted to check. Despite the fact that we don’t always agree on titles, you’re kind of my go-to girl for Newbery predictions and new books to check out. I always look forward to your prediction lists!

  38. Just finished AMELIA LOST. Fantastic. Loved every page of it. If it doesn’t get at least an Honor I’ll be devastated. I’ve finally gotten OKAY FOR NOW on hold at my library, and I plan on reading it next.

  39. also read Lunch Box Dream and was probably as confused as you! i really wanted to like this book but couldn’t follow it–got all confused–finally put it down.