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Newbery/Caldecott 2013: Mid-Year Prediction Edition

For the final prediction edition of the 2013 Newbery/Caldecott Awards be sure to see my latest post here.

If we feel like getting technical about it the mid-year point really would have been around the time of the last ALA Conference.  Alas, I’ve put it off until now.  No longer!  With my ear planted firmly to the ground I’ve been snuffling about (weirdo mixed metaphor alert), talking to folks, trying to get a sense of where the buzz lies.  Buzz is a pitch poor method of predicting this award, but it’s all we’ve got, guys.  It’s all we’ve got.

On to the maybes!!!

Newbery 2013

Let’s break this up in a new way, this time around.  Usually I just like to list the names and the books and leave it at that.  But a wave of creativity has crested over me and what the hey.  Let’s go with the flow.  It is summer, after all.

Early Contenders

In my last prediction post I listed five books with real potential.  Of those titles, only two came out in the spring.  The first of these, and the one that folks mention the most often, was of course, Wonder.  Usually when a book of this caliber gets this much attention early in a year (heck, it even appeared on my Top 100 Chapter Books Poll at #65) then there’s a backlash to contend with.  In this particular case, Wonder hasn’t had to deal with the kind of scrutiny a book like Okay for Now had to suffer.  That said, before he died Peter Sieruta came up with a list of questions that we need to seriously ask before we just hand a Newbery over to Wonder, no holds barred.  Still, even after we consider that list, nothing has quite toppled Wonder from its throne . . . and yet . . .

The other spring release I mentioned was The One and Only Ivan.  Sadly, Ivan’s not getting the support needed for a true Newbery break for the gold.  Early good word sustained it for a while, but the buzz has at the moment died down significantly.  Seems that there are other books out there from the spring getting more attention.  Books like . . .

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker.  I’m woefully behind in my reviews or I would have tackled this one already.  Regardless, this book’s really remarkable from start to finish.  I like to hold up the cover and then pronounce, “It’s about two girls who bury a corpse in their backyard.  It’s Shallow Grave for kids”, which is a kickin’ description, if not entirely accurate.  I mean, the burying the dead body part is true.  But the tone is far less Shallow Grave (or Heavenly Creatures maybe) than Great Gilly Hopkins.  Pennypacker takes some dark subject matter and makes it heartfelt.  She also proves that she can move beyond the picture books and early chapter fare that made her name (and what a fun name it is to say) over the years.

Another spring release with a bit of buzz is Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.  You know, at some point here I’m going to take a look at who is on the Newbery committee to assess its tenor.  Tenor assessment is key when making these predictions (Fun Fact: It also doesn’t work AT ALL).  You want to figure out what kind of personality your committee has.  Is it a cheeky committee?  A traditional one?  In the case of my favorite 2012 mystery, I’m afraid Turnage’s book, for all its brilliance, is divisive.  Divisive books have gotten Honors in the past (The Underneath, for example) so it remains to be seen whether or not the committee goes for it or not.  Gleep!

Late Breaking Nabbers

Now I mentioned three little books in my last edition and by gum I’m going to mention them again because as far as I can tell the buzz on these has only gone up a bit.  Of the three the book with the MOST buzz at the moment, much to my surprise and delight, is Splendors and Glooms.  When folks would ask me what books I thought stood a chance I might mention something only to be interrupted by the person interjected, “What about Splendors and Glooms?”  The book that I worried might be too much for the librarians of my acquaintance has turned out to be one that has charmed and delighted more than a few.  Librarians like it when a book dares to try something literary and different.  I don’t know if it’ll continue to be a contender, but at this point anyway it’s in the running and not even breaking a sweat.

I mentioned Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin to an editor recently and she asked me, “Does it stand on its own or is it more of a sequel to her last book?”  I assured her that Lin’s title is entirely capable of standing on its own.  What’s more (and as I may have mentioned this in my review) it’s her best book yet.  Cyclical in its storytelling, weaving classical Chinese myths into the narrative seamlessly while also keeping the voice and writing fresh and contemporary, this book is a gem.  Watch your back, Wonder.

As for my beloved Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed, I’m not sure why but I seem to still be the only person to have read it.  No ARCs appear to have been available at ALA which is a real pity since I feel this late breaking November release has a serious chance at Newbery gold.  I’ll review it one of these days and give you a reason for this love of mine.

Of course the true Newbery contender, and maybe the only real rival as I see it to Wonder‘s throne, is fellow Random House release by former Newbery Award winner Rebecca Stead.  That book would be Liar and Spy, a clever departure from Stead’s previous forays into science fiction.  Now she’s created a kind of Harriet the Spy meets Rear Window novel with yet another M. Night Shymalanesque late breaking twist to the tale.  The book’s smart as they get, kid-centric to its core, and a real piece of work.  Once it’s available, you need to jump on that train and read that book up good.  Yep.

A June release that I consider my dark horse candidate of the season would have to be The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds.  Saddled with a cover only a mother could love (I intend to do a Great Books With Crappy Covers post soon) getting folks to read this book is like pulling teeth.  I had to beg and bribe the librarians in my own system to give it a chance and if they don’t start reading it I may have to place it in a paper bag and booktalk it that way.  Too bad since the writing floored me.  Absolutely floored me.  Look, here’s how I’ll sell it to you.  It’s about a boy born with only one ear and a villain, long since dead, with tiny thumbs.  TINY THUMBS I SAY!  Add in a story that reads like an episode of Law & Order (think of it as a 14th-century police procedural, but in a fun way), crazy carved fish, a guy named after an Egyptian god . . . man, I cannot do it justice.  If I hadn’t reviewed it professionally I’d review it for you know.  Just read the bloody thing!

And then there are the books that I either haven’t read yet or haven’t made my mind up about but may stand a good chance.  Buzz has circled around Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine, Step Gently Out by Helen Frost (had to put a picture book in there somewhere, didn’t I?), and even No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (which I think is too old, but that’s an argument best left for Jonathan Hunt to pick apart at the seams).   Any of these might do well.

Caldecott 2013

I think you probably know that when it comes to predictions I’m much more at home with the novels than the picture books.  Crazy since of the two, picture books are so much faster to read.  This year I feel a little more confident than I have in the past.  Still, let’s break it all down in an interesting way.

Already Mentioneds:

But worth mentioning again.  At this moment in time Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger is still my number one pick, and the sheer number of five stars on Goodreads is heartening.  Seeger has never managed to grab that Award proper and this would be a more than worthy choice to do so.  And I swear I’m not just saying this because it would make my Newbery/Caldecott Banquet outfit that much easier to design.  Not that it would hurt . . . .

As for Baby Bear Sees Blue, whatta beauty.  This book has the advantage of referencing a picture book classic (Blueberries for Sal) but unlike that McCloskey title this one’s a lot easier to read to a large group of preschoolers.  It’s also a one-on-one winner of a book.  I still can’t quite tell what the buzz around this one might be, but I’ve yet to hear a detractor, and that’s always a good sign.

Trendwatch: Caldecott winners inventing new styles.

One of the more peculiar trends this year involves illustrators inventing new ways to illustrate books, just because it suits them to do so.  I have seen two such books this year, and darned if I know why they’ve gone these routes.  Still, it’s a nice trend.  First we have David Ezra Stein and his new artistic form called Steinlining (which is pretty much worth the price of admission right there).  This fall is Because Amelia Smiled is being published with Candlewick and involves an artistic style that involves drawing with crayons on wax paper . . . it’s very complicated.  I don’t quite understand it myself, but the results are quite nice.

Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip Stead is illustrated by Erin E. Stead making this a Stead Vs. Stead year.  Her And Then It’s Spring, you see, is a huge contender in its own right.  The book is by the same team that brought you A Sick Day for Amos McGee (#18 on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll) so right there you know it’s a contender.  For this particular story Ms. Stead apparently ground up her pastels, added some water, and made a unique paste with which she illustrated this book.  It’s a new kind of art (much like Mr. Stein).  Plus the woman draws a helluva bear.

Inside Scoops:

I’ve a friend with some excellent taste who lets me know when she’s hot on a book.  I’m not saying she’s a perfect prediction machine, but her taste is definitely something I watch.  In terms of this year she clued me onto Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s Oh No! (a popular title for children’s books these days) coming out this fall.  It is a gorgeous little number, though I’ve already heard grumbles in some quarters from folks who feel that the perspective in the book does something strange near the end (buy me a drink and I’ll show you what I mean).  Regardless, it’s a true contender, even if it doesn’t make it to the finish line.

My friend was also quite keen on Matthew Cordell’s Hello, Hello.  This was interesting to me since I saw Mr. Cordell present it at the last ALA Conference and yet it didn’t occur to me that it had some Caldecott potential to it.

Mind you, my heart belongs to the illustrators that have yet to nab any Caldecotts, honors or otherwise, yet are proven players and talented to their cores.  If Adam Rex were to get an Honor for Chloe and the Lion and Dan Santat for Oh No! Not Again! (and don’t think I didn’t notice that both books are Mac Barnett’s) I could be a happy woman.  In fact, Barnett might have a real chance at a sneaky Honor this year.  His Extra Yarn with Jon Klassen could be that surprise wild card none of us see coming.  On the other hand, considering that 2013 will be the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Award, wouldn’t giving Chloe and the Lion something make a lot of sense?  The book, after all, is about the very nature of creating picture books in the first place!  Only in a perfect universe, I suppose.

Finally, there are always the folks that I wish lived in the States so that I could include them on this list.  Had I the power I’d be mentioning Sadie and Ratz from Australia’s Sonya Hartnett as a Newbery contender and Suzy Lee of Singapore’s upcoming Open This Little Book (which will blow. your. mind. when you see it) as a Caldecott win.  Alas.

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. Tom Angleberger says

    Fascinating post as always on this subject!

    For me, Extra Yarn is not a surprise possibility, but rather the clear front runner!!

  2. I’m rooting for Extra Yarn, too!

  3. Twelve Kinds of Ice has been on my to read for a while now, but I still haven’t gotten my hands on it!

  4. Cathy Potter says

    Thanks for sharing your predictions! I just ordered The Unfortunate Son (with the unfortunate cover), and I can’t wait to get my hands on Oh, No! One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and David Small is on my list of potential Caldecott books.

  5. I will be shocked if Extra Yarn doesn’t win at least a Caldecott Honor this year.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      It’s official then. Authors and author/illustrators love Extra Yarn.

      And how did I miss saying The Unfortunate Son had an unfortunate cover? A swing and a miss, that’s me.

  6. I think Wonder and The One and Only Ivan are great contendors. I need to read The Summer of the Gypsy Moths ASAP–it’s always checked out (Pennypacker is very popular with our patrons), so I haven’t had a chance to grab it yet.

    As for Caldecott–I love Baby Bear Sees Blue.

  7. Adam Rex says

    Yeah. Extra Yarn.

  8. I loved Three Times Lucky! And I think The One and Only Ivan still has a good chance for the gold.

    And I’m with the others on Extra Yarn for the Caldecott. That’s been the favorite in our house with
    kids and grown ups alike this year.

  9. You know what I didn’t like about Extra Yarn? As a knitter, I didn’t like that all the stitches were the same size all the time. Now I know that as a knitter, I should have loved it extra much, but that silly little detail bugged me. Would have liked the knitting colors to be a little brighter, too. But those are probably just personal preferences, not really flaws in any way at all.

    For the Newbery, my current favorite is Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale. But this is my fourth favorite of the year! First it was Wonder, then The One and Only Ivan, then Summer of the Gypsy Moths, and now Palace of Stone. So I’m hoping at least I’m predicting the winner and 3 honors anyway!

  10. Anonymous says

    I’m glad to know that Peter Sieruta had the guts to question the overwhelming swell of devotion to “Wonder” as I am not brave enough to put my name to this. It is a nice book with a lovely message but it has flaws. And I don’t understand when I have heard and seen amazing books torn apart by committees, that no one is pointing out the flaws in this book. I mean no disrespect to R. J. Palacio; congratulations for writing a noteworthy book with memorable characters. Is it the best book I have read this year that is eligible for Newbery consideration? No.

  11. Jon Klassen says

    I think if there’s anything to be taken away from all of this, it’s that Mac writes really good picture books and Adam and Dan are both getting checks in the mail from me this week.

  12. I do love Wonder, but I love Liar & Spy more. I’m interested to see the discussion regarding Wonder when Heavy Medal starts back up. Because yes, it is a wonderful book with a wonderful message, but it’s far from perfect. I really hope there is an actual discussion like the one we had over Okay for Now.

    If I were choosing my top that I could support right now they would be (in no particular order): LIAR & SPY, CROW, PEACEWEAVER (I acknowledge this last one is all my wishful thinking as it has a 16 year old protagonist and is historical fantasy, two things the committee always seems to be allergic to. I can defend it though.)

    There are many others I want to see talked about too.

    Seraphina is an excellent book. It’s one of my favorites this year, but if A Crystal Stair is too old, so is it. I would love to see an argument made for both though.

  13. Elizabeth, I cannot tell you how much it means as a debut author to see Suzy Lee’s and my book, Open This Little Book mentioned in your post. Can’t wait for you to see the final product!

    P.S. I’m also on the Extra Yarn bandwagon.

  14. Great post! LOL’d at your Unfortunate Son summary though it truly is… unfortunate. I’m adding Summer of the Gypsy moths to my reading list (the fact that it’s by Sarah Pennypacker somehow managed to escape me. Love her.) and very much looking forward to this “cover only a mother could love” post.

  15. I will be tickled if both Extra Yarn and And Then It’s Spring at least get an honor, if not the award itself.

  16. Genevieve says

    Am rooting for Three Times Lucky and Wonder, but can’t wait to read Liar & Spy.

  17. I have read many, not all, of the potential Newbery books you mention. I feel that The One and Only Ivan is head and shoulders above the others.

  18. Splendors and Glooms is currently my frontrunner – enough so that I’m delaying my review until I have a chance to reread.

    For Caldecott, I’m much less familiar with the field of competition, but And Then It’s Spring is gorgeous. But Green should at least honor.

  19. “Summer of the Gypsy Moths”, “Wonder” and “Three Times Lucky” are all on my to-read list, but so far this year my love and devotion is for “The One and Only Ivan” and Raina Telgemeier’s “Drama” (which isn’t as good as “Smile”, but still a beautiful graphic novel).

    And add me to the “Extra Yarn” bandwagon. I’m also really fond of “and then it’s spring”.

  20. Liar and Spy over Wonder (if I were the committee 🙂 ). Definitely. Although I enjoyed Wonder and many of the others you mentioned. Lions of Little Rock–a bit weak, in my opinion. Too wordy maybe? The voice is off.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Yeah, I go back and forth on Lions of Little Rock. Maybe it was a bit long but I was fond of the voice.

  21. Just returning from ALA (always been a bit slow). I read LIAR AND SPY on the plane (among others). I finished reading it and said to myself: “She could win again!”

  22. Sam Bloom says

    I certainly don’t see No Crystal Stair as being too old, and after finishing it the other day it is my frontrunner. Vaunda is a gem, no doubt about it! Splendors and Glooms is sitting right at the top of my pile. Oh, and I loved Liar&Spy, too. Great post!

  23. I’m really rooting for Chloe & the Lion! So delightfully silly. Also, maybe it was due to the many Will Vinton Claymation camps I took as a child but I loved the incorporation of plasticine (?) figures to represent Rex and Barnett. The raised eyebrows…oh they were priceless!

    But if Extra Yarn or Green was chosen instead…well, I’d be super okay with that too.

    Looking forward to reading Splendors & Glooms and Gypsy Moths.

  24. I’m one of those persnickety knitters who also has problems with the way knitting is portrayed in Extra Yarn. The protagonist held her needles the wrong way! (Or am I remembering this incorrectly?) Bah, grumble grumble.

  25. Betsy,

    When will we see YOUR picture book? About a dance party…?

  26. Brooke, I’m so glad that I’m not the only knitter who had a problem with Extra Yarn! I thought I should like it extra much, being a knitter, but the devil is in the details.

  27. Just read HOMER by Elisha Cooper. I think it’s worth a look, Caldecott-wise. It made me want a dog and that seemed to work in A BALL FOR DAISY’s favor.

  28. Kathy Echavarria says

    My favorite illustrated book published 2012 was This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. I hope the book get a nod for the Caldecott 2013. I like how the illustrations, period. And I like how the story and the illustrations work together. And finally, I like the quiet subtlety of the book.

  29. Mary Beth Earley says

    TWELVE KINDS OF ICE is simply marvelous!

  30. Wonder is a winner!

  31. Granddaddy Richard says

    2013 Awards just announced . . .really good batting average, Elizabeth! The baseball Hall of Fame is full of players who got a hit only 1 out of 3 times in the batter’s box. Look forward to reading your comments on the 2013 awards.


  1. […] Bird has made a few more predictions on her blog, A Fuse #8 Production. Books on her list as possible Newbery contenders that are on my list to read […]

  2. […] in July, there was a post on the SLJ blog titled Newbery/Caldecott 2013: Mid-Year Prediction Edition. The post outlined some of the most buzzed about contenders for the 2013 Newbery. Of course, WONDER […]