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Newbery/Caldecott 2014: The Spring Prediction Edition

ATTENTION!!!  If you are planning on watching the live feed of the Newbery/Caldecott announcements during the ALA Youth Media Awards presentation, come half an hour earlier and check out my pre-game show where I will join cohort Lori Ess in discussing the potential winners.  Afterwards we will note which Mock Newberys, Mock Caldecotts, Mock Printzs, etc. got it right nationwide.  For more information:

Man, isn’t it nice when the award season has died down and we don’t have to deal with any more crazed speculations about who’s “Newbery worthy” or “Caldecott worthy” or any of that nuttiness?  We can just sit back and enjoy some books and not . . . not worry about . . . *gulp* . . . ah . . . . grk . . . .


It’s March.  Heck, it’s spring.  Practically.  And so here we have loads of books, TONS of the things, out there and circulating and taking up brain space and all of them just begging to be speculated upon.  If it is too early in the season for this, I more than understand.  Skip this post.  Have some cocoa.  Come back in the fall.  But if you, like me, just can’t get enough of this stuff, enjoy.

First up, we are visited by the Ghost of Spring Predictions of the Newbery/Caldecott Past.  This is always fun.  Check it out:

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: I get one Newbery right (Inside Out and Back Again)

2012 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (The One and Only Ivan and Splendors and Glooms), and one Caldecott right (Green).  I’m getting better in my old age!  Woot!

We could speculate about what this means about the publishing industry and when they choose to release books, but I’d rather get to the meat of the matter.  And I should warn you, I’m finding 2014 to be a VERY strong year in contenders.  Newbery anyway.

En garde!

2014 Newbery Predictions

Doll Bones by Holly Black – I am reminded of the year that Silence of the Lambs won an Oscar.  That’s the only equivalent I can come up with if this book took home Newbery gold.  The writing is superlative, but also creepy as all get out.  More so than the relatively recent Newbery winner The Graveyard Book, anyway.  But if Gaiman can win . . .

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore – It looks for all the world like a fantasy novel when you see the cover, but what you’ll find inside is just the nicest little science fiction novel.  I can’t tell if it’s the first in a series or a standalone book that trusts the reader to pick up on certain clever clues.  Whatever the case, it’s a brilliant companion to Tuck Everlasting (which, admittedly, never won a Newbery).

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli – Already one of two thoroughly divisive Newbery contenders.  I was enthralled by it but stepping back I’m interested in the child responses.  Will the “Ulysses of children’s literature” be too much for them?  Is the writing distinguished regardless?  Yes to the latter, not sure on the former.  At the very least, everyone’s going to have to read this one.

Courage Has No Color, the True Story of the Triple Nickles: America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tonya Lee Stone – She sort of specializes in crushed dreams but in this particular book I think Stone has outdone herself.  The sheer subtlety of the writing has to be worth something.  Jonathan Hunt brought up a question of whether or not the book sets you up to expect action.  I think that’s rather the point.

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake – A book I continually want to call “One Came Back”, for some reason.  My brain is weird.  If you think Hokey Pokey‘s a divisive topic then you haven’t sat in on some of the Timberlake talks I’ve witnessed.  It’s full of life and vitality, and like Gale’s book could also find itself nominated for an Edgar this year.  It’s the kind of historical fiction I like to read.  The question is whether or not it’ll be the kind of historical fiction the committee likes to read.  No clue on that one.

The Center of Everything by Linda Urban – My frontrunner.  Maybe.  I go back and forth but there’s no denying that Urban gets better and better with each book and that this one is, if you’ll forgive a tired phrase, a gem.  Or maybe I was just enthralled by the short page count.  Whatever the case, it’s smart and to the point and just lovely from start to finish.  ADORE.

2014 Caldecott Predictions

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown – Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I submit to you the following evidence here and here.  Now that the man has won a Caldecott Honor we know that he is capable of even more.  There’s a distinct Rousseau-like quality to this book.  Peter Brown, like Linda Urban, gets better with each passing book.  Remember this one when it comes out in the fall.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham – In an era of Common Core Standards and increased attention on nonfiction, why can’t a book on math and a mathematician win the highest Honor in the land?  Sometimes I fear that there are certain talented artists that are passed over by the award committees each and every year without fail for no reason other than the fact that they’ve been passed over before.  And if anyone deserves a medal it’s Ms. Pham.  She’s a delight.  So is her art.  So is this book.

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Carin Berger – Just a second.  I’m trying to envision how Mr. Prelutsky would react upon learning that one of his books had won a Caldecott this late in the game.  Wouldn’t that be rad (mentioning a poet from my youth apparently causes me to break out the late 1980s jargon)?  Berger, for her part, went above and beyond the call of duty when she created the art for this book.  Models do NOT fare well in Caldecott races, but certainly an exception can be made once in a while, yes yes?

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea – But only if there were any justice in the universe.  Which, last time I checked, there is not.

The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen – Like Peter Brown, Jon “I just won an Honor and an Award in the same year” Klassen is now considered verifiable Caldecott bait.  Admittedly this book is subtler than his previous fare and there’s a lot of black space.  I think a forward thinking committee, however, could have a lot of fun parsing where exactly he chose to put one shadow or another.  Worthy of discussion, at the very least.

Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner – I’m just going to imagine for a moment what it would be like to hear lofty librarians parsing the merits of something with a name like “Mr. Wuffles” amongst themselves.  It’s a return to form for Wiesner, as weird and wacky and funny as they come.  However, he may have handicapped himself by making the book in a comic book style complete with speech balloons.  A certain breed of adult reader would have some definite problems with the layouts and action.  That said, you have GOT to see this puppy.  Nothing else out there is like it.

And that’s the long and short of it.  Something for your What To Read Next lists in any case.  And as ever, be sure to check out Jonathan Hunt’s 2014 reading list, when you’ve a chance.

CORRECTION: Though I originally included it, it appears that The Bully Book by Eric Kahn Gale may not be eligible.  I have learned that it was originally published as an ebook in 2011.  Whoops!  Sorry about that.

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. Colby Sharp says

    I am trying very hard to not let the Newbery Medal consume me this year. This post is not helping:)

  2. I’m not ready at all to discuss contenders–I’ve only read Hokey Pokey and One Came Home from this list–but I enjoy any and all speculations. I’m afraid I’m in the camp that disliked Hokey Pokey; I was engrossed by One Came Home, but it’s still very early in the game. So–speculate on!

  3. Hey, we’re always ready to speculate about the Newbery! 😉

    Depending on the weirdness level of the committee, I think Hokey Pokey could be a possibility. I’m a fan of The Center of Everything as well, and it has plenty of committee-charming qualities.

    Then again, I was totally with you on Twelve Kinds of Ice, and that got bupkes.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Precisely. And The Water Castle may well be my Twelve Kinds of Ice of 2013. It’s all subjective.

  4. This makes me all kinds of squeal-y.

  5. I haven’t read The Water Castle, Doll Bones, or The Bully Book yet-I’m looking forward to getting my hands on all three. Particularly because I’m not super excited about any of the others you mention here (which I have read). I could get behind The Center of Everything though-that would take little convincing.

  6. And to think, sometimes I bump into the always effervescent Linda Urban in the grocery store. Lucky for us, she still finds time to write exquisite sentences about authentic characters. The Center of Everything will soon be in the Center of it All! Can we just put a shiny sticker on it already? Kudos to you, Linda!

  7. Ah, oh, I’m planning a relaxing weekend with THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING, which is a nice change from IN DARKNESS, which I just put behind me. I’m going to try and put keep my inner Newbery natterer at bay.

  8. It would be so. awesome. if a book about Math won the Caldecott. Though I’m ashamed to say my library system doesn’t have it yet. I must get on their case…

  9. I AM SO EXCITED! Love your spring predictions Betsy, thanks! 🙂

    • Ps- can I request a Navigating Early review? 🙂

      • Elizabeth Bird says

        Oh, child. You don’t ask for easy things, do you? Navigating Early might defeat me. I’ll get to it eventually, I suspect, but it’s hard. So very very hard.

  10. I’m a huge fan of The Water Castle, and SO glad you liked it!

    Super excited to read the new Sharon Creech and the new Anne Ursu. Among, of course, many others…

  11. Pat Clingman says

    While I was feverishly reserving the fiction books on your prediction list, I noticed that One Came Home seems to have been published in 2012.

    • Pat Clingman says

      I’m replying to my own post…I looked up Amazon and the book does have a 2013 release date…I’m not sure where the 2012 date came from, but now I’m going to bring in the book just to check the copyright date. Cataloging is fun!

  12. I can’t wait to delve into these. I love that you do this and have been using your prediction posts as reading lists. Thank you for this service that you provide the rest of us! 🙂

  13. Can’t believe I missed this when you first posted it! The four or so of these posts you do each year are things I look forward to more than holidays.

    I need Doll Bones immediately and the fact that I have a month to wait for it gnaws at me. I want to read it and love every minute of it and tell all my friends at college about it already! The reviews it’s been getting are amazing and I’m sure it’s going to be one of this year’s biggest books. I haven’t been this excited about a book’s impending release since Three Times Lucky last year. My one concern: Do you think the book’s spookiness will affect its chances significantly? I wasn’t freaked out by “The Graveyard Book” in the slightest, past its opening pages with all the elegantly described stabbing…

    I would love to see Mr. Spinelli get more Newbery love as I am a huge fan and have been ever since Eggs (your review of which was my first exposure to your writing), and Hokey Pokey, which I bought on its release date but have been too lazy to read, sounds like an amazing book. However, I’m afraid his status as a famous and hugely popular author will hinder this book’s chances for any shiny medals (in addition to all of its divisive qualities). I know that’s not *supposed* to matter, but it really seems like the factor of preexisting popularity has hindered a lot of really good books in the four or five years I’ve been in the Newbery predicting game.

    As for the others, I just bought The Center of Everything and put all the rest on hold at my library. Can’t wait to get in on the debate a little more!

  14. Have you read Hold Fast by Blue Balliet? I just finished it and it screams Newberry. The Langston Hughes tie ins are woven around a real diamond heist blending historical fiction, mystery and lots of word play along with social conscious into a beautiful story that’s almost painful to read.


  1. […] doyenne of children’s literature critics, Elizabeth Bird (Fuse 8, School Library Journal), just picked The Water Castle as a frontrunner for the ’14 Newbery Award.  Hats off, […]

  2. […] 13) Newbery / Caldecott 2014: Fall Prediction Edition & Newbery/Caldecott 2014: The Spring Prediction Edition  […]