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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Final Prediction Edition

And thus, we end. Though, with such a late ALA Media Awards announcement this year (Monday, February 2nd!) my predictions are coming a bit early in the game.  Still, it’s not as though I’ll be seeing much that’s new between now and 2/2.  I have watched with great interest the discussions on Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott.  I’ve discussed and debated the contenders with folks of all sorts.  I’m eyeing the Mock Caldecotts and Mock Newberys with great fervor as they post their results (and I’m tallying them for my next Pre-Game / Post-Game Show).  I’ve gauged the wind.  Asked the Magic 8 ball.  Basically I’ve done everything in my power to not be to embarrassed when my predictions turn out to be woefully inaccurate.  And they will be.  Particularly in the Caldecott department.  Still, I press on!

I should mention that that throughout the year I mention the books that I think we should all be discussing.  This post is a little different.  It’s the books I think will actually win. Not the ones I want to win necessarily but the books that I think have the best chance. Here then are my thoughts, and may God have mercy on my soul:

Newbery Award

Winner: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

What was it I wrote in my Fall Prediction Edition?  Ah yes. “This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it.”  Even without the National Book Award brouhaha and the fact that this book is being purchased by everyone from POTUS on down, Jackie would win in this category.  Why the certainty?  Well, I’m a big fan of thematic years.  I like to take the temperature of the times and work from there.  Look back at 2014 and what will we remember?  #WeNeedDiverseBooks for one.  The Newbery committee canNOT take such things into account, but it’s in the air.  They breathe it just like we do and it’s going to affect the decision unconsciously.  It doesn’t hurt matters that this is THE book of the year on top of everything else.  Magnificently written by an author who has deserved the gold for years, I haven’t been this certain of a book’s chances since The Lion and the Mouse (and, before that, When You Reach Me).

Honors: West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Not a certainty but what is? It’s just enormously difficult not to appreciate what Preus is doing in this book.  Mind you, my librarians were not entirely taken with it.  Some disliked the heroine too much.  Others found it dense.  And perhaps it is a “librarian book” intended for gatekeepers more than kids, but I cannot look at the title and not see the word “distinguished” floating above it like a Goodyear Blimp.

Honors: Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

Also not a sure thing but I think we’d do well to remember it.  Wilson’s one of those guys who drifts just under the radar until BLAMMO!  Amazing book.  Read the first page of this book all by itself.  Right there, he’s got you.  I can’t help but keep thinking about it.  I try to bring up other potential winners, but again and again I turn to this one.  Zombie Beowulf.  It’s about time.

Honors: The 14th Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

Hm. Tricksy. Jenni has this magnificent ability to accrue Honor after Honor after Honor.  I’m not seeing gold written all over this book (that’s a lie . . . the gold would complement the blue of the cover so well and fit on the left side of the neck of the beaker, don’t you think?) but it’s a contender.  Committees adore her writing, and why not? She’s one of the best.  Newbery Honor best?  I’m going to say yes.

Wild Card: The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

YA but not too YA.  Certainly pushes the old 0-14 age range, but still a beaut.  With Brown Girl Dreaming as well, we might end up with a very strong nonfiction Newbery year (and won’t Common Core be pleased with that?).  Mind you, if I hesitate to predict this as an Honor it has more to do with the fact that my heart was broken when Candy didn’t receive any award love for her brilliant Amelia Lost  biography.  Shouldawonshouldawonshouldawonshouldawon . . .

Wild Card: The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Doll Bones Honored so why not another creepy little middle grade book?  Auxier pulls out all the stops here and is seriously literary in the process.  Is it distinguished?  Yep.  There’s serious heart and guts and other portions of the anatomy at work here.  It’s a smart book but appealing too.  Never downplay child appeal.  It’s worth considering.

Wild Card: The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

It’s probably a good sign when you can’t stop thinking about a book, right?  Again, we’re pushing up against the upper limits of the age restriction on Newbery Award winners here, but the book is worth it.  Objections I’ve heard lobbed against it say that Alexander doesn’t sound like a kid.  Well . . . actually, he’s not supposed to but you don’t really find that out until the second book.  So does that trip up the first one’s chances?  Maybe, but at least it’s consistent.  The objection that Aquavania isn’t realistic enough of a fantasy world would hold more weight if I thought it really WAS a fantasy world, but I don’t.  I think it’s all in the characters’ heads.  So my weird self-justifications seem to keep this one in the mix.  The only questions is, am I the only one?

Wild Card: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t even seriously considered this one until a friend of mine brought it up this weekend.  And OF COURSE it’s a contender!  I mean just look at that language.  It sizzles on the page.  I’m more than a little peeved that he didn’t garner a NAACP Image Award nomination for this title.  If he wins something it’s going to make them look pretty dang silly, that’s for sure.  They nominated Dork Diaries 8 and not THIS?!?  Okay, rant done.  In the end it’s brilliant and, amazingly enough, equally beloved of YA and children’s librarians.  The Crossover is a crossover title.  Who knew?

By the way, am I the only one with a shelf in my home of 2014 books that have Newbery potential and that I don’t want to read but am holding onto just in case I have to read them?  They ain’t gonna Moon Over Manifest me this year, by gum!  I am prepared!

Caldecott Award

Winner: Draw by Raul Colon

Betcha you didn’t see that one coming, eh?  But honestly, I think this is where we’re heading.  First off, this isn’t one of my favorites of the year.  I’m just not making the emotional connection with it that I’d like to.  My favorite Colon of 2014?  Abuelo by Arthur Dorros.  But no one’s talking about that one (more fool they).  No, they like this one and as I’ve watched I’ve seen it crop up on more and more Best Of lists.  Then I sat down and thought about it.  Raul Colon.  It’s ridiculous that he doesn’t have a Caldecott Gold to his name.  He’s one of the masters of the field and this could easily be a case of the committee unconsciously thinking, “Thank God! Now we can give the man an award!”  We haven’t had a Latin American gold winner since David Diaz’s Smoky Night (talk about a book tied to its time period).  It just makes perfect sense.  Folks love it, it’s well done, and it could rise to the top.

Honors: The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Again, not one of my favorites.  I love Marla Frazee and acknowledge freely that though I don’t get this book, I seem to be the only one who doesn’t (my husband berates me repeatedly for my cold cold heart regarding this title).  I mean, I absolutely adore the image of the little clown washing the smile off of his face, revealing his true feelings.  So since I’ve apparently a gear stuck in my left aorta, I’m going to assume that this is a book that everyone else sees clearly except me.  It could go gold, of course.  It seems to have an emotional hold on people and books with emotional holds do very well in the Caldecott race sometimes.  We shall see.

Honors: Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean

Could be wishful thinking on my part, but look at the book jacket, man.  Look at how it tells the entire story.  Look at his technique.  Isn’t it marvelous?  Look at how it’s not just an emotional journey but a kind of road trip through Americana as well.  Look at how he took this spare sparse text and gave it depth and feeling and meaning.  That is SERIOUSLY hard to do with another author’s work!!  Look at how beautiful it is and the emotionally satisfying (and accurate) beats.  Look upon its works, ye mighty, and despair.  Or give it a Caldecott Honor.  I’m easy.

Honors: Viva, Frida by Yuyi Morales

Admittedly it’s not a shoo-in.  In fact I’m a bit baffled that it didn’t show up on the recent list by Latinas for Latino Lit called Remarkable Latino Children’s Literature of 2014.  There are admittedly some folks who want this to be a biography and have a hard time dealing with the fact that that is not its raison d’etre.  Still others aren’t blown away by the text.  That said, we’re not looking at the text.  We’re looking at the imagery and the imagery is STUNNING.  I mean, it could win the gold easily, don’t you think?  Models and photography and two-dimensional art?  Yuyi Morales should have won a Caldecott years ago.  I think it’s finally time to give the woman some love.

Wild Card: Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

“I still . . . I still, beeelieeeve!!!!”  Okay. So maybe it’s just me.  But when I sit down and I look and look and look at that image of the three little bears sailing into the sun with the light reflected off the water . . . *sigh*  It’s amazing.  I heard a very odd objection from someone saying that the bears don’t always look the same age from spread to spread.  Bull.  Do so.  Therein ends my very coherent defense.  It’s my favorite and maybe (probably) just mine, but I love it so much that I can’t give it up.  I just can’t.

Wild Card: Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy

Because how cool would it frickin’ be?  Few have looked at this book and considered it for a Caldecott, but that’s just because they’re not looking at it correctly.  Consider the cinematic imagery.  The downright Hitchcockian view of the seal up above where YOU are the shark below.  The two page attack!  The beauty of blood in the water.  I mean, it’s gorgeous and accurate all at once.  I don’t think anyone’s giving the woman enough credit.  Give it a second glance, won’t you?

And that’s it!  There are loads and loads of titles missing from this list.  The actual winners, perhaps.  But I’m feeling confident that I’ve nailed at least a couple of these.  We shall see how it all falls out soon enough.  See you in February!!

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. Not a book here that would have me scratching my head this time! And I thought I was getting more cantankerous. My dream Newbery would be Brown Girl Dreaming, The Crossover, and How I Discovered Poetry (and if we want to have five, The Family Romanov and Port Chicago 50). Although not poetry, I am enchanted with The Great Green Heist and really would love to see a more diverse Newbery circle this year.

    I think, however, if you are wrong about leaving off just one book that book is The Right Word. I am betting that it will be somewhere in that Monday morning announcement.

    Also in the Caldecott realm, two other books that I think really have a chance are Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, which is brilliant and odd and layered (and so perfect for teachers) and Firebird, which just foreces my students to dance just looking at Chris’s magnificent artwork. Personal favorites that may not withstand committee scrutiny are the Midnight Library, Chengdu Would Not Could Not Fall Asleep, and Sparky. If only one of all of these Caldecott books can make the announcement cut, I am hoping that Yuyi receives that phone call. I do think that more than one of these will be announced. I do NOT have a good track record predicting Caldecott however (with one year serving as the exception that proves the rule–Lion & Mouse year).

  2. Denis Markell says:

    By far the funniest, best written, and most passionately argued list I’ve seen (and I’ve been looking). Always wonderful to hear unashamed opinions. We’ll see how I feel when my book comes out in 2016.

  3. As always I greatly respect you, your always fabulous prose and your eagerly awaited predictions.

    First off I am still enormously perplexed over the (so far) lack of serious Caldecott love for Wendell Minor, the national treasure and Connecticut based illustrator who this year gave us the emotionally wrenching and exceedingly beautiful GALAPAGOS GEORGE in collaboration with the venerated Jean Craighead George, and then quickly followed that remarkable book with two other unforgettable 2014 releases – EDWARD HOPPER PAINTS THE WORLD with Robert Burleigh and SEQUOIA with Tony Johnston. This was a sublime hat trick that few illustrators have accomplished. Minor richly deserves to be in the Caldecott equation.

    And then we have GRANDFATHER GANDHI, which -depending on what day of the week you ask me- could be the book of the year, with both Newbery and Caldecott attention well warranted. Bethany Hegedus has written with passion and contemporary thematic relevance, and young Evan Turk is one of the up-and-coming talent. His dynamic spinning wheel is one of the year’s most electrifying tapestries, and the book as a whole takes your breath away. I do know Elizabeth, that you are a huge fan of the book and wrote a masterful review on it months back. here is my recent take on it:

    I am no fan at all of either DRAW (emotionally distancing) and the very unremarkable THREE BEARS IN A BOAT, but that’s just me. My wife, a lifelong bear lover, always chides me for not singing that book’s praises. I do like Colon, but DRAW should not triumph over a good number of this year’s amazing crop. Your prediction of it winning frankly has me in shock. 🙂 yet there are a number of fabulous Hispanic picture books this year that can and deserve to be in the hunt.

    One of our finest illustrators is Melissa Sweet, and she well deserves to win for one of her two 2014 masterpieces, the lyrical and ravishing FIREFLY JULY and the painstaking and dazzling THE RIGHT WORD. Do you really think she will get shut out after the kind of year she just had? These are the two greatest books she’s ever done to date, and that perception is saying something.

    Then we have American born and very much eligible Frane Lessac who collaborated with her Australian husband Mark Greenwood on THE MAYFLOWER. This book is spectacularly beautiful and I’d like to think some voters have discovered and embraced it. This team has put out a bunch of superlative books over the years, and THE MAYFLOWER is a true historical themed masterpiece.

    Is anyone talking at all about the stunning HUGO AND THE BEAR by Katy Beebe and S.D. Schindler, as sure-fire a Caldecott friendly book as there is? Exquisite Middle Age era adornments evoke the picturesque beauty of Chaucer’s era, and the story it serves is wholly irresistible.

    I’d like to think that the following books are being passed around by excited committee members, or have been subject to that kind of scrutiny in the past months:

    The Iridescence of Birds (exquisite almost to a fault!)
    A Letter For Leo (Loving it more and more and more!!!)
    Kid Sheriff and Terrible Toads (beautiful Shea and Smith collaboration!)
    The Farmer and the Clown (I am with your husband but heck I understand you on this)
    Maple (what a first effort!!!)
    A Dance Like Starlight (no words to descibe how beautiful!)
    Quest (remarkable and magnificent follow up to JOURNEY!!!)
    My Teacher is a Monster (more subversive bliss from Peter Brown)
    Josephine (masterpiece!)
    Bad Bye Good bye (I have a good feeling this will get something and it is a stunning book!!!!!)
    Gaston (Ooo la la!!!)
    Blue on Blue (just released; lovely)
    Mama Built a Little Nest (sublime!)
    Neighborhood Sharks (every bit as great as you claim it to be!!!)
    Little Melba and Her Big Trombone (deserves wide attention–so great!)
    Viva Frida (ravishing!)
    The Adventures of Beekle (a work of utter brilliance)
    Henny (a future children’s book icon?)
    Harlem Hellfighters
    The Hug Machine (irresistible!)
    Winter Bees (the incomparable Joyce Sidman and her terrific illustrator Rick Allen)
    Separate is Never Equal (profound and beautiful!)
    Blizzard (More Rocco eye candy!!)
    The Baby Tree (sublime!)
    Sam and Dave Dig A Hole (brilliant!)
    A Grandfather’s Coat
    Little Red Roja Riding Hood
    Baby Bear
    Me and Mr. Emerson
    Zombie in Love
    Firebird (another book that takes your breath away)
    Green is a Chilli Pepper (another that deserves attention!!)

  4. There is one other very significant book that belongs in my above list. Not sure how I left it off. it is THE PET BOOK by Bob Staake, a spirited and lovingly etched work by one of our great talents.

  5. How do you feel about GREENGLASS HOUSE? It reminds me much of THE WESTING GAME…

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I love it but some folks really dislike the twist near the end. Not me, but I think it might be too many folks to spill over into Newberyness. PROVE ME WRONG, COMMITTEE!


  7. I didn’t care for the main character of WEST OF THE MOON at all, and therefore didn’t care what happened to her. I’ve had bookstore customers who purchased it come back and say their kids didn’t like it.

  8. I should say that I adore DRAW. I was also very pleasantly surprised with how well my first graders interacted with this story (and I have the videos to prove it).

    • Ed, my own first graders were bored and indifferent with it, and I tried with it on two occasions. These are the same first graders who connected with so many books on the list. So go figure. But the book has a lot of love for sure, so Elizabeth’s prediction, even one without her personal enforcement could yet pay dividends.

  9. Agree with some of your selections especially, “Brown Girl Dreaming,” and “Bad Bye, Good Bye.” But, I’d add “A Time to Dance,” “A Snicker of Magic,” “The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza.” For PB I’d add “King for a Day,” “A Dance by Starlight,” and “Grandfather Gandhi.”

  10. What happened to UNDER THE EGG? I’d also love to see ABSOLUTELY ALMOST get something–it reads so simply one can miss the seamless plotting, and it has a lot of heart.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I love UNDER THE EGG. Do you think it has a chance? Some folks found the ending too pat. I liked it, though. We’ll have to take the temperature of the committee on that one.

    • I think Absolutely Almost really has a chance. I will be surprised if it does not get an honor.

  11. Pulling for the Farmer and The Clown, although I agree that Draw was nearly perfectly executed. And I think BGD is a shoo-in.

  12. I’ve been quite surprised by the reaction to The Farmer and the Clown in our little library community. Wordless books are usually NOT popular, but this one has circulated quite well. As for Caldecott–my picks are The Right Word and H. Chuku Lee’s Beauty and the Beast (a wild card, but I adore it). I would be very surprised if Brown Girl Dreaming does not win. The last title I was positive would win was The One and Only Ivan. Most of the time, I’m just madly hoping that we have the medal winners in stock (if there are four honor titles and I need to order one, I am OK with that–but I would be upset if we didn’t have the medals.)

  13. I think Ms. Woodson is going to ride NBA-Newbery train into 2016 when she is named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

    P.S. The Goldfish book is perfect. Love seeing it on your list.

  14. Chelsea S.C. says:

    Betsy, I just want to thank you for continuing to mention the amazing Amelia Lost that I also believe was ROBBED. It still irks me. And it warms my heart to know I’m not the only one out there. 🙂

    This has been such a strong year, and I’m insanely curious to know where the committee will fall. Other wild card titles in my book include Caminar and Nightingale’s Nest. For the Caldecott, I will be absolutely ecstatic if either Brother Hugo and the Bear or Extraordinary Jane get some love.

    But I think you’re probably pretty spot on! Can’t wait to hear the results!

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      If Caminar came out to win something I would not be surprised. That book has a quiet, insistent burn.

  15. I’m so glad to hear people championing Bad Bye, Goodbye. It’s breathtaking, and I don’t think enough people are talking about it. I’m waiting until Christmas break to read all the things I think are potential Newbery winners, but my kids have had them already and they are obsessed with the Fourteenth Goldfish and The Night Gardener and would be ECSTATIC to see either get some recognition.

  16. You are not the only champion of Three Bears in a Boat. The full page spread of the bears in their boat out on the water-it’s just beautiful. It’s on my list of “picture book illustrations I want prints of someday to hang in my office.” You can feel the wind and you’re there with the bears on that page-I just love it! It’s on our library Mock Caldecott list and I’m eager to hear what our kids have to say about it.

    And I’m a sucker for books with photography and 2-D art, so I adore Frida! I would love to see a book like this win someday and this one is just a fantastic blend of so many styles.

    I’m also holding out hope for Flashlight by Lizi Boyd (which is amazing and no one is talking about!) and Have You Seen My Dragon by Steve Light.

  17. I have commented before and told you that I think Jackie could sweep the award season with the big 3 – NBA, CSK, and Newberry. She has my support. I am stalking Caldecott…The winner in my eyes is A DANCE LIKE STARLIGHT. Floyd’s beautiful illustration is amazing. And in my Maya Angelou’s voice, “PHENOMENAL!” It would be a shame if he does not get a nom. I love Marla Frazee…ROLLERCOASTER is one of my favorite books, but I am not feeling THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN. I did not get it.


  1. […] Book; and Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  Her most recent books are Seeing Red (Scholastic, 2013) and The Badger Knight (Scholastic, 2014). Kathryn Erskine, age 5. Photo courtesy […]

  2. […] Read more Calling Caldecott posts | Subscribe via RSS The Farmer and the Clown December 17, 2014 by Martha V. Parravano Leave a Comment Things are beginning to heat up. Mock Caldecotts are being decided; best-of-year lists continue to be released; over at Fuse #8, Betsy Bird has made her final predictions. […]