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Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Fall Prediction Edition

Around this time of year people start discussing what kind of a publishing year it has become.  Is this a strong year for picture books?  A weak year for nonfiction?  An unusually peculiar year for fiction?  It’s all based on personal assessments, containing little to no empirical evidence one way or another, culminating, in the end, in personal opinions.  Of which I’ve a mint!

So, from my sole, solitary standpoint, 2015 is shaping up to be . . . well, it’s fine.  There really haven’t been that many late breaking hits.  The books the publishers assumed would be hits became hits (though maybe not to the degree that they’d like in some cases).  The books they thought would get critical acclaim have gotten critical acclaim, again to varying degrees.  But nothing I’ve seen discussed thus far is all that different from what I saw back in April.  Envelopes are not being pushed one way or another in particular.  If I’ve seen any trend it’s for YA nonfiction that clearly behooves the adult reader.

So today you’ll only see a couple changes from the spring edition and the summer edition of this prediction list.  The Calling Caldecott site is up and running by this point, as is the delightful Heavy Medal, so you may wish to get alternative opinions on these matters.  In the meantime, my list so far . . .

2016 Caldecott Predictions:

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez


Beauty should be rewarded.  And Mr. Lopez has not gotten his just rewards in this respect.  I think we can all agree that when you add Lopez’s art to Engle’s writing, the results deserve as many of those bloody starred reviews as possible.  And maybe a couple of those shiny round medals too.

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall


That Ms. Blackall has never won a Caldecott seems to me a bit of an oddity.  And consider the pedigree of this book.  It’s about an animal that inspired one of the great characters in children’s literature.  Lovely writing (which I found rather clever in its construction) alongside pitch perfect art.  The tone, man, the tone!  Can we talk about tone?  Can we talk about the fact that there is a feeling of calm and peace that emanates from the pages?  Give it something shiny, for the love of all that’s good and holy!

In a Village By the Sea by Muon Van. Illustrated by April Chu


You know, I started out by saying it was a dark horse contender but the more I look at it and the more buzz it receives, I think I’m actually on to something here. Chu’s a debut illustrator and this book is so smartly done.  I still haven’t seen the work she’s done on Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, but give it time.  This artist is going places.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena. Illustrated by Christian Robinson


I’ve been getting the title mixed up in my brain recently.  And to Think I Saw it On Market Street . . . no . . . no, that’s not it.  Or was it On Market Street?  No . . . no . . . still not right.  I know Chronicle managed to grab the wheel of the Christian Robinson conversation and put all the attention on that Mac Barnett book he did (which is, let’s all admit it, perfectly nice) but if you’re talking award contenders then this is the one to discuss.  You get whiffs of Ezra Jack Keats off the pages as you turn them.  That ain’t nothing.

The Marvels written & illustrated by Brian Selznick


That image of the baby.  Need I say more?  Those of you who read the book will understand.  Baby.  I’m out!  *drops the mic*

The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle


I’m bloody standing by this one.  I just get sort of tangled up in my own emotions when I encounter artists that can capture physical movement with mere snips of their scissors.  The fact that the papers themselves are beautifully made doesn’t hurt, but I really like how the story is told, the relationship between the characters, and the overall package.  Moon. Sisters.  Bedtime.

Night World by Mordecai Gerstein


Another night book.  Gerstein at his best attempting to capture whatever the opposite of “magic hour” is called.  The nice thing about Mr. Gerstein is that you don’t have to spend a lot of time discussing him.  He simply is the best.

Water Is Water by Miranda Paul. Illustrated by Jason Chin


Like a lot of children’s librarians I keep a little list of “Never Won a Caldecott But Shoulda” contenders in my back pocket.  And if I were to rank them, Mr. Chin would be somewhere high up on the list.  Until now his books have been his own.  Here he combines with a different author and for all its simplicity it may well be his best work.  He does such lovely things with mist.  I shall say no more.

Float by Daniel Miyares

Back on the list by popular demand!  Popular demand = people actually really enjoying it.  When I mentioned this book on my spring list I was left wondering if I was the only person who saw real potential in it.  Now I know I’m not alone.  Miyares manages to not only capture a kind of cloudy light found only on overcast days, but the relationship between the boy and his father is so beautifully rendered (wordlessly at that!) that you can’t help but adore the end product.

Fire Engine No. 9 by Mike Austin

FireEngineBetcha didn’t see THAT one coming!  Ha ha!  It’s not like we haven’t seen Mike Austin books before. You may even see this book and think “Oh great.  Another firefighter book.”  But that’s where you’re wrong, bucko.  This is a great book.  It’s an onomatopoeiaic (not a word) extravaganza.  All the sounds of the fire engine with a classic look (it’s been compared to the work of Donald Crews) and a contemporary feel.

Waiting by Kevin Henkes


Betcha saw THAT one coming!  I kid, but you did, didn’t you?  Everyone did.  Everyone has.  Quiet Henkes at his best.  I think I called it “Waiting for Godot . . . for Kidz!” once, which I’ll stand by.  That said, it’s lovely and a child would actually find its static lack of action interesting.  It’s probably a great big metaphor anyway and we all know how much librarians adore metaphors.  So maybe maybe . . .

And now we move on to the,

2016 Newbery Predictions:

Usually I’m able to determine potential Newbery winners far easier than Caldecotts.  This year is different.  I’m having a great deal of difficulty with the Newbery slots, whereas the Caldecotts (as you can see) just keep on coming.  Still, here are with the ones that I continue to like and some I have newly discovered.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley


Hm. I think it holds up. Granted my early impressions were tempered by low expectations. Someone referred to it as the “Snicker of Magic of 2015″ but I don’t get that vibe from it.  I think I may need to reread it, though.  Best villain of the year, in any case.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


Jonathan Hunt at Heavy Medals did some good pondering on this book so go thee hence and read what he has to say.  Personally I found two of the stories far stronger than the third, and I found the magical element entirely superfluous.  Yet I don’t think these objects make it any less “distinguished”.  Interesting, isn’t it, how a tiny detail can sink some books in a reviewer’s eye while massive writing choices can be critiqued but the book remains strong just the same.  Hm.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


Recently Rita Williams-Garcia sat down with Jeanne Birdsall to discuss their series and how they write for sisters.  And certainly the sisters in this book are its strongest element.  Now the first time I read this book, I wasn’t sure if it stood up for me.  I was confused by the great-grandmother’s tiff with her sister and if the book stood alone.  This is why I sometimes feel bad for books with a late fall release schedule.  As time goes by you have the ability to step back and process a book.  To return to it and synthesize it and determine what truly did and didn’t work.  In the end, I found that this book stands on its own (or so my fellow librarians tell me) and that the ending is gut punch powerful.  In short, it works.  You can see my recent interview with Ms. Williams-Garcia here (but only if you want to know what she’s working on next).

Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead


This was one of the books I felt truly baffled wasn’t nominated for the National Book Awards this year.  To be honest though, children’s books didn’t make a strong showing in 2015 in general.  It was all YA, YA, YA with two sole exceptions.  A pity since this book straddles children’s books and YA titles so successfully and yet it will struggle forever to find its home on library shelves. Which section should it go into?  I say juv.  I love what Stead’s done here and feel it’s a return to form.

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


I’m so very pleased that everyone likes this book.  And that everyone who walks into it with a skeptical eye walks away nodding slowly.  Yes indeed.  Strong writing that doesn’t pander.  Big differing opinions on the book jacket, of course, but you can’t have everything in life.  It was released VERY early in the year which may hurt its overall chances but I feel it has the chutzpah to carry through until the finish line.  Go, team, go!

A Nearer Moon by Melanie Crowder


My new dark horse contender.  I thought I’d be so sneaky to put it here but I see that it’s already been mentioned by a perceptive reader in the Heavy Medals comments.  I was rather shocked that this slim little book was as beautifully written as it was.  There is a great art to writing a short book for kids.  I feel like the longer you go, the more you pad the story out.  But Crowder (a master in her own right) keeps it “handsome” as my movie friends like to say.  And in this post-Frozen world of ours, the theme of sisterly love is fascinating.  It’s like a darker version of Rossetti’s Goblin Market or something.  I still need to process it fully but it’s good.  Very good.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz


Because it’s one of the best books of the year.  Period.  I may be giving away my review of it, but I very much feel that this is a book that only Candlewick would have published and only Laura Amy Schlitz could have written.  It is the book for the kid who says “I loved Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Do you have anything like that but that just came out?”  Because the answer is almost always no.  No, they just don’t make books like those anymore.  Books about 14-year-old girls that just pulsate with that age’s bizarre combination of worldliness, uncertainty, and downright childishness.  I’ll stop myself now.  It’s hugely distinguished.  FYI.

And yourself?  What do you feel burns bright with distinction and joy?

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. Thank you! I’m planning our mock Caldecott and still debating which books to include. I try to go for a mix of illustration styles (collage, pencil, black & white), as well as a mix of genres/text styles (fiction and nonfiction, wordless and word-ful(?)), and ethnic diversity (in the subjects and/or the artists). I try to keep it to 10 books. Unfortunately, as a “layperson” I don’t have access to books that haven’t come out yet. No Lenny & Lucy? Or The Whisper? I haven’t seen those so it’s hard to know whether to include them. I do love A Fine Dessert, though (and our library already owns it!), and will include My Pen for its black and white illustrations.

  2. Have you noticed that Melanie Crowder’s other novel that came out this year, Audacity, is being discussed in the Some Day My Printz Will Come blog? Do you know if an author has ever been awarded a Newbery and a Printz in the same year? (I remember that E. L. Konigsberg was awarded both the Newbery and an honor in the same year for her novels From the Mixed-Up Files and Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth . . . That’s the closest comparison I can think of.)

  3. I just added to my goodreads Caldecott list, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford. Ekua Holmes’ illustrations are magnificent.

    And I have this quirky love for Kelly Jones’ Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer. I’m currently reading it aloud to my new batch of 4th graders and they are guffawing all the time. Myself, I thought it was more of quiet chuckle sort of funny book, but these kids prove otherwise. (I admit I skipped reading all of the correspondence course, explaining that it was what one also did with Moby Dick. Hope I don’t offend the author with this.)

  4. I just finished my second read of GOODBYE, STRANGER. It’s such a dazzling feat, a structural marvel, and so important. I wish I’d had it in middle school. I also love Linda Urban’s MILO SPECK. the degree of difficulty on this book is so high, and it’s just so delightful. It’s the sort of book that shows off what middle grade can do that no other field really can, and I love that.

  5. “My” kids are also appreciating Wish Girl and Girl in the Torch, as well as some of those above.

  6. My Boaz's Ruth says

    I am hearing the war that saved my life recommended by adult friends who have nothing to do with libraries.

    It seems to speak to those who had harder childhoods.

  7. So many good books and I’ve read almost none of them! Off to the library website to place hold. Thank you!


  1. […] is beginning about the potential books in the running for the Newbery and Caldecott …. May the best title […]