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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Final Prediction Edition

See this money?  It’s time to put it where my mouth is.  OPEN UP, MOUTH!

So if you’re playing along at home you might have noticed that I’m a bit . . . ah . . . last minute-ish with my final predictions this year.  Considering that today is Thursday and the Newbery/Caldecott Awards (amongst other Youth Media Awards) will be announced this Monday at 8 a.m. EST (and viewable here), I’m positively late.

Ah well.  Life, it has a way of interrupting your best laid plans.  In any case, I’m ready now.  And before I forget, I should mention that if you’ve any interest in killing time before the ALA Awards on Monday, why not tune in for my Pre-Game Show beforehand?  I’ll be livestreaming my thoughts on the possible winners.  Then you can come back for the Post-Game Show where I kvetch, cheer, and generally make a fool of myself while my 19-month-old son wails outside my office door, wondering why his mommy isn’t sticking to her usual routine that morning.  Or I may pull him into the room to meet you.  I’m not above bribing you to watch.  Alas, my delightful co-host Lori will not be joining me this year, so it’s just l’il ole me. And maybe a baby.

And for those of you interested in what other people around the country are interested in winning, be sure to check out ALSC’s collection of Mock Elections here.

All right.  Enough of that.  Here are my final predictions.  As ever, I’d like to point out that with the possible exception of 2008, I almost never get these predictions right.  I go with my gut but my guts are fickle and can be bribed with donuts.


Caldecott Award


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


If there’s any theme behind my choices this year, it’s that they’re not very original.  Every other Mock Caldecott in the country has been talking about this book, and well that they should.  To my mind, this book has a very good chance if only because the time is right for it.  Look at the Caldecott Award winners of the past.  Books that speak to the times in which we live win the awards.  Whether intentional or not, the Caldecott committee is going to say something with their choice about what “distinguished” means.  In my recent article about the trends of 2015 and 2016 I mentioned that you cannot look at the debates sweeping the children’s literature landscape without considering the greater picture.  And the greater picture, as I see it, dictates that we need more diversity not just in the racial make-up of our authors, illustrators, and subject matter, but also in economic realities.  This book is beautiful, well-written, and does something I haven’t seen since Ezra Jack Keats: It makes the urban landscape beautiful.  The time for this book is now.  It’s my pick as winner.

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


The Beach Boys song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is playing in my head right now.  Because it would be nice if this book got an Honor.  Nice for the author and illustrator.  Nice for the small publisher from which it hails.  It’s a dark horse contender, I think, but I wouldn’t count it out.

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


Rafael Lopez is long overdue for a Caldecott in some kind of form.  This isn’t to say that he’ll necessarily get the Honor he deserves (and heck, he might get an Award proper!) but it makes me think that there’s a chance that someone on the committee will harbor affections for this book in the secret recesses of their heart.

Newbery Award

Since last year the Caldecott had a ton of Honors, I’d like to think that with the strong contenders of written works in 2016, there might be room for a plethora of these instead.


The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz


Though it was considered contentious earlier this year, one cannot help but notice that things are different for The Hired Girl these days.  People came to it in the midst of the debate and discovered that it was beautifully written.  Other folks who might not have picked it up did so and found that they loved it.  Support swelled, it appeared on the New York Times YA bestseller list a week or two ago, and everything culminated in yesterday’s Scott O’Dell Award announcement.  I’ve been watching all of this, and just as I feel that Last Stop on Market Street speaks to our current time and place, so too does The Hired Girl, only it represents a novel’s ability to become a focal point for a debate that extends far beyond itself.  At its heart, The Hired Girl is distinguished.  It could easily take away the award by itself.


The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley


The year’s most surprising popular favorite.  Not that I was particularly surprised myself.  I’d been plugging away for Jefferson’s Sons, Ms. Bradley’s previous book, to take away the prize years ago.  This may get bupkiss too (popularity by no means assures success in the award field) but at least a LOT of people read it that might not have otherwise.

Honors: Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin


Surprise!!  First time this one has made any of my prediction lists.  Why the switcheroo?  Um . . . well, I actually sat down and read it.  Boy howdy, is it good.  Tackling, in some ways, a subject far more complex than BOMB (his previous award winner) I could easily see this carrying a bunch of different awards from a bunch of different categories.  And, as with many books mentioned today, it’s hugely timely.

Honors: Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


I’ve gone back and forth on this one for a while.  On the one hand, there’s something about this book that sears into your brain and takes up residency in your frontal lobe.  On the other hand, the connecting fantasy element is entirely superfluous.  At the end of the day, I think the distinguished merit (which it exudes from every pore) outweighs any concerns I might have.  It’s not a given, but it’s a strong contender.

Honors: Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia


As I mentioned in a previous prediction post, this book took a while to percolate in my brain.  It was only after I talked it over with folks and thought long and hard about it that I realized it had a very strong shot at an award of some sort.  It could easily take home the gold medal proper, by the way.  We shall see what we shall see.

Phew!  That’s all from me.  Now go and catch your flights to Boston and tell me how everything is while you’re 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. You nailed it. In every category.

    I agree with all your selections and hope you’re right!

    (I would, however, like to see Finding Winnie and/or Boats for Papa in the Caldecott realm.

  2. Glad that you’re doing the pre-game show (I think your links need to be checked–they brought me to the opposite show that was listed). Might miss the first 10 minutes or so (I’m watching the presentation from work and don’t think I’ll get there before 7:30; I will need copious amounts of tea). I would be happy with any of these choices; my main concern is that we have the books in our collection or at least on order.

  3. Oh, and bring the baby in if he starts to fuss!

  4. How do your predictions align with/differ from your personal preferences?

    Do you really think there will be only 2 Caldecott Honor books? I’m betting on Drum Dream Girl for the win, with honors for Finding Winnie, Tricky Vic, and maybe Last Stop…, In a Village… and Home. but I’m terrible at predictions, too.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Distinguishing predictions from personal preferences is nigh impossible. These aren’t really all the books I’d like to see win, though. I just find that, when it comes to awards anyway, it’s not uncommon for the pendulum to swing just as far one way as another. Last year we saw a load of Caldecott Honors. I would be very much surprised to see that many again. Not because I think the committee is actively thinking “we need to scale that down a bit” but on an unconscious level these things have a way of evening out. I could be woefully wrong, of course. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  5. Let’s see… that will be 4:30 am on the left coast. I will be watching – maybe just with one eye open!

  6. Oh, Betsy, to think that just a few days ago in response to 100 Magnificent Children’s Books 2015 I asked you why The Hired Girl was not on your list. You see, I have been feeling down because five starred reviews dropped to three stars on the Best lists and then Cybils did not select it as a finalist. Then yesterday brought the news about the Scott O’Dell Award and today you write about the positive momentum you have seen recently. This pleases me so much. I’m not trained nor experienced in the evaluation process, but I know what I like. Can you imagine my excitement for MY FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME!!! I keep telling myself, over and over, It’s no big deal, they are only 15 individual opinions; so many I respect have already shown great support; other awards are very possible . . . but still I know I will feel disappointment if this book does not receive at least an honor. How I wish you could be cloned 14 times and make up this committee! Your choices are excellent!

  7. For those of us not in the know, can you explain what, precisely, an author does in a wordless book like “Village By The Sea”? Do they present a page-by-page story breakdown for the illustrator? A couple of paragraphs relating the tale they wish to have depicted? I’m curious!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I think it changes on a case-by-case basis. Years ago I saw Jennifer Armstrong talk about her work with David Small on ONCE UPON A BANANA. Most do come up with breakdowns of the pages, but there has to be a point where they let go and let the artist make it their own. Hmmm. This would make a good blog post.

    • In a Village by the Sea has words, actually! 🙂

  8. I really loved The Hired Girl, The War That Saved My Life, and Gone Crazy in Alabama (and that one surprised me – I think it’s the best of the Gaither Sisters trilogy) and would be really pleased to see any of them win. I think I have a soft spot for The War That Saved My Life. I don’t understand the love for Echo, but I seem to be alone in that!

    I’m looking forward to Most Dangerous – I just passed Bomb to my 10-year-old son.

  9. Yep, there are words in In a Village by the Sea, really beautiful rollicking words. It’s a this-is-the-house-that-Jack-built structure that’s just lovely.

  10. Betsy, your choices are fabulous and I loved each one of them. Don’t you love how we can celebrate all of them and find just the right reader for each? Choosing just 3 is impossible in so many ways. And yet it’s so much fun to see what different people choose!

    My students just voted for their Mock Newbery after a great discussion. They chose ALL THE ANSWERS for their Mock Newbery Medal, and had 3 honor books: BAYOU MAGIC, CHASING SECRETS, and SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD. They really developed their discussion skills, talking about characters, setting, plot, themes. I love the variety of genres represented in their choices.

    Looking forward to your post-game show (alas, the pre-game is just too dang early for me!).

  11. I am crazy about OUT OF THE WOODS by Rebecca Bond, but I’ve seen very few picture books this year, poor me.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I wish I’d had more time to examine that one. It made it onto NYPL’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing list too.

  12. Bill Wright says

    My third graders (at Kensico School in Valhalla NY) just finished their voting on our mock Caldecott…

    The Medal goes to Waiting, with Honors for Drowned City, Float, My Pen, and The Skunk.

    We’re eagerly awaiting the news from Boston on Monday morning!

  13. Thanks for the analysis. Is it time to say that your opinions don’t reflect EPL instead of NYPL? I suppose that EPL does fall into the any-other-acronym-that-could-be-named category of course….

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Hmmm. Good catch. Thought I corrected that one already. Apparently not. I’ll see if I can figure out where that info is located.

  14. I’ve stopped participating in the annual race betting but I am totally open to being bribed with a baby sighting live-streamed.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I can’t guarantee his presence, but it may well happen (getting him OUT of the room might be another matter).


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