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A Fuse #8 Production
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31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eight – 2016 Calde-nots

31daysA list based entirely on what a book is not?  And what precisely is a Calde-not?  Well, we’re getting into semantics and rules today, so buckle up.  First and foremost, I direct your attention to the illustrious Caldecott Award.  The most famous award given to the most distinguished examples of American illustration for children.  Note that I said “American”.  A Caldecott Award has terms and criteria.  Here are two of them:


  • The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
  • The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.  Books published in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.


The reason for these rules dates back to the Caldecott’s inception.  Created to accompany the already popular Newbery Medal, the award was meant to focus attention on American artists of children’s books.  And in a nation besotted with Beatrix Potter (alongside other European creators), it was a good idea.  These days, however, we have no difficulty finding delightful American creators.  In the end, a lot of magnificent books fall by the wayside, unable to earn worthy awards.

Well, no longer!  Today we celebrate books that would be definite Caldecott contenders, if they just weren’t so doggone un-American.  In the literal sense, naturally.


2016 Calde-nots

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi


You’ve heard me wax eloquent (or at least long) about the work of Toshikado Hajiri before, but I’ll just mention one more time that the nature scenes in this book, whether it’s a rising sun or sea alongside mountains and sky, are spectacular.  The whole book is a wonder.  Hopefully it’ll find its audience.

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann


German to its core, though I’ve been surprisingly gratified by the increase in Kuhlmann-love over the past year.  Though he never gets attention from folks like the New York Times Best Illustrated list, at least his star is rising.  This book is just as lovely as its predecessor (Lindbergh) if less of a surprise.

The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest by Oren Lavie, ill. Wolf Erlbruch


It’s such a strange but lovely little import than I can’t help but think that if it was American we’d be discussing it all over the place.

The Blue Bird’s Palace by Orianne Lallemand, ill. Carole Henaff, translated by Tessa Strickland


An original folktale with a French illustrator.  This story was surprisingly lovely to read.  I suppose looking at the cover I shouldn’t have been too shocked, but I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

Circle by Jeanne Baker


If I had my way Ms. Baker would have all the awards in the world.  Her art is unparalleled.  That cover image you’re looking at here?  Yeah.  That’s clay.  Now look me in the eye and tell me she isn’t one of the cleverest, smartest artists working in the picture book field today.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault


To mention Arsenault in any kind of a context is a bit of a cheat.  She’s more accessible than similar artists, and by all appearances she has impeccable taste.  I’ve yet to see her take on a dud of a project.  This peculiar but lovely little bio certainly fits the bill as well.

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Christian Robinson


But wait, you say!  Christian Robinson’s American.  Why wouldn’t this work?  To answer I direct you to the “original work” stipulation of the Caldecott terms and conditions.  This re-illustrated version of Brown’s classic is lovely, but the book is technically by no means new.

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna


Okay.  So it’s weeeeeeeird.  But if you’ve read the Pinocchio story at all it makes a strange bit of sense.  I already used the word “dreamlike” in a previous book list, so I can’t play that card again.  Let’s just say it’s gently surreal instead.  Beautiful, sad, odd, and ultimately uplifting.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, ill. Nizar Badr


The Syrian refugee crisis explained with rock sand stones?  The art in this book is only slightly more fascinating than the story of how the author tracked down the Syrian illustrator in the first place.

What Can I Be? by Ann Rand, ill. Ingrid Fiksdahl King


Another reprint, and couldn’t you tell?  Gorgeous through and through, that’s for certain.

What Color Is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts


Not only is the art interesting to look at in this book but it feels different on every page.  Could have had a tactile leg up.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, ill. Julie Morstad


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Ms. Morstad is Canadian.  Doggone neighbor to the north.  If she ever moves south we’ll be waiting, awards in hand.

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark, ill. Isabelle Arsenault


Again with the Arsenault but that’s okay.  To my mind you can never have enough Isabelle Arsenault on a list.  Never, truly.

And now, because I can, the official Randolph Caldecott music video as recorded by the Effin’ G’s.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books




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. Eric Carpenter says:

    What about Little Red?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Like it a lot and considered it. It did show up on the New York Times Best Illustrated list, didn’t it? Maybe I should add.

  2. I cannot wait to read Are You An Echo? I put it in our suggest a title program and should have it soon.

    I fell in love with the cover of Cloth Lullaby, and ordered a copy sight unseen. I love Isabelle Arsenault’s art and she first caught my eye with Jane, the Fox and Me. What a lyrical and lovely book, and it’s soft to the touch too.

    And I also loved both the text and art in When Green Becomes Tomatoes.

    I hadn’t heard of the Kuhlmann book, so I’ll look forward to reading that, especially since I’m married to a German :).

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      If you haven’t read a Kuhlmann before you are in for a treat. Clockwork Beatrix Potter is the only way I can adequately begin to describe him.

  3. Great list! I finally saw Cloth Lullaby the other day, and it makes me want to snap my fingers and be insta-in a school library once again and pair it with The Iridescence of Birds.

    I’d add Little Red too. (And, yes, it got a NYT nod.) Others I liked this year: The Lost House (also got a NYT, I think); Daytime Visions: An Alphabet (Isol); The White Cat and the Monk.

  4. Great list! I would add Francesca Sanna’s The Journey, which is one of my favorites this year.

  5. Hard to believe Cloth Lullaby can’t win a Caldecott. Beautiful book.

  6. Dana Frank says:

    I am loving all of you lists, but was most excited to see this one. It does not disappoint. -Thank you!

  7. Elisa Gall says:

    But wait! Isn’t there a bit in the Caldecott manual about the committee determining how much needs to be original work? The example given (if I remember correctly) was that Taback won in 2000 for Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (even though he had illustrated a previous version of the same book) because the illustrations were entirely new. So MAYBE The Dead Bird still has a Calde-shot?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Hmmm…. good point that. The discretion of the committee trumps all. I like The Dead Bird, but since Christian got an Honor last year he’s not hurting for love and praise. It would take an extaordinary book to let the committee go that route. Do we think The Dead Bird goes the extra mile? Therein lies the debate.

    • Bina Williams says:

      It is true that Simms Taback re-illustrated his own book which went on to win the Caldecott Medal. I think that Christian would be a fine candidate for the Caldecott Medal winner….