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Caldecott 2018: Spring Prediction Edition

Folks, for 9 years now I’ve been doing these goofy little Newbery/Caldecott prediction posts.  I get ’em wrong far more often than I get ’em right but they’re fun and I enjoy doing them.  March 15th is normally the date of the Spring Prediction Edition, and as tradition states I’m supposed to show you how poorly I do with a quickie round-up of past posts.  So, in that vein:

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).

2013 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (Doll Bones and One Came Home) and one Caldecott right (Mr. Wuffles).  But pride goeth before the fall.

2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.

2015 spring predictions: I get two Newberys right (Echo and The War That Saved My Life)

2016 spring predictions: Zero correct, though the commenters do mention two books that would go on to win.

Getting so few correct last year you might think I’d double down this year and just predict a whole SLEW of books.  Not happening.  Nope, this year I’m actually scaling back.  Thanks to an erratic reading schedule, I simply haven’t read enough novels this year to have any kind of a sense of what could win a Newbery.  So if you’d like Newbery predictions check out this recent 100 Scope Notes list and this 2018 Newbery Reading List from Heavy Medal (LOVE the inclusion of Flora and the Crocodile on there!).

That said, I’m good on Caldecott books.  Why?  Because they make for quicker reads!  Here then are the books that I think have more than a swinging chance at Caldecott Gold in their future:

2018 Caldecott Predictions

Mighty Moby by Barbara Dacosta, ill. Ed Young


Young’s a multiple winner (hat tip to Lon Po Po and Caldecott Honoree Seven Blind Mice) and in the past I’d predicted wins for his books Tsunami and Wabi Sabi.  Neither of those books came to anything, but Moby here is different.  With those other two books the art was beautiful.  With this book it’s shocking.  It’s terrifying.  It takes your breath away and then refuses to give it back, even when you ask really really nicely.  Mind you, if Little, Brown gets ANOTHER Caldecott Gold four years running that will have to be some kind of a record.


Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters by Michael Mahin, ill. Evan Turk


This one’s not out until September so just sit on this recommendation and remember it until then.  The fact of the matter is that every single year I think Turk’s going to get a medal.  I thought it with Grandfather Gandhi. I thought it with The Storyteller.  Now I’m thinking it with Muddy, but of those three books, Muddy may have the best chance.  Turk’s art perfectly brings to life the legendary blues guitarist’s life.  I had my resident jazz expert at work vet the piece and he declared it a beauty.  Treat yourself by visiting Evan’s blog where he posts the sketches he made of Chicago’s contemporary jazz scene while doing research for this book. Then look at this picture here:


You see where I’m coming from.


A Perfect Day by Lane Smith


Horn Book called the art in this picture book “textured mixed-media” while Kirkus, being Kirkus, said, “Smith’s mixed-media artwork masterfully explores texture and scale.”  All I know is that this is Lane Smith at his best.  I love the twist. I love the shot of the bear with the corncob in his mouth.  I love, as Booklist said, that, “(T)he humorous surprise ending will make children squeal as they ponder the concept of perfect”.  I think it reads aloud well and entices children and has that sly little undercurrent of subversion you need from a Lane Smith book.  Keep Smith in the mix then.  He’s a Caldecott winner with an Honor or two under his belt, so this one may sneak up on you.

The Secret Project by Jonah Winter, ill. Jeanette Winter


I have a theory about the Caldecott.  It doesn’t reward artists that have the same style in all their books.  This is why some of the best artists alive today can’t call themselves Caldecott winners.  The award is, in many ways, limited in scope.  Now Ms. Jeanette Winter, for all that she’s done beautiful books over the years, has never won a Caldecott in any form.  And in this book her style is her own and it hasn’t changed.  And. Yet.  And yet this book is a wonder and a beauty.  The ending either rips your heart out or terrifies you (justifiably).  Those two pages of pure black . . . so gutsy a move.  So while I might call this book a bit of a Wild Card, if ever Ms. Winter deserved some attention for her years and years of killer service to the field, it would be in conjunction with this book.


This House, Once by Deborah Freedman


Subtle.  Does the Caldecott often reward subtlety?  I think so.  Mind you, I’m torn over whether or not I like Freedman’s book so much because of the images or because of the text.  The text, in which readers are introduced to each piece of a house and its origins in the natural world, is so measured and lovely that you just sink into the accompanying illustrations without a peep.

Tony by Ed Galing, ill. Erin E. Stead


By no means a slam dunk.  Of all the books Stead has created over the years since winning her own Caldecott Medal, none have struck me as quite as Caldecott-y as this title.  It’s based on a short sweet poem by Galing about a morning milk horse.  Stead’s work has an old-fashioned children’s book vibe to it.  I know someone who said that in one section the text and images do not match, so it may be finished before it began, but there’s a great deal of weight and emotion to the work.  It at least deserves some debate.


Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell


Ah. Remember what I said about the Caldecott rewarding those that change up their artistic styles from time to time?  Of all the books on this list today, Cordell’s may be the one I’m putting most of my money on.  Practically wordless, it’s a change of pace for the man and a lovely object to behold.  Look how he focuses the reader’s attention on one character or another.  Look at the blinding snowstorm.  The honest raw emotion when the girl stretches out her arms to the wolf cub imploringly (so different from the image on the cover).  This would be the 2018 frontrunner at this time.

So what have I missed (and I’ll include Newbery contenders in that ask)?  What seems so surefire and clear cut that you’re shocked and appalled that I’ve forgotten it here?

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

    It’s a longshot but I’m wondering if Peter Brown can pull off the extremely rare sequel to a caldecott, caldecott. Mo Willems did it when both Knuffle Bunny earned an honor and two years later its sequel,Knuffle Bunny Too earned an honor as well.
    A Creepy Pair of Underwear! is our most requested read aloud this semester and with every rereading I’m finding more to like. If individually distinct is truly only about the specific year in question I like Brown’s chances for picking up another honor.

    If they gave out awards for best picture book covers, I would bet everything on Christian Robinson’s When’s My Birthday? I haven’t seen the inside so I can’t speak to its caldecott chances but talk about a perfect cover!

  2. I haven’t seen the others (we have Wolf in the Snow, but it’s always checked out!), but A Perfect Day is the first book on my 2018 list.

  3. Jason Chin’s Grand Canyon, IMHO, has Caldecott and Sibert potential. On the Newbery front, so far I’m digging Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe; Amy King’s Me and Marvin Gardens; and Melanie Crowder’s Three Pennies.

  4. I am disappointed that you’re not doing Newberys this go-round. I always like that you write up a little description with each book. Do you think you’ll do them in later prediction posts?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I think so. I never like to put up books I haven’t read myself, so expect better predictions later in the year.

  5. I really enjoy reading your Newbery predictions. I would really like you to go back to do those predictions also. I don’t follow the Caldecott’s, so imagine my disappointment when I came to look for your predictions on March 15th. Who cares if your predictions are accurate or not? I enjoy reading them!

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Thank you! Very nice of you to say. I’m sure they’ll be back for the summer edition. I just can’t in good conscience speculate on things I haven’t read. That’s just a personal thing, really. I’ll do what I can to be better prepared soon!

      • Thanks for your consideration! I look forward to the predictions this summer. You always have a book or two I haven’t considered. I hope I am not putting too much pressure on you. I love it when people love middle-grade reads!

  6. Betsy, thank you for providing other sites your readers can go to for Newbery predictions. I am impressed by your resolve not to comment on books you have not yet read. Each year brings changes for all of us and we freely rearrange our priorities accordingly. Otherwise, we might never grow. Please do not feel pressure to please any of your readers. Follow your own heart.

  7. I love Wolf in the Snow and my Caldecott sense was tingling when I read Tony. I am pulling for Kevin Henkes’ Egg, but his books of late have been deceptively simple and not every committee honors that. I would disagree that artists have to use different styles to win. I do think they have to take their style to the next level or make it look fresh. Even though the committee is not supposed to take an illustrator’s other books into consideration, I think there is very much a “been there, seen that” effect for some artists and you might be right about Jeanette Winter. I just got The Secret Project and I need to spend more time with it.

  8. Allison Grover Khoury says

    Thanks. Glad to get your early views. Haven’t held any of these yet, but iike what you’ve said and what I’m seeing so far.

  9. Thomas Bell says

    I wouldn’t feel bad that you got none correct this last year. Seriously. I follow your books a lot, and because of you I became acquainted with books like ‘Cloud and Wallfish’ and ‘Ghost,’ both of which were far superior to the books that actually took home the medal and the honors. ‘Hour of the Bees,’ ‘Raymie Nightingale’ and ‘Full of Beans’ were also better books, but I would probably have read them anyway. And the previous year a lot of very excellent books won… honors. And yes, you picked all of them.

    I will continue to follow your blog as I try to read next year’s Newberys before they are awarded. Thank you very much. 🙂

  10. Thomas Bell says

    Oh, and in case you were looking for suggestions, ‘The Ethan I Was Before,’ by Ali Standish and ‘Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing and Shout, etc, etc…’ by Patricia McKissack are both really good books worth reading. Warden’s Daughter is too, but it’s probably already on your radar.