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A Fuse #8 Production
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Newbery/Caldecott 2018: The Summer Prediction Edition

Did Betsy drop the ball in her last Spring Newbery/Caldecott Prediction post?

Yes, Betsy did drop the ball in her last Spring Newbery/Caldecott Prediction post.

Will Betsy do better with her Summer Newbery/Caldecott Prediction post?

Yes, Betsy will do better with her Summer Newbery/Caldecott Prediction Post.

Back in the spring I ran into a bit of a puzzler.  Normally by March, I will have read at least 3-4 potential Newbery and Caldecott winners apiece.  But this year, 2017, for the first time I ran into a bit of a brick wall.  I hadn’t read a single serious Newbery contender.  I’d read plenty of perfectly fine books, but nothing I could put my weight behind for the big-time Award.  Now we find ourselves in June so surely I’ve read loads of Newbery potential titles by now, right?  Right?

Er . . . sorta?

Okay, I’ll tell you what I’ve read. I’ve read other people recommending books that THEY think have a chance.  Reliable people. Trustworthy people.  People whose opinions I value.  And this is a good thing because on my part I’ve read one single solitary Newbery contender for 2017.  So for the first time ever I’m bucking tradition and I’m including the Newbery contenders that other folks are promoting.  But first, the much easier category:

2018 Caldecott Predictions

The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, ill. The Fan Brothers


How can you tell when a publisher believes that they have an award winner on their hands?  There are lots of “tells” but none so obvious as the way in which they treat the original F&G.  When I received The Antlered Ship in the mail the other day I was instantly drawn to it.  Partly because the art is instantly luscious and lovely, sure.  But Beach Lane Books went the extra mile and made sure that the F&G feels good.  You pick it up and you instantly start stroking the cover.  It’s pleasing on a tactile level, which is extraordinarily smart.  After all, this book isn’t out until September so the easiest way to lure in potential award committee members is to make it memorable to multiple senses.  Here are some interior spreads to give you a sense of its loveliness:



And my personal favorite . . .


Can you tell that I like it more than The Night Gardener?

But wait a minute, sez you.  The Fan Brothers . . . aren’t they Canadian?  They live in Canada.  Well, yep.  But according to my fellows in the business, the whole reason their last book The Night Gardener was able to appear in so many Mock Caldecott lists was that they were born in the States.  Therefore, they are eligible.  *shrugs*  Fine with me.

How to Be an Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild by Katherine Roy


2017 is, as I may have mentioned before, an extraordinarily strong nonfiction year.  With that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me if more nonfiction books than usual won some major awards not specifically designated for information texts this year.  Katherine Roy is probably best known at this point for her jaw-dropping Neighborhood Sharks from a couple years ago.  Having studied under David Macaulay, Roy elevates nonfiction illustration to a whole other level.  In this book she takes a topic that you could easily believe has been done to death, then uses illustration to a remarkable degree to illustrate points about elephants that I am confident in saying you have NEVER heard before.  Sharks didn’t get the level of adoration I would have liked.  Maybe this book will make up for that.

Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin


I’m still mulling this one over.  Graegin may be known to you for her work on books like Water in the Park by Emily Jenkins.  In this wordless title we follow two perspectives and a theft.  There’s a subtle sophistication to what the author/illustrator is doing on these pages.  I feel like artists that work in the realm of “cute” live in danger of being put in a corner and ignored.  Cute is a completely fine method of illustration for kids and does not mean that the creator did not work their butt off getting everything just right.  Graegin’s strength here is molding the tone to the individual scenes, honing both the child reader’s sympathies and outrage by turns.  I need to think about it a little more, but it’s a contender.

Mighty Moby by Barbara Dacosta, ill. Ed Young


To what degree do you root for someone who has won the Caldecott Award before?  I think this often whenever David Wiesner makes another particularly good book.  And I’ve vaguely thought about it with other Ed Young titles, but I think that this book, even more than the lovely Tsunami (which got far too little attention), is his greatest award contender in years.  And for those of you who haven’t seen it yet, rest assured that it isn’t just a picture book adaptation of Moby Dick but a clever title with a true child-perspective.

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


Sometimes Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope Notes will produce a graph that shows the months that award winners are most often published.  This year, I’m noticing that a lot of September release books are really gorgeous.  I’m the one who beats the drum for Evan Turk every single year that he produces a book, but this year, THIS YEAR, I think he’s got a real shot. Some interior art for your consideration:


You see where I’m coming from.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith


I always drop a couple titles between one prediction post and the next, but I’m sticking by this Smith book.  Even the cover is notable.  Look at the texture on that paint on the bear’s face.  Ist not gorgeous?

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell


Still the #1 contender in my book.  Nuff said.

2018 Newbery Predictions

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk


Review forthcoming, but I will say that this blew me away.  Now I was a big fan of Wolf Hollow when it came out, but I did wonder if it was a one-off fluke.  Nope.  Apparently the woman can write.  After reading  a run of nice middle grade books that didn’t quite grab me, the descriptive language of Wolk’s latest comes across as completely enthralling.  It also came as an odd relief because this is the only book I’ve read this year that had that effect on me.  So for some comparison, let’s see what other folks have been predicting for this year.

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes  


A great librarian friend of mine proposed this one, and I like the idea.  No one’s going to contest that Grimes is a remarkable poet and writer.  There are two potential issues with a Newbery win. One is the age level and whether or not the book is too old.  Since the Newbery can go to the age of 14, I think it’s okay.  The other is that the book isn’t wholly new.  Grimes is combining her words with those of famous poets.  It’s a mash-up book, and it will be entirely up to the Newbery committee to determine if mash-up culture has a place in the pantheon of Newbery winners.  If ever, the time is now.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder


Okay, so I’ve been hearing about the Newbery potential of Ms. Snyder’s latest from multiple folks.  One was Cristin Stickles of McNally Jackson and the other was author Jonathan Auxier.  Jonathan didn’t use the “Newbery” word but he did say the book was his favorite of the year so I’m going to take that as a recommendation.  And up it goes on my To Be Read shelf. Extra Bonus: It’s out now so you can actually read it (unlike those September books I keep recommending).

Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin


The last two books on today’s list mark a significant trend.  We know that the occasional nonfiction book will appear as a Newbery or Caldecott winner on occasion.  What if the fact that 2017 is such a strong nonfiction year means that we’ll see a lot more nonfiction titles on the final award lists?  If that was the case then I think Mr. Sheinkin would be a true possibility.  I’ve read the criticisms and it stand up to them overall.

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman


The true contender.  Maybe even my Newbery frontrunner.  Though marketed as YA I think it could easily be considered for the 14-year-old set and is therefore viable.  Buried under the weight of a million starred reviews, this is quite possibly Deborah’s magnum opus.  Even more so than Charles and Emma (and that’s saying something). Read Julie Danielson’s interview with Deborah over at Kirkus if you get a chance.  It will make you a convert.

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. Regarding Newbery I’m all over Vincent and Theo too. Still need to read several of the ones you mention and many others, but FWIW my goodreads Newbery votes are currently with V & T, Megan Whalen Turner’s Thick as Thieves; Elizabeth Wein’s The Pearl Thief; Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe; and Rita Williams-Garcia’s Clayton Byrd Goes Underground.

  2. Susie Highley says

    I had an eighth grade boy (who generally reads only 32-48 page nonfiction football books) read Undefeated. He was very impressed, which means so much to me; that’s the longest book he finished in the four years I’ve known him.

  3. Thanks for the Newbery Predictions. I haven’t read the VIncent and Theo book yet, so thanks for that suggestion. My goodreads Newbery votes are currently: Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson; Orphan Island by Synder; Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar and Beyond the Bright Sea by Wolk.

  4. Beyond the Bright Sea is one of the best books I’ve read this year and dare I say I think it has the potential to become a must read and modern day classic. It blew me away too and has stayed with me since reading it.

  5. Esther Frazee says

    Thank you so much for a list to start off my summer reading. I adore and trust your recommendations!

  6. Nancy Johnson says

    BEYOND THE BRIGHT SEA … yes, yes, and yes. I started this book and found myself reading too fast, missing the glorious writing in my hunger to dig into the story. So, I stopped (at about page 40), turned right back to the opening pages and started all over again. Well worth it. I’d love to read this one aloud to 4th or 5th or 6th graders … maybe even older. It’s deeply response rich, highy engaging, and oh, so satisfying.

  7. Amy Sears says

    Live Orohan Island also big fan of Thick as Thieves by Turner, Tumble and Blue by Cassie. Beasley and also York by Laura Ruby

  8. Thanks, Betsy. I always look forward to your predictions and will share this with our Not for Kids Only Book Club!

  9. So excited to see your summer predictions. I just finished Beyond the Bright Sea and I adore it! I’ve also read One Last Word. Orphan Island is in my WTR (want to read) pile and I’ll reqeust the other two. I’m adding a link to your predictions to our book club’s Summer Reading Smorgasbord padlet.

  10. Brooke Shirts says

    Vincent & Theo is my frontrunner for all the things.

    I haven’t yet read Thick as Thieves because I gave it to my husband for Father’s Day and I am being VIRTUOUS and SHOWING RESTRAINT and letting him read it first out of my GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT. (Or so I have to tell myself.)

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Aw. Does your library have Hoopla? Because I’m listening to the audiobook of it right now and it is great!

  11. For me, the picture of the animals in the Antlered Ship feels very reminiscent of The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base, which makes me want to read it even more.

  12. The struggle is real this year. I have been reading new books trying to build my Battle if the Books list and have found lots of good enough books, but not “wow, magical” books. Still looking and reading.

  13. Open Reader says

    Regarding YORK.

    The copyright of this book is to the publisher, not the author. Doesn’t that preclude the Newbery committee from considering it?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I’m not quite sure what you mean. As long as the book was originally published in America in the current year, that’s all that is required on that front.

      • Open Reader says

        Good to know! One does wonder, however, what the committee will make of it. If it’s an IP book–which is what the copyright to HarperCollins suggests–then the IP team at the publisher came up with the concept and paid the author a flat fee to execute it.