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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eight – 2017 CaldeNotts


They can’t win a darn thing, and that’s the truth. Sorta. Each year picture books are considered and assessed by the Caldecott committee to determine which titles are the “most distinguished” contributions to the field of children’s literature. And every year truly beautiful contenders will fall by the wayside, winning nothing. Why? Because when the Caldecott was established American was very intent upon creating a children’s book award that celebrated Americans. Times have changed and we’re not quite so worried about our place in the world, but the stipulation remains. Caldecotts can only go to Americans. As such, this year we’ve seen books that, were they eligible, would carry home the gold the silver and any other precious metal you can name.

Full credit for the word “Caldenott” goes to the recent Calling Caldecott piece penned by Thom Barthlemess. There are some additional selections there, should you wish for more than this little posting.

2017 Caldenott Contenders

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler


I like to use the original covers, whenever possible. You’ve a lot of French imports to choose between in a given year. Yet few, I would guess, released in American in 2017 quite compare to what Simler has done here. If this is scratchboard art then it’s the finest, most elegant I’ve seen in years. Sometimes I just like to stare at the pictures and figure out how a person would go about making them at all. Sometimes.

Home in the Rain by Bob Graham


Call me a dreamer. I know that Graham isn’t a usual Caldenott contender, and the reasons are clear. He does a similar style with every book, and he goes in for tiny human moments. Still, the man isn’t afraid of great sweeping aerial views and implications far above and beyond the small events being captured on his pages. This was such a lovely book this year, and he just doesn’t get enough credit for how he puts these stories together. That is all.

My Valley by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters

MyValley1 copy

If this book looks a touch familiar that may have something to do with the fact that it was featured on the 100 Scope Notes Year in Miscellanea under the heading “Weirdest Book of the Year”. He’s not wrong, and you’ll note that he highly recommends it. I do too. But I’d argue that the imagery isn’t so much psychedelic as infused with its own set of rules and expectations. Everything that happens in this book is completely logical within the confines of the narrative. That’s part of the reason I like it so much. Dreams have dream logic. This book has valley logic, and once you understand the rules you can just go along with it. Plus those breathtaking vistas and details are to die for. No doubt about it. If this book were originally American it would spark much discussion.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Jill Davis


I remember when a librarian handed me this book and I looked up on it with distrust. Didn’t we already have a picture book out in 2017 where a kid in a red coat with a pointed hood went out into nature? But Alemagna’s story translates beautifully and the art wouldn’t let me go. Even on this tiny cover image here you can get a sense of how the artist displays light on cloudy days.

Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, ill. Sydney Smith


If I had to declare a Caldenott winner, it would be Schwartz & Smith’s. Sometimes I have this fantasy that Sydney Smith has moved to America and taken up residence in the U.P. or something where he can be eligible for all the lovely awards.  Hey. A girl can dream.

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi


Perspective is such a difficult concept to convey in a picture book, but is so effortlessly managed here. As the little bunny travels on her mother’s (and eventually father’s) shoulder she gets these child’s-eye glimpses into other people’s homes. There is so much warmth to these snatches of information, even if they do sometimes feel sad at the outset.

When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, ill. Matt James


Surprise! Didn’t see that one coming, did you?  Well I like a lot of what this book is doing, particularly with night and light and snow. But above and beyond all of that, I like the kids. Though they aren’t really named, you get these little glimpses into their individual personalities, which I really like. The art being lovely doesn’t hurt matters any either.


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 Reprints & Adaptations

December 3 – Wordless Picture Books

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – CaldeNotts

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – Translated Picture Books

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Poetry Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Comics for Kids

December 21 – Older Funny Books

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Fiction Reprints

December 30 – Middle Grade 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. Love to see 2 Canadian contenders for the CaldeNot. Canadian illustrators are at the top of their game right now, don’t you think? Jon Klassen has already moved to L.A. don’t take any more away from us please 😉

  2. Hey Betsy,

    I clicked on Picture Book Reprints and was sent to this post.

  3. Never mind. I must have clicked on the wrong thing.