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Newbery / Caldecott 2018: Final Prediction Edition

I was all prepped to begin today by saying that the entire reason I’m doing this post in January is because the ALA Youth Media Awards are slated to go live in February this year . . . but then I looked at last year’s Final Prediction Edition and saw that it was posted on January 4th of that year. So, honestly, everything old is new again. Be sure you’re ready to watch the results on February 12th at 8 a.m. MT on the live feed. I’ll be going to work a little late that day, so that I can yells, scream, sob and cheer in the privacy of my own home (thereby freaking out my sleeping children). Can’t get the feed to work? Then follow on Twitter at #alayma, or Facebook live stream @AmericanLibraryAssociation.

Soon enough the committee members will pack up their bags and fly to Denver. They’ll disembark and perhaps get a good night’s sleep in before the discussions begin. Some committees will work fast and furiously, like a well-oiled machine. Others will find themselves doing yoga at 2 a.m. just to keep their heads on straight. But all of them will reach their decisions after long discussions and great deep thoughts. All of them are putting 100% into this and I have every confidence that they’re gonna knock ’em out of the park.

It won’t be easy for them. Some years the award winners seem to spring from the very earth, fully formed, ready for any medals you’d care to slap upon their covers. Then there are years like 2017 where it can sometimes feel like anything’s fair game.

As this is my final prediction edition, I’ll just say right up front that it is entirely possible that not a single title I mention here today will make it to the finish line. Wild Card Years are part of the reason I love these awards so very much. But this one? It’s a doozy, man. This may be the most unpredictable year I’ve encountered thus far.

Here’s what I think:


Caldecott Honor Books

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat


I’ll just present everything alphabetically here today. And truth be told, I think Santat is probably my second most likely Caldecott Award winner. I know folks are all about the Beekle, but I am squarely Team Humpty on this one. It has all the right elements in place: A personal connection to the book, a story arc for the main character, something to say about our times, and what I’d say is probably Dan’s best art to date. Now weird as this may sound, I have encountered several people that are confused by the ending. For folks like myself that think it’s pretty clear (Humpty cracks open and flies away, free now that he’s overcome his anxieties) this may seem baffling. However, there are a fair number of people that interpret that ending to mean that he’s died. This confusion may or may not end up shifting the Caldecott committee one way or another on the book. However you look at it, though, it’s clearly a very strong contender.

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper


I’m trying not to get my hopes up. I’m trying not to think too hard about this. And yet, and yet, and yet . . . Elisha Cooper is due. He’s been due for years, but for the first time he’s changed up his style a little bit. Then he added in a truly heart-warming/wrenching tale of cats and it’s the sheer seeming simplicity of this book that could push it into the upper strata. Honestly, if they announced that this won the Award proper I’d be floating on cloud 9. As it stands, I’m happy just to root for it from the sidelines. I certainly hope the committee thinks the way I do.

Crown by Derrick Barnes, ill. Gordon C. James


Because there is always ALWAYS a chance. Now I suspect that the Caldecott committee wouldn’t give the Gold to a book that references Basquiat in some way, if only because of last year’s winner. That said, the art and text in this book meld so seamlessly together that there is a distinct chance that this Wild Card could garner an Honor of its own. Caldecott committees love to honor debut illustrators, when they are able, and few debuts this year cut as clear a path as this book. Plus, I love books from small publishers, and Agate Press is about as small as you can get these days.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, ill. Ekua Holmes


The Caldecott committee can’t take into consideration the fact that next year Ms. Holmes could well be the front-runner with the art she’s done for The Stuff of Stars. With this book she hones her skills even further, playing with papers and techniques alongside wizardry and creativity, which is something award committees are known to love. The only point against its favor in terms of the gold is the fact that she’s illustrating poems. Often, committees prefer to give Caldecott and Newbery Medals to books with a single storyline, not multiple works of poetry. So I can see this getting an Honor (lots of room for shiny medals on this cover, don’t you think?) but not necessarily the top one.

And the gold goes to . . .

2018 Caldecott Award Winner

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell


To be fair, it does look as if this Award splits evenly between After the Fall and Cordell’s breakout hit. Both Cordell and Santat have a lot in common, actually. They overwork themselves, creating a great vast swath of content every year. Each one, no doubt, has had to field jokes about how many books they have out in a given season. Both are completely comfortable illustrating other people’s books too. The one edge that Cordell may have here isn’t even technically something we can take into account. It may well be that in the back of the committee members’ brains they remember that Santat won only three years ago. They cannot, of course, act on this thought. Each book is brought before the committee based on its own merits, and not on its creator’s past wins. But Cordell has another advantage at his disposal. If a committee member argues that this book is about otherness, looking past our bubbles, and reaching out to those that are different even in the face of fear . . . well THAT is awfully timely, don’t you think? Not that anxiety isn’t timely too, but where one feels personal the other feels universal. It may all fall to which feeling the committee believes speaks to the times in which we live.


Newbery Honor Books

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk


Wolk’s advantage in this case is also her disadvantage. When I picked up this book and read it, I was filled with a palpable sense of relief. At last! Here HERE was a Newbery challenger. This is where all the great, grand writing for the year went. And yet . . . I couldn’t help but wonder the degree to which I was enjoying the book as an adult versus what a child would enjoy. The committee will wonder the same thing, and I could see them going the route of the 2016 Newbery committee, giving Wolk an Honor in the end. Nothing wrong with Honors, after all. And nothing wrong with this book.

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder


Huh. How did I never notice that the cover of Beyond the Bright Sea and the cover of Orphan Island go together like peas in a pod? Check it out:









Apparently the universe is trying to tell us something.

If it’s trying to tell ME anything, it’s that boats are the new bicycles for kids these days. Hop into one and find an island that will offer you both secrets and possible dangers. Snyder’s book is a bit of a wonder. I’ve been trying to assess the degree to which it’s dividing people. In my experience, books that could or could not be metaphors fare poorly because interpretations of metaphors vary widely. Yet for the most part, Snyder’s book is garnering some gruff admiration from all corners. It may be dismissed as too slight by the committee in the end, but I hope they give it their full consideration. It may not have the language of Wolk’s book, but the plot’s a deep dive into childhood itself. And that ain’t nothing.

Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz, ill. Brian Floca


Normally I’d say that a book this charming and delightful wouldn’t have a chance at an award, but the sheer star power behind it may tip it over the edge. Not that committees are supposed to pay attention to any of that. Under normal circumstances they would act as if there were a strip of brown paper covering up the author and illustrator’s names. But who could mistake Ms. Schlitz’s seemingly effortless writing? Who could look at Floca’s art and not instantly recognize his style? And if the committee is worried at all about selecting books that are only appropriate for very advanced readers, giving this book an Honor would certainly go a long way towards alleviating that fear.

And the gold goes to . . .

2018 Newbery Award Winner

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


There is a GREAT big “if” attached to this win, however, so let’s look at it. Each ALA committee walks into its room knowing that it is up to them alone to interpret the rules of the past. Consider how the 2008 Caldecott committee decided that The Invention of Hugo Cabret could certainly be called a “picture book”. Or how the 2014 Newbery committee decided that even though there were graphic and visual elements to Flora and Ulysses, you could still consider the book strong based on text alone. In the case of One Last Word, it is up to the committee to decide if the inclusion of poems by Harlem Renaissance poets (which prove to be the jumping off point for the poems of Ms. Grimes herself) disqualify it from contention. The terms and criteria of the Newbery clearly state that the award must go to an “original work”. And what constitutes an original work? They write:

• “Original work” means that the text was created by this writer and no one else. It may include original retellings of traditional literature, provided the words are the author’s own.
• Further, “original work” means that the text is presented here for the first time and has not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form. Text reprinted or compiled from other sources are not eligible. Abridgements are not eligible.

It seems pretty clear that the poems in this book would fall into the category of “text reprinted or compiled from other sources”. That said, I’ve seen books that I considered out of contention go on to win big awards in the past. If the committee can make a strong argument for the book’s inclusion in consideration, I think it could win the gold. If not? Then I think the award is going to be a Wild Card. Something none of us have even been talking about.

It could happen.

Now you’re wondering why I didn’t include a bunch of other titles out there. Where’s Little Fox in the Forest? Where’s Muddy? And where the HECK is Her Right Foot (a book I’d been touting as a possible winner for a couple months there)? I should note that I’m not actually predicting what I want to win necessarily, but what I think will win. And looking at this winners and their Honors, I’d say this is a pretty convincing list of potential wins.

Maybe I’m really far off. There’s only one way to tell. See you on Monday, February 12th, everyone!

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. That’s a lot of men for Caldecott. Again. Really?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      I thought that too. Actually, on a related note I was doing some research with my friend (Jules Danielson who did all the counting) on the subject. While the gender ratio for Newbery Award winners is Women — 63, Men — 33, on the Caldecott side 80 Awards have been given, 6 to husband-wife pairs. Otherwise Men: 58. Women: 28. And this isn’t limited to Caldecott illustration awards either. Check this out:

      Cleaver Award (Canada) — goes back to 1986 only. Men: 16. Women: 14.

      Greenaway (England) — established in ‘55. Men: 38. Women: 22.

      Original Art Award (SOI here in U. S.) — going back to 2002, it’s: Men have 9 and women 8. Not the full list.

      BGHB — goes back to ‘67. Just in the picture book category — Men: 42. Women: 30.

      This year I saw 656 picture book titles. 368 were illustrated by women and 288 by men. However, this is for everything, not just Caldecott eligible books, so the numbers would skew a bit differently in that case.

      So why am I perpetuating this myself? Because, as I said, this isn’t what I think should win necessarily (though I like all of these) but what will win. I could do an alternative What I’d Like to Win post too, I suppose.

  2. I’d like to stress that was some quick counting for a research topic that we eventually had to put on the back burner for insufficient data. Just sayin’ — in case that quick counting resulted in an error here or there, a number or two that are off.

    This would be a great subject for a crack team of social scientists, who can find the hard and fast numbers. Decades’ worth of numbers would be needed.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Yes! Good point. We just didn’t have anything beyond these initial numbers, and even they aren’t finalized. So if there are any grad students out there who want to work on a brilliant children’s literature project, we highly suggest this one.

      • While a long history is nice, how about look at the modern Caldecott. Let’s judge OUR society, not that of our grandparents. This century:
        17 Medals: 14 Men / 3 Women
        57 Honors: 36 Men / 21 Women
        That’s 50 for Men, 24 for Women
        There were FOUR years THIS CENTURY that ZERO women were given a medal OR honor.

        As to your point of predicting what WILL happen? Disappointingly, you’re probably correct.

      • Elizabeth Bird says

        The natural extension of that then seems to be how often women artists are invited to do school visits vs. men. There’s no way to track this at this time, but it’s something I’d be interested in looking into in the future.

    • Anonymous: I hear you. When I say “decades’ worth of data,” however, I mean that someone (or a team of someones) needs to count years’ worth of the number of men who get published vs. women. Until we have those numbers, people can speculate about why men dominate the award (and many people do), but then someone always comes along to say: But is the number of women who get published proportionate to the number of men? I totally expect that an equal number of women illustrators get published (maybe even more do — I saw this today, for example: More women than men there) … but till we have those numbers from decades at a time, people may just dismiss the question. I’ve seen it happen.

      And those numbers are hard to find.

      This is why I call on the social scientists out there!

  3. Chelsea C. says

    YES! I have been Team One Last Word for months and would LOVE to see it get some Newbery bling. It’s the only book that has knocked my socks off this year. Though it will certainly be an interesting discussion for the committee.

  4. As to that ending in After the Fall – my students were not confused at all – unanimous cry in three classes: “He hatched!”

  5. Cynthia Levinson says

    Wonderful choices! But why is this your last year?

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      Hm. It’s not, but I can see the confusion. By “Final Prediction Edition” I just mean the final one for the 2017 publishing year. You can’t keep an old dog down (to murder a phrase) so expect to see me next year as well.

  6. Stacy Dillon says

    I’m still cheering for The Book of Mistakes, by Luyken. Also Little Fox in the Forest, by Graegin.

  7. ONE LAST WORD is certainly a Newbery-worthy book! It’s unique, beautifully written, and resonant. I’ll be among those cheering for it on 2/12, so I’m happy it was your pick. And thank you for continuing the discussion on the gender inequity in the Caldecott categories–Great ART is Great Art, no matter who does it, but when you look at the numbers over time, you can’t ignore the disparity. Especially if some of those female artists have less of a presence on social media or are not speaking at the larger conferences, then we should not forget to include their excellent work in these year-end lists and discussions.

  8. Mother Lydia says

    My daughter (6 years old) LOVES after the fall.

    I was so flabbergasted the first time I read it. “Of course. Birds come from eggs. Why did I never ever think of this before” The second time was so enlightening — the paper airplanes, wanting to be high!…

  9. Theresa malone says

    I’m holding out for The Stars Beneath Our Feet, but thank you for your, as usual, astute and incredibly entertaining predictions.

  10. Elizabeth, I concur on Matthew Cordell’s WOLF IN THE SHOW. I do likewise predict it to win the Caldecott Gold. And it is quite the picture book masterpiece.

    I am also seeing an HONOR for:

    After the Fall
    Little Fox in the Forest

    Should the committee take a cue from the Year of the Seven Winners (heck I’m all for it and then some!) I see the other three Honors coming from this lot:

    Big Cat Little Cat (with you and Travis Jonker on board, there is something here!)
    All the Way to Havana
    Out of Wonder
    The Boy and the Whale
    A Different Pond
    Dazzle Ships
    The Antlered Ship
    The Little Red Cat….

    There are of course some other books I personally ADORE from Wendell Minor, Raul Colon, Stacy Innerst Eugene Yelchin, Matt Taveras, Jamie Hogan, Wendy Wahman, Jonah Winter, Floyd Cooper, Barbara McClintock, Molly Bang, Lauren Castillo, Toni Yuly, Kadir Nelson, Daniel Miyares, Rick lieder, April Pulley Sayre, Katherine Tillotson, M. Sarah Klise and others, but I can only hope any of these slip through.

  11. Forgot to mention MUDDY (Evan Turk) in the above round-up as I was going faster than my head. A stylish masterwork!

  12. I’ve read all of these. I would add Train I Ride by Paul Mosier, Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Jackson, and Fovever, or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter to the Newbery possibilities. My vote is for Train I Ride.

    • I read Train I Ride during quick breaks at work. This turned out to be a bad plan as I had to keep sniffling and drying my face when my next classes came in.

  13. “If it’s trying to tell ME anything, it’s that boats are the new bicycles for kids these days. Hop into one and find an island that will offer you both secrets and possible dangers.”

    This was also an essential element in Tumble & Blue. Is this the year of boats and islands?

  14. I agree that ONE LAST WORD doesn’t meet the requirements. A wild card would be nice. I’d like see one of the following win myself: TRAIN I RIDE or MISHA THE BRAVE. Both made me, and my daughter, cry as well as well as think. I lean toward Misha, probably because I love dogs so much and Coco is adorable..

  15. “Pablo and Birdy” by Allson McGhee and Ana Juan is yet another lovely island-orphan-boat story.

  16. Esta Jacobskind says

    Regarding the subject of Men vs Women – Caldecott winners: The sex of the illustrator, color, religion, political preference, or any other personal description is irrelevant to the argument concerning judgement of book illustration and should not be part of the criteria for decisions on winners. Don’t compromise the integrity of the prize.

    • I agree completely—and no one is suggesting that. But the integrity of any prize or recognition (Caldecotts, Grammys, Oscars, etc.) is already compromised if contenders are overlooked, dismissed or diminished precisely BECAUSE of issues UN-related to the book itself—such as gender, race, ethnicity, social media presence, personality type, age, or industry popularity. I believe those of us who commented on the gender issue here are suggesting that all contender’s work, be it writing and/or art, be considered equally, thus INSURING the integrity of the award.

      • Elizabeth Bird says

        I didn’t say anything because I was fairly certain someone would put the point better than I. Very happy to see that I was correct in my assumption.

      • Janine Tuttle-Gassere says

        I’d like to think that ALL contenders are given an equal chance at winning the awards. Who are all these authors/illustrators being dismissed? If Librarians, both “liberal” and “conservative” can’t be trusted to be non-judgmental, then who can?

  17. I’m not sure how a data point morphed into “don’t we trust librarians?” First of all, the author of this blog is a librarian—and so are other librarians who’ve published, and asked for comment about, this same set of figures re: the gender disparity in Caldecotts over the history of the prize. So—no one has said, or even remotely implied, that librarians can’t be trusted. On the contrary! I would argue that putting forth these numbers and asking the question “is this an indication of anything we should be looking at?” is a sign of a very healthy ethical system at work. Say what you will about data, but it does the necessary duty of separating behavior from the people behaving and thus is often a valuable tool in self-assessment. All healthy adult individuals and organizations regularly engage in self-assessment (and aren’t we all too aware of what happens when they don’t?) so that they remain accountable and open to growth. NO ONE is here is pointing fingers—but rather looking at the data and asking “what does this mean?” Maybe nothing. Maybe something. But every librarian I know (and I know many) is a courageous defender of the right to ask hard questions and against the silencing of them.


  1. […] As part of our continuing coverage of Black History Month, I’m thrilled to be able to introduce the following poetry titles from legends such as Hope Anita Smith, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Mahogany L. Browne (watch her reading of “Black Girl Magic”). Each collection is unforgettable in its mastery of form, style, and subject, from Lesa Cline-Ransome’s luminous biography in verse to Nikki Grimes’s use of the golden shovel (Newbery prediction alert!). […]

  2. […] As part of our continuing coverage of Black History Month, I’m thrilled to be able to introduce the following poetry titles from legends such as Hope Anita Smith, Carole Boston Weatherford, and Mahogany L. Browne (watch her reading of “Black Girl Magic”). Each collection is unforgettable in its mastery of form, style, and subject, from Lesa Cline-Ransome’s luminous biography in verse to Nikki Grimes’s use of the golden shovel (Newbery prediction alert!). […]