Follow This Blog: RSS feed
A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Newbery / Caldecott 2019: Spring Prediction Edition

Happy decade-of-me-doing-this-weird-thing-I-do!

That’s right, folks! I’m pleased as punch to announce that as of right now I’ve been making grossly incorrect predictions of the Newberys, Caldecotts, and other ALA Youth Media Awards for a good solid decade. That’s a decade I’ll never get back, by the way. Worth it.

As per usual, let’s round-up how I’ve done in the past and compare with how I did last year:

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.

2017 spring predictions: Due to the fact that I hadn’t read a single book I thought was a Newbery contender, last year marked the first time I just eschewed that particular medal entirely. On the Caldecott side, however, I got one Caldecott right, and that just happened to be the ultimate winner (Wolf In the Snow). Score!!

This year I’m feeling really good about the potential winners. I’ve been reading a lot more Fiction and Nonfiction for older readers and I’ve seen a SLEW (a verifiable SLEW I tells ya!) of Caldecott contenders.

I would be amiss, however, in not noting a great big conversation brewing in the wider world of children’s literature. Folks have noticed that when you add the numbers up, men win Caldecotts more often than women. Women, in turn, win more Newberys than men. No idea why it shakes out that way. In any case, if Caldecott prediction lists that slant heavily towards double X chromosomes get your goat, I hope you’ll be pleased with some of the stuff I’ve found out there this year. It’s already shaping up to be very strong.

Finally, you’re going to see me include two books on this list that I haven’t even seen firsthand yet. This isn’t an exact science, people. The most I can do is to see when a book is positioned to be in the right place at the right time. In both of these cases, the books are on the precipice of consideration. Feel free to disagree vehemently.

2019 Caldecott Predictions

Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, ill. Barbara McClintock


As anyone can tell you, the likelihood of a work of Nonfiction title winning a Caldecott Medal has increased considerably in the past few years. That said, there remains a bit of a prejudice against facts vs. fiction. I have noticed, though, that Caldecott committees have a soft spot in their hearts for artists that try something new (see: last year’s Award winner). Now Barbara McClintock has been working in this field for decades. She is good at what she does and I believe it is safe to say that she has never won any kind of a Caldecott Award or Honor in all that time. If she were to win for anything, it would be for this. Bear in mind as I say this that I thought LeUyen Pham should have won a Caldecott Honor for The Boy Who Loved Math (I still think that, actually) so perhaps math is the one topic the Caldecott will never touch with a ten-foot-pole. We shall see . . .

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, ill. Ekua Holmes

Stuff of Stars

If you’re crying “FOUL!” right now because I’m including this book sight unseen with only the jacket to go by . . . I see where you’re coming from. However, consider the following. Ekua Holmes gets better and better with every book she does. She has already won one Caldecott Honor (for Voice of Freedom). With this book she has created the marbled papers herself. Also, I cannot stop looking at this cover. Now look me in the eyes and tell me it’s not already a contender.

A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, ill. Lane Smith


One of those author/illustrator pairings where you convince yourself the two have worked together before. They have, right? I mean, it feels like they’ve been partners in picture book creation for years. Fogliano and Smith. Smith and Fogliano. As it happens, this is the debut of their pairing, and they’re amazing together. The real danger with this book is that you may get it mixed up with the similarly colored, similar-looking, Philip Stead book All the Animals Where I Live. I’ve mixed the two up repeatedly this year. Don’t be doing that. They’re very different inside. This particular book has the advantage of a very strong text mixed with Smith’s remarkable art. I know I said he was a contender for the Caldecott last year, but this year I REALLY mean it!

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love


A debut! Love is premiering with this strong title (a book that’s been growing its buzz from the minute its F&Gs fell into critics’ hands) and when you look at it I want you to consider several factors.

1. Notice that the fish in the early dream sequence mirror the people in the Mermaid Parade at the end.

2. Notice that the big fish in the dream sequence wears a pattern that appears on the abuela’s dress later.

3. Notice that every minor character in the background feels like a real human being.

The case rests, your honor.

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino


If you can read this book without getting a certain song from the Secret Garden musical caught in your head, you’re better than I. Folks have been gaga for Marino’s work for years, but I always held a bit back. She’s talented, no question, but I was waiting for The Big One. The book that would push her over the top and get folks talking. That book has finally arrived and it was worth the wait. Look at the use of watercolors, and how they shift in mood and tone to fit the different times of day. It’s a book done entirely in silhouettes (something I haven’t seen done this well since Peggy Rathmann’s The Day the Babies Crawled Away). It’s lush and moving and beautiful. I don’t even LIKE horses, and I was swept away by Marino’s work. Brava.

New Shoes by Chris Raschka


Raschka’s such a funny duck. He vacillates between artsy and kid-friendly, sometimes bridging the gap between the two, sometimes falling into the crevice. His previous Caldecott Awards (yes, he has two already) were for his more kid-friendly fare. They were nice. They were fine. But in this book he’s trying something really kid-friendly and more than a touch creative. The book is told entirely from a child’s-eye view. We are looking constantly at first their old shoes and then their new shoes. Not since Ramona Quimby celebrated her bright red boots have we seen a kid revel to this degree in new footwear. A shift in perspective is certainly something we could all use this year, that’s for sure.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

TheySayBlueTo be clear, Jillian Tamaki never expected to be a Caldecott Honor winner. I’m not even entirely certain she wanted to be one, when her YA graphic novel This One Summer created a huge upset with its appearance on a list usually slated for the 3-7 set. Now it appears Ms. Tamaki is willing to consider the possibility of a Caldecott, but on her own terms. In They Say Blue (which is in the running with When You Reach Me for the award of Most Difficult Children’s Book Title to Remember) this graphic novelist shows that when challenged, she can wield a watercolor brush with the best of them. All you have to do is look at her rendition of a crow to know that this is going to be a highly debated title in the year to come. Tamaki’s making a dive for the gold.

Seeing Into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, ill. Nina Crews


To my mind there is only one kind of children’s book that stands less of a chance of winning a Caldecott than a work of Nonfiction. Photography! With the exception of Knuffle Bunny‘s Caldecott Honor win, photography has never won a Caldecott. I’m sure that over the years folks have debated whether or not photography even constitutes “illustration” (it does) and Nina Crews brings that fact to life. She’s been working with photography and Photoshop for years and years now. In this collection of Richard Wright haikus, she integrates kids and nature in inspiring ways. It is, without a doubt, her strongest work to date. Mock Caldecotts around the country, I implore you. Consider photography once again! You won’t regret it if you do.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales


If this cover looks weird, that’s only because the only image of the jacket of this book that I’ve been able to find so far is this one for its CD. Due out in October of this year, the book is actually a work of Nonfiction, but in a picture book format. Again, I’m just going off my knowledge of Yuyi’s works and the subject matter, but you know and I know that the woman brings the talent. This book is already a contender. Don’t let it out of your sight.

2019 Newbery Predictions

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis


It’s strong. As strong as Elijah? I think so. The great hurdle it’s going to have to overcome is the dialect. Some librarians may take great issue with this channeling of Mark Twain’s twang. Others will look upon it fondly, and don’t forget – Rodman Philbrick did very much the same thing years ago when he wrote The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg and that book won a Newbery Honor. I think Mr. Curtis is on to something here.

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, ill. Ian Schoenherr


This is just one of those books that’s wholly enjoyable from start to finish. Murdock manages to make medieval Europe precisely the kind of place you’d like to visit for a while, and Boy is a character I wish I could know personally. Just the most pleasant read. We need some of those this year.

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix


Though, hey, if you want to give it a Caldecott too, I won’t stand in your way. Hendrix pours his heart and his soul into this fascinating examination of the philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also managing to work in the most engaging explanation of how Hitler rose to power and started WWII you will ever find in a book for kids. It’s chilling. It’s amazing. It’s Hendrix’s pièce de résistance.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras


I need to read more Fiction. Clearly this list today is a bit on the short side, but I’d maintain that all the books here are examples of magnificent, distinguished writing. In the case of Ms. Magras, this is her debut novel and it’s a doozy. I think it should probably garner an award for the mere fact that the story moves at the speed of lightning, yet manages to keep a coherent, comprehensible, understandable whole. No mean feat. No mean book. Better read this one too.

That’s it! Apologies for the whiteness of the Newbery list, by the way. I’m working on reading books to alleviate that problem. In the meantime, what are YOU reading and enjoying this year?

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. This is the song that gets stuck in my head when I read Gianna’s book: In Harmony, the best Sesame Street record ever, circa 1980. You’re welcome for some Linda Ronstadt in your day.

    Also, a little birdie told me that DREAMS maybe, just maaaaybe, will get pushed back to September. Who knows. We’ll see. I’m eager to see it, too.

    I just finished The Book of Boy last night, and I enjoyed that story immensely. Full of surprises, that one.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Re: Harmony – Agreed. Best Sesame Street record. Here’s my level of nerdiness: I actually turned it into a cassette tape when I was a teenager to listen to some of the songs. BECAUSE THAT’S HOW I ROLL!!!

  2. Emily Goodman says:

    I don’t really know from Newbery/Caldecotts, but forgettable titles? My vote goes to “We Are Okay.” Which I really enjoyed reading, but it took me forever to find it in the library because I couldn’t remember the title! “Hello, Universe” isn’t far behind . . . What happened to memorable titles like “Gone With the Wind”?

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      I’m fine with “Hello, Universe” if only because it sounds like the beginning of the Simon & Garfunkle song “Sounds of Silence” to me whenever I see it (Hello, Universe my old friend / I’d like to talk with you again). What is it with me and song titles pertaining to books today?

      Favorite middle grade title of 2018 thus far: Stanley Will Probably Be Okay.

    • Don’t forget the recent “The War that Saved my Life.” I personally consider that a very memorable title. Maybe also “The One and Only Ivan.” Both remarkable books and good (recent) titles in my opinion. 🙂

      • Elizabeth Bird says:

        Ah yes, but that was published in 2017. We can only consider 2018 titles for Newbery/Caldecott 2019.

  3. Marjie Podzielinski says:

    So happy to see Christopher Paul Curtis here. I loved his book and hope to do a read aloud with my 5th graders . Teachers and librarians will have to read aloud for kids to be enticed but so many questions to ponder with kids. Would love for this to gain a medal!

  4. Nora Hadley says:

    There are so many great books this year! One in particular that gripped me from beginning to end was ESCAPE FROM ALEPPO by N Sensai. Such am important look into the Syrian crisis told through empathetic characters.

  5. Two of my critique group buddies on this list. You have good taste ! LOL

  6. I just got my hands on They Say Blue, and I’m curious what other people think about the girl with forearm crutches on the “And when we play…” page. I’ve never seen crutches that look like that, and to be honest they don’t look completely functional (it looks like the girl is resting her hand on bare metal at a slight angle. I’d imagine her hands would slip right off if she put any real weight on it.) Does someone with more familiarity with forearm crutches want to weigh in and tell me that my concerns are off-base, or is this an example of trying to be inclusive (yay!) without putting the requisite research in (not yay)?

  7. Thanks, Betsy. I love to see what you discover early on. Got to chime in here for The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle. A heart melter…and a pair of memorable characters. My fav so far.

  8. Carter Hasegawa says:

    Lovely picks, all. Personally, I think Jen Wang’s The Prince and the Dressmaker is a strong contender — in BOTH categories.

  9. I was a horse-crazy kid who lived on the Main Street of a town, so I would have LOVED to have had IF I HAD A HORSE in my arsenal of arguments as to why I wouldn’t make it to age 12 unless I HAD one (and no, I didn’t get one until I was 27 and bought one myself.) Thanks for including it in this great list. . . . I hadn’t heard about that one and I do LOVE that cover!! I’m a huge fan of both MD Bauer & Ekua Holmes and also of Jillian Tamaki (love that cover, too–what is it about crows that are so mystical??) so this is an excellent way to begin comparing and contrasting titles early in the year.

  10. Elisabeth says:

    Julie Fogliano and Lane Smith are doing a book TOGETHER!!!
    I am salivating.
    Give it to me NOW.