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A Fuse #8 Production
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Newbery/Caldecott 2019: The Summer Prediction Edition

In just a week’s time librarians will be leaving their homes and gathering in New Orleans for the American Library Association’s Annual Conference. While there, they will visit the convention floor where publishers will present a wide array of f&gs and galleys of the upcoming children’s books of 2018. So many lovely links to literature for young readers. All the more appropriate then that I give you a peek at some of the titles that may or may not be worthy of your notice. We’re halfway through 2018 and already a fair number of fall books have separated themselves from the pack. As per usual I remind you that these predictions are entirely the warped conjurings of my own particular little brain and could have little to do with what may actually win. In alphabetical order by title then . . .

2019 Caldecott Predictions

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales


Just to confuse you I’m using the audiobook jacket, which shows a lot more of Yuyi’s face. It’s a nice face, and I figured you’d like to see more of it.

There is no such thing as a surefire Caldecott winner. The closest thing I’ve ever seen in my day was probably Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse, and even in that case those of us with hearts made for breaking were on tenterhooks until the final call. Heck, last year I said the Caldecott should go to Wolf in the Snow, but was it guaranteed? It was not. So I’m fighting as hard as possible not to tell you that Yuyi’s latest is a sure bet in the prediction race. I mean, it honestly checks off many of the boxes of previous winners. It is:

  • A true and personal story that tugs on the proverbial heartstrings
  • Timely, with a firm finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the world in 2018
  • Written and illustrated by a woman (fare thee well, #CaldecottSoMale) who would give a killer acceptance speech and who has never won Caldecott Gold before
  • Desperately in love with libraries and librarians (a committee member would rather die that admit that this could ever be a factor in their decision but, c’mon, we’re suckers for that stuff)
  • Honestly gorgeous, utilizing a wide array of artistic techniques and mediums, expertly showing how the artist is pushing the boundaries of her own artistic comfort zones to bring us the best possible story
  • the kind of book that has lots of lovely backmatter, giving credit to other children’s book authors and illustrators in the field, which suggests a generosity on the part of the creator that one cannot fake

But, as I say, it’s technically anyone’s game.


. . .

Aw, who am I kidding? Yuyi Morales for the win!!!!

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


Have I mentioned the degree to which 2018 is a particularly strong year of Caldecott possibilities? You have artists in the mix who have never won a Caldecott anything and then you have folks like Lane Smith who have already won the Award and Honors over the decades. Smith had a book out last year that I thought was sadly ignored by a lot of the professional communities. Now he’s doubling down on artistry. Honestly, if he were a debut artist you’d be seeing this book getting a LOT more attention than it has thus far. Pairing him with Fogliano was an inspired choice and this title offers a split in art styles, as Smith visually distinguishes between the reality and the fantasy (or is it the past?) in his images. Lots to chew on here.

Imagine! by Raúl Colón


And speaking of artists that just don’t get enough credit, have you met Raúl Colón? The answer is yes. Yes you have. Even if you have somehow never read a book that he’s illustrated, you’ve undoubtedly encountered one of the many book jackets he’s illustrated (many by a certain woman whose name begins with “M” and ends with “argarita Engle”. And this is not the first book he’s created all on his own. Back in 2014 he did Draw!, which was a personal story done in a wordless format. Some of my colleagues were quite taken with it. Others, like myself, felt like it was a precursor to . . . something. To what? To this! In a year when I’ve lamented picture books set in NYC that don’t feel like the author/illustrator ever set foot there, this book is so distinctly New York that, as one colleague of mine said, “you can smell the hot sugared nuts of the street vendors through the pages.” In this tale a boy goes to MOMA and is joined by characters from three famous paintings as they visit various New York locations. Colón manages to pay homage to three different art styles while never reproducing them and always staying true to his own form of illustration. Not the easiest job in the world.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love


It was very interesting to me when this book failed to win a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award this year. Had you asked me, I would have said it was a sure thing, what with its remarkable art and near wordless storytelling. Indeed, love for this book broke so early that I worry its buzz may hamper its award chances in the future. Not that a Caldecott committee is meant to pay attention to such things, of course. As it stands, even if this book doesn’t win anything, it will have already made author/illustrator Jessica Love fairly well known with a debut many folks would kill to claim as their own.

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


I was talking with an author the other day about the novel The Number Devil by Hans Magnus Enzensberger and he told me that when it was published he was told outright by some librarians that it would never win any awards because they refused to read anything that had to do with math. Now that was back in the late 90s and I’m sure at least some things have changed since then. Still, can you name a single children’s book that involves math in some way that has EVER won a Newbery or Caldecott Award or Honor? Remember, even the beloved Phantom Tollbooth never won a single solitary award back in the day. Librarians have a tendency to fear numbers, AND YET  I remain optimistic that the grand writing and remarkable art of McClintock will push it over the edge. Aw, heck. Let’s just watch that video she made about the art again for kicks:

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang


Okay. Whose big idea was it at First Second to market this book as YA? What the HECK is wrong with you people? For the love of mincemeat there is nothing in this book that I would consider inappropriate for a younger kid. It has the #1 chastest kiss I’ve ever seen in a comic, gorgeous art for all those kids that just outgrew Disney princesses, and a killer bit of writing. But because it was marketed as YA I had to be convinced by my co-workers that this was inside my age range. Now we all remember the year a YA graphic novel won a Caldecott (more on you in a second, Tamaki) and what an upset that was. This book is honestly one of the most beautiful I’ve ever had the pleasure to read AND you won’t feel weird about handing it to a ten-year-old. Heck, I read it to my six-year-old and she probably loved it even more than I did. So ignore that YA designation they insist on plastering all over it. This is for collections everywhere and has a bloody good chance at an award. Man, it’s a strong year.

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

Stuff of Stars

Am I wrong or are there three different books out this year in picture book form about the creation of the universe? This is one of them and I just love what artist Ekua Holmes has done with the art. Look at that swirly handcrafted paper. What better method could you even conceivably dream up to show how every human on this earth is made of stardust? It’s a bit busy, and that might hurt its chances in the long run, but tell me that cover doesn’t at least seem Award-worthy.

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki


Winner of the Most Difficult Title to Remember of the Year. Tamaki already won an Honor, to her complete and utter surprise, for the YA graphic novel This One Summer. She’ll be significantly less surprised if this book does the same, particularly as it has already won a Picture Book Award from the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards of 2018. That’s in its favor. What’s against its favor is that aside from that magnificent image of a crow’s head (now burned permanently into my retinas by dint of its magnificence alone) I cannot for the life of me remember anything else about the book. But that’s just me. Other librarians certainly feel otherwise.

Through the Window: Views of Marc Chagall’s Life and Art by Barb Rosenstock, ill. Mary Grandpré


So this duo is as it again. They got an Honor for The Noisy Paint Box a couple years ago and last year they did a picture book bio (of a sort) of Van Gogh. Now Chagall is theirs, and I honestly feel like this is their best book together yet. Stellar writing and some of Grandpre’s best art to date. This actually pairs very well with Raul Colon’s book. In both cases you have an artist referencing but not really attempting to replicate a great painter’s work. If they get something for this book (which I like even more than Noisy Paint Box) great. If they don’t, have no fear. It was just announced yesterday in PW Children’s Bookshelf that the two will be collaborating AGAIN on yet another book called Mornings with Monet, proving that both they and their publisher know a good thing when they see it.

2019 Newbery Predictions

See, I’m handicapped here slightly by the fact that I don’t read YA. Last year that refusal bit me hard in the bum when the Newbery winners included not one but TWO books that had been marketed as YA by their publishers. Also, I can only read so much, so you’ll see a lot repeating here from my Spring Prediction list. That said, there’s still much to consider, including:

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss, ill. Jonathan Bean


With all the changes going on at the publisher Holiday House, it is actually conceivable that they could potentially win both the Newbery and the Caldecott (for Dreamers) in the same year. If you find the book jacket of this title appealing that may be due to the fact that it’s by the wonderful Jonathan Bean (who clearly read a LOT of this book to get in so many accurate details). I’ve a very low twee tolerance, and this book is undeniably quirky. That said, its honest quirk, not twee quirk, and I respect what it’s trying to do here. You might even go so far as to call it magical realism. You might. I wouldn’t, but that’s an option. Whatever you call it, it’s a delight to read. Odd as all get out, but a delight.

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


And speaking of odd delights, voila! A co-worker and I are currently embroiled in a debate over this book. I say that it’s straight up fantasy, no question. She says that its religious. Which is it? Telling you why she feels this way would be a spoiler, so I’ll stay mum. Again, this is a book with quirks, but there’s also an undercurrent of darkness that I find rather appealing. Kooky, odd fun.

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


Now THIS book is religious, my friend. You see that cross on the cover? Or, I dunno, the word “Faithful” in the title? No accident those. I just adore this book to pieces, though I acknowledge that it’s hampered by its unique format. You’ll notice that in today’s round-up I haven’t included M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin’s The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge. That’s because it doesn’t slot into either “Newbery” or “Caldecott” territory neatly. Neither does this book, though you could make the case that in a weaker picture book year it might have a chance at a Caldecott. But honestly it’s the writing that truly sets it apart. I maintain that it’s a Newbery contender to its core.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis


At a certain point you just have to throw up your hands and say to the universe, “Give Christopher Paul Curtis all the things!” A Newbery Medal, for example, is a good “thing”. Give him one of those again. He wears them well.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson


I’m ashamed to say that until this won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor I hadn’t seriously considered it as a Newbery contender. But of course it is! It may owe its bones to The Westing Game, but what Mr. Johnson has conjured up here is a wholly new 21st century middle grade creation. I’ve honestly never seen anything that I could seriously compare this to. Finding readalikes isn’t easy. Hopefully it will inspire more authors to follow his lead.

Rebound by Kwame Alexander


Wow. I remember the year not too long ago when I blogged about how difficult it was to find ANY middle grade novels containing black male characters. Now I’ve just listed three authors here that have no difficulty getting their black boy heroes published. And Kwame, to the best of my knowledge, has never written any novels about anything but boys. I know he already won a Newbery for The Crossover, but the librarians I know (including myself) that have read this book agree that it’s even stronger. Plus, bonus, it stands on its own. You don’t need to have read his previous book to make sense of this one.

Okay, folks. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “What did I miss?”

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. I think Peter Sis’s ROBINSON is a very beautiful book, and a possible contender for the Caldecott. The pictures appear simpler, more Fauvist, than a lot of Sis’s other work. The colors are rich and the island is enchanting, and while the original impression is one of simplicity, there are layers and quirks and depths in every page. It’s the kind of book where children–who look at picture closely–notice more than adults.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      It is lovely. Unfortunately, I believe it was published in 2017 and is ineligible this time around.

  2. Curious that you did not include Aaron Becker’s A Stone for Sascha. Exquisite illustrations. The Stuff of Stars and A House That Once Was are now one my reading list. Thank you.

    • Elizabeth Bird says

      It is lovely to look at, isn’t it? I was a big fan of his JOURNEY series. Personally, there’s a bit of a disconnect between the different phases of history, and it makes reading it to kids kind of difficult. So on artistic technique I’d give it a 10 but in terms of storytelling the rating would be lower.

  3. Thanks so much for your predictions, Betsy, I always look forward to them!

  4. The Parker Inheritance reminded me of Holes, in the way it goes back and forth between past and present and shows how the past influences the present. So that’s my read-alike!

  5. I’d add the Fan Brothers’ OCEAN MEETS SKY and Sophie Blackall’s HELLO LIGHTHOUSE to this mix, and am waiting on work from Wendell Minor. Of course with September release dates, I haven’t set seen the Colon and Morales in addition to a few others.

    Love all the others you predict here and I will say this. The Fogliano-Smith book is one fo the most moving and sublime I’ve EVER seen from ANY year. I dare say it matches GRANDPA GREEN, which I thought should have won the medal instead of an honor. But taste factors in of course.