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A Fuse #8 Production
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31 Days, 31 Lists: 2018 Calde-notts

What is the mark of a great Calde-nott? What, for that matter, even is a Calde-nott? Plainly said, it’s an illustrated book for children that for one reason or another is ineligible for consideration as a Caldecott Award contender. This might be because the illustrator isn’t American. It might be because it was published previously in another country, or in another year. For the full listing of what makes a picture book eligible for the Caldecott, please check out ALSC’s Terms and Criteria page.

And yet, and yet, these books are so bee-you-tiful! So clever and inventive. Who wouldn’t love to, in the words of the great Allie Brosh, give them all the things? On that note, here are the books I was loving the most this year in Calde-nott type worthiness:


2018 Calde-notts

Drawn from Nature by Helen Ahpornsiri


Ahpornsiri is a resident of the UK, and the inventive nature of her art is keen. In the future, I hope she puts her talents to use with some fictional, as well as nonfictional, books. It’s difficult to see here, but this art consists of unimaginably small pressed plants placed in specific patterns. Jules Danielson highlighted this book as one of her favorites in the spring and you can see why.

The Forest by Riccardo Bozzi, ill. Violeta Lopíz & Valerio Vidali, translated from Italian by Debbie Bibo


You know, once in a while I see a book that makes me wonder if even the Caldecott wouldn’t be ready for it, if it was from an American artist. Maybe we American librarians aren’t quite up to snuff when it comes to this level of beauty. This one was imported by Enchanted Lion Books (who else?) and of all the books on my list today, this one is the hardest to sum up. It was one of the books featured on the New York Times Best Illustrated list this year and is an example of something Enchanted Lion does that few publishers dare. For years, the company has been unafraid to explore the limits of tactile picture books. It’s not just the gatefolds. It’s not just the message (is it a message at all?). It’s not just the use of the die-cuts. It’s something about the way in which these elements are brought together. American artists should take a good long look at this book. It dares.

The Funeral by Matt James


The more I read this book, the more I see. The more I see, the more I enjoy. The more I enjoy, the more I rend my garments that Matt James is friggin’ Canadian! Doggone it. You know, I’ve heard folks speculate that if we allow Canadians to serve on our ALSC committees, then we should extend the same privilege to their books. I mean, we have a lot of award winners that have made their homes there anyway. Can’t we just make it so that folks like Matt James and Sydney Smith get an equal shake? No? Ah well. May as well just enjoy the book on its own merits then.

The Jungle by Helen Borten


I had no idea until I was writing up this book just now that this was a picture book reprint. Hunhuna? Yep, the original apparently came out some time in the 1960s, according to this PW article. So yeah. No Caldecott going on here. Wow.

Look at the Weather by Britta Teckentrup, translated by Shelley Tanaka


Team Teckentrup over here. So this is the artistic book you hand to the kid that’s obsessed with seasons and the weather. This kid? It exists. I used to babysit a boy who, for fun mind you, would watch The Weather Channel. And not the current cool Weather Channel with all its special reports. I’m talking old school Weather Channel when it was a whole lot of low fronts and middling temperatures. Here, Teckentrup takes a style of art that I already admired and infuses her book with a kind of visual sensory poetry. It’s lulling and lovely and amazing. And yes, special. Not a book for every kid, but by gum, if I could give it an award I would.

Magnificent Birds by Narisa Togo


Linocut prints. They aren’t just for fine artists anymore. 14 bird species get highlighted in this little eye-popper. Trouble is, printmaker Togo isn’t American. So while you might be tempted to take a knife and cut yourself some new wall-hangings from this little beauty, hang your head and sigh that it won’t be a part of Caldecott deliberations this year.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey, ill. Júlia Sardà


This marvelous, miraculous book. It’s the kind of picture book biography that I may have to use as an example for others. Oh, you want to write a picture book bio? Here’s how you do it. Just to go off-topic a little, Linda Bailey knocks it CLEAR out of the park with her writing here. She and Sardà also appear to have engaged in a kind of author/illustrator mind-meld because the book doesn’t just refer back to Mary’s early life and how it influenced her in the text, but in the art as well. And the art. Oh my. The gothic, sweeping, chill of it. I honestly want Sardà to do all the biographies from now on. I also want her to move here so that we can cover her in awards. This book.

New York Melody by Hélène Druvert


There are a lot of different styles of art that have never won Caldecotts. Has a pop-up won? A book of photography? And while we’ve had books that take pieces and chunks out of the pages (paging, Laura Vaccaro Seeger) we’ve never honored a book that went to this extreme with the cuttings. As you might have guessed from her name, Ms. Druvert isn’t American, but even if she were I’m not certain that the committee would give her work equal weight. More’s the pity. It’s a beauty.

Sun Dog by Deborah Kerbel, ill. Suzanne Del Rizzo


Another medium Caldecotts don’t reward? Clay. So while the Canadian Del Rizzo isn’t eligible anyway, it does kind of chafe my hide that even if it was a contender, it probably wouldn’t get its due (Warning: Inner librarian curmudgeon present. Use caution). This book really is a meticulous beauty too. How do you do waves in clay? Sunsets? The effects of light on landscape? I can’t begin to imagine, I only know I like it when it happens.

 The Visitor by Antje Damm, translated by Sally-Ann Spencer


I’ve been oddly pleased by the number of people that have discovered and fallen in love with this understated little German tale. Sometimes the simplest metaphors are the best, are they not? Using a creative cut-paper style the artist shows the bleak world of a woman too afraid to interact with other human beings. When a boy inadvertently makes his way into her sanctuary, she’s initially wary. Yet as she talks to him, color begins to infuse her home. The slow, seeping nature of the hues as they convey the woman’s mind is a lovely metaphor for a lush reawakening of the senses.

Interested in the other lists? Here’s the schedule of everything being covered this month. Enjoy!

December 1 – Board Books & Pop-Ups

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 Books for Kids

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – Translated Picture Books

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales / Religious Tales

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. I LOVE this category! And seriously think you should set-up an actual award because these books are so good. I would only make one addtion….Petra by Marianna Coppo. This book makes me soooo happy.

  2. Yes! I LOVE Drawn from Nature! Was so sad to realize it’s not eligible for Caldecott! (Even though that means I can comment on it.) Such astonishing details!

    (I’m sorry, though, but somehow every book I’ve ever seen illustrated with clay creeps me out. I’m not sure why.)

  3. Rachel Reinwald says:

    I love the Visitor! I was talking about it in our Mock Caldecott class about how I wanted it to be a contender but it couldn’t be.