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Newbery/Caldecott Summer Prediction Edition 2022

The name of the game is Newbery/Caldecott predicting. You know the rules. Only 2021 books need to apply. The same goes for books originally published elsewhere or created by citizens of countries other than the U.S.

But wait!

Turns out that there’s a fresh announcement to start us off today. This just in: This year’s Belpré Celebración, Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Virtual Banquet, and ALSC Awards Ceremony will all premiere live on Youtube and are free and open to all! You heard me right. And here, for your viewing pleasure, are the links you’ll need:

Pura Belpré 25th Anniversary Celebración – Sunday, June 27th 1-2:30pm CDT

Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Virtual Banquet – Sunday, June 27th 7-8:15pm CDT

ALSC Awards Ceremony – Monday, June 28th 10-11am CDT 

You can find more information (including links to this year’s programs) here on the ALSC site.

But wait! There’s more. Because 2022 isn’t going to be a normal year. It is, I am so pleased to announce, the 100th anniversary of the debut of the Newbery Medal. 100 on the nose! You can go to this site to see the upcoming celebrations. And by gum, if those celebrations are live and in person, I will be first in line to attend. I MISS conferences!

Okay, so what else was I going to do today? Oh yes! It’s time to try to predict what will win in 2022! We already offered the Spring Prediction Edition for this year. Now that summer has been summoned, let’s see what’s coming up.

Usual Caveat: I haven’t read everything. My fellow librarians at work that serve on my annual 101 Great Books for Kids list haven’t read everything. I haven’t even seen half the Fall output, so this is going to be a very spring and summer-based prediction list. You have been warned.

2022 Caldecott Predictions

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris

Let’s think about negative space. Let’s think about books that plunge us deeply into nature. Let’s think about books that use a single medium (one that I’d say was a challenge). Now a colleague of mine raised the question as to whether or not this is the kind of book created to make adults happy or kids. I thought about it and in the end my vote still goes to the kids. Yes, the text is a bit on the lofty side, but I’d say it opens up the possibility for kids to take the images here and imagine how much further they go with them themselves. Maybe it won’t make it to my end of year prediction list, but I’d still like to keep it in the conversation.

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña, ill. Christian Robinson

Books about challenging your knee-jerk reactions and assumptions are necessary. Picture books that can do it well? Rare as gold. A Christian Robinson book is going to, on some level, be kind of cute. We’re beginning to know what to expect from him. But this text is a lot more complex than some of the books he’s done in the recent past. Here, he shoulders just as much of the plotting as the author. Great picture books that have both words and pictures know that the key to making them work is to have an interplay between text and image that moves the story forward. A great example of what happens when books do this well.

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor

Ah, the little breakout hit of 2021. Seems like this book has really picked up steam since its February publication. Now Tabor is already well and truly beloved in a lot of places because he’s been so good at creating great books. His Fox easy books are so delightful and last year’s Snail Crossing was a masterpiece in subtle page turns. But it is this book that really brings it all home. Like the Caldecott Honor book Tops and Bottoms, it opens vertically. Then, halfway through, the reader must turn the book completely upside down and continue from there. All the while this happening, the book also manages to be a science title, land jokes, and have a really satisfying ending. A marvelous example of how to make a picture book that works on every level.

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter Sís

There is a long-standing debate as to whether or not younger children should be read books that involve the Holocaust in some way. This book, I’d argue, is for slightly older readers, and while it doesn’t shy away from a dark time, it also has so much light and love inside of it. This may be the most accessible Peter Sís picture book biography I’ve seen come from him yet. I’ve also handed it to staff members that have never read one of his books before and they were just enthralled. As is right.

Off-Limits by Helen Yoon

You know how occasionally a Caldecott will be given to something a little strange and a little funny but that has a marvelous grasp on the picture book form? That’s what I’m banking on here. What Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol did for black voids, I want this book to do for home offices. It was my daughter who pointed out to me that this is probably the best COVID-era picture book of 2022. After all, in this story a young girl enters her father’s “off-limits” workspace while he’s away. Comic timing, visual splendor, and an ending that just NAILS it! It is also, as it just so happens, the best readaloud of 2022. I hereby humbly submit to the Caldecott committee my offer to Zoom in to one of your meeting so that I may read it to you all. I have perfected my presentation, after all. I shall await your response.

The People’s Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art by Cynthia Levinson, ill. Evan Turk

I think that there is room enough in this world for picture book biographies of slightly lesser known artists to flourish. Turk’s art proves to be a perfect accompaniment to the style and life of Ben Shahn. This book also falls into the category of particularly good children’s books with Jewish content that are out this year. I have always loved Turk’s art. I am hoping that other people (committee type people in particular) feel the same way.

The Rock From the Sky by Jon Klassen

What can be said that hasn’t been said a hundred times before? Maybe that we simply do not give Jon Klassen enough credit for his writing. We all like his art, sure, but magnificent artists that don’t know how to string three words together well are a dime a dozen. Klassen’s always stayed true to his own peculiar vision. I appreciate him and I appreciate this book.

Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler, ill. Raúl the Third and Elaine Bay

High Emotion! Energy! Excitement! Naptime! This book has it all. Have you seen those articles out there about how loser dads still permeate our media? Well step aside Daddy Pig (Peppa’s pop), because this dad is now officially a superhero to me. Kid about to engage in an epic meltdown? Let’s run around the town! The story is fresh and the art even fresher. If I keep writing I’m eventually going to start using the word “Vibrant” as well. I’m sure you get the picture. It’s a hoot!

Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott by Joyce Scott with Brie Spangler, ill. Melissa Sweet

Subtle little title, this one. Doesn’t draw much attention to itself. I haven’t seen huge fanfare or blaring sirens or big shiny stars surrounding it. Blink and you might miss it, and that would be a true shame. The story concerns Judith Scott, twin sister of the book’s author Joyce Scott, who had Down syndrome and became a world-renowned artist. Sweet accompanies this story with all kinds of fiber. Wool and cotton and interesting little bits and pieces. There’s also her customary watercolors, but it’s the mixed media that had my head spinning. There’s a serious undercurrent to the storyline that’s worth noting, and this title is bound to spark conversations. Be sure you check it out before everyone realizes how good it is.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Floyd Cooper

Even saying that this might be Floyd Cooper’s year feels like I’m jinxing the guy. But there are indelible images in this book that haunt you, long after you’ve put the title down. Look at that cover. Look at what Cooper is doing with the lighting on the child held at the center. Look where the hands go. Now the danger here would be to turn this book into a Kadir Nelson-like series of portraits, but that is not what happens. The art of this book is informed by the text, supporting and continuing it. The words and the pictures need one another. Achingly well rendered.

Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn, ill. Victo Ngai

I am almost without words when I regard this book. It packs so much emotion into such a small parcel. You feel you could just melt into these pictures. And I would reiterate something I mentioned in my review. When you read this book, the harshness of what is happening to these people gets softened a little by the art. It isn’t that it doesn’t show what they’re going through. It’s just so beautiful that while it’s showing you, you find yourself enthralled by the sun and the water and the sky. Distraction and information combine.

2022 Newbery Predictions

Amber and Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz

A book where little girls go off to learn how to be bears. Schlitz is a master at many things but the ways in which she weaves together so many seemingly disparate story elements is without parallel. But rather than listen to me, why don’t you hear Ms. Schlitz tell you herself? Here is an interview with her that I conducted back in April about this book for the bookstore Politics and Prose. Enjoy!

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, ill. Sophie Blackall

The deal with these prediction posts is that I am allotted one book on this list that I have not yet read but will before the next seasonal prediction post. Pairing DiCamillo with Blackall is just a fascinating combination in and of itself. That said, I have it on good authority from booksellers that this book is really very quite good. And as I am a big fan of really very quite good things, I suspect it has a goodly chance of taking home the gold.

Because why not just give Candlewick Press ALL the things?

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin

I need this year’s Newbery committee to have at least a couple members that can appreciate a strange little book that is unafraid to laugh in the face of pain and struggle and really uncomfortable sleeping conditions. This book, man. This book is so different from everything on today’s list. It’s so different from all the recent Newbery/Caldecott winners too. Someday they’re going to take all of Eugene Yelchin’s books, line them up, and try to make sense of it all. For my part, all that I care is that this book end up on your Maybe lists when it comes to the Newbery. I like to live in hope.

Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly

Maybe maybe the committee will take note of the fact that Ms. Kelly is a bit of a Newbery Award winning author already and they won’t mind so much that this book is an early chapter title. Newberys tend to eschew books on the younger level, which is a shame. I love book that are written for emerging readers, but few award-winning authors put in the time and energy the way that Ms. Kelly did here. Marisol’s anxieties are palpable and relatable. It is very difficult to even write a child character like this without making them sound bratty in some way. A very impressive book for how petite it is.

Pity Party by Kathleen Lane

There’s a story in this book that I cannot stop thinking about. It isn’t long. It involves a girl that believes she is an amazing dissembler. If she just studies like crazy and gets straight A’s, maybe no one will discover how dumb she is. Stuff like that. It just hit me as so very TRUE that I couldn’t stop pondering it, long after I put this book down. I should note that I originally read this book in 2020 and I can still remember a large chunk of it. A fun house mirror of a title held up to reflect incoming middle schoolers and their lives. Consider this a gateway drug to Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams and more.

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book by Kate Milford, ill. Nicole Wong

Look. What do I have to do to make you read this book? What will it take? If you’ve never read a Kate Milford story before, this is an ideal place to start. Don’t let that “A Greenglass House Story” on the cover throw you off if you haven’t read any other books she’s done. I want you to sit down and read a book that appreciates storytelling, complex plotting, and wonderful characters. This is one of those rare books that I could reread right after reading. A book for the kids that also provides a good puzzle with the plotting.

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Creepy swampy wonderfulness. And, for the record, it may have the best first chapter of the year. Go on. You go find yourself a copy then come back here to tell me that I’m wrong. I’ve got all day so go right ahead.

Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff

This is good. I’m noticing a sharp increase in interest in this book now that it’s on our shelves. Had Kyle asked me, I would have said that a coming-of-age story combined with a dead uncle horror-ish mixed with trans representation would have been too much to pull off. Fortunately, Kyle didn’t ask me a dang thing and the final book is magnificent. Funny, wonderful, weird and wise.

The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold

One of my co-workers loathes this cover with every cell in their body. Why? Because the truly wonderful thing we’ve discovered about Marie Arnold is that she has a wicked sense of humor. So where’s Rocky the rat that aspires to become a bunny? Where’s the hilarity? The jokes? I’m not saying every book needs that kind of stuff, but to my mind serious subject matter combined with myth and legend PLUS jokes makes for more interesting reading. And this book is definitely interesting. This cover is gorgeous but doesn’t hint at that humor.

Am I missing books? OF COURSE I AM! So you need to tell me, right here, right now where the gaps all lay.

Oh, and because I am a shameless soul, I’d like to offer a light dessert to accompany the rich fare of this post. Not a prediction but a notice. One book that is also out this fall, and that I’m rather fond of, is my own. Best of all, it sports a Caldecott Award winning illustrator, one Mr. David Small. It’s light, bouncy fare, so when you have plowed through the serious material already mentioned, LONG ROAD TO THE CIRCUS is your fun frolic. A palette cleanser, if you will. Hope you get a chance to check it out (now available on Edelweiss, or wherever you care to read).

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. Betsy, I hate to tell you this, but the 2021 winner was the 100th Newbery winner! That’s right, because the first winner was named in 2022. So the 2nd winner was 2023, 3rd winner was 2024, …, tenth winner was 2031, … , and the 100th winner was 2021.

    2022 is, however, the award’s 100th anniversary.

    • Oh, blooming heck. You’re utterly correct, of course. Let’s see… can I pull out the I-was-very-tired-when-I-wrote-this-post excuse? Not really, I think. That’s just simple math.

      Ahhhhhh. Amended.

  2. Lion of Mars could also be a possibility. Holm already has 3 honors, and I could see this being a 4th (or finally a medal). I read it as an ARC in 2020, and it’s stuck with me.

    • Julie Ann Corsaro says

      I also like Lion of Mars: great dialogue and pacing with a convincing and sympathetic main character. I also appreciated the details of life on Mars; however speculative, but based on what scientists tell us are possibilities. Overall, I like that Holm’s novels, including this one, work well for a younger middle grade audience.

    • I quite liked Lion of Mars as well, but as an adult reader I was annoyed by the relationship reveal at the end–the you-thought-it-was-a-man-but-it’s-a-woman! thing felt very 90’s sitcom, and, while I assume the author didn’t intend this, it felt like a weird reinforcement of heteronormative thinking.

      • Julie Ann Corsaro says

        I think endings are hard, but I was fine with this one, isolation on Mars, and all. I wouldn’t dismiss a book for simply being heteronormative anymore than I would for being non-heteronormative. And speaking of the latter, one of my favorite, solidly middle grade books of the year is Too Bright to See. I thought it was genius to frame the narrative as a ghost story. On a related note, an insightful member of my local book group pointed out the repeated motif of mirrors and reflections. But after the realistic struggles throughout most of the story, I wondered if the ending wasn’t, perhaps, a tad too aspirational with the easy acceptance of Bug’s gender among the older group of girls and at the junior high school. Hope may be the right medicine for the target audience, however, and I did find the easing of Bug’s relationship with their best/non-best friend believable.

      • Being annoyed by something isn’t the same thing as dismissing it. One can enjoy something and simultaneously be disappointed at some of its choices.

  3. With all due appreciation for the particular artist’s work, and for the person at the heart of the particular story, can we please, please, please stop giving top awards to children’s books by non-Jewish creators, about non-Jews who saved Jewish people during the Holocaust? Yes, absolutely to questions regarding picture books about the Holocaust. But there are also larger questions about the body of Holocaust literature for young people as a whole, and whose/which stories are most prominent and most awarded — and how this fits into education about the Holocaust more broadly, as well as its relationship to the place of Jewish stories by Jewish authors within kidlit. I realize this is both an inter and intracommunity conversation, as those books have also traditionally received awards from Jewish award committees. But it is a source of frustration to SO many Jewish authors I know (why do awards consistently go only to Jewish stories about the Holocaust, and within that, consistently to books by non-Jewish creators that follow a similar savior storyline? How does this relate to the ways Jewishness in kidlit is consistently framed within the lens of whiteness, and stories by and about Jewish people of color are particularly excluded and unrecognized?) So, I think it’s a conversation worth having.

    • It is definitely worth having. And I might add that in 2021 we’ve seen a remarkable uptick in stories by Jewish authors that aren’t about the Holocaust (2020 was shockingly sparse). There’s THE PASSOVER GUEST by Susan Kusel, STARFISH by Lisa Fipps, SYLVIE by Sylvie Kantorovitz, THE PEOPLE’S PAINTER by Cynthia Levinson (which is on this list here today and which I completely adore), and OSNAT AND HER DOVE by Sigal Samuel. Every single one of those books could win a major award this year. Makes me think I should do a prediction post for the Sydney Taylor Awards too. I suspect these books are only just scratching the surface of what else is out there. Thank you for making a very good point.

    • Jew, here. I think the “savior” storylines are common because Holocaust stories that are more brutal and honest are not appropriate for younger children, generally speaking. As to why they are written by non-Jews, I have no idea, but I don’t like the idea that we are evaluating the quality of a book by its author’s identity. A good book is a good book. You don’t have to be Jewish to write well about the Holocaust, or even other Jewish subjects. If they do the research and the book is accurate, well-written, and compelling, I don’t see the problem.

      • Rachel, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Peter Sis, to mention just one author on Betsy’s wonderful list, is a brilliant artist. I could never endorse the idea that he is somehow unqualified to write about the Holocaust because he is not Jewish. The author’s identity should not be the determinative factor in his or her subject. As for books about the Holocaust, some aspects are not appropriate for younger readers, but books about this tragedy are not obsolete. It is the quality of the book which matters. The assumption that somehow people know enough about it is not true. Excellent books about the Holocaust provide information, and also honor the lives of both survivors and of those Jews who perished.

      • Again, I’m not speaking only about one particular title or author, I’m speaking about a larger trend in which the books with Jewish themes that receive the most attention and accolades in the industry tend to be ones about the Holocaust, and within that body of children’s literature about the Holocaust, the books that receive the most attention and accolades are those by non-Jewish authors, about non-Jewish people saving Jews. I’m the granddaughter and niece of survivors (who were rescued by a Jewish man.) I obviously care about Holocaust education, and I absolutely don’t think people already know enough about it. In fact, that’s why I’m concerned about a body of award-winning work for young people that, as a whole, ultimately distorts the Holocaust by overemphasizing savior narratives — at the expense both of less comfortable stories about the Holocaust by Jewish authors, and of books that show the full range of Jewish humanity and life outside of the role of being saved.

        And thank you, Betsy, for the other titles.

      • Might I suggest The Sydney Taylor Shmooze ( It’s a newer mock award blog with great leadership and wonderful reviews.

      • News I can use . . . about a schmooze! Thank you for this.

  4. Just Like THat, by Gary D. Schmidt, is a beautiful book as well, (one of my favorite reads this year so far). Starfish, by Lisa Fipps, definitely deserves consideration, too. I truly think it will resonate with readers, and I applaud the author for addressing such a difficult but well-needed subject. I would have loved to have a book like Starfish growing up as the main character’s experiences were so relatable to me. Looking forward so much for THe Beatryce Prophecy!

  5. While Wishes would be my Caldecott selection, I have to include Corinna Luyken’s The Tree in Me as a contender. Truthfully, I do not know why there can only be one winner.