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Caldecott 2013 post mortem

By now everyone knows the news: This Is Not My Hat won the Caldecott and the committee chose five honor books. Oh happy day for these two bloggers who like a generous honor book slate!

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Creepy Carrots  Extra Yard by Mac Barnett  green  One Cool Friend  Sleep Like a Tiger

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

Honor Books:
Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

We covered three of these books early in the fall (links to those posts above). Two others, One Cool Friend and Sleep Like a Tiger were on our list to talk about if we had time. Now it’s time for us to take a look at all six and go on the record with our response.

Before we get there, though, it’s worth taking a look at who these winners are.

The biggest news is that for only the second time in Caldecott history, one artist will get both the win and an honor book. (Thank you, Susan Dalley, for checking this.) I can only imagine what kind of day Jon Klassen had yesterday! And, since I’ve been hearing a lot of people say his name over the past two days, it’s worth noting that we learned at the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards that he actually pronounces his last name “Klawsen.”

Among the honor book winners, Peter Brown is relatively new to the picture book scene and while he has received quite a bit of attention, this is the first time he’s been honored by the Caldecott committee. Laura Vaccaro Seeger has been making picture books for just over ten years and got a Caldecott honor for First the Egg in 2008. David Small has had the most Caldecott love, with a win in 2001 (So You Want to Be President?) and honor book in 1998 (The Gardener). Pamela Zagarenski has been making picture books for about as long as Peter Brown and received a Caldecott honor in 2010 for Red Sings from the Treetops.

Now it’s time to talk about what think of the committee’s choices. (Robin says she’ll weigh in via the Comments.)

First off, I was amazed that Z Is for Moose didn’t get ANYTHING. It was in my personal top three, but the main reason I’m surprised is because it seemed to rank pretty high on a lot of other Mock Caldecott lists. I was so sure it would at least get an honor. How I would like to know what went on during that discussion. There might have been a strong voice of dissent in the room or a general lack of interest. I don’t think we can say it’s because the book seems too silly because this committee chose Creepy Carrots which is only slightly less silly than Moose, and certainly less thought-provoking. It’s a puzzler for me, and we’ll never know the answer. My consolation is that Paul Zelinsky has created a terrific Moose cover for our March/April Horn Book Magazine special issue on the theme “Different Drummers.” He also figures prominently inside the issue with an appreciation by Barbara Bader.

Another thing that strikes me about this list is that most of these books have what you might call a limited palette. Or at least a subdued palette. While they are all printed in four colors (CMYK), Green is kind of sort of more-or-less a one-color book; Creepy Carrots is predominantly black and orange; and One Cool Friend leans heavily toward a retro color separation look with its use of flat light blue. Jon Klassen’s books use lots of colors, but they are tempered by the amount of white space (in Extra Yarn) and black space (in This Is Not My Hat). I think Klassen’s choice to use a fairly limited palette for the backgrounds in Extra Yarn was a smart one since it allows the multicolored yarn to take center stage. I have a lot of respect for all four of these books. Caldecott Committee, I approve.

So that leaves Sleep Like a Tiger. This is a book I looked at early on, found to be mysterious and fascinating, and kept meaning to come back to. I’m really sorry I didn’t find the time because I would have made certain to write a post about it. If you don’t know this book yet, it’s a bedtime book about a girl who insists that she is not sleepy. Not exactly a new idea. The text is quite lovely and her parents seem to know just how to handle the situation.

But the art — wow! We learn much more about the characters through the art than we do in the text, but at the same time Zagarenski’s imagery brings up as many questions as it answers. Why are they wearing crowns? Are they royal? Why is the mother holding The Little Prince? What is the significance of whales (a white whale, no less), and why does it have wheels? A visit to Pamela Zagarenski’s website doesn’t give many answers, and if you know her other books then you are aware that crowns and wheels show up willy nilly throughout her art. There’s a lot of thinking going on behind these images, and also plenty of emotion. It just works. I could go on and on, but just one more thing: notice how much detail there is in the earlier pictures before the little girl starts to give in to sleep, then watch as the images become less and less busy. They’re still rich and mysterious but there’s more breathing room. Just like falling asleep at last.

So there you go. That’s my take on these books.

Your turn!



Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    In the weeks leading up to the big day, I kept saying, ” I am worried about Z is for Moose.” My worry was that they committee would love the concept and all the little details but that they would not love the art itself. Maybe they will think the art is too simple. I did not think that AT ALL–I think this is a brilliant book, but I had a fear. We will never know, of course, but I will wonder. It remains a favorite of mine.

    Of course, I was surprised to see Jon Klassen’s name twice. Both books were very well reviewed by a lot of people but I was surprised to see both honored. I imagine the discussions and voting for the honor books was extremely interesting. There are a lot of voting scenaria (scenarios?) that would allow for five honor books and one I can think of would explain how two books from one illustrator could win. In my little world view: the committee’s first place votes were decisive for This is not my Hat and the next five vote getters were super close together and Extra Yarn was in the middle of the mix. They wanted to honor book #3 or #4, so they had to honor all those books, no matter what. In these cases, it can be a decision between A LOT of honor books (say 5 or 6) or none < "NO NO NO NOT NONE!!!" would have been my cry from the table.> Did that happen? I dunno. But, I bet it was interesting tallying the votes…

    I have all the books in my classroom except ONE COOL FRIEND, which I donated to the library and must check out. I read it a LONG time ago and should have reread it when Nancy Werlin pressed up to review it, but, I did not. I will.

    I want to echo everything that Lolly said about SLEEP LIKE A TIGER. I wrote the Horn Book review, which was even more gushing before editing. (I can go on…) I love the atmosphere of the book mostly. It was dreamy and filled with whimsical scenes that I loved. I was THRILLED to see it on the honor list.

    I am at school, so I need to get back to my students.

    I was really hoping for Z is for Moose and held out hope for Step Gently Out when I heard FIVE HONOR BOOKS.

    I wish I had heard the discussion of Chloe and the Lion and Unspoken…

  2. Sam Bloom says:

    I hadn’t seen Sleep Like a Tiger until the Notables discussion, when I snuck back to the table to take a look. Let me second and third your wow’s… what a beautiful, beautiful book. Easy to see why the committee chose that one. Of the honor books, my least favorite is Extra Yarn, but obviously I’m in the minority on that one. I’d have loved to have seen some love for at least one of the Steads’ 3 brilliant books and/or for Kadir, but really, it’s hard to argue with any of the 6 the committee chose. And let me go on record and say that I’m a *huge* Creepy Carrots fan; so glad to see that one with a shiny silver sticker. I actually prefer it to Z is for Moose, truth be told.

  3. Sam Bloom says:

    Oh, and this is a cute/sad story… my daughter cried when she heard Step Gently Out didn’t win anything! Poor thing. She would have given the committee an earful during the discussion on that one, I can promise you that!

  4. Funny mistake in the introduction: I Want My Hat Back was mistaken for This Is Not My Hat.

  5. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Oops! Thanks for catching that — just fixed it. *so embarrassed*

  6. Does “Step Gently Out” contain any illustrations? I thought it was all photographs.

  7. SLEEP LIKE A TIGER has been slowly growing on me — I initially was kind of dismissive of it, but one of my co-workers really liked it, and the more closely I examined it, the better I liked it.

  8. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Yes, the illustrations are photographs. They are still illustrations, though. I think it’s time (especially when many of the winners are computer generated) to honor excellent illustrations, no matter how they are created.

    I might be dreaming here…

  9. Margaret Wilson says:

    In general, I was excited about the choices, especially This Is Not My Hat! I haven’t seen Creepy Carrots (just reserved it at the library) but loved all the other books. I was disappointed though not to see Each Kindness or Unspoken recognized. I saw that Each Kindness received a CSK award, but I thought the pictures were so beautiful and enriched the text in so many ways . I would have liked to see it recognized. And Unpsoken was really moving . . . .

  10. Well, Jacqueline Woodson was recognized for text by the CSK AND the Charlotte Zolotow committee, so the book has gotten a lot of love. It’s always hard to know what issues the committee found with the illustrations. Some folks here found some inconsistencies with the facial expressions, for instance.

    The more I looked at Unspoken (whose title I never remember correctly!), the more I figured it would not be honored. I can almost hear the committee getting tired of the repeated, obvious motifs: quilt, big dipper and napkin. And the issue with the quilt (see the comments in our posting on this book) probably were an issue.

    Both books will have a huge audience, I am sure. They are the kinds of books that teachers love to read to their students. And they are beautiful books too.

  11. Nice to hear some opinions and how you were all thinking about this year’s books. Our students were very partial to “Step Gently Out,” as well, and it would be great to see a book illustrated with photographs win some day!

    The blue pencil lines in “One Cool Friend” are so playful; one of my favorites after seeing a page close up at the Society of Illustrators exhibit of original art.

    Congrats to the committee members for all their hard work. I can’t wait to go find “Sleep Like a Tiger.”

  12. Black seems to be the new black.

  13. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:
  14. I am not surprised to read that. I myself am an avid reader of reviews (mostly the negative and mostly on Amazon) and find it very interesting how many people are bashing this book. I think there are a lot of people out there who are saying things are happening in this book that are in no way implied. (that the little fish is eaten for stealing the hat) and just the idea of him stealing the hat to begin with. I loved it the moment I read it (after waiting for it to come into our library) and read it in many story times with and the kids all enjoy it and none seem traumatized by it. I think the reviews and such might say more about where some of society is than the book itself.

  15. Kathy Isaacs says:

    Glad to see the conversation about Step Gently Out here. It’s time the Caldecott Committee helped all of us see photography as an artistic technique. Rick Lieder’s work is stunning.

  16. Wait, Erin, I have read this book to 35 classes of kids K-6, and most of them (and me) think the little fish was eaten. Why do you think he wasn’t?

  17. …because the rabbit was eaten in I want my Hat Back, and they were companion books, two sides of the same situation.

  18. Thanks, Kathy–I was searching for a “like” button!

  19. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    I’m really interested in Erin’s comments about This Is Not My Hat as they relate to the NY Daily News piece. I think this is a big enough topic for it’s own post so I started a new one here:

  20. Most of you likely read the Whitey Whitey Whiteville portion of Betsy Bird’s recap of the awards. Reading what Robin said about inconsistencies in facial expressions for Woodson’s book, I’m reminded of a criticism of YARN… that some aspect of knitting was inaccurately portrayed. As people note, we don’t know what the deliberations were, and it may be a stretch to juxtapose inconsistencies in facial expression in one group’s discussions with absence or dismissal of inaccuracies in illustrations of knitting, but it does make me wonder about why authors/illustrators of color were passed over for the major awards.

  21. All of my students think he was eaten, too, even those who haven’t read I Want My Hat Back. I suggested to a few classes that, maybe, the little fish was so scared when the big fish caught up to him, that he just gave it back, but they didn’t buy it.

  22. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I am sorry there is not a “reply” button under every comment so it is clear who is replying to whom. Just so you know, I did not find inconsistencies, someone in the discussion did.
    As someone who has been a part of many of these committees, I can say without hesitation that the race of the artists is never considered. I am lucky if I remember the name of the author/illustrator/publisher/whatever because it is all about the book.
    I can think of some books my year that were mentioned in the many prediction lists. They were on everyone’s list. But, around the table, we found problems, not quibbles, but real problems. There are many places where illustrations can fall down or rise above. A few books I championed loudly on the committee were exposed for one reason or the other.

    So, though (as a member of the CSK Committee and former member of the jury) I am very concerned at the whiteness of the many honored books, I know nothing was passed over for any reason except that something else rose to the top.

    What I am especially concerned with is the lack of a John Steptoe Award for New Talent from the CSK. Does this mean that there was not one new African American novelist or illustrator elegible? Does the lack of honor books for Belpre mean there were not enough books published by Latinos/Latinas this year? I overheard someone in Seattle saying that the criteria is limiting. That I do not know, but I am troubled if books are not being published. (again, I would need to look at the CCBC statistics to say such a thing)
    THe CCBC at the University of Wisconsin (where I met you, Debbie, about a million years ago!) keeps track of these important statistics.

    On the brighter side, I am already gearing up for the 2013 books and I have four very good books on my stack of potential Caldecott titles that would also be eligible for CSK. Nothing for Belpre yet, but Betsy Bird said she has some. (since I am not a librarian, I have to do a lot more sleuthing in catalogs and bookstores and I tend to be a bit late to the game)

    THAT got a bit long.

  23. Hi Robin,

    Like you, I’ve got to do sleuthing to find books of interest to the work I do on American Indians in Children’s Literature. One very good thing about reviewing for HB all those years ago was that I’d get books sent to me. When I see bloggers writing about being inundated with books, I wonder how they get all those boxes. Maybe its my limited scope of work.

    Just a quick note–I didn’t think it was you who pointed out inconsistencies in the illustration.

    And, I hope you can answer this question as someone who has served on several award committees… What is the demographic of the award committees? Have there been committee members who are African American, or Latino, Asian American, or American Indian? I’d assume that there’s been an African American and perhaps an Asian American on a committee at some point, but what about Latino, and what about American Indian?

  24. Jumping back to the term “computer generated,” used a few comments back: I think that wording gives a misimpression. Digital work isn’t generated by a computer, it’s generated by an artist, for whom the computer is simply a tool, and likely not the only one, used to create an image. One might instead say that a piece of work was created digitally, or that an artist works digitally, just as we say that an artist works in oils, pencils, acrylics, collage, etc.

  25. Dear Debbie and all,
    ALSC strives for diversity on all committees. Every committee I have served on (Geisel, Caldecott for ALSC) has had at least one person of color on the committee. There have been men and women. From scanning the faces at the award ceremonies and making assumptions about the names, many committees have Latino and Asian Americans. After that, I could not say.

    I am currently serving (just start on February 1!) on the Nominating Committee and our charge includes trying to put people on the ballot from all over the country (not just the East coast), from all kinds of libraries and from all ages and ethnic groups. Given the makeup of ALA (lots and lots of women, many older), I imagine this is going to be a challenge, but one I am looking forward to! Not being a librarian, I find every committee a learning experience and being on the nominating committee will be a great way to see how things work. It certainly makes me appreciate the work that goes into these committees from the get-go.

    I have never been on a committee with a person who is American Indian (to my knowledge) and I have no idea what percentage of ALSC identifies as American Indian, but I would imagine it is a small percentage.

    One way that ALA encourages diversity is through its Spectrum Scholarships for underrepresented groups and I know many of those graduates. They tend to be very active and enthusiastic. Here is a link, which may or may not be live. (I don’t really know how to do that sort of thing.)

    There are lots of ways to get involved in ALSC (the group that administers the Newbery, Caldecott, Sibert, Geisel, Notables, Belpre, etc) and YALSA (Printz, Morris, Non Fiction, etc) and CSK (part of EMEIRT, actually) and I encourage anyone with a passion for children and books to get involved.

  26. Yes, Brian. I sit corrected. Digitally created is the term I should have used.


  27. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    And, as I was closing down my computer, I see the new topics for the CCBC-NET discussion is posted by Megan S. Here it is…

    “Latino Picture Books: Where Have They Gone? The number of Latino picture books from U.S. trade book publishers has never been vast, but in 2012 the output was notably grim. We first noticed it at the CCBC as we’d look for books to include in our monthly discussions and later as we read and selected titles for CCBC Choices, our annual best-of-the-year list. So when the 2013 Pure Belpré Award Illustrator Award had no honor books, we know we were not the only ones unsurprised. It’s hard to find a body of outstanding new books to honor when the overall number is so low. What’s happening here? Why isn’t there a constant and steady stream of new Latino picture books to not only respond to the changing demographics of our nation but the needs and interests of all children? We invite your thoughts during the first part of February.”

    I look forward to reading what they have to say…

  28. Joanne,
    I guess I am an optimist, I did read one reviewer who thought it was a game the 2 fish were playing, and it kept going in a cycle, little fish steals the hat big fish finds him and they begin again.

  29. That was not my review–but I can totally see a child thinking like this.

  30. That explains it.
    Not an optimist

    One thing I like about the little fish getting eaten ( and their were some staunch disbelievers amongst the children) was that the kids were absolutely gleeful at the thought of a “bad” ending. They live such a whitewashed, everyone is friends life.

  31. Ay, where is the edit function? There, not their.

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