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Time to get our lists in order

Since January, Lolly, Martha, and I have been collecting picture books that might be talked about come Caldecott time. Our first challenge is to make a list that pleases us. Just us. Some of the two dozen titles are there because they will be fun to argue about; some because one of us was wowed by the art; and still other books gain a spot on the list because other people are talking about them. Right now, the list is still in flux. There are already too many titles for us to talk about here because other books will undoubtedly come to our attention over the next few months.

Because lists tend to get passed around, we need to make one thing clear: THIS IS NOT A SHORT LIST FOR THE CALDECOTT MEDAL. No such list exists. This is simply a list of books we want to gab about to show (we hope) how the process works on the real committee. We have no idea what is rising to the top in the minds of the committee members, and we will never know all the books discussed by the committee that don’t make the final cut.

Here is our list so far. (It’s only September, remember.) What we need from you, our online collection of really smart people, is suggestions. What might we have missed? After you read through our list, look through your shelves. In the comments, tell us which books YOU hope might win the Caldecott. (And, while you are there, let us know if we have something on the list that seems ineligible for one reason or another.)

Bluebird by Bob Staake

Building Our House and Big Snow by Jonathan Bean

Bunnies on Ice by Johanna Wright

Busy-Busy Little Chick illustrated by Brian Pinkney, written by Janice N. Harrington

Daisy Gets Lost by Chris Raschka

The Dark illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Lemony Snicket

Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle

Grandma and the Great Gourd illustrated by Susy Pilgrim Waters, retold by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Have You Seen My New Blue Socks? and Bear and Bee by Sergio Ruzzier

Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd

Lifetime illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, written by Lola M. Schaefer

Little Red Writing illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Joan Holub (and/or Brave Girl, also illustrated by Melissa Sweet)

Locomotive by Brian Floca

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

My Name Is Ruby by Phillip C. Stead

Nino Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales

Odd Duck illustrated by Sara Varon and written by Cecil Castellucci

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky, written by Jennifer Berne

Water in the Park illustrated by Stephanie Graegin, written by Emily Jenkins

Xander’s Panda Party illustrated by Matt Phelan, written by Linda Sue Park


So—have at it. Are there titles on our list that surprised you? What have we missed?

Let us know what you love this year!


Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. Papa J Funk says:

    Where is Dan Santat?!? Carnivores, Because I’m Your Dad, Crankemstein, Picture Day Perfection …

  2. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Little Santa, by Jon Agee

  3. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I will take a look–I don’t get every single book in the universe, so we are happy to get suggestions. Tell me what you like about these particular Santat books. Papa J Funk? (I just really wanted to type that name)

  4. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Actually, I had this on my stack. It might move back.
    Why should it move back, aside from that FABULOUS cover?

  5. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Because Jon Agee knows how to use white space like nobody else’s business, and the book is set at the NORTH POLE.

  6. His style is addictive. I’d start with Carnivores (just look at the cover). I’m not an art expert, but his unique characaturistic style with shine and color has made me a huge fan since he illustrated the American version of the Nanny Piggins series. I’m on Santat-Overload since he Carnivores, Crankenstein, and Picture Day Perfection were all released in the last month or so.

    From what I gather from social networking, he trained with Peter Brown…

  7. There are definitely some books that are missing that should at least be considered. Here are my favorites not on your list….

    Journey by Aaron Becker
    Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson
    Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
    Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
    The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
    Miss Moore Thought Otherwise: How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children
    by Jan Pinborough
    The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
    by Deborah Heiligman
    The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman
    Dream Friends by You Byun
    The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan

  8. Looking forward to your discussions! If possible, I’d also love to see Aaron Becker’s Journey discussed, as well as Michelle Markel’s Brave Girls, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

  9. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Thanks Ed. No promises yet, but we always add (and take away) some from our initial lists.

  10. lisa kropp says:

    I just came up with the start of our mock list here at the Suffolk Library System. What about Pug and Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins and The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett? Great list though! I went ARGHH! and OH YEAH! a lot after seeing some of the titles that I didn’t have on mine 🙂

  11. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    Brave Girl is on the list, though it’s kind of hidden — sorry! Should have made it its own entry.

  12. A great list, but I would love to see Journey there too! (Was it left off because of the Harold similarities?)

  13. Great list! Here are a few that I see as worthy of discussion:
    Journey – Aaron Becker
    The Mighty Lalouche – Matthew Olshan; illustrations by Sophie Blackall
    Papa’s Mechanical Fish – Candace Fleming; illustrations by Boris Kulikov

  14. Robin Smith says:

    Oh, Sarah, you overestimate our process, I fear! That sound you hear is the ka-ching of the cash register as I race to find many of these books.

  15. I’ll put in a third vote for a discussion of JOURNEY and a second for THE BOY WHO LOVED MATH. Not that you are really taking votes. 🙂 Glad to see so many of my favorites on the list. Looking forward to this year’s discussion.

  16. chuck rosenow says:

    You’ve got it at the top of your list – Bob Staake’s – BLUEBIRD. As far as I’m concerned – that’s the award winner!

  17. You’ve chosen SO many good ones – especially glad to see ON A BEAM OF LIGHT, WATER IN THE PARK, LOCOMOTIVE, and ODD DUCK. I must admit I was surprised to see LITTLE RED over BRAVE GIRL and A SPLASH OF RED, and MARTIN AND MAHALIA wipes the floor with BUSY LITTLE CHICK. Here are some others I’ve taken a shine to, should you decide to expand the list to 50… 100, that’s a reasonable number, right?

    Who says women can’t be doctors? ill by Priceman
    Crankee Doodle ill by Bell
    Mighty LaLouche ill by Blackall
    Pancho rabbit and the coyotes ill by Tonatiuh
    If you want to see a whale ill by Erin Stead
    Nelson Mandela ill by God… er, Kadir Nelson

  18. The Day the Crayons Quit needs to be added. Of all the picture books I have read this year, it stands out.

  19. Journey by Aaron Becker A must for your list

  20. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Thanks Sam–I think we said and/or for Little Red and Brave Girl. The number of illustrators who have two or three books in one year is a bit stunning. I don’t think we are going to see anyone pulling a “Klassen” for a long time, but, who knows?

    And, I think we are going to talk about some books together. When I was on the Boston Globe Horn Book Committee a while back, it was the year of the penguins. This year Martha, Lolly and I are seeing trends–both in style of illustration and topic. We might do what the committee has to do sometimes and put books together by topic and see who stands tall at the end.

    Shall see. I don’t Martin and Mahalia yet, but I do love the light and airy style of Busy Little Chick. I like having some books for really little children on the list.

    If I were a librarian, I would have all these books at my fingertips all year long. I have to rely on my bookstore and my obsessive review reading and much finger-crossing to make sure I have seen as many books as I can before September. Still, I am scrambling right now.

  21. I love so many of your titles and have them on our library short list as well!

    I feel like I’m the only one who loves That Is Not a Good Idea by Willems but I love how he executed the silent film theme throughout the illustrations and he always has such great expressions on the animals!

    I loved Odd Duck and hadn’t thought about it for Caldecott, but it is wonderfully done. I might add that to the list at the library.

    And I add another vote for The Might Lalouche, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, and The Day the Crayons Quit.

  22. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    There has been a lot of chatter about this book. What makes it stand out for you, Julie?

  23. Isn’t Oliver Jeffers from Northern Ireland? Don’t think CRAYONS would be eligible.

    Sorry to be harsh about Pinkney’s books – something just doesn’t seem right about talking smack about a book for toddlers and preschoolers! And I think I do take for granted the fact that, working at a large library branch in a huge city system, I get all the books wheeled over to me on a cart to look at before they go out on the shelves. Loving all the ODD DUCK mentions – that’s one of my favorites in several categories this year!

  24. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Well, yes, Jeffers is from Ireland, but he lives in Children’s Book Eden–I mean, Brooklyn, so he is probably eligible. That’s for the folks at ALA to decide, of course. (For the true Caldecott geeks: There you can read all about eligibility on page 25.)

    I just love Odd Duck and want to talk about it. I am very interested in the intersection of picture books and books with graphic elements.

    A local book fiend just dropped off a bunch of the books that I was missing, so I am in much better shape. (Thanks, Jules!)

  25. Previously, I taught art and now I am a classroom teacher. I think the book captures the excitement of a box of crayons. The letter format makes it accessible to students. I feel that they can put themselves in the crayons shoes. So it would be a resource to teach empathy. I have already seen the draw of the book when it was read during a reading camp this summer to a mixed age group of kids. Plan on reading it to my new group of students soon.

  26. I am looking forward to reading Little Red Writing Hood when it comes available at the end of September. Thanks to your list I was made aware of it.

  27. Judy Houser says:

    I love reading suggestions, but don’t understand why the winner is chosen by such a small committee. It should be like the oscars–all members of ALA should get a vote.

  28. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Oh, my, Judy! That is a big question, one that I think I will mostly leave to others.
    I will say that, having served on many committees, including the Nominating Committee, I trust the process. Since these awards are NOT a popularity contest, but a way to identify the most distinguished books published by American artists in a particular year, I want a group of very committed folks to make the decision.
    There is a very interesting article in the NYTimes magazine this morning about popularity that is on my mind right now…popularity contests rarely identify the best of anything.

  29. I haven’t seen the book yet, but I would give Jon Agee the Caldecott blindly.

  30. Kathy Shepler says:

    Enjoying “It’s Time To Talk Lists” season opening up! Personally I’d give another thumbs up to –
    Journey by Becker
    Frog Song by Guiberson illus Spirin
    Matchbox Diairy by Fleischman illus Ibatouille
    Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Fleming illus Kulikov

  31. Robin Smith says:

    I think I agree, now that I have seen it.

  32. I would add STARDINES SWIM HIGH ACROSS THE SKY by Prelutsky, ills. Berger.

  33. Sam, Kadir IS god, but that is a conversation you and I will have when I’m in Cincinnati next 🙂

    Anyways, we’re doing a mock Caldecott in class, and I have to say the book that is right now at the top of my list hasn’t even come out yet, but I’m thinking Pinkney’s (talk about God) version of Tortoise and the Hare which is available Oct. 1 is definitely definitely a contender.

  34. Elissa Gershowitz Elissa Gershowitz says:

    A few suggestions from the Twitter-sphere:
    jellyrace Sep 07, 7:18am
    @MaryAnnScheuer @HornBook thanks for list. Need to catch up. Missing is The Day the Crayons Quit.

    DebbieDadey Sep 07, 10:05am
    @HornBook Love your list. Hope you’ll think about adding Trouble at Trident Academy. It’s mermaid Shelly’s first day of school!

    runningscott59 Sep 07, 1:23pm
    @HornBook Aaron Becker’s Journey.

    imartytweet Sep 07, 8:41pm
    @HornBook Rebecca Dudley’s Hank Finds An Egg is a wordless gem.

  35. Nancy Van Camp says:

    I’m a huge fan of The Day the Crayons Quit…and…Flora and the Flamingo

  36. I would add that having a select committee allows them to commit to an in-depth evaluation of the books. If every member of ALA got a vote, issues of access start to crop up- is there any way that every member has looked at most eligible picture books of the year even once? And what about titles from smaller publishers? Titles that are less widely distributed would be seen by fewer members and therefore lack the votes to succeed even if they stand out to those who get their hands on a copy.

    There are definitely places for popularity contests, and they exist in the book world (all the state wide children’s choice awards, for example). And for those contests, it’s fine to have only read a book once, or maybe twice. Committee members read eligible books over and over, many more times than your average member of ALA is able to make time for, even those of us who love participating in Mock award discussions.

    I’d also point out that the Oscars certainly don’t always get it right . . .

  37. Robin Smith says:

    Thanks Elissa! I am a lame tweeter and would have missed this.

  38. Great list! I will join the chorus for Aaron Becker’s Journey and add that I also really loved Fraidyzoo (Thyra Heder) and The Nowhere Box (Sam Zuppardi).

  39. Thanks for the terrific list. So many beautiful books, and a few to add to my reading list. I’m appreciating all the suggestions in the comments too and thought I’d toss in a few more fun ones:

    Ike’s Incredible Ink (Brianne Farley)
    If you want to see a whale (Erin Stead)
    No Fits, Nilson (Zachariah OHora)

  40. The Mighty Lalouche!!! I add my vote to those already cast. Also, The Matchbox Diary. What about Take Me out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon?

  41. SO excited you are back. Hope Lolly is better soon. Great post with baseball metaphors by the way!

    I agree with the suggestions by Ed Wolfer for adding:
    A Splash of Red
    Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
    Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
    The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt
    The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
    by Deborah Heiligman
    The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman

    The others he mentioned I don’t know, so can’t comment.

  42. As someone who had the honor of watching Locomotive get created, I have to say that book is just incredible. This is a book that should be around for the next hundred years, and if a shiny gold sticker is what it takes to make that happen, then let it be done!

  43. Yes to adding Journey! I’m also a fan of Flora and the Flamingo which someone else mentioned. I’d be interested in discussing Day the Crayons Quit (or seeing you guys discuss it). I like it a lot, but I’m not sure it’s Caldecott material. Am I wrong?

  44. Many of the ones listed are great choices. My favorite for the Caldecott gold is THE MATCHBOX DIARY by Paul Fleishman

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