Is it just me, or are there are an unusually large number of wordless/nearly wordless picture books worthy of Caldecott consideration this year? So far we’ve discussed Bluebird, Inside Outside, and Flora and the Flamingo. Upcoming contenders include Aaron Becker’s Journey, Jerry Pinkney’s Tortoise and the Hare, and David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles!. So many, in fact, that we’ll be continuing “Wordless Week” into next week.
Today we’re looking at Chris Raschka’s Daisy Gets Lost, a companion book to A Ball for Daisy, winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal.
Here (again) are some relevant Caldecott criteria—
a) Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
b) Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
c) Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
d) Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
e) Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
—all of which Daisy Gets Lost meets and, I would claim, exceeds.
Let’s take it from the top: the title page, which contains a few brushstrokes in a severely limited palette that, looked at one way, is an abstract grouping of blobs and wavy lines and, looked at again, is a vivid portrait of a little lost dog. Look at the eyebrows, the head turned to look both behind him and out at the audience, the ear cocked for any sign of the familiar. Abandonment, worry, unhappy realization, bereft-ness—all that is telegraphed on the title page. And throughout the book Raschka’s gestural art conveys emotion and motion, mood and action, superbly.
The story here is simple—Daisy chases a squirrel and gets lost, stays lost for a tense (but not too tense) time, and is joyfully reunited with her owner. It’s a situation that will resonate with young children, and Raschka creates an authentic and essential emotional experience for them. In fact, this book is particularly strong in its “excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience” (criterion E). Here are just a few ways:
- I’ve mentioned the limited palette…but note how Raschka uses the red of Daisy’s tongue: it’s a tell for “caught up in the chase.” When Daisy is happily bounding along chasing the squirrel, she sticks out her tongue in concentration; as soon as she realizes she’s alone in unfamiliar territory, the tongue disappears, helping the child audience make the transition in mood.
- Note how we see Daisy completely alone and lost on only one spread; on the next, even though Daisy herself doesn’t know it, the young audience is reassured that her owner is not that far away.
- Any sappiness or adult sensibility in the denouement is sidestepped by the final picture in which Daisy’s owner is still celebrating their reunion while Daisy herself (the child stand-in) is eyeing that saucy little squirrel again. Clearly Daisy is ready for the next adventure.
As noted, Daisy Gets Lost is a companion book to a previous recent Caldecott winner. What are its chances this year? I sure “find” it distinguished.