I hate to follow such a serious discussion with one that is not exactly fraught with such wide societal concerns. I am still thinking about all the ideas Martha and Thom brought up. At this moment (10/3/2013), the U.S. government is shut down, Obamacare is on everyone’s mind, and I am thinking about comic books. Go figure.
Let’s just start with the truth: I am not any sort of expert on graphic novels or comic books, unless having lugged around a box of Archie and Richie Rich comics and mumbling “wanna trade?” with other geeky middle schoolers on an Army base in 1970 Germany counts. However, I can’t help noticing how graphic elements are a part of many picture books this year. What I DO know is that the Center for Cartoon Studies’ Adventures in Cartooning, pictured above, is a grand book to help start your personal education about cartooning and how comic books work.
How do the presence of speech bubbles, comic panels, and other graphic elements fit into the picture book format? Is there a place for them? Is a graphic novel a picture book? How about a book that is completely composed of graphic elements? Is that eligible? Since Hugo Cabret won the big gold sticker in 2008, all bets are off. If I were on the Caldecott committee this year, I would be calling on experts for a crash course on graphic novels. Each committee is different, but committee work involves education.
Let’s take a gander at the criteria. Again. This is how the committee will decide if a book is eligible.
In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
- Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
- Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
- Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
- Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
- Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
- The only limitation to graphic form is that the form must be one which may be used in a picture book. The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound, film or computer program) for its enjoyment.
- Each book is to be considered as a picture book. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustration, but other components of a book are to be considered especially when they make a book less effective as a children’s picture book. Such other components might include the written text, the overall design of the book, etc.
Sergio Ruzzier stated (on September 23 in the blog comments about illustrated vs. picture books): “I hope they will not start to consider graphic novels as Caldecott contenders, because graphic novels use a completely different language than picture books. How can you mix, say, novels and poetry? Or apples and oranges? Well, if you mix apples and oranges you get a fruit salad, but I never heard of a literary award given to a fruit salad.”
Here are some books published in 2013 that employ graphic elements in the storytelling.
Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (varying sizes of speech bubbles)
Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner (panels, alien speech bubbles)
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems (not actually sure if these would be considered panels, but the old-time movie narration is sort of like them)
Bluebird by Bob Staake (panels)
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon (almost, but not quite, a graphic novel)
I like all these books, and will talk about at least two of them later in the season. If you have seen any of them, would you call them picture books, or something else? Do you think the committee will find them eligible? Those of you with expertise in this area need to help the rest of us figure out how to talk about them.