What does a wordless picture book about an imaginary world have in common with a mostly wordless book about a cat’s encounter with aliens? Whether these two books — Journey and Mr. Wuffles! — have anything in common is an interesting question, but that is exactly what the Caldecott committee will have to consider. It might not be these two books, specifically, but people on the committee will have to do just this: vote for three books (one first-place vote, one second-place vote, one third-place) and NOT vote for all of the others.
And you, dear blog friends, will have to make similar choices in just a few days, when we open up our polls right here on Calling Caldecott. YOU will have to say yes to a black cat and no to a train and a critter looking for a sock or a dog named Daisy, or yes to Mandela and no to Einstein. It pains me to remind you of this, but there it is. You (and the lucky folks on the real committee) will Have To Choose.
So, how do these two beloved books compare to each other?
Both create an imaginary world that any self-respecting child will want to explore.
Mr. Wuffles! introduces the readers to a world of tiny aliens, showing them to be quite human in their wants and needs, if not their costuming. On second thought, I would love to spend my days in a warm bathrobe, and I bet many kids would too! Watching the cat play with the toy-sized, talking spaceship seems normal when seen through Wiesner’s lens. The details are the thing here: ladybug diversion, ants helping the aliens, nod to Lascaux cave paintings, one giant Cheezit, Rube Goldberg apparatus for cutting a marble… The illustrations tell the tale and are simple enough to understand the first time through yet compelling enough to return to over and over. And each return visit brings another “aha!” moment.
And Journey. From the embossed (or is it debossed? or impressed?) hot-air balloon on the black cloth cover to the nod to Harold and his purple crayon, it’s hard to resist this book. The reader is gently moved into this world by a little girl on her red scooter on the title page. Using the tiniest pen-and-ink brushes, Becker uses straight horizontal and vertical lines to show just how boxed-in the girl feels. Even on the beginning pages with the three separate images, it’s all straight lines. But the world the child enters, with her red chalk as the link, is amazing, isn’t it? That piece of chalk creates other vehicles to other worlds, and the reader has no choice but to drink in all of these images. The images become more rounded and detailed, and the colors move from sepia to green to red and all the way to purple.
There is a LOT more to each of these books, of course, and the committee members will have many more books to talk about. But, when the voting starts, each person will be allowed just three votes: first, second, third.
If you had to choose, which of these two would get your first-place vote?