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We’ll never know

 . . . but that won’t stop speculation. While the winners (and honor books) of ALA’s Newbery and Caldecott Awards posed no surprises in themselves, everyone wants to know what happened to Mr. Tiger. As Calling Caldecott blogger Robin Smith sensibly says, it’s likely that the committee simply found four other books it liked more. But why let common sense get in the way of a good theory? Maybe the committee members did not like the fact that the number of stripes on Tiger’s tail varied from spread to spread. Maybe they felt that since Locomotive has almost as much text as Time of Wonder they would otherwise err on the side of discretion and go full-Monty wordless for the runners-up. Please post your favorite theories in the comments.

Anyone interested in more Thursday-evening quarterbacking should come to Simmons College on February 13th for a panel discussion sponsored by Children’s Books Boston. Please join us for “Why Did THAT Book Win?” a panel discussion with Martha Parravano, Julie Roach, and Vicky Smith, moderated by yours truly. The program begins at 6:00 PM in the Kotzen Room; admission is free but registration is required as space is very limited. Write to CBB @ hbookdotcom if you would like to attend.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. KT Horning says:

    No theory, but props on the Buffy meme.

  2. This committee clearly was willing to read long text and pore over wordless books (which in my experience is sort of hard work) so maybe a short, snappy story with great pictures just wasn’t especially interesting to them. Maybe it looked simple in comparison.

    It definitely won the SDL Personal Caldecott Award, though.

  3. Roger, I have stated my case on other threads and don’t mean to embrace repetition, but as you invite speculation I’ll try and be brief.

    Fine and well, as Robin asserts the committee may have found three or four books they liked more. There is no way under the sun that MR. TIGER GOES WILD is inferior to the three books that won the honors. In fact the way I see it it is roughly equal to JOURNEY and stronger than the other two books, both of which are excellent in any case. Like every awards group, the small Caldecott committee only represent a tiny part of the book-loving and book-evaluating population. The matter of inconsistency in the number of stripes is rather ludicrous and laughable, since such a contention did not come into play when the distinguished writers from the New York Times, Kirkus, School Library Journal, the home field Horn Book and virtually every last book critics worth a salt posted there favorite books of the year. The audience award here at the Horn Book yielded what was esentially a tie for favorite book of the year with JOURNEY. The subversive element in MR. TIGER GOES WILD played spectacularly with young kids, older kids and with adults who enjoy a bit of spice in their meals. And pictorially MR. TIGER was without question one of the year’s most beautifully illustrated. So what did a small “appointed” committee find that thousands of other book lovers did not, that scholarly book critics did not? The answer alas lies at the matter of just how valid are the awards as a definitive barometer of excellence. Sorry but it is simply not enough to “work hard all year on this committee” if the final results are either blinkered or devoid of general perceptions reached by people who are at least as qualified as the voters, some obviously even more so. The entire system of having a majority in that room that support a particular book may be a major problem–I don’t know enough about the voting intricacies to make a fair stab other than what I just posed.

    But the bottom line here is this. It is simply UNACCEPTABLE to leave out MR. TIGER GOES WILD in a limited field of four books awarded (i gold, 3 silver.) It is UNACCEPTABLE. If the group had awarded five or even six (the latter unprecedented, I know) honor books, we could at least give a partial excuse that the group was smitten with so many books that the omission was more the result of a book celebration where the Tiger may have gotten lost in the crowd.

    But not here. What happened was even more insulting to Peter Brown, who must have been shocked by what came down. In effect the Caldecott committee told book lovers everywhere that MR. TIGER GOES WILD was NOT good enough to occupy one of two open slots -as we all know last year they went with five- and DECIDED TO LEAVE THE SPOT VACANT than to occupy it with one of the decade’s greatest picture books.

    There is really no excuse, irregardless of what the common protocol the voters maintain.

    The end result of the proceedings is all that matter.

    Ironically enough, Brown won a Caldecott Honor last year for CREEPY CARROTS, a mildly delightful book in a year that was clearly inferior to the one just completed

    Yes, different committees I know, but still, they all carry the burden of responsibility. To issue blanket praise for them for whatever reason and say “the process works” when in effect it did NOT WORK this year is an affrontery to those like myself who still take this awards seriously and are annually smitten with their execution. I have a collection of 700 HC picture books, and make it a point of acquiring the medals for each book that has won such. I love picture books. And I love what the Caldecott Medal means for most and how it is as a classroom tool.

    I am deeply saddened at the mind-set that time and again show the Caldecott Medal committe as unwilling or unmotivated to embrace artistic excellence in the manner that should be employed. More honor books? You bet, especially in a year as rich as this one. If there are rules that must be followed, well, then these rules should be discussed and altered so that this year’s travesty will not be repeated again.

    I feel terrible for Peter Brown, who I know is just a class guy.

    Needless to say he was not the only one to fall victim to the stringent application of only three honors–I have mentioned books like:
    Stardines Across the Sky
    The Mighty Lalouche
    A Splash of Red
    On A Beam of Light
    The Dark
    Nino Wrestles the World
    Inside Outside
    Parrots Over Puerto Rico
    ………and so on.

    In any case, these are my feelings. God willing I will be pounding the pavement again next year, and if I feel there has been injustice as there was this year, I won’t hesitate to express my feelings. Needless to say I did love all four winners exceedingly, but that is hardly the issue here.

    Roger, is that seminar being held in Boston? I am tempted to apply for it with my wife is is the principal of the school I teach at in NJ right outside of Manhattan.

    Thanks for letting me get on my soapbox! Ha!.

  4. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Sam–take a lesson from the Caldecott Honors: less is more.

  5. Elizabeth Law says:

    ooh, calling out the length of Time of Wonder, good one! Kids used to literally run from the room when they played that filmstrip at the Belmont Public Library. Which makes me wonder–what’s the longest text of a Caldecott winner? I sort of remember The Fool of the World and His Flying Ship being longish but that might have been my perspective as a child. And I LOVE the idea of a panel that chews over the winners and I wish I could attend–as someone in the publishing field, I’m always too terrified to say much in print about any winner! It’s hard to navigate that minefield without inadvertently giving offense to someone. I will add, though, that I adored Rita Williams-Garcia’s P.S. Be Eleven, and I would have loved to have seen it get a Newbery Honor along with its Coretta Scott King Medal.

  6. KT Horning says:

    Whenever there is a book that has a lot of buzz leading up to the award announcements and then it gets nothing, I always assume that someone on the committee found a fatal flaw, that little loose thread that generally goes unnoticed, but once someone tugs at it, the whole book unravels.

  7. “It’s likely that the committee simply found four other books it liked more. But why let common sense get in the way of a good theory?” I love it! It’s likely that the committee did simply find four other books it liked more. But, I’ll throw out three theories for you: 1. Too similar to Jon Klassen, who’s garnered a lot of attention the past two years; 2. Mr. Tiger doesn’t need a Caldecott. It’s already oozing kid-appeal and will get lots of attention absent an award (getting back to last year’s debate regarding award winners and whether they should have widespread kid appeal); and 3. The best part of Peter Brown’s illustrations in Mr. Tiger is, to me, the interplay between the illustrations and the text. The committee didn’t seem to care about interplay between text and illustrations; none of the books they selected had any of that going on.

  8. “found a fatal flaw.” “when someone tugs at it the whole book unravels…”

    Excuse me if I laugh at this. THEY found flaws that other esteemed book critics and long-time teachers and librarians could not see?!? Why would that be? because they were looking at these flaws with more intensity. Or perhaps they just didn’t care for said book (s) as much in the first place. I find this ‘elitism’ of a high order, no offense intended. There is nothing in MR. TIGER GOES WILD that unravels, but guess what? I find that on repeated viewing that may books that were past winners have unraveled well beyond their worth.

    A little HEY AL anybody?

    So this is what it is about at this place. No criticism is allowed because everyone is connected in one way or another with those who make the decisions. So if the committee had chosen CRANKENSTEIN as the gold winner, and chosen not a single honor book, we should all bow down and that them for teaching us something we didn’t know. Right.

  9. Roger, if you didn’t really want feedback on this thread, you should have been clear, instead of asking for contributions.

    So, “less is more.” That is the catch word of this year’s Caldecotts. The lesson I am supposed to learn is that the Caldecott committee have deemed for whatever reason, motive or pointed expression of personal taste that “less is more” is now a tablet of artistic excellence. First off, that is incorrect as the gold Caldecott went to one of the longest (in pages) books to ever win that medal. The ‘less is more’ philosophy was only subjectively applied to the honor books. So how am to interpret this contradiction? In past years the committee favored a more “more is more” approach?

    When and how are we supposed to take our cue?

    Ha, I guess if I wanted to travel up to Boston I’m probably banished now! Ha!

    Even civil and constructive criticism is unwelcome here.

    ALA rules, and can do no wrong. I bow down to you Sir!

  10. “The committee didn’t seem to care about interplay between text and illustrations; none of the books they selected had any of that going on.”

    Indeed Amy, indeed. And why should any of us conclude that the committee was 100% right for not caring about that interplay? Basically the committee had their own ideas as they always do and they applied them as they saw fit. Outside of the inner circles of the group and of those who make decisions that are connected even by way of third party to the ALA, there is more than skepticism as to the manner the books are chosen and to the final selections. I follow them every year, and I honestly speak them up to people, but I found this year particularly frustrating. Still I will follow them next year and will hope to be much more in accord.

  11. “Maybe the committee members did not like the fact that the number of stripes on Tiger’s tail varied from spread to spread.”

    And of course that is a far more valid reason to disqualify a book that spoke to so many children (and adults) in such a personal way, that has many kids wanting to return to over and over. And it should certainly trump over what is one of the year’s most unified and beautifully written books where image and word are wed to perfection. Of course. Looks like the Siebert committee had their own sets of invalidating rules, and one of them wasn’t physical accuracy. They named PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO the best non-fiction book (even ahead of LOCOMOTIVE) despite some pointed criticism of the number of “talons.” So then, we must conclude that each of these committees (composed of some of the same kind of professionals) has a different criteria for how they choose. And that in itself is contradictory.

  12. KT Horning says:

    Just because none of us saw a fatal flaw in Mr. Tiger doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. And all it takes is for one committee member to see it and point it out. It can be something as simple as pictures being swallowed up in the gutter. Or an inconsistency in the illustrations. Or an error. But because the proceedings are confidential, we’ll never know.

    Roger asked for theories so I gave him one. If he had asked for our emotional responses, I would have stamped my foot and cried and screamed that the Caldecott Committee didn’t give the award to MY favorite book, which was Niño Wrestles the World. Don’t get me started.

  13. Just because none of us saw a fatal flaw in Mr. Tiger doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.

    Right KT. Others didn’t have the eyes to see a perceived “flaw” in a picture book, so “others” had to point this out. A picture book. One that so many of us have looked at hundreds of times. And that little flaw whatever it may be should disqualify the book, regardless of its magisterial quality. Well, if you look at Mr. WUFFLES you will find some inconsistencies too, not that I would find that to be a reason to disqualify. This is the problem here. Everyone believes this little group is infallible. Guess what? maybe they did get it all wrong. Maybe NINO WRESTLES THE WORLD should have been chosen. And that is a great book to champion.

    These people do not monopolize good taste and judgment at all. I have moved on from the sheep mentality in discussing the awards. I have no issue with you at all, and no desire to be at odds in any way with you.

    I responded to Roger’s call for discussion, and what I got from him was a curt 11 word response, aimed at squelching opinion in the better interest of ALA validation.

  14. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Sam, criticizing the choices of the ALA award committees is the freaking national SPORT of children’s librarians. But you would know this if you listened half as much as you talked.

  15. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    You mean aside from HUGO? 😉

    And I am 100% with you on PS BE ELEVEN. Boo hiss.

  16. Roger, it should be the national sport of children’s literature if the proponents have their own minds. I always listened and will continue to listen. I mapped out my criticisms above, yet acknowledged that whatever they were (are) I am still a huge supporter of the institution. Your answer to me was eleven words in length. How can I listen if you balk at saying anything specific?

    I am not a librarian, but a teacher; However I am a longtime member of my town’s library board and served as an elected Board of Education member for two terms. So I guess I may fall under the umbrella here. And while criticizing the ALA award committees is indeed a favorite conceit of librarians, there is more than enough support for them on these pages to even the score.

    Again, you asked people to come to this thread to voice the reason for their criticisms. If you were not willing to engage them, you shouldn’t have posted the open house sign.

  17. Dean Schneider says:

    Sam —

    I’m a teacher, too, not a librarian. But I am a member of ALA and have been on Newbery, Sibert (the correct spelling), and other committees. Mr. Tiger was my favorite picture book of the year, too, but I know how committees work, and I trust the process–I imagine there WERE flaws found that even reviewers didn’t see or note, or the voting simply didn’t go Mr. Tiger’s way. I DO assume that the committee read the book more times and more closely than I did. (I think I’m a good reader, but I’m not arrogant enough to think my opinion is infallible compared to the collective consideration of 15 book experts seeking the best of the best.) To be in that room in Philadelphia when the awards were announced and seeing the energy and excitement for every award always affirms my love of children’s books. It was a great year for picture books: congrats to those who won and all of the others.

  18. Dean, no need to mention the spelling mistake, though I guess it does hit home with a man whose B.A. and M.A. are both in English literature.

    The fact that you were on the committee (and I applaud you for that for sure!) would of course have you thinking in terms of the position your colleagues were in. As I have stated it is one thing to trust any process but quite another to let slights of this year’s magnitude to go by without even the slightest indignation.

    You speak of the “energy” and “excitement” in that room and the wonderful vibes. I assure you as a father of five kids myself and a lifelong children’s lit aficionado, I was celebrating this great event in my own way. I posted 20 reviews at my site -a Caldecott Contenders series- at a place that really specializes in film, theater and music reviews. This was my own passion and I did all I could to spread the word. I was thrilled to get numerous appreciative comments at the site and on facebook from some of the authors and illustrators of the books I covered. So I assured you my “scene-specific” criticisms here are not in the spirit of crashing any parties, but rather to propose a champagne toast.

    To your comment that a single criticism of a group mind-set as an “act of arrogance” I’d counter propose it is the other way around. Yes, quite right, I do feel I am within my rights to point out what I continue to feel was a a travesty at worst and a missed opportunity at best. There are many terrific book critics out there who don’t need to take their leads from a small appointed committee.

    I respect that committee, and I applaud the time that committee put in to their decision-making, but I well within my rights and have confidence in my own artistic perceptions to voice disdain when I feel it is warranted.

    I stated earlier that I was NOT bemoaning the wins of LOCOMOTIVE, JOURNEY, MR, WUFFLES and FLORA, but was raising the real issue of the dearth of Honor books in one of the richest years in memory. You may think the process works -and it does to a certain extent- but sad to say there was a lot to be desired from what came down this year.

    This morning’s tribute to MR. TIGER GOES WILD was a particularly animated reading to a large group. Smiles, laughs and utter glee were evident en masse.

  19. Dean, let me give you a further example here of where I am coming from. I am a long time (fanatical) movie buff who has seen since the late 70’s in upwards of 200 films a year in theaters. As a drama queen who loves awards-contests-ten best lists etc, I have posted a Top Ten movie list since those early days. This year as usual I did the same, naming 12 YEARS A SLAVE as the top film of 2013, with SHORT TERM 12, WADJDA, HER and MY BROTHER THE DEVIL rounding out my Top 5.

    In the US it is generally acknowledged that the New York Film Critics Circle is the most “prestigious” film voting body, and the one with the most elitist tastes for the most part. (Yes the National Society of Film Critics, which contains some of the same members is also a group with a long history of quality choices, and for a time a wonderful foreign-language film slant.)

    This year the said New York Film Critics Circle convened in early December and named AMERICAN HUSTLE as Best Film of 2013.

    Did the ramifications of that vote mean that I should embrace their choice and possible compromise my way of thinking? The 40 strong plus voting members of that organization are appointed film critics who write for print and online publications. Much like the Caldecott and Newbery committees they come to their final choices after a number of rounds and a general consensus building.

    Was I supposed to be intimidated that the NYFCC chose AMERICAN HUSTLE and embrace that choice even though in my own sense of aesthetic 12 YEARS A SLAVE was the year’s most moving and artistically accomplished film? Do these critics hold a monopoly on taste and the ability to discern what is truly great vs. what doesn’t hold up to scrutiny? I won’t even waste my time using the Oscars as an example as unlike the critics and the ALA committees they often don’t even see some of the subjects of their voting. The Oscars are no barometer of quality, but I still hold a party at my house every year, one that is attended by quite a few people. We find it a lot of fun, even while snickering at the process.

    If I found the results of the Caldecott Medal voting lacking in any kind of definitive round-up of the year’s picture books, because of a marked lack of Honor book selections, why am I not allowed to express those feelings on these pages without being told over and over again that “the committee does a great job,” “the process works,” “the time spent is intense,” “the group sees things that others may have missed” and “these people are super-qualified to determine the true meaning and presence of art?” I am well aware that I am largely alone at a site that is clearly dominated by ALA members and those who would rather not rock the boat. That’s fair enough. Everyone has their own opinions and associations.

    But I must express astonishment at the reactions I have received from some here, reactions that have tried to paint me as a disgruntled contrarian who won’t join the fan club. Sorry but I do not have to accept the vote of this years awards as a definitive statement of the best picture books had to offer. As such I also am within my rights to express those criticisms in a fair and civil way.

    These awards -and heck I do love em anyway and will write about them next year- are not the decree of irreproachable experts, but rather the joint “opinion” of a small group. The same can be said for the New York Film Critics Circle, a group that individually sees well over 400 films a year, a good number several times. They don’t always get it right.

    Alas neither does the Caldecott committee.

  20. When do I get my commission for helping this thread to fly? Ha!!!

  21. “Just because none of us saw a fatal flaw in Mr. Tiger doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist. And all it takes is for one committee member to see it and point it out. It can be something as simple as pictures being swallowed up in the gutter. Or an inconsistency in the illustrations. Or an error.”

    This is the appalling and conceited mind-set that gives the awards a bad name on the outside, This is why many do not and cannot ever take them seriously. The very idea that an exuberant book with beautiful art and prose that has reached so many with its spirit and vision can be toppled by the snooty air of someone who thinks he or she found what is really an insignificant imperfection wrecks of sanctimonious application, and flies in the face of true artistic appraisal. It is insulting as well to book critics who also have the ability to look beyond what “seems.” So they are now blind because the Caldecott people deemed otherwise.

    Instead of all the back-slapping of your past and future voting contemporaries and and all the self-congratulatory rhetoric for a job exceedingly well done, perhaps someone should just for a minute think of Peter Brown and his magnificent book and all the passionate fans of the book, kids, parents, teachers, librarians, etc, who were shocked and disappointed by the decision of a small appointed group who seemingly opposed the rest of the book world and the critical establishment. This applies to so many of the other worthy books that were cast aside in favor of suffocating scrutiny. Instead of setting off firecrackers, perhaps some should show a little respect to those who were victimized.

  22. Elizabeth Law says:

    I disagree with Sam’s assertion that it’s the nit-picking (I paraphrase) of committee members that is why the awards “aren’t taken seriously” on the outside. I think very, very few people have any idea what goes on in those meetings. Many people even at children’s publishers assume the committee members are the same year after year, kind of like Academy voters, and I have a friend who attended ALA frequently as an illustrator and assumed that I, a publisher and not a librarian, would be on the committee soon. I think the biggest common knock against these awards from the general public–at least the one I hear most often–is that
    The awards don’t go to books that are popular with kids. Which of course is not even part of the awards’ mandate!

  23. I think Elizabeth Law’s point about the award not going to the book that is most popular with kids is the key one. Those of us who read to kids for a living (33 classes a week here!) get attached to the ones that generate the most excitement. In my school these were The Day the Crayons Quit, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great, Mr. Tiger, and That is Not a Good Idea. I tend to go with the books that have large pictures and snappy stories that engage all the children. There are many children’s choice awards, but this is not one of them, so congratulations to the very excellent books that won. I did read them to my classes, and they were for the most part well received, just maybe better for the more discerning readers.

  24. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Sam, you seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that you are speaking truth to power, and that your perceived offense is daring to disagree with the all-holy ALA. Nothing could be further from the truth, as ten minutes spent scanning this blog and others would demonstrate. The problem is that you are acting as if repeating your assertions over and over and louder and louder and at greater and greater length will convince readers that you have a point. (And they are assertions, not arguments, which one can easily demonstrate by replacing the words “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” with “Nino Wrestles the World” in your first post above and seeing that it does not make a difference.) You are my guest and you are being annoying. Cut it out or I will ban you from posting on this site–not because of your enthusiasm for Mr. Tiger, but because you are being a grandiose blowhard in love with the sound of his own voice. Stop it now.

  25. If there were two simultaneous Caldecott committees, it’s highly unlikely they’d arrive at the same list. There is no such thing as a best book. There are best books that some people love and other people don’t. The challenge of the Caldecott Committee members is to present books as articulately as possible to other committee members and, indeed, to attempt to sway other members to agree with them (complicated wording there, I know). So instead of this sort of discussion, in which things are getting personal, the focus is on the art in the books.

    Learning how to talk about art in picture books can be a lifelong task. Some committee members have a steep learning curve. But the discussion, with a good chair, is focused on just that. It’s not sufficient, in that locked room, to say something is best or wonderful or beautiful. It comes down to examining, page by page, what the artist has achieved.

    And you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But you can be respectful and stay focused on the task at hand.

  26. And another thing: some years ago there was a heated and extremely challenging discussion about the identity-based awards in the Horn Book. Pura Belpre, CSK, etc. I’d love to see that discussion revived. K.T. mentions her favorite book of the year, Nino Wrestles the World; Elizabeth mentions P.S. Be Eleven. Thoughts?

  27. Moving away from the Caldecott….I am there with E. Law — I was disappointed that P.S. Be Eleven didn’t receive a Newbery honor. And where was the True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp – a National Book Award finalist? Oh, well, on to the Academy Awards!

  28. Roger, I stated from the start that I felt there were several books that would have been well served with an Honor. It is not just MR. TIGER GOES WILD, but NINO and several others.

    As to the rest of what you threaten here and the personal insults, well I do think it’s best that I withdraw from this particular comment thread. I could be a hot-headed Italian-American but I know that further discussion with you will lead to an ugly conclusion, and that was never my intent from the start. Cheers.

  29. Genevieve Gallagher says:

    As a former Caldecott Committee member, I can honestly say that it is not a decision that is taken lightly and many personal favorites fall by the wayside as compromises are made for the good of reaching an agreement. In the mock Caldecott day I participated in this year (in VT w/Leda co-leading the day) my group spent a great deal of time on Mr Tiger. One issue that came up as a flaw was the gutter use in the two spreads that mimic each other: one where he’s climbing the building & one where he’s climbing the tree. Although a brilliant juxtaposition, design issues like that may detract from the impact of an illustration. I have no idea, but I do think that the committee’s job is very difficult. I have a hard time getting my family of four to agree on a restaurant- fourteen very solid opinions are harder to mesh.

  30. Jennifer Laughran says:

    I strongly disagree that MR TIGER should have been in the winners circle. I think the pictures are ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL, but also that the story has been told before and the end falls apart. Sorry. I mean, look, it’s a crowd-pleaser. I’ve given it as a gift. I have an image from it from the Little Brown calendar taped to my fridge, and I also bought a piece of the original art. I REALLY LIKE IT. But I was not surprised or put out by its non-inclusion, and it will not suffer for lack of a medal.

    I would have loved to see NINO on the list. I also love LOCOMOTIVE but I kinda wish BLUFFTON had gotten the Caldecott nod. I was disappointed not to see PS BE ELEVEN as Newbery (I mean CSK is great and all, but. Though I know they seem to balk sometimes about sequels.) I was really surprised that ON A BEAM OF LIGHT seemed shut out, but then maybe Vladimir R is not a US citizen/resident and I think that might be a requirement even for the Sibert?

  31. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    And now for a commercial interruption: Brian Floca, Peter Brown, and Yuyi Morales are among the contributors to the March/April issue of the Horn Book Magazine, a special one devoted to illustration. Subscribe now!

  32. I have been disappointed–quite disappointed–that several thoughtful, fantastic, and even multiple-starred reviewed books have been shut out.

    But–that’s the nature of awards being determined by a select group of people. Happens with the Oscars. Nobel Prize. Grammys. And so on. It happens.

    If Peter Brown is shocked and/or devastated–I would hope that he isn’t–then he joins a large group of authors, illustrators, actors, musicians, etc who have been denied awards. It’s the consequence of putting your art out there for the public. Sometimes, you get burned. Life isn’t fair.

    I’m currently going through the Newbery canon. Medals and Honors (some Honors I am unable to read unless I do interlibrary loan–these are the very early Honors). Some of our greatest literature never received a Newbery. And some of those that did win the Newbery have not stood the test of time.

    (If I never read another story about a shepherd boy maturing into adolescence, I will die a happy woman.)

  33. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I too wondered about he residency requirement and did a happy dance when I read on the back cover that Vladimir Radunsky is a naturalized citizen.

    I truly love ON A BEAM OF LIGHT, but knew that it would have to take a very informed, very persuasive committee member to explain the art.

    Though I think CSK will honor Christian Robinson very soon (I breezed through the gorgeous JOSEPHINE at ALA), I was hoping that that committee would have included his RAIN SONG somewhere. I long for more honor books, especially in the illustration award. So many books about and by African Americans come out at the end of the year or at the very beginning of the year to coincide with Black History Month and sometimes I worry that they get lost in the shuffle. (Last year, HOPE’S GIFT was released on Dec 27, 2012. Too bad–lots of people missed it.) I was THRILLED THRILLED THRILLED to see a Steptoe winner: Theodore Taylor III.

    Bereft that PS BE ELEVEN did not get more love.

    Thanks for your Tiger comments. I am working on a post for Calling Caldecott about what my students noticed–they did not mind the gutter, but they did offer some insight.

  34. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I don’t think NOT getting an award is being burned, more like GETTING one is the cherry on top. Maybe I’m more of a Boy Scout than I thought.

  35. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:


  36. KT Horning says:

    I actually thought we were going to escape the “blame the CSK/Belpre for lack of diversity in Newbery/Caldecott” thread this year. This discussion makes always me want to bang my head against the wall.

    Is it your belief that members of the Newbery and Caldecott Committee have some sort of gentleman’s agreement not to consider African-American and Latino authors because they feel the King and Belpre awards will take care of that? If that were true, how would it be the fault of the King and Belpre Awards? And do you honestly think if these two awards didn’t exist, we’d see a more diverse award list each year? More than likely, we would see less diverse literature overall.

    I find the all-white results of the Newbery/Caldecott Awards year after year to be downright depressing. When One Crazy Summer didn’t win the Newbery in 2011, I gave up all hope that fairness was something we could expect from the awards. While I championed Niño Wrestles the World for the Caldecott this year, I didn’t have any expectation that it would win. And it wasn’t because the art isn’t distinguished. It is. It’s because I didn’t have any faith that a mostly white Anglo Caldecott Committee would get it, in the same way the Belpre Committee did. That’s not Niño’s problem.

    I honestly don’t know what Yuyi Morales would have to do to get Caldecott recognition. Her books are the embodiment of “venturesome creativity.” While we’re on the subject, I don’t know what Kadir Nelson would have to do win a Caldecott Medal. I can’t think of a more distinguished artist working in picture books today. And yet, he is always the bridesmaid, as the expression goes. Oh, well, I suppose that gives him more time to paint the Sistine Chapel, or whatever his next project will be.

    I’m not blaming the Newbery and Caldecott Committees for being mostly white. (Talk about your identity-based awards.) It’s not their fault. I’ve been in the position of having to appoint members to these committees and it is difficult to add much diversity because our profession is so white, so middle class, so female. But we have to continue to do what we can to diversify award committees, to diversify the library profession, and to diversify publishing, so that it’s not so difficult to get beyond this all-white mindset.

    In the meantime, I hope that creative geniuses like Yuyi and Kadir will continue to produce children’s books, and that the Belpre and King Awards will continue to encourage them and other authors and artists to keep working. Some day the rest of the world will catch up to them.

  37. As an illustrator, my list of favorites weren’t picked for a Caldecott. Locomotive wasn’t my first choice on my list, maybe 3rd or 4th. Journey was my first choice, because I love fantastical art. Art is subjective and we have to keep that in mind. However, I understand why Locomotive was chosen. It hits a very deep chord with adults, readers, children and maybe with the Caldecott committee. The book embodies the heart of the American Spirit, our sense of adventure and innovation. A big locomotive chugging across the Old West and Brian Floca’s delivers it. The different perspectives and spatial backgrounds move your eye across the pages, while you travel with the family and the rest of the passengers. This is history, not text book history, this is an adventure with a capital “A”, and it’s fun.
    Granted Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, is illustrated beautifully. I love the story. I saw one of the illustration displayed at the Original Art Show, hosted by the Society of Illustrator (NYC) and it’s charmingly beautiful, hands down. But when you look at books and the design and layout, Brian Floca inches pass the other books. The Train has made it’s destination.

  38. KT Horning says:

    Well, I can certainly see how the loud buzz that reverberates within our children’s book bubble on blogs like Calling Caldecott could lead an artist (or his fans) to think he was a shoe-in, if not somehow entitled to the award. Don Tate recently had a painfully candid blog post about what happened to him last year, called “Medal Worship: How I Stuck My Head in the Clouds and Got Crushed.”

  39. KT–another problem with committee work is that it is expensive to go to conferences, which creates quite a barrier. I was on the Managing Children’s Services committee (ALSC) several years ago. I enjoyed it very much, and my employee, Fauquier County Public Library, was happy to accomodate my schedule in order for me to attend conferences, even during our summer reading program. They were proud that I had been asked to serve on an ALSC committee. They would be thrilled beyond belief if I or a colleague served on an award committee. Unfortunately, they do not have funds to assist us with conference costs. I could probably swing it again, but some would not. be able to do that. I know this situation is hardly unique, and that many committee members do have to pay their own way. However, it could definitely be a barrier for many so that they don’t even fill out those volunteer forms for ALSC/YALSA, not to mention that some may find it quite difficult to spend time away from the library during their summer reading program if their library has a small staff. Unfortunately, I don’t have any easy answers to these problems. I’m positive that ALSC and YALSA would very much want a more diverse committee membership. Getting around certain barriers is a complex problem.

  40. I have of course been getting the e mail notifications of new comments being added to this thread, and while I stated this morning I would completely withdraw from over the escalating heated discussion, I simply must address this comment from K.T. Horning, which I find superlative, and perhaps the most valuable of all the comments on this entire thread:

    “But we have to continue to do what we can to diversify award committees,
    to diversify the library profession, and to diversify publishing, so that it’s
    not so difficult to get beyond this all-white mindset.”

    K.T.’s entire constructive lament is equally telling of course, and for years I was frustrated over the failure of one of favorite illustrators (Jerry Pinkney) to win the medal, despite the still impressive string of five Caldecott Honors. 1989 especially perplexed me, as I thought his THE TALKING EGGS (and Trina Shart Hyman’s exquisite HERSHEL AND THE HANNUKAH GOBLINS) were more spectacular books that the one that won (Ed Young’s LON PO PO) but overall I was very pleased with the full field that was chosen that yeah and thought they got it right.

    I love Kadir Nelson’s work exceedingly, and agree with every point you make on Yuyi Morales. I am not sure what ultimately cost her a Caldecott Honor this year -NINO is dynamic, beautiful and wildly popular- but I am expecting some great things from her in the future.

  41. Don Tate’s blog post was hard to read. Yes, if you’re getting multiple reviews and people are telling you that your book is definitely a contender, I can understand getting caught up in it. That’s natural. The Newbery and Caldecott are such life and career changers.

  42. I also LOVE Locomotive, and completely understand why it won the Caldecott gold. You frame it here beautifully. Still, I found it very difficult to choose an absolute #1 and though 6 or 7 books were roughly the same in their artistic excellence. Floca’s win was also satisfying in that he was not yet embraced by the committee for all his past picture book treasures. I am a huge fan of MOONSHOT, while my classes are bonkers for both THE RACECAR ALPHABET and FIVE TRUCKS. LIGHTSHIP is another that always impresses on repeat viewing.

  43. Sam, that’s why you’re not on the Caldecott Committee as you stated “it’s very difficult to choose an absolute #1.” But they did their job, regardless of what we think they should have picked. They did it. Hats off to them.
    Regardless, of your many posts arguing the committees mistakes, your passion for books, especially Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and you’re educational background as a teacher, you fall short to understand what goes into a picture book. Behind the scenes in putting together a picture is monumental. The nuances in each illustration passes the untrained eyes of most non-art people, like yourself, and the committee must try to understand it and see if that marriage of words and pictures together. Even for wordless picture books, the story must be married perfectly with the illustrations. As I stated Brian Floca’s book, Locomotive, inches by the rest. Not by a land slide, but in inches. When you see this artwork exhibited it’s amazing. As Jennifer stated above, the Newberry and the Caldcotts are game changers, in life and in careers. The committee understands this and it’s a painstaking process.
    Sam, you have opinion. Good.
    You have passion. Great.
    You love art. Fabulous.
    You love books. Even better.
    But when it comes to illustrating picture book you and every Joe Smoe on this planet has an opinion about what is good art. Does that makes you qualified? An expert? No. You’re a book enthusiast.
    Well, I’m more qualified than you, but I’m not on the committee and sometimes I think they get it wrong. However, I respect the process.

  44. Roberta—

    With all due respect there are also book critics out there who are just as qualified and as experienced as the ALA committee members to make artistic decisions. I have been a champion of the Caldecotts and Newberys for many years (I am 59 years old now) and have often sung their praises to the point of over-saturation. I celebrated them recently by posting a long series of reviews on all the books I perceived to be in the running at my site. While I do not say that I know as much as people with trained eyes, nor am I remotely any kind of an artist (I can’t draw to save my life! Ha!) what I bring to the table is more by way of historical knowledge of the awards and a massive collection that includes all of the previous winners and honor books. You gave me credit for this under the sub-category as “passion” and that’s fair enough. I honestly thought that this abiding passion and a long reverence for the process would entitle me to pose some polite criticisms of omission. I did not aim for nor expect the contentiousness that arose from what I thought were qualifying assessments. But I will admit I crossed the line a few times there.

    Are you more qualified then me to judge? I would say you are, absolutely. I am not an artist or a writer of books. That’s fair enough. I am on the outside looking in.

    In the end what I really wanted here was more than 3 Honor books. That was the real root of the issue with me. Yes, I continue to believe that MR. TIGER GOES WILD deserved an Honor at the least, but I was also lamenting the absence of books like THE MATCHBOX DIARY, NINO RESTLES THE WORLD, THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE, ON A BEAM OF LIGHT, STARDINES ACROSS THE SKY, A SPLASH OF RED, BLUEBIRD, UNICORN, INSIDE OUTSIDE, PARROTS and a few others. I just can’t understand how each and every one failed to meet the test of excellence. But you are right, I am not on the committee, and as such I can’t possibly have as knowledge as to what was discussed and evaluated.

    I did not come to HORN BOOK to create mischief. If that were my aim I would not have spent many hours late into the night penning reviews for my site and spending a bundle so I could own almost every book in contention. The last thing I wanted to do was to create hard feelings of any kind here. I’ve had a lot of fun over the past two months. I aimed to express an opinion, and the belief that in evaluating any kind of art it always comes down in large degree to taste.

    Let me put it this way: I have agreed with the Caldecott committee more than I’ve disagreed with them over decades. It is in that spirit that I move forward to next year with optimism and confidence. We can’t always agree all the time.

    My sincerest apologies to anyone who I have rubbed wrong or annoyed with all my multiple posts.

  45. Sam, I will agree that I was surprised that there were only 3 Honor titles. I like it when there are 4-5 titles, even though I usually run the risk that I will not have a title in our collection (when it was announced that the Newbery committee chose four titles, I had a feeling that I would be missing one, and sure enough I was–Paperboy. Luckily, we were able to order it–and other youth media award titles that I had not ordered, which thankfully included both medalists and all Caldecot honors)!

  46. “did not include both medalists and all Caldecott honors.” (!)

  47. Jennifer—-
    I have just started reading FLORA AND ULYSSES and have acquired the four Newbery honor books from the local library system. I will have to really go into overdrive to get through these, but I must say I am really interested in THE PAPERBOY. I tried reading Kevin Henkes’ THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER to first-graders, thinking I would have a shot at interesting them, what with the main character just a little bit older, but it didn’t grab them. With the very youngest kids the presentation must be visual. Last year I thought MY NAME IS IVAN would pull them in, but eventually I had to suspend the reading. Ah well.

    But I am with you completely on the matter of 4 to 5 honors, and frankly after the 5 in 2012 I was predicted that number for this year. But different committees yield different numbers and levels of scrutiny. I was almost certain that THE MATCHBOX DIARY and NINO WRESTLES THE WORLD would join the actual winners, and had high hopes for some others. As it is the Newberys surprisingly went with one more. The last time I was this surprised was a few years ago when Bill Thompson’s CHALK, a huge favorite of the kinds and a very attractive wordless book, failed to make a showing. But that year I absolutely adored the Caldecott winner, A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MC GEE by the Steads. A real gem of a picture book.

    Hope we can compare notes on THE PAPERBOY. 🙂

  48. ‘kids’ not ‘kinds.’ I am the master of the typo.

  49. Being a librarian, I must pedantically point out that most years the number of Caldecott Honors has been 3 or 4. It is rare for it to be 1, 2 or 5, and has never (I think) been as high as 6. So it’s really not at all shocking that the Committee only picked 3 Honors.

  50. sdl—-

    My own original contention was that is WAS shocking this year because I had believed it was one of the greatest years ever for picture books. From what I researched your observations are completely correct, as from 1990 onwards the average of Honor books is 3.2. I had stated last week that they did give 6 one year but I was wrong. Since 1990 they have only given 5 out on two occasions, the last of course being last year.

    I am hoping that the ALA at some point might embrace the idea of aggressively delving out more Honors – in the spirit of what AMPAS did by adding more Best Picture nods- but there is a lot to be said too for only giving the awards to the ones they perceive as being truly excellent. Both ways have their positive aspects of course.

  51. Elizabeth Law says:

    First, I’m happy to find so many P.S. Be Eleven fans on this thread! It comforts me to know so many people know how good it is–we’re a small sampling, so I hope the book has the wide, devoted fan base it deserves. And as to Sam’s point about “aggressing delving (I think you mean doling?) out more honors,” I think that would be terrible and take away from the award’s prestige, impact and excitement, which it still has in spite of all its flaws. And we’d still be unhappy about what got left out, just like we are with the longer ALA Notable list every year.

  52. Yes Elizabeth I meant doling and delving came out. I am both a typo master and one who needs to re-read before hitting the post button. What I meant in calling for more Honors was basically giving five (5) honors each year. As there are hundreds of books in the running each year, I don’t feel there would be any kind of a watered-down level of excitement, and as far as prestige I feel it would be enhanced by a wider range. It is not at all unreasonable to cite 6 books each year, as as this year has proven, the public really has no knowledge of what is happening and to accurate predict is near-impossible. Ha! I found that out myself this year the hard way.

  53. KT: the last thing I would ever want you to do is bang your head against the wall. Don’t even think about it.

    I was out all day so I need to catch up on this discussion tomorrow.

  54. Elizabeth Law says:

    The prestige would NOT be enhanced by a wider range/greater number of honor books, the fact that the number differs from year to year implies that each year only the very worthy make it–which is what makes the award prestigious. And there’s no guarantee that Mr Tiger would have made it if there were one more slot this year. The Oscars have more Best Picture nominees now and it’s much less interesting–the nominated films benefit commercially but it certainly doesn’t burnish the reputation of the Oscars to have more finalists.

  55. That’s a fair enough contention Elizabeth, and you are far from the only one who feels that way. But while I do see some advantages to keeping up that tradition -and you broached them here- I still see a bigger pot as advantageous in that it brings more attention and affection to a bigger group of books. As to the prestige of the awards, I do not myself believe that a few more honor books will impact them negatively. I always favor a more liberal approach. But I do not say I am right to think this way, just that it is the way I do size it up. But your position is fair enough.

  56. Mike Jung says:

    It’s interesting to see comments asserting that the committees made selections that were definitively wrong. We are talking about art, after all, and art is infinitely subjective. To assert that any of the committees in question could make choices that are inarguably wrong is to assert that every one of us experiences these books with the exact same intellectual proclivities, emotional capacities, life experiences, and momentary states of mind. But we don’t. We can’t.

  57. And true there was no guarantee that MR. TIGER would have made it if there were even two more Honors. But two more honors would have almost certainly brought some wonderful recognition to (2) of these:

    Nino Wrestles the World
    The Matchbox Diary
    The Mighty Lalouche
    On A Bean of Light
    Stardines Across the Sky
    Unicorn Think’s He’s Pretty Great

    Any combination of those two (or a few others) would have made me a happy camper, though I maintain that it is primarily MR. TIGER who is most ubiquitous by his absence. But the awards are not conducted to make me a happy camper. I understand that. Some other years I was very happy with the results.

  58. Mike, I am not sure who are talking about here, but if it is me, I assure you that I never on this thread made the assertion that the committees were WRONG. Never. Basically I rallied around two points:

    1.) I felt that this was a great year in picture books, and that two more Honors were justified.
    2.) I felt and still do that MR. TIGER GOES WILD deserved to be among the honors (or the golds medal recipient) for its artistic excellence and wide appeal. The lead up to the announcements all seemed to point to a showing for the Tiger at the party.

    Art is indeed subjective. Absolutely. That is precisely the point I was making in defending some of my positions. Going through the last 20 years I agreed with the committees choices more times than I didn’t. The process is a painstaking one, but it doesn’t guarantee convergence on what one regards as art. And that’s fair enough.

  59. “There is no such thing as a best book.” If I could get that embroidered on a sampler and posted as a banner in every venue where books are discussed, I would. Thank you Leda!

    The picture book is an art form, and while the awards may be fun, and draw attention to our industry, and celebrate our practitioners (all of which is good), it is still faintly ludicrous to talk about “the best” book of the year. Do we do that for sculpture, for painting? For architecture? Actually, maybe we do that for architecture, I don’t pay much attention to architecture.

    I wish that getting a sticker didn’t have such real-world value (sales, I’m talking about). I think the money imbues the awards with an artificial gravity, when the real value is in discussions like this one and segments on NPR.

  60. Roberta Rivera says:

    I agree with you, Mike.

  61. Roberta Rivera says:

    You’re right on the money, Elizabeth. Excellent points.



  62. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    Check out Calling Caldecott for this amazing response from 2014 Caldecott committee member Judy Freeman:

  63. Roberta Rivera says:

    I’m thrilled she responded. Thank you, Judy Freeman, 2014 Caldecott committee member! 🙂

  64. The nuances in each illustration passes the untrained eyes of most non-art people, like yourself, and the committee must try to understand it and see if that marriage of words and pictures together.

    Incidentally Roberta, as I see you are coming back here to express full agreement with every person I have respectfully and humbly addressed, I wanted to address one point you made in your first post. I have written many reviews on art exhibits and exhibitions in Manhattan, including some of the most acclaimed events. I have taken a number of art classes and do well understand the matter of fusion of words and pictures. I don’t need to physically pick up a brush to understand that. I have immersed myself in NYC culture for decades and have written extensively on opera (including set design) and classical concerts at the NY Philharmonic and New York City Opera, and have held season tickets to the Met for 13 years. Add to that I have taught in high school and for the past 22 years in an elementary school, where I have specialized in reading and selecting picture books. So yeah, I feel I do have the many years experience and background to render an opinion on art and picture books in a constructive manner, thank you very much.

    I was humble as pie in my responses to you here, so no need at all to look down your nose.

    BTW, I will be the first on line to buy your next picture book.

  65. Rose Dawson says:

    Sam Juliano, are you secretly Peter Brown??

  66. hahahahahahaha Rose!!! Love it!!!!!

    I wish I were Peter Brown in fact! He’s such a great artist and creative genius. I hope to meet him some day.

    But alas, no, I walk through life without a mask or pretense, confined to the role of observer and absorber. It’s fun and satisfying to be sure, but there are no bright lights and marquees, only the bleak realization that your five kids are now ready one after the other to attend college. Ha!

    Thanks for enabling me to dream my friend!

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  67. Roberta Rivera says:

    I haven’t agreed and posted as nearly enough as you have, Sam. Judy Freeman addressed and educated all of us us on the process, including you. I was hoping you learned something from her post.

    We’re all discussing books, the Caldecott award and you’ve hijacked the conversation. So most folks don’t agree with you, so what? No harm, no fowl. You’re in entitled to your opinion. I’m entitled to express mine. I’m allowed to do that.
    But what is the validation that you’re trying to seek? That you’re qualified in all matters of art, music and literature? That you think their should have been four or five honorees, too include Mr. Tiger? Don’t answer that, because we’re beating a dead horse. The answer is clearly in front of you and all of us, but you don’t see it.
    You have an opinion like everyone else, but you don’t have the right to hammer it down our throats.

    If you’re humble, than I’m Mother Theresa.

  68. Roberta Rivera says:

    I meant to write there instead of their. Brain working faster than my fingers.

  69. Right Roberta. I was as humble as pie to you and fair and respectful to boot. You seem to be the one who wants to duke this all out. In fact you are the only person on all these threads who continues to intimate that my failure to engage in art hands-on should somehow result in artistic disenfranchisement. What was I supposed to “learn” from Judy’s post that I didn’t already know before it went up? Everything Judy said I was well aware of, and if read my response to her it was glowing and largely in agreement. I specified that I was disappointed MR. TIGER did not get in and that strictly from a personal aesthetic I found it unacceptable. So what? Several others today chimed in (one a woman from Canada) who were either “underwhelmed” or disappointed. Am I not allowed to hold the torch for MR. TIGER?

    You are the one who questioned my qualifications to judge and I simply defended myself by citing a life dealing with art and cultural events. You were the one who brazenly stated that you are far more qualified to judge art. I agreed with you to be polite and humble, but it’s clear that I should not have conceded an inch to you. The truth is you are not more qualified remotely except in your own mind.

    I am not trying to shove anything down your throat or the throats of others. I have a passionate opinion, and I thought it fair game to express it within reason. I realized early on that Horn Book is dominated by ALA members and sympathizers, and that any statement remotely critical of the results would bring me grief. I am entitled to my opinion. After all that’s really all these awards mean in the first place: they are opinions whether individual or collective. Another poster here had mentioned to me that I should not attempt to challenge 15 people with my sole opinion, as this was pure arrogance on my part. Yet it’s OK that 15 opinions should be seen as more dominant over 100 or so book critics, because these awards are more “prestigious.”

    The process in determining the awards is a spirited one. And people like the effervescent Judy are a real credit to the ALA. Even when she mentioned my name she was not rude or condescending. Can you make the same claim? In any event, these awards like any awards do not determine the “best” books of the year, but books that built consensus and survived compromised with a specific group. In the end it is the individual him or herself who will ultimately determine what great art is. The awards are fun, and the people who participate in them are impassioned and sincere, but even under those maximum conditions, the result or any result always comes down to the old adage “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

    You ask me what “validation” I am trying to seek, and then you shoot off four or five possible answers. You accuse me of repetition and trying to force my opinion down your throat, yet you are not sure what the answer is.

    Here is my big crime to humanity Roberta. I lamented only three Caldecott Honors in a picture book-rich year. That is my crime.

  70. Going back to your first post, which was in response to me saying all nice things under your post celebrating the win of LOCOMOTIVE, you stated “That’s why you are not on the Caldecott committee.” The reason I am not on the Caldecott committee is twofold: 1.) I never made application or intent to be on the committee and 2.) the profession I perused was not one that could be parlayed into such a sideline.

    Then later on that same post you said this:

    “Regardless, of your many posts arguing the committees mistakes, your passion for books, especially Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and you’re educational background as a teacher, you fall short to understand what goes into a picture book. Behind the scenes in putting together a picture is monumental. The nuances in each illustration passes the untrained eyes of most non-art people, like yourself, and the committee must try to understand it and see if that marriage of words and pictures together. Even for wordless picture books, the story must be married perfectly with the illustrations.”

    So, basically you are saying that my ravishing regard for MR. TIGER GOES WILD is suspect as I possess “untrained eyes” as a “non-art person” (I wonder how many exhibitions and galleries you’ve been to, or how many reviews you have written of paintings and exhibits as I have?) and is thus unqualified to praise the miraculous unity of prose to illustrations. Right then and there you attempted Roberta to set aside my opinion as invalid. Right from the start in your interaction with me you were mighty disingenuous.

    I never once questioned the choice of Brian Floca’s LOCOMOTIVE for the Caldecott Medal. Never once did I intimate it was wrong or incompetent. I adore that book! Whether or not it was the absolute best book of the year, well again, that is debatable. But it is very great, and choosing it was just as effective as if they would have chosen MR. TIGER, JOURNEY or a host of others. I have my own Top 20 books of 2013, and all four named by the Caldecott committee are on that list.

  71. Enrique S. says:

    Hi. I was alerted to this discussion yesterday by one of my colleagues, and I thought I add my two cents for whatever the worth. I have worked in the Rockland County, New York library system for a long time and would like to think I have some knowledge and appreciation for children’s lit. I must say that unlike Sam Juliano and the ALA members who posted I am not much for awards. The Newbery and Caldecott awards have monetary value, but beyond that the winners for the average reader of books aren’t remembered within a few years after they are awarded. Besides, I’d say I agree with the choices maybe half the time. They are like all the other awards, no better, no worse. They have been long maligned by the all-white mind-set and far too many Latino and African-American books have been “relegated” to the lesser awards from the same organization. This diminishes their relevance and overall appeal.

    I’d like to address a statement made by the illustrator Roberta Rivera in one of the above comments. Basically she takes Mr. Juliano to task for evaluating children’s books and the art in those books. She says his eyes are untrained and demotes him as a “book enthusiastic.” She feels she is in some lofty position to judge art because she illustrated a few books. I have yet to see these books in the libraries I have worked in, but that’s neither here nor there.

    The point I am making is this: Is Ms. Rivera aware that the vast majority of the Caldecott committee members who chose this year’s winners have never illustrated a single children’s book? If you go back a number of years you will find the same statistics. Caldecott (and Newbery) committee members are by and large librarians with some of these as former teachers. Most of them have no experience whatsoever in illustration. So based on these facts I would conclude then that by inference Ms. Rivera is saying that the 15 member panel that just rendered their decision (the same panel she praised vociferously) were unqualified to do so.

    I found this lengthy discussion most entertaining. Definitely a delightful way to spend a Sunday aftertoon before the Super Bowl. I admire Mr. Juliano’s passion, breath of knowledge and sense of humor. The latter quality I especially appreciated in this uptight environment.

    My own favorite book this year was “Nino Wrestles the World.” I am not surprised that it failed to win one of the Caldecott citations.

    Have a nice day and enjoy the game.

  72. I am not sure whether this comment should have been placed here or at the new post of Judy’s reflections, but I will do it in both places at the risk of being overbearing. But I know I have crossed that line already, and I do apologize for that. This video from my 17 year old daughter Melanie has me discussing the history of the awards, personal favorites and the implications and urgings centering around this year’s Caldecott announcements by the ALA. At the very least I’m sure anyone who does check it out will at least be modestly amused.

  73. Geraldine Ryan-Lush says:

    Whew! I browsed through some of this thread. What struck me was the sometimes shockingly immature behaviour of the commentators/contributors who are purported to be “experts” in the field of that most impressionable of humans, the children under our care. I have been a classroom teacher, critic , columnist and author/poet for twenty-five years. Children cannot grow into readers who appreciate literature and thus embrace the life that it is bred from, if, first of all, they are unable to read! The most famous Newbery award winners in history are books based on real life, and kids love to see themselves in books. Once are “kickstarted” by this element of identity, they can’t be stopped. They fall in love with the process. They are hooked. The fantastical and imaginative fail to interest, if the child is blind to the printed word. As for appreciating and being a creditable critic of art in children’s books, I agree with Sam’s observation that one doesn’t have to draw or paint to know the appeal of art, and be capable of constructive criticism. I can hardly draw a straight line, and am certainly no artist, but I can identify the artistic, in a photo on Facebook, or a noted work in an art gallery. Simply put, I “have the eye.” And that’s all it takes. A good eye. I reviewed hundreds of books for newspapers and literary journals, and sat on committees judging children’s books for selection in libraries. I trusted “my eye for the artistic” and it never let me down. You people are getting mired and bogged down in over-analysis. Another of Sam’s terms struck a chord: elitist. I remember using that very word in debates with bureaucracies in the children’s literature field years ago. Please don’t let the honourable and prestigious Horn Book, School Library Journal, Caldecott, Newbery degenerate into over-analysis and the petty squabblings of a schoolyard mentality. And yes, more honorees, more honorable mentions. there are just way too many really GOOD books out there!

  74. Geraldine Ryan-Lush says:

    Incidentally, I hold a B.A. (Education) with a major in English Language/Literature. Minor in children’s literature. My books are: Jeremy Jeckles Hates Freckles, Hairs On Bears; Poils Poils Et Repoils; Malcolm The Klutz: Malcolm And The Hamster Lady; No Go Potty; Hannigan’s Hand; Once When I Wasn’t Looking (Poetry); The Colour Of Letters (Novel) I live in Newfoundland, Canada, to my utter reluctance, and by dint only of necessity, since the U.S, is where it’s at for authors!

  75. Wonderful and sobering posts here Elizabeth! I have already been taking notes on your fabulous children’s book output, most of which I will soon secure to read to my classes! POIS ET REPOILS caught my attention immediately, and I will be ordering a copy on amazon today! Newfoundland is a great place to live! We may all travel by car up to Prince Edward Island over the coming year.

  76. Did I call you “Elizabeth”, Geraldine? Ugh. I need to screw my head on tight today!

    Sorry about that!

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