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Top five picture books?

It’s time to weigh in with your top five picks for the 2016 Caldecott Medal!

Last week, 2015 Caldecott committee member Susan Kusel reminded us what it’s like to be on the Real Committee this time of year, as members submit their seven allowed nominations. And Robin wrote last year both about that nomination process and why, here, we ask for just five titles.

For your convenience, here are the eligible books Calling Caldecott has covered so far this fall:

  • Last Stop on Market Street
  • A Fine Dessert
  • Supertruck
  • The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
  • Float
  • Boats for Papa
  • Grasshopper and the Ants
  • Tricky Vic
  • My Bike
  • It’s Only Stanley
  • Gordon Parks
  • Wolfie the Bunny
  • My Pen
  • The Skunk
  • Meet the Dullards
  • The Night World
  • Water Is Water
  • I Yam a Donkey
  • Leo
  • Drum Dream Girl
  • Finding Winnie
  • Two Mice
  • Voice of Freedom
  • Drowned City
  • Lenny & Lucy
  • Big Bear little chair
  • The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House
  • Funny Bones
  • Flop to the Top!
  • Waiting
  • Wait
  • This Is My Home, This Is My School
  • The Whisper
  • Out of the Woods

…and here are the ones we still hope to discuss before the Midwinter conference:

  • The Nonsense Show
  • I Used to Be Afraid
  • When Sophie’s Feelings Are Hurt…
  • In a Village by the Sea
  • If You Plant a Seed

Of course, you are welcome to nominate a title not listed above; if you do, it would be great if you could provide some reasoned support 🙂 for it. Otherwise, titles alone will suffice.

OK, I’ll go first. Except … aaargh!! I can’t, CAN’T, choose just 5. In alphabetical order, my (totally-cheating-with-6) nominations are:


FINDING WINNIE (Sophie Blackall)

MY BIKE (Byron Barton)

TWO MICE (Sergio Ruzzier)


WAITING (Kevin Henkes)

Over to you. Hopefully you have more willpower than I do, and will be able to narrow it down … good luck!



Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Everywhere You Go by Pat Zietlow Miller and Eliza Wheeler. Because the story is touching and the artwork dreamy.

    MY PEN

  3. The Night World
    Lenny and Lucy
    Last Stop on Market Street
    Finding Winnie

  4. Last Stop on Market Street
    Drowned City
    Drum Dream Girl
    The Whisper

  5. Float
    In a Village by the Sea
    Lenny & Lucy
    My Pen

  6. Boats for Papa
    Tricky Vic
    Two Mice
    Voice of Freedom
    One Day, The End

  7. Also in ABC order:
    Bird + Diz
    Bird + Diz
    Bird + Diz
    Bird + Diz
    Bird + Diz


  8. 1 The Whisper
    2 Float
    3 My Pen
    4 Lenny & Lucy
    5 A Fine Dessert:

  9. Eric Carpenter says:

    Water is Water
    P.Zonka Lays an Egg (not sure why this one isn’t getting any buzz? It’s such a beautiful painted and effectively told picturebook) I’d love to hear what others who’ve read it think.
    My Pen
    Drowned City

  10. I just realized that Bird & Diz wasn’t on the big list, so I thought I’d add a quick note of support. The frieze, accordion format puts readers in the audience—thanks in part to the texture of the oil pastels (which also reinforce the smoky nightclub setting). The pacing is pitch perfect (no easy task for a book with borderless illustrations), as the “Tag, Bird—You’re it” comes at the moment when the book starts turning the other direction. The abstraction captures the essence of Gillespie and Parker’s “Salt Peanuts” performance, as lines and color reflect melody, dynamics, and even characters—with a brown background symbolizing the color of the musicians and contrasting colors (which work alone and then in tandem) representing each artist and his music. All in all, Young visually represents the auditory (and other senses too) in a way that is really special (or might I say…”individually distinct.”) ☺

  11. Chelsea SC says:

    Water Is Water
    Drum Dream Girl
    Lenny & Lucy
    The Night World

  12. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    There’s still a little stack of books waiting for me to spend more quality time, so this list may change. But for now, here are my 5:
    MY PEN

  13. In a Village by the Sea
    Wolfie the Bunny
    Boats for papa
    (Mesmerized – ineligible, I believe?)

    I must put in a word for Tomie dePaola’s LOOK AND BE GRATEFUL. I have been talking about this book all fall, I think. This book is an exquisite distillation of his art, focused to a perfect radiance of color and design. I hope it is not overlooked because Tomie has been so prolific and so beloved.

  15. I wish I could reply to Elisa’s comment to add my own support for Bird & Diz, which is a remarkable book. I’m a huge jazz fan, and while other picture book illustrators have attempted to give visual representation to the music, this is one of the few books that actually gets it right (Chris Raschka is the only illustrator who has gotten it right multiple times… but I digress.)

    So, other than Bird & Diz, the other four books listed above that I can give support to (in this particular forum) are Waiting, Lenny & Lucy, Drowned City, and Drum Dream Girl. But I could be swayed to vote for A Bear Ate Your Sandwich and/or Tricky Vic. Oh, and Funny Bones is amazing, too… and Night World! Too many good ones.

  16. Alia Shields says:

    Wolfe the Bunny
    If You Plant a Seed

  17. Susan Dailey says:

    Drum dream girl
    Lenny & Lucy
    Meet the Dullards
    Night world

  18. Martha V. Parravano Martha V. Parravano says:

    Sam, thank you for weighing in here, even though you are restricted by your committee’s rules from commenting on CSK Award eligible books. I know that if you could, you would have also voiced support for some (many?) of the picture books illustrated by African American artists 🙂

  19. Boats for Papa

  20. Last Stop on Market Street
    If You Plant a Seed
    Water is water

    and Thing Explainer.

  21. Yes, Martha! Good to see so many people voicing their support for the CSK-eligible ones that I cannot…

  22. 1. Drum Dream Girl
    2. Finding Winnie
    3. Tricky Vic
    4. Wait
    5. Home

  23. Tough – this is really tough!!! The 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders I read to in our special Caldecott program like books that are often very different than the ones I like. But, if there is a place to share, I’d love share their vote results first week in Jan after all the classes vote.
    Mine are:
    Waiting – does this need justification? Just so lovely, tender, and thoughtfully and carefully done.
    Water is Water – such gorgeous illustrations and a new take on the water cycle plus seasons.
    Drum Dream Girl – lush, rich illustrations that are captivating and really bring the story to life.
    It’s Only Stanley – clever, FUNNY, love the good use of 2 illustrations per page spread.
    My Pen – amazing, inspiring, brilliant in black and white.
    IF I were allowed 2 more I’d choose:
    The Skunk and A Fine Dessert
    I want to include Last Stop on Market Street, but I have a couple of problems that were discussed in the review, so I didn’t. But I’m still hoping!

  24. In no particular order:
    –Whose Shoe?–Ruzzier is my favorite living picturebook maker. I liked Two Mice but enjoyed Whose Shoe? more. Would be happy if either won.
    –Boats for Papa
    –It’s Only Stanley
    –Home–I heard about this picturebook on Debbie Reese’s website pretty early this year. I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it otherwise. It became one of the books my daughter requested the most at bedtime (second only to Niño Wrestles the World), and we’ve had a wonderful time noticing all the small details each time we read it. Despite the dismissal of this book by many adults in the kidlit community, I think it will stand the test of time with children much longer than most of what was published this year.
    –Fire Engine No.9–I heard about this picturebook on Sam Juliano’s site. The dynamic cover caught my eye immediately. Like Home, it quickly became a book my daughter requested every night. I’m always fascinated by static art that can convey speed and verve, and this book does it better than anything else I can recall this year.

  25. In order of favorites

    1. Finding Winnie (this is Blackall’s year – we’re all just living in it!) 🙂
    2. Leo, A Ghost Story (Robinson is loooooooong overdue for recognition)
    3. Boats for Papa
    4. Two Mice
    5. A Fine Dessert

    I’d love to see Drowned City get a nod, too!

  26. Drum Dream Girl
    Last Stop on Market Street
    A Bear Ate Your Sandwich

  27. 1. The Only Child (Guojing) – Gorgeous B/W wordless graphic-style picture book. So imaginative and emotional. A child on a quest through loneliness and happy endings.
    2. The King And The Sea (Janisch/Erlbruch) – Very innovative thought-provoking short vignettes (mini-stories) within a picture book. Illustrated by one of my favorite illustrators who can show emotion in a few minimalist strokes.
    3. The Whisper (Zagarenski) Gorgeous.
    4. Waiting (Henkes) – Magic.
    5. Last Stop On Market Street (De La Peña) – A perfect book in so many ways

  28. I have just come upon DROWNED CITY and I used in my class this morning to excellent effect. It would probably get into my Top 10, but right now I will just keep mentioning it as that rare instance where a graphic novel will win a Caldecott, as ONE FINE SUMMER did last year. Like Martha, I cannot restrict myself to five, but unlike Martha a half dozen won’t do it either. 🙂

    Here is my baker’s dozen in no particular order:

    Two Mice
    In A Village By the Sea
    The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House
    Yard Sale
    Special Delivery
    A Fine Dessert
    Juneteenth For Mazie
    Sweep Up the Sun
    Drum Dream Girl
    The Plan
    The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch

    Of course, if I was asked to do this tomorrow, some of those choices would fall, replaced by some of these: Rude Cakes, Finding Winnie, The Bear Ate My Sandwich, The Skunk, Wait, Flutter & Hum, Wolfie the Bunny, Tricky Vic, You Nest Here With Me, Last Stop on Market Street, Fire Engine Number 9, Daylight Starlight, Wildlife, Last Stop on Market Street, Ketzel the Cat Who Composed, Funny Bones, Big Bear Little Chair, Out of the Woods, How to Draw A Dragon, Grandpa in Blue with Red Hat, The Princess and the Pony, Boats For Papa, Oskar, It’s Only Stanley, The Whisper, Leo: A Ghost Story, Water is Water, Boats for Papa, If You Plant a Seed, There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed A Spider, Trapped, Beyond the Pond, Gordon Parks. Beep Beep Go to Sleep, P. Zonka Lays an Egg, Voice of Freedom, I Used to be Afraid

    OK, my response here is hoggish and strictly BLOWHARD. I know that. It is also rather obnoxious. However, I deliberately waited till many people responded with their own choices before diving in, since most of my choices have already been mentioned by others. Like everyone else here I am wildly enthusiastic and such cannot abide by rules. I know I must be more specific when i cast my ballot here in the Mock Caldecott vote.

    I will strive to get myself a copy of HOME ASAP, as I do love what I read there from Bradin. My apologies for the over-indulgence. Also I want very much to see Tomie dePaola’s book.

  29. The King and the Sea is indeed magnificent, but I don’t think it is American, unfortunately. I secured a copy and it is great for classroom use.

  30. Susan Dailey says:

    Sorry to tell you, but “Only Child” isn’t eligible. The good news–you should get to pick 2 more books since “The King and the Sea” isn’t eligible either as Sam Juliano mentioned above. 🙂

  31. Waiting
    In a Village by the Sea
    Fine Dessert
    And one I just read and loved but is a total longshot: The Song of Delphine by Kenneth Kraegel. I found this one to be beautiful and moving while being relatable for kids and showing diverse characters. The illustrations are tender and sweet, show an amazing amount of textural detail and are well suited to the tone of the story.

  32. In no particular order:

    Last Stop on Market Street
    Tricky Vic
    My Pen
    Lenny & Lucy
    Wolfie the Bunny

  33. Must secure a library loan copy of The Song of Delphine upon Charity’s recommendation.

    OK I did see HOME two months back and agree it is marvelous.

  34. A note here to Charity and whomever else is curious about her recommendation:

    I just now secured my copy of THE SONG OF DELPHINE by Kenneth Kraegel at my neighboring town’s library.

    This book is absolutely extraordinarily beautiful. What a find here! Thanks Charity!

  35. Typical, when I try to complete such lists, I always make a vital mistake.

    Carin Berger’s FINDING SPRING is essential and belongs on that best list. Ah well.

  36. Too bad about ONLY CHILD + THE KING AND THE SEA both being ineligible! Amazing books.

    To complete my five choices, I add these two:
    1. Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings (Burgess/DiGiacomo) – nonfiction PB that is profound and beautiful on a favorite poet of mine. I hope this choice is eligible!
    2. It’s Only Stanley (Agee) – So funny.

  37. Susan Hess says:

    Two Mice
    Finding Winnie
    A Fine Dessert
    Wolfe the Bunny

  38. How fun! My picks are:

    FLOAT (To WIN the Caldecott! Perfect)
    ASK ME (Gorgeous illustrations and story, can the Caldecott be awarded posthumously?)
    HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER (Shannon slays! Love everything about this book)
    IF YOU PLANT A SEED (Nelson is…amazing)
    LEONTYNE PRICE: VOICE OF A CENTURY (Colon is a master)

  39. Alia, like you I adore Colon and consider him a master. And I am ravished by LEONTYNE PRICE: VOICE OF A CENTURY. However the copyright is 2014. It came out in December of last year, so sadly it won’t be eligible. But I certainly am with you on that sublime work.

  40. Sam Juliano,

    Thanks for telling me! Totally missed that pub date. I think Colon is one of the best illustrators right now. My revised list:

    FLOAT (To WIN the Caldecott! Perfect)
    ASK ME (Gorgeous illustrations and story, can the Caldecott be awarded posthumously?)
    HIAWATHA AND THE PEACEMAKER (Shannon slays! Love everything about this book)
    IF YOU PLANT A SEED (Nelson is…amazing)
    FUNNY BONES (I love Tonatiuh’s style)

  41. 1. If you plant a seed
    2. Finding Winnie
    3. Water is water
    Those are my top 3

  42. Alia, my pleasure. I also love ASK ME, which is definitely eligible. Although the beloved Bernard Waber did pass away earlier this year at age 91, the book’s illustrator is Suzy Lee. She would be the Caldecott winner. I forgot about how beautiful that book is, and thank you for the reminder on your fabulous shortlist.

  43. More bad news, Alia and Sam J.: Suzy Lee is ineligible. I agree, though, Ask Me is lovely!

  44. Sam, you probably know a lot more than I do on this, but just in case it is an assumption I just read on Suzy Lee’s wikipedia entry that she is a naturalized American citizen, even though she was born in South Korea. If that information is accurate then she would be eligible.

  45. No kidding?! Good catch, Sam! (Are you listening, Caldecott committee?!?)

  46. Library Garden says:

    Boats for Papa
    A Fine Dessert
    In a Village By the Sea
    Toys Meet Snow
    Finding Winnie

    I could go on, but I have to limit myself!! Oh, how will they choose.

  47. 1. Drowned City—amazing, moving, stunning, poignant, beautiful, I could keep going! such a specific, perfect tone throughout
    2. Home (Carson Ellis)—a whole world of the ordinary and not-quite-so-ordinary, all quietly made extraordinary; a strong, unique voice
    3. Sidewalk Flowers (Sydney Smith)—I like the sense of movement and the way the color amidst the black and white creates its own storyline, as well as the tenderness and real feel of a child following her own little agenda in a big world even as she’s tugged along by an adult. Also, for example, check out the image of a group of people standing at a bus stop with just one woman’s dress in colored flowers, not only echoing the little girl’s quest, but of course she’s the person reading a book!
    4. The Whisper—maybe I just love the fox! A twisty tale, but in a light way; stylized often means static but not in Zagarenski’s hands
    5. The Night World—love Gerstein’s stuff; how many people can do so much with a little black and white?

  48. Kate, like you I absolutely adore SIDEWALK FLOWERS, and would think it were eligible it would end up among the winners, at least for an honor. Your deft analysis and appreciation tells it all.

    Sad to say, however, Sydney Smith, the illustrator, is Canadian, so this is a no-go for Caldecott recognition. Amazing how this book ended up on virtually every year-end list.

  49. Sam, no wonder no one is talking about it here! Thanks for letting me know. I’m glad you love it too.

  50. 1. The Skunk
    2. A Fine Dessert
    3. Last Stop on Market Street
    4. The Whisper
    5. It’s Only Stanley

  51. Waiting
    Wolfie The Bunny
    Yard Sale
    Boats For Papa

  52. Ah, Sam Juliano. Thanks for telling me that. I wrongly assumed Waber illustrated ASK ME as well. I really hope Suzy Lee is eligible! It’s such a gorgeous book.

  53. Drowned City
    Dream Drum Girl
    Funny Bones
    Lillian’s Right to Vote
    Gingerbread for Liberty

  54. Amy Kegley says:

    First choice is

    Night World then The Bear Ate Your Sandwich then The Skunk then Float then The Grasshopper and the Ants.

    Love The Turnip and I Used to Be Afraid and The Nonsense Show and The Whisper.

  55. Ruth Anne Champion says:

    1. Lenny & Lucy
    2. The Night World
    3. The Whisper
    4. Tricky Vic
    5. The Moon is going to Addy’s House

  56. Sorry to chime in so late. Here are 7 of my top choices that have not been mentioned, for the most part, by anyone, in case you haven’t seen these yet:
    Billy’s Booger (William Joyce)
    Crane Boy (Diana Cohn, illus. by Youme; Cinco Puntos Press)
    8: An Animal Alphabet (Elisha Cooper)
    Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings (Matthew Burgess)
    How to Swallow a Pig (Steve Jenkins)
    Toys Meet Snow (Emily Jenkins, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky)
    We Forgot Brock (Carter Goodrich)

  57. Katie Bircher Katie Bircher says:

    Some of these nominations almost look like poetry. Should we start composing top contender title haiku? 🙂

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