We are privileged today to hear directly from Rachel G. Payne, coordinator of early childhood services at Brooklyn Public Library and chair of the 2016 Randolph Caldecott Award Selection Committee! We’re so grateful and excited that she took the time and effort to reach out to all of us.
Without further ado, here’s Rachel
Sophie, Bryan, Christian, Ekua, and Kevin, they worked their magic on us…
What an experience! The members of the 2016 Randolph Caldecott Award Selection Committee are still basking in the glow of the award announcements earlier this week. There are no words to describe it. Instead, I will just sing the praises of the committee, which are not confidential, and I will shout them from any rooftop you put me on. They were passionate, hardworking, and playful. They were respectful, authentic, and smart. They truly listened to themselves and one another. I feel so honored to have worked with all of them. Remember the names of this committee: Lauren Anduri, Alan R. Bailey, Jill Bellomy, Sharon Deeds, Brian Fahey [not pictured], Laura A. Given, Celia W. Jackson, Elise R. Katz, Karen A. MacPherson, Nicole Powell, Tess Prendergast, Jennifer Ralston, Tessa Michaelson Schmidt, and Sarah Bean Thompson. You will undoubtedly see them again!
Part of the committee’s role, after the awards are announced, is to promote the award and the winner and honors. And what books we have to promote! While there is nothing we can say publicly about our process in selecting our winner and honors, we can now gush about these titles. Let’s take it from the top…
2016 Medal Winner
Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, written by Lindsay Mattick, published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Annotation from the press release: “Finding Winnie is an incredible account of the friendship and love shared between a soldier and the real bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh. Blackall beautifully interprets this multi-dimensional family story through her distinctive Chinese ink and watercolor art, capturing intimate and historical details perfect for a child’s eye.”
Need we say more? If you haven’t taken a look at this beautiful book, do. If you have read it, look again. Blackall has done a marvelous job of bringing a complicated story to life. The images and words pair beautifully together. Blackall interprets intimate moments — like those between a mother and son, a veterinarian/soldier and a real bear named Winnie, and Christopher Robin and his beloved Pooh — and grounds them in a family’s oral storytelling tradition against the sweeping arc of history. Whether Blackall uses double-page spreads, sepia-toned vignettes, or panels showing the passage of time, she keeps young readers hooked into the narrative. It’s masterful.
2016 Honor Books
Trombone Shorty, pictures by Bryan Collier, words by Troy Andrews, published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, an imprint of ABRAMS.
Annotation from the press release: “In this autobiography, Trombone Shorty reminisces about his early life in the jazz music scene of his beloved hometown of New Orleans. Through Collier’s paintings and collage illustrations, the story’s authentic, heartfelt tone is masterfully realized.”
Collier makes Trombone Shorty’s music visible. From the cover, the rich reds and brassy yellows blare off the page. Collage swirls entice young readers into Trombone Shorty’s world and his music. Collier doesn’t just illustrate the subjects of this book, he crowns them and makes manifest their inner dreams, hopes, passions, and struggles. And we not only hear the music through his art. We taste, smell, feel the sights and sounds of New Orleans. It’s pitch perfect (pun very much intended).
Waiting, illustrated and written by Kevin Henkes, published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Annotation from the press release: “Waiting delivers an intimate story of five figurines, each anticipating the wonder of everyday moments. Using rich brown lines and a soft pastel palette, Henkes invites young readers to slow down and explore a range of emotions in a world on a windowsill.”
How can you visually tell a story using only a two-foot (in my estimation) window as your stage? Somehow Henkes has done it. This book is deceptively simple. Every line, image, and word is in the right place. With a simple tilt of the head, tweak of mouth, or shift of an eye, Henkes changes the emotion of his characters. We feel their hopes, dreams, and anticipations. And the white space: it is so important. There is enough room in both the narrative and the art for children to find their way in and make it their own. The world has been waiting for this timeless book for a long time.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford, published by Candlewick Press.
Annotation from the press release: “In this biography in verse, Ekua Holmes’s illustrations provide children with an intensely visual encounter with Civil Rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer. The repetition of colors and motifs within the richly layered collage create complex images that capture Hamer’s power and bravery.”
I am so delighted that this debut illustrator, Ekua Holmes, was honored by the Society of Illustrators, won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, and was recognized with a Caldecott Honor. I have a feeling these accolades won’t be the last for Holmes. She is not only able to craft a visually compelling narrative out of Fannie Lou Hamer’s life, but we viscerally feel Hamer’s struggles, her highs and lows. The repeated motif — evocative of a sunburst, a sunflower, or even a stain glass window — hauntingly ties everything together. When I think of Fannie Lou Hamer, I will always remember this cover; and these iconic, indelible images won’t soon leave young readers’ minds, either.
Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson, written by Matt de la Peña, published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
Annotation from the press release: “Readers are transported, along with a young boy and his grandmother, on a journey through the city. Robinson’s illustrations, a colorful mix of acrylic paint and collage, feel both vintage and fresh. The diversity, vibrancy, and beauty of the urban setting are celebrated as CJ and Nana share meaningful moments together.”
“Vintage and fresh.” I love that line from the press release. And there is another perfect word: timeless. Robinson’s art looks like is has been around for years, and yet it is fresh out of the studio. How did he do it? His use of color is playful, his lines are graphically bold, and his characterizations are spot on. Even if we don’t meet some of the folks on the bus or in the soup kitchen through the text, we want to know them. We found that children love poring over these images. From seek-and-find endpapers, to evocative spot art, to dynamic double-page spreads, the imagery is both accessible and transcendent.
There you have it. The best of the best. It was icing on the cake that so many of our honors got double and triple award love and even a Newbery at the 2016 YMAs! What smart committees! (And no, none of us were talking to each other.)
I have kept away from the comments section of this blog this week, but I am sure there are books readers love that didn’t get any attention from our committee. That is going to happen every year. After serving twice on an award committee, I will never say that a committee “missed the mark.” I may not always understand a committee’s choices and may need to read and look again at the winners, but I always see something distinguished in books I myself might never have selected. Our mantra was “Trust the process.” I will continue to do that whether I am on a committee or not.
I know I may be preaching to the choir, but this next bit needs to be said … Do what the committee is doing and promote the books you love! Say why you think your pick should have won the award! As librarians, educators, parents, critics, publishing professionals, artists, and authors, it is our job to create, craft, produce, review, share, and promote the heck out of these books and then get them into the hands of the right children at the right time. These books will live, breathe, and find their place in the world because we continue to do this important work. I have seen kids cut seals out of yellow construction paper and stick them on their favorites, an unofficial Caldecott Committee of one. It was a magical experience for our committee to put gold and silver award seals on these books. Work some magic for the books you love.