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The Schneider Report

I’m on the 2018 Caldecott Committee this year, and here’s what we like so far…

…Just kidding! I can’t do that. I can’t talk about committee work, or what titles have been suggested, or what books are gaining traction, etc. But I can talk about general things that most picture book people find interesting, much of which is in the Caldecott manual, available online.

As a committee member but also a children’s book reviewer for Kirkus, Horn Book, and BookPage, I can review picture books only for Kirkus, since their reviews are unsigned. For this year, I review novels for the other magazines. Giving away my opinions about picture books online would be too big of a hint at what I might be suggesting or nominating.

We (the members of the Caldecott committee) have received hundreds of books and have been making monthly suggestions to our chair, who compiles an ongoing spreadsheet. There is no limit on the number of suggestions, but I’m pretty parsimonious; there’s no sense in suggesting a title unlikely to be nominated. Suggested titles are the ones that merit attention by all of us.

Speaking of which, nominations begin very soon — early October. Suggestions continue, but nominations are where things get more serious. In October, we each make three nominations, backed by written support for each title’s merits, stating why a title is a work of distinction and worthy of discussion. So far, there has been no online discussion, just an accumulation of suggested titles — the books we each read as a common pool of good titles. Though suggestions are anonymous, we do see on the spreadsheet the numbers of suggestions each book is getting, so we get a sense of which titles are gaining support.

Nominations narrow the field, and nominated books are the ones discussed face-to-face when we meet in Denver for 20-plus hours of discussions. We each get two more nominations in October and two final ones in December. That adds up to seven nominations for each of us. With fifteen members on the committee, that could be 105 books to discuss. There will be overlap, so the actual number of nominated books might be more like 60 or so.

When nominations begin, I must nominate seven different titles, but I can nominate titles nominated by other committee members on previous ballots. This is how we see the support (“traction”) some titles are getting prior to our face-to-face deliberations. And this is what keeps the total number of nominations lower.

I have served on other committees, including the Newbery, and the voting process is fascinating. But maybe it’s better that I wait on that. If Jules reminds me, I can give a play-by-play directly from our secret underground chamber in Denver. No, I can’t do that either. But I can jump back in on Calling Caldecott and discuss the process and what can be so interesting about it.

Calling Caldecott is dear to my heart, since my wife, Robin Smith, was a co-founder of the blog. Calling Caldecott season was always so much fun, a wonderful parallel to our teaching and review-writing. When Robin passed away in June, I knew there was no better person than Julie Danielson to continue Robin’s work. I’m looking forward to following the blog…and keeping my mouth shut.

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About Dean Schneider

Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Comments

  1. So good to hear from you, Dean. I hope your committee is a great one–deep discussions, strong fellowship, and good snacks.

  2. Betty Tisel says:

    Dean, this is grand! Thanks for your good work on this committee.

  3. Best wishes to you and the committee Dean. Hard to imagine the decision making being entrusted to more passionate and insightful people. I’ll be watching for your commentary on the process when you are able to impart it.

  4. Best wishes to you and the committee Dean. Hard to imagine it being entrusted to more impassioned and insightful people. I will keep watch for your process commentary when you are able to impart it.

  5. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Thank you for your post, Dean. It is always SO interesting to read about the workings of the Committee, the nomination process, etc. And it feels special to ‘meet’ you also as the husband of our adored and admired Robin. Please accept my sincere condolences on her passing. I’m sure you know better than how beloved she is here at Calling Caldecott. Wishing you a wonderful experience on the Committee. Most Sincerely, Allison

  6. Dean, reading your post is so good for my soul. Further insight into the nomination process is fascinating. My students and I are going to begin reading our PPE 2018 Mock Caldecott books when we return from Fall Break. The anticipation has been growing and they are so excited! A new addition this year…when we read picture books like the Caldecott Committee we are being “Robin Readers”. Last week we reviewed the steps with previous titles and my new phrase is, “Now remember, Robin Readers always…(feel the cover of the book, check the gutter, notice the endpapers, etc.).

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