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WWRD?

A big hello to the Calling Caldecott community from here in middle Tennessee! I’ve been reading this blog since its inception in 2011. Since conversations about picture books and illustration aren’t regular occurrences with your so-called average person on the street, I’m always happy to find those places where picture books are discussed and appreciated as the unique art form they are. And this blog is one of those places, a site where, as I always say, you can learn a great deal from even the comments section of a post.

Robin was not only a friend of mine, but she was also someone I looked up to — as I wrote about here in a tribute to her right after her death. I’ve been writing about picture books and illustration at my own site, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast (that’s “7-Imp,” if you’re in a hurry), for over a decade now and have, over the years, also started writing for various publications. And that mantra I wrote about in my tribute — WWRD? or, What Would Robin Do? — often guides me. She was passionate about picture books and wrote so fluidly and coherently about what makes a good one good. I was always watching and learning from Robin.

Before her death, she asked me about succeeding her at Calling Caldecott. It’s a bittersweet thing for me, because I do love this blog, but I wish Robin were still here to share her wisdom and enthusiasm. I’m going to give it my all — with my own love for picture books guiding me.

I think that picture books are, hands down, the most exciting and innovative art form there is, and I’m always surprised that those average people on the street aren’t talking about them. Can’t they see that some of the art world’s most talented illustrators are making children’s books? Can’t they understand the immense talent it takes to write a good picture book, what with each word carrying such weight, as it does in poetry? I love to see art and text come together, playing nicely and working with each other to tell an outstanding story. It’s that seamlessness of word and illustration, which Sendak so often spoke of, that makes picture books so exciting. Oh, and let’s not forget design. Over the years, Calling Caldecott has had many great discussions about picture book design.

I teach a picture book graduate course as a lecturer for the University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences. (It’s my alma mater; I’m a school librarian by training, though I make my living now writing about children’s literature.) I always tell my students that, when the term is over, they will have read a total of 300 picture books. That’s the huge assignment, the one that carries the most weight. Instead of having students write extensive papers on, say, Where the Wild Things Are, I structure the course so that they can completely immerse themselves in picture books and read as many as possible in one term. What better way to learn about picture books than to read a whole heapin’ ton of them? And, knock on wood, in three years of teaching this course no one has ever complained about the assignment. Instead, they report coming away from it with a newfound joy — and a deeper appreciation of the complexities of the picture book form.

All of that is to say: See? Once you fall into the world of picture books, you fall in love — and there’s no return. What’s that iconic line from the movie Jerry Maguire? “You had me at hello.” With picture books, it’s, “You had me at the dust jacket.”

Calling Caldecott follows a no-nonsense formula that works: that is, the kick-off in the fall; asking readers what books they’d like to see discussed; and, finally, book discussion, title by title. I’ve enjoyed the posts that take a break from specific books and look at other topics (such as “Ineligible Internationals”). And, most of all, I’ve appreciated that Robin, Martha, and Lolly invite guest posters, other folks who love and understand picture books, to contribute to the discussions. Robin used to call it “passing the microphone around,” and she believed that the addition of new voices to the conversation kept things fresh. This is something we want to do again this year.

We are also committed to bringing in diverse voices, which I know was also a top priority for Robin. We need “people who do not look like me,” she would say.

So, What Would Robin Do? Since she always wrote so economically (I appreciated her shorter, to-the-point posts), I’ll stop now. As she used to say here at the site:

For those of you who are new to us, welcome.

For those returning, welcome back.

 

Julie Danielson About Julie Danielson

Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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Comments

  1. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Hi Jules! So happy you’ll be writing and contributing here! Excellent post. Looking forward to the list.

  2. Angela Frederick says:

    I’m ready!

  3. Jennifer Robinson says:

    Jules,
    Robin would be so proud that someone as passionate about children’s books should carry on her legacy. Thank you for honoring her so explicitly in your inaugural post.
    I look forward to hearing your voice in the conversation. Welcome, indeed!
    Jennifer

  4. So good to hear from you Jules! You will honor Robin well. Let’s get to it!
    Dianna

  5. Thanks, you all!

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