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The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

This is not my kind of picture book. The story is too wispy for me, the language occasionally too twee, and the premise . . . well, I just don’t buy it. But one of the things committee members must do for an award like the Caldecott (or even a mock Caldecott!) is put aside their own personal likes […]

Review of The Branch

The Branch by Mireille Messier; illus. by Pierre Pratt Primary    Kids Can    32 pp. 9/16    978-1-77138-564-0    $16.95 A little girl mourns when a large branch breaks off from her favorite tree during an ice storm: “That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship…” […]

Review of Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter

Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter by Eugenie Doyle; illus. by Becca Stadtlander Primary    Chronicle    32 pp. 8/16    978-1-4521-2901-3    $16.99 Here’s a unique look at the (considerable) work involved in putting a small farm to bed for the winter — covering strawberry plants with straw, cutting back and burning raspberry canes, chopping and […]

We Found a Hat

Whole masters theses will be written about Jon Klassen’s Hat trilogy, if they haven’t been already. Here, of course, we can look only at this one book, since the actual Caldecott committee is not allowed to consider an illustrator’s previous work in its deliberations. We Found a Hat is a morality play in which (this time!) friendship and goodness and life […]

Before Morning

To paraphrase Kevin Henkes in Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, sometimes all you can say is “wow.” That’s how I feel about Before Morning. Look at the intricacy and beauty of the scratchboard illustrations and the strength of the compositions. Notice how carefully the book is constructed. Spreads with text are full-bleed double-spreads; spreads without text feature single pages, […]

On “Who Can Tell My Story”

Last Thursday at a panel on diversity in children’s and YA publishing hosted by Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program, Kirkus editor Vicky Smith referenced the current #OwnVoices movement in support of books featuring diverse characters created by authors and illustrators from the same diverse group. For those in the audience unfamiliar with #OwnVoices, Vicky […]

The Airport Book

I suppose I should begin this post with the standard disclaimer about how this doesn’t look like a traditional Caldecott choice and blah blah and BLAH. But really, is there such a thing anymore? So I’ll just say, This book is brilliant and deserves Caldecott recognition. The fact that it manages to be, simultaneously, an informative report […]

Twenty Yawns

Having won a 2015 Caldecott honor for Nana in the City, Lauren Castillo will surely be on the Caldecott committee’s radar. This is a very different book in theme and even in palette, but once again she does here what she does best: keep the focus tightly on the child’s experience, and get it just right. […]

Emma and Julia Love Ballet

It’s always an interesting exercise to look closely at a book that isn’t a top favorite. Don’t get me wrong: I love this book; I just wasn’t thinking of it as a Caldecott contender. But Julie Danielson named it (here) as a book she’d like to see considered. And, in fact, the actual Caldecott committee will be […]

Welcome, new readers!

Four welcome books — two easy readers and two beginning chapter books — invite new readers in using humor and tried-and-true formats and structures. The Thank You Book is (sob!) the final entry in Mo Willems’s hugely popular series of easy readers featuring the free-spirited Piggie and her best friend, the reliable if sometimes officious […]