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What if they were eligible?

Press HereIn rounding up what we think are the best picture books of the year and discussing them through a Caldecott committee lens, it can be easy to assume that we are looking for the best picture books of the year, period. But we’re not really, because the Medal can’t go to an illustrator who isn’t resident in the U.S. or to a book that was published outside the U.S.

But we’re NOT the Caldecott committee, so I’d like to take the opportunity to discuss two books the committee won’t be allowed to mention but that might have a chance if not for, as Gilbert & Sullivan would say, an accident of birth.

One of the most talked-about books this year is Hervé Tullet’s Press Here, called Un Livre (“a book”) in the French original and in most other translations. I’d like to assume everyone has seen this already, but in case you haven’t, this is an excerpt from my review:

…here is an interactive book that gives the iPad a licking, and does it without fancy graphics, tabs, or flaps. Tullet’s modestly proportioned square book goes out of its way to appear low tech with a handwritten all-caps typeface and art so simple it can barely be called art…Speaking directly to the reader, the first spread (“Ready?”) shows a filled-in circle about one inch in diameter apparently drawn quickly with a yellow marker. On the next spread, the same yellow dot appears unchanged while the text reads, “Press here and turn the page.”

Can you guess what happens on the third spread? There are two yellow dots. This is the anti-app, magically showing what a page turn can do — provided the reader suspends disbelief and keeps on pressing, tilting, blowing, and clapping as the text prompts. Simple and brilliant. But here’s my What If question: would such a basic visual treatment put this book out of the running for the Caldecott? I hope not. This book had me falling in love all over again with the picture book form, and it’s kid-friendly to boot. (I’m kind of sorry to say that there actually IS an app of this book now, but it only seems to be available overseas.)

Along a Long RoadAnother book I think the committee would consider if they could is Along a Long Road by Frank Viva. This one didn’t get reviewed in the Horn Book Magazine, but it got some love from Leonard Marcus in his column for us and was also on the NY Times 10 Best Illustrated list.

This is a concept book (into, over, through; one, two, three) and also a horizontal journey book. Talk about retro, the art not only channels the best of Leonard Weisgard, it also uses an old-timey palette of flat black, brick red, and dusty blue — plus one long line of shiny mustard yellow road. Everything about this book strikes me as the kind of thing the committee would go nuts over. It begins and ends on the endpapers, the brief text allows the art to do all the heavy lifting, and — coolest of all — if you were to lay the pages end-to-end, the yellow line would form a seamless path. What’s not to love?

Before I sign off, I need to apologize for being a bad blogger. This undertaking turned out to be more time consuming that I had imagined, and the stress of two jobs in the fall (Horn Book and adjunct teaching) plus some health issues left me with very little energy to spare. My plan at the beginning was to get in at least two posts a week. Oops. If I’m lucky enough to be asked back next year, I promise to do better. In fact, I’m already making notes about  a promising batch of early 2012 contenders.

Also note that you will be hearing from both of us with more frequency from here on out. There are many more books to talk about before the awards are announced on January 23, and Robin and I have been cooking up plans to hold a mock vote with all of you. The tech people who deal with the Battle of Books site are working on a ballot system that should replicate the somewhat convoluted Caldecott voting system. Most Caldecott committees find that the results are inconclusive after the first ballot and sometimes even the second one. We want you to get an idea of how this works.

Now…over to you.

What did you think of these two ineligible books? Would they be contenders if things were different? Are there other books you wish were eligible this year?


Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.



  1. Ed Wolfer says:

    I would love it if Press Here was eligible. My 9 year-old loved this book, and it was the most exciting book of the year, as far as he is concerned. The illustrations are simple, but truly entertaining. Reminds me a lot of last year, when Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
    by Marilyn Singer would have been a great Caldecott book, if it were eligible. Same holds true for The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood, which was a great book, but unfortunately, not eligible. Oh well, there are still MANY great books to choose from this year, and I am still holding my breath in hopes that Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Paterson gets the love I feel it deserves.

  2. Martha P. says:

    …”can’t go to an illustrator who isn’t resident in the U.S…” — Is that really true? If the rules are like the Newbery’s, you can win if you are a US citizen but reside abroad. Witness Sharon Creech and (Newbery Honor medalist) Polly Horvath and I’m sure others…

  3. I wish Yukiko Kato’s In the Meadow, illustrated by Komako Sakai, were eligible.

  4. It’s identical to the Newbery.

    “The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.”

    Resident refers to non-American citizens who are residents.
    Later, it explains:
    “Resident” specifies that author has established and maintains a residence in the United States, U.S. territory, or U.S. commonwealth as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor.

  5. When I was on the committee, I suggested books by illustrators who I figured were not eligible, in the off chance they had decided to buy a house in the states and stay a while.

  6. Me too. I love that book.

  7. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I still wonder how kids feel when they realize that touching the dots doesn’t do a damned thing. Maybe you could pull it into the Santa Talk: “Remember that book which promised the dots would change color if you touched them? And how you realized that the dots changed color even if you didn’t touch them? I know, honey, disillusioned is a big word, isn’t it? Well, let’s talk about that nice little note we just sent to the North Pole . . .”

  8. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Jennifer B. has a good story about this, but I want her to tell it instead of me. Jen, are you there?

  9. My son loves ‘Press Here’. I’m so glad you have written about it. He is 5 and had no problem stepping into his world of imagination and/or suspending reality to enjoy it.

  10. PS: Hope you are feeling better Lolly. And I’m looking forward to the mock vote.

  11. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I also wonder about Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul–I think a smart committee member could make a case for its being a picture book.

  12. Lolly, I’m here, just not all that proud of my daughter’s sarcastic attitude! She loved Press Here the first bunch of times she looked at it, but then I caught her reading it to herself in a hissy mood–deliberately not following the directions, and saying, in her smart-mouthy six-year-old way, look, it works even when I don’t do anything. She would have rolled her eyes, but she hasn’t quite mastered that yet–her attempt looks more like she’s watching a tennis match, followed by a “Did I roll my eyes that time? What about now? How do you do this anyway?” I still love Press Here, and I’m sure she would too, in a less punchy mood.

  13. I agree with you. I bet someone has written a careful nomination already. I bet it will be a hearty discussion, too.

  14. Ice by Aurthur Geisert. And also, Press Here, of course. What a year for French picture books.

  15. Sharon Mylrea says:

    Oh Roger….. I seem to remember you always being the one to trim the tree and sing
    …..fall on your knees…. I hope all is well, I had to check your choices for my great nephews
    Jack turning 5, Alex turning 3, and Henry turning 1. I was thinking of “Press Here”, “I want My Hat Back”, and “Naamah and the Ark at Night”. I also have two teenagers to buy for;
    Isabel (16) at Whitney Young and Paul (14) at Walter Payton. I’m thinking “Chime” or “The Scorpio Races” for her and “The Hunger Games Trilogy” for him. What do you think?
    Take care.

  16. Scorpio Races for everyone!!!! 😉

  17. Press Here looks like a fun book, but isn’t it similar to what James Marshall did in 1990 with Quick Turn the Page? I enjoyed that one more, probably because the characters captured my interest more than changes in geometric patterns.

    I’m holding out hope for Me … Jane. Hope the photo at the end will not interfere with its eligibility.

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  1. […] Wednesday afternoon, Hervé Tullet, author of Press Here (2011, Chronicle Books) and the new I Am Blop! (2013, Phaidon Press), gave a presentation here in […]

  2. […] Magazine or Guide, but we think they are worth noticing, especially for fans of Tullet’s 2011 Press Here. (The Guide doesn’t review toy books or board books, even though most of Tullet’s books […]

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