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Are you in mourning?

Where's Walrus? R.I.P.Award committees, both real and mock, can give you extreme highs and lows. Just being on a real committee can be a high, and I remember walking on air for a few days after I learned that I’d been elected to the Caldecott committee. But there are lows as well, like when the stack of books to be read grows into a mountain of unopened packages and life isn’t giving you enough time to sit and read.

Later, there are more highs and lows. For me, the biggest highs came while making The Calls and when our awards were announced at the press conference.

But there’s nothing quite like the low when a favorite book is eliminated. You need a little time to mourn and to get over the temptation to convict your fellow committee members of bookicide.

Robin and I were talking about this recently and we think committee chairs must be trained to handle this, the way social workers are trained to help people through times of grief. Betsy Hearne, my Caldecott chair, was an expert. When the group had voted to remove a book from the table (at the beginning of deliberations) or the ballot (at the end), she held it up and said earnestly and regretfully, “This is a good book. But now we need to say good-bye to it.” Maybe those weren’t her exact words, but that was the effect. I think she might have stroked the spine, too, the way you stroke a beloved cat.

Grief is part of the award process. And — of course — the real committee might still give an award to your favorite book. There’s a huge difference between this vast group of blog commenters and lurkers and a scant fifteen people who have read and considered every book published that year AND spent hours face-to-face in a small room discussing and discussing and eating snacks and discussing some more. We tend to think that all the mock Caldecotts we’ve been hearing about give us some hint at the Committee’s decision, but there are no guarantees.

So now I’d like to open this therapy session to the whole group. Are you mourning? Would you like to share?


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. Kelly Murphy should win the Caldecott for her stunningly gorgeous pencil illustrations in Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck. The page size being only 5.5″ x 8.25″, which is standard for middle-readers, does not, however, show off the artwork in the same way as a picture book format would.

  2. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Every time I move Orani on my shelf, I have to hug it. I love it so. And, of course there is Neville. (sniff)

    Last year, when I was on the real committee, there was one book that lasted a long time, but never had the support it needed–every vote (until the end) kept it on the ballot, but it was always the book that just squeaked on. When it finally was eliminated, I felt an intense personal loss, like I had let the book down. On another committee, I thought a book had plenty of support to win an honor…and it did not. I had (as always) volunteered to count the votes. As I was counting, I realized this book was not going to have a silver sticker on it. I still can’t look at it without noticing that empty spot where I JUST KNEW that sticker would live.

  3. While I’m not exactly mourning, I am sorry A BALL FOR DAISY didn’t make it to the end — I’m a Raschka fan, I admit, but I think this may be my favorite of any of his books to date.

  4. I love A Ball for Daisy. I think the fifteen folks in the room will love it too. The child in my class who championed it noticed things that no one else did–the emotion of the dog, changes in color, how the gutter helped tell the story. The rest got all hung up on the couch and it’s flatness on some pages and more depth on other pages. Second graders (at least these second graders) are very literal and get stuck on minutiae. The child who championed it is an amazing artist and sees the world differently. I have revisited Daisy more than any other book and I voted for it in the first round.
    I hold out hope.

  5. I am not in mourning yet, but I am preparing to mourn. We will see when the announcement is made on Monday. I absolutely love “Brother Sun, Sister Moon”, which I believe is the most amazingly beautiful book I have seen in many years, yet it was not chosen at the Mock Caldecott that I attended. I am hoping it will win the golden ticket, but I am realistic about it’s chances. Still a beautiful book. I am afraid I will be mourning again like I did when “The Curious Garden” by Peter Brown came away empty when I thought it would definitely be selected for at least an honor.

  6. For those who did mock Caldecotts with students, I would love some more information and tips on doing one for next year! I have some mixed-grade classes (1, 2, & 3) and I think this might be a great project to do with them.

    Especially: How do you pick the books for their consideration? How many? Ideally at least one of the winner/honors would be in the pile we were using — it would be sort of a buzz kill for the kids if the winner/honors were ones that we weren’t even looking at!
    Discussions or activities — book-specific or not, also generally relating to Caldecott and the art of illustration.
    Any other tips …

  7. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    S.J., that’s a great question and one that deserves its own post. I’m going to start one now and use your question in it, if that’s okay!

    On second thought, Robin posted something this afternoon so I’ll wait and post the Mock Caldecott DIY question tomorrow.

  8. Amanda F. says:

    I attended a mock caldecott today, and was slightly heartbroken when Blue Chicken was eliminated after our first ballot. Between the use of color and the sense of perspective I am completely charmed by these illustrations. I’m still holding out hope that it might be a surprise honor book on Monday.

  9. Sam Bloom says:

    I still mourn for a few of the books that didn’t make the cut on my committee last year. So Robin, I know how you feel when you see the spot where the sticker SHOULD be! Thanks to the BGHB and YALSA Nonfiction, one of my babies is now covered in stickers!

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