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Caldecott post mortem

Or, as Roger Sutton said in his blog post today, “Tuesday-morning quarterbacking.”

Robin and I will each write one more post this week, then Roger will tie up the first Calling Caldecott season with a guest post.

Unlike Robin who went to the actual press conference at 7:45 a.m. Dallas time, I just had to get to work by 8:30 to access ALA’s URL for streaming video. By the time the last awards were being announced, we had all left our individual computers and rolled chairs up to Cindy Ritter’s. We’re an opinionated bunch and there were plenty of cheers, “Oh, wow!”s, and “what the…?!”s during the broadcast.

Elissa Gershowitz, Jennifer Brabander, Cindy Ritter, and Katie Bircher watching the 2012 awards

I was pretty sure the Caldecott winner and honor books would include a book or two that we failed to discuss here, so I’d need to go find it and weigh in on it. Not so! I guess we were in sync with this year’s committee, but it doesn’t always work that way. Even though there are no new books to discuss, I’m happy to go on record with my response to the winners.

I am overjoyed that A Ball for Daisy won. It was one of the books I mourned most when it failed to get on the second ballot during our mock vote. In my opinion, it’s a perfect book. But it seems so simple compared to a book like Grandpa Green or Me…Jane, so I wondered if it would be pushed out of the top spot and even out of honor book contention. I should have remembered that the real committee is in a different situation from the rest of us. Being on Caldecott becomes one of the most important things going on in their lives and they look at every book in great detail. Books that are subtle and less flashy have a better chance of succeeding with the committee than they do with one-day mock Caldecotts. Raschka’s style looks as if it comes so easily to him. All those quick brush strokes just happen to fall in the right place with the right amount of paint coming off the brush. I happen to know from spending some time with him many years ago (he did the 1998 Horn Book Magazine covers) that it’s no where near that simple. Congratulations to Chris on his second Caldecott Medal. (He won for The Hello, Goodbye Window in 2006 and got an Honor for Yo! Yes? in 1994.)

Of the Honor Books, I was happiest about Me…Jane and least surprised about Grandpa Green. Even though our mock chose Me…Jane as the winner, I wasn’t sure it had a chance with the committee because they might have been concerned about the photo at the end. Blackout has huge kid appeal and an impeccable sense of drama and timing, but it’s the only book on this list that The Horn Book Magazine passed up for reviewing. I would absolutely use it with kids and I plan to show it to my Ed School students next year, but I’m afraid I still don’t love the way Rocco draws people.

One thing I love about these awards is that the rest of world notices picture books for a day or two. (But what happened with the Today Show again? Did Jack and Chris go on later, swigging wine with Hoda and Kathie Lee? I need to know!)

When I started typing this post, my plan was to spend most of it on the dearth of women among Caldecott honorees again this year. This has come up before, so in case you missed the discussion on Read Roger in 2007, here it is.

Is this gender gap notable or just anecdotal? If it’s notable, why do you think it happens?


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. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    There’s a conversation going on about this over on Facebook where I posted about this post. I’ll try to paste it here.

    Anita Riggio (43 minutes ago)
    Given the fact that women overwhelmingly outnumber men in the children’s book industry (I’m including editors and librarians, too), the ratio of women to men award-winners is particularly dismaying. Still, I have to admit that I chuckled when I saw the question posed; Men outnumbering women as award-winners is not news. Twenty years ago, I did a presentation at a national conference about this very disparity–and was told by my publisher (a man) that I had a chip on my shoulder…

    Lisa Abid (27 minutes ago)
    I don’t care who wrote what…I just enjoy good books.

    The Horn Book (4 minutes ago)
    (This is Lolly) Lisa, I suspect the committee is in the same boat. When I was on Caldecott, I was so focused on the books themselves that the gender of the book creator/s was the last thing on my mind. But it IS curious. It might be interesting to count how many male illustrators collaborated with a different writer vs. men who wrote the books they illustrated. There definitely seem to be more awards given to books created by one person rather than by separate author and illustrator. I don’t want to make assumptions based on gender, but I find myself wondering if women illustrators are more likely/willing to collaborate and give up a little of that control.

  2. Margaret Wilson says:

    Hi, Lolly and Robin,

    I hate to see these posts end. I have so enjoyed reading your initial posts and the many insightful comments. It has led me to new books and back to new books I might not have read as deeply as I should have the first time. Is there any chance you can keep this going with some updates on what is happening with picture books? I’d hate to have to wait until this time next year to find out what interests both of you and the many others who’ve been reading this blog! Thanks again!

  3. Susan Dailey says:

    Your questions about gender and illustrator vs. author/illustrator are interesting. I did a little research. Of the 48 times men have won the Caldecott, 31 also wrote the book. (This includes wordless books.) That’s 65%, if my math and information is correct. Books illustrated by women won 21 times with 11 of those being written by them for 52%. The other 6 winning books were illustrated by a team of illustrators. In this case, only the 2 books illustrated by the Dillons were written by others.

    So of the 75 Caldecott winning books, 46 were written by the illustrators, which also works out to 65%. Interestingly of the 285 books that were named honor books, 137 were written by the illustrators, which only works out to 48%. Does that mean that an illustrator who collaborates with an author is less likely to win the Caldecott? That might not be surprising since the book is completely their vision.

    FYI—In the past 20 years, 70% of the Caldecott winning books had an author/illustrator. Not sure how important this is–only interesting.

  4. Jan Curtis says:

    I’m with Margaret! Can’t you go on sharing your insights. HUh? Huh? Pretty please?

  5. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    We’re not being coy or ignoring your questions re: our sticking around for a while. Robin and I have discussed this possibility but need to let the people in charge make the decision.

  6. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    I’ll need to ponder Susan Dailey’s stats for a while. I suspect that Robin (who thinks math is more fun than I do) will work out what it means before I do, but it’s all interesting, whatever it means.

    What I ALSO wonder — and now challenge someone to find out — is how many men and how many women created solo picture books in the last calendar year. Also, how many man-man collaborations, man-woman collaborations, and woman-woman collaborations were there. If we’re going to ponder this, we should probably go with full information, i.e. every book published in a particular time frame rather than just the ones that got awards. One of my students this year did a little digging and said that awards were more likely to go to books created by one person rather than a team, which would also be interesting to prove or disprove.

    The best way I can think of to work this out would be to use the print version of Horn Book Guide since that’s where you can find an entire year’s worth of picture books listed with full author-illustrator info. Actually, you’d need to get both the spring and fall Guides to get a year’s worth. And don’t forget that while the Guide has a section for picture books, there are more eligible pbs in its various nonfiction sections. This task is not for the faint-hearted. It’s either for someone with time on his/her hands (does anyone these days?) or more likely someone who is avoiding doing something larger and needs a good procrastination project.

  7. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    WHAT? We’re NOT in charge? Lolly, I am in shock. Hee hee.

  8. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Calling Caldecott and Lolly and Robin will be back next fall (should they choose to accept the mission!), but I’m planning an expansion of that should allow them and you both plenty of opportunities to talk about picture books. Please let me know (here in the comments is fine) what you, webwise, might find most interesting and valuable.

  9. Thank you so much for this blog, which was great. Any other picture book blog of the Horn Book family would be wonderful. It could be as simple as a new (or old) title to discuss every week, for example.

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