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Mock Caldecott DIY

We  got a good question on another post that I think deserves its own space. Here it is:

Comment from s.j. on “Are you in mourning?“:

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 …

So how about it? Would you all be willing to share your process with all of us blog readers? I would guess timing, preparation, and book selection are key. And if you work with kids, tell us what ages/grades, and how much information you present to the group, whether you simplify anything, etc.


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. I did a very basic (not too in-depth deliberation– more just a browse-the-books-and-pick-your-top-three) Mock Caldecott the other night as a public library program for families– I said “ideally the families of students in 1st-4th grade,” but it was a whole-family program with parents participating and at least one younger sibling voting. It happened to be snowing, so we only got 8 people total– of the actual elementary kids, two second-graders and a 3rd grader. We went over the Caldecott criteria briefly at the beginning, translating it into simple language, and everyone browsed the books and did art projects with techniques of previous Caldecott winners.

    I picked the books by looking at the discussion list from this blog, several other discussion lists, and the list on Goodreads, and pulling all the titles our library actually HAS. That was a reasonable number to browse through in an evening– about ten. I know it’s quite likely that a book we DIDN’T have may win on Monday, but we haven’t got the budget to buy extra books just in CASE one might win.

    If you wondered, SWIRL BY SWIRL won by a landslide among our 8 voters. I’m not sure if everyone was biased because one of our art activities just happened to be scratch-art, though!

  2. rockinlibrarian, that sounds like a fun program. I may do something similar next year-thank you for sharing!

  3. Kathy Lauterbach says:

    I did mock Caldecott’s with grade 3 and grade 4 during my library classes. I selected the books based on what titles kept coming up on Potential Caldecott winner blogs. We used about 14 to 16 books published in 2011. We reviewed a short powerpoint of criteria for receiving a Caldecott with book covers from past winners that I thought fit each criteria point. I divided students into pairs or threesomes and had them review two books and come to consensus on one of the two as their favorite. If a team couldn’t agree ( which happened in only one case) I let both kids present their book to our circle. Once the pair had picked their favorite they post-a-noted three illustrations and we gathered in a circle to present the nominees. Students showed their three illustrations and explained why they thought it was an award winner.
    Then we voted with each student being allowed to vote for two books.
    I was amazed at their insights into the illustrations and how they could talk about the artistic merit of the book.
    In one class the book Blackout by John Rocco was the winner and Grandpa Green the Honor book.
    In the other class Grandpa Green was the winner and Joe Lewis by Kadir Nelson the Honor book.
    We will be excited to see what happens tomorrow.

  4. I did a mock Caldecott this year with my kindergarten class. Ai actually used the list posted on this blog and we read about one book a day for a period of two weeks. Prior to the readings, we talked about how a book wins the Caldecott and we read A Sick Day for Amos McGee and talked about possible reasons that it won last year. During our two week reading period, we kept a running list on chart paper where we wrote likes and dislikes concerning each book. I also had all the books out for the kids to “read” on their own in our class library and during free time. On Friday, we voted and selected two honors books; Grandpa Green and Me…Jane; and one winner, A Ball for Daisy. Pretty spot on huh? We have off school today but I can’t wait to go in tomorrow and tell them that they picked the winner!

  5. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Meghan, that is just uncanny! Congrats to your class and to you for your good taste. If you do this again next year, be sure to let us know if you pick the winners. You could become the New Hampshire primary of mock Caldecotts.

  6. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I love the idea of creating art in the style of the illustrations. I believe I will add this to my Mock Caldecott next year.

  7. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Wow. I bet people are going to want to know your secret!

  8. I have done a number of mock committees over the years. (usually corresponding to a committee I am serving on)
    The procedure is the same for any of the committee, more or less:

    1. Start way earlier than you think you need to.
    2. Go over the criteria. Make sure you REALLY understand what it all means and restate it in words that make sense to the age you work with.
    3. Take time to read and discuss some previous award winners with the vocabulary of the criteria. This is the time to point out some of the parts of the book that kids sometimes miss: gutter, end papers, panels, full-page spread, media, etc. Make sure you have chosen illustrators who use watercolor, oils or acrylics, chalk, collage, etc and employ a variety of styles from loose to highly detailed, abstract to realistic. My little guys strongly prefer realism, so I need to talk about abstract, gestural, and other non-realistic art. Talk about computer generated art. It’s easy to miss this step, but I think it really allows the readers to see that lots of different styles have been honored.
    4. Gather some books from the current year that you either really like or are getting a little buzz. Look at starred reviews and best-of lists if you need some direction. I am a teacher, so I always see what our librarians are ordering.
    5. With a mock Geisel, I have the kids read the books on their own at first since I want to see if the books really work for new readers.
    For all other committees, I read the books aloud and lead a general discussion of what we appreciate about the book. We then talk about our questions and concerns in a general way.
    6. After reading 10-15 books, I let them linger in a basket in my classroom for a few days to see which books are chosen during Independent Reading time. I decide which books will become part of our discussion–usually 10 or 12.
    7. After this waiting period, I pair or triple (is that a verb?) children up to look at the books more closely with a partner. There is some note taking, so I make sure that one of the members of the group is a fast writer. They have paper handy and I usually ask them to look at very specific things as they read the book together. Often, I have a handout for them to fill out (as a group) about each book they look at. The questions vary from year to year, but I leave a space for Title, Illustrator and author, Media used, favorite spread. I ask them to rate the book from 1-5. Then, there is a place for questions. (I no longer ask for concerns because second graders just love to tear a book to pieces and all that does is ruin the book. Older kids can surely handle it better.)
    8. When done, they hand me the sheet and evaluate another book until most of the groups have looked closely at most of the books.
    9. The next day, we sit in a circle and talk about the book one at a time. I see who loved which book and I assign each group a book to present to the class. They take 5 minutes to pull themselves together and then, one group at a time, we lead a CCBC style discussion ( on each book.
    10. Then we vote with weighted votes. Secret ballots; public counting. (On the board so they can all see the effect of the third place votes.)
    11. Usually we have to do one more vote and then we name the winner and honor books.

    Phew. It’s really a lot easier to just go on and run the committee than try to talk about it!

  9. Wow, so many great suggestions so far, I am compliling a great list! Thank you so much for the responses, and thank you Lolly & Robin for giving my question a space! I am a school librarian and see the kids just once a week, and I would want to give this real time and make it a real project. Now I am really looking forward to tackling this with a few classes next year, I think the kids will have a blast with it. Thanks again for all the guidance and tips!

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