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Honors and Medal and Voting, Oh My!

Picking honor books is one of the mysterious parts of the whole book committee experience. On the Caldecott committee, the manual is strangely quiet on the question of honor books.

After the winner is (finally, sometimes) chosen, ”The committee then addresses the question of whether to name honor books. The committee may name as many or as few as it chooses, or none, keeping in mind that the books should be truly distinguished, not merely general contenders. Honor books may only be chosen from among those that appeared on the final medal-winning ballot. When honor books are announced to the public, they are announced in alphabetical order, by author, so as to accord equal honor to all books.”

So, there you are in your little committee room, bathing in the happiness that you and your new best friends have chosen THE winner. You take a little break, pour a cup of tea and your chair takes a breath. “Now we will decide on honor books.”

There are a few possibilities for what might have led up to choosing the winner. The winner might have been almost unanimous, with one ballot doing the trick.  OR each member might have voted for a different first place book. The winner and  one other book could have been neck and neck, with the rest of the pack close behind or far behind. If that happens, all the first place votes probably went to the two main contenders and there are just scraps of votes left for any other title. See how sticky and tough it could get?

It can be daunting to gear up for another round of discussions when things are not crystal clear. Sometime it is perfectly clear.

And here is what we had on the Mock Caldecott here:

And Then It’s Spring 17 41 28 247
Baby Bear Sees Blue
13 16 24 148
Chloe and the Lion
32 17 23 225
Extra Yarn
61 44 38 452
Green 30 43 28 305
A Home for Bird
26 23 15 203
This Is Not My Hat
22 31 38 257
Unspoken 30 18 30 234
Z Is for Moose
36 28 36 300


So, you see our dilemma. Without the luxury of time to vote and talk and vote some more, we just had to decide–a lot of honor books (say six) or the very chintzy two that we went with. I am generous by nature and love a huge stack of  honor books. HOWEVER, I respect the process and have always supported these committees’ decisions. I just wish it always worked out to have a winner and 3-4 honor books.

If you look at the first place votes alone (and, to torture myself, I do), you will see that Extra Yarn would still be the winner, that Z is for Moose would be second and Chloe and the Lion and Unspoken would be next, with Green coming in fifth and A Home for Bird would be seventh. How much EASIER would it be if the first place votes lined up nicely with the total vote? A lot easier. I can just tell you what Lolly and I did. At 7:00 AM Pacific time, we talked it out. We both agreed that those second and third place votes count and that the total vote tally had natural cutoff points. The winner was clear. The next two titles were virtually tied, and the rest were 40-50 points behind in a tight blob. Case closed. Unlike the real committee, it is NOT a state secret. You can see the votes.

How would you, on your committee of one person, have decided?

Graph showing totalled tallies for all nine books

Graph showing total tallies for all nine books

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.



  1. And, Lolly, I must say you have outdone yourself on the colorful graph. It clears things up for me.
    Still hanging on for hope for my choices.

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