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Mocking the Caldecott

A number of you run Mock Caldecotts at your school, library, book club, car pool…wherever 15 or so are gathered in the name of picture books. I hope you will share your results right here in the comments. I think many of us would love to know HOW you conduct the reading, discussion, and voting.

Here is how I have hosted a Mock Caldecott Committee with my second graders.

I proRobin Smithbably don’t do anything much different from others who run Mock Caldecotts. We look at the criteria, show some books that seem to especially meet each criterion, then look at current books that appeal to me and to other reviewers. (I look at a lot of journals to find out what other people are loving.) I usually throw in a few which have not been as well reviewed, but that I think second graders would love. (This year it’s Big Mean Mike.)

I print off the criteria–the official ALSC language and a translation into second gradespeak. We talk criteria for a bit and I keep the discussion firmly linked to them. I read the Caldecott books from August to December in a casual, reading aloud way. I keep them in a basket which is labeled “Caldecott Possibilities.” By the time we get to December, there are too many to talk about, so either I choose about ten or they vote on ten. (When I started writing this blog, I used our list as the class’s list for the most part.)

Then, I read each book again, first with no words and then with text. They take notes as I read and then spend about five minutes taking further notes. Then we drag our chairs in a circle and talk about that book, following the CCBC book discussion guidelines. I usually present the book for less than 30 seconds just to start. We start with what we appreciate and then move on to concerns. I ask them to return to their notes and assign a 0-10 rating scale. Repeat with each book.

About halfway through, I randomly assign a child to be the chair of the committee and another to present the book to the group. Some years I have them prepare in advance for this job, usually I just take them by surprise. They never ever disappoint.

On the Wednesday or Thursday before the announcements, we vote. We follow the procedures set out by ALSC and vote until we have a winner and 2-5 honor books. It is very very important to count the votes one at a time, on the board. Counting is when they start to realize the power of the second and third place votes. (first gets 4, second gets 3 and third gets 2) They add up.

I will post my class’s results in the comments.

We want to hear yours. I especially want to hear about the emotional responses your committee had to the procedure and results.


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. We have had a wonderful time talking about what books the Caldecott Committee might be discussing this year. I’ve run a Mock Caldecott unit with our 2nd graders, and it’s been a fantastic opportunity to have them really delve into their thinking about how pictures add to a story.

    Calling Caldecott has been a wonderful resource for me, as I’ve searched for books to include in this unit. Thank you so much for your thoughtful posts.

    Here are the roundups I did, sharing my student’s thoughts:

  2. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    Oh, no! Something happened to all the great comments we had here. If you can, please come back and tell us again about your Mocks.

  3. Robin Smith says:

    I am going to try to cut and paste the missing comments from my e-mail here, in separate comments that will (most unfortunately) look like they are coming from me. Please add yours if I have missed yours.

  4. Robin Smith says:

    From Susan Dailey:

    On Friday, January 18th, 26 school and public librarians attended an all-day Mock Caldecott workshop at the Carmel Clay Public Library in Indiana with the following results:

    Unspoken illustrated and written by Henry Cole

    I Have a Dream illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Step Gently Out illustrated by Rick Lieder, written by Helen Frost
    This Is Not my Hat illustrated and written by Jon Klassen

    We start with approximately 100 titles that are compiled from book reviews, this blog and other sources. Many of our attendees are from small organizations and this is their opportunity to examine books. The day starts with a short presentation about criteria, etc. People have the morning to examine books and then vote for their top 10 books in no particular order. Over the lunch hour we tally the votes and cut the list to approximately 30 books. The afternoon begins with another short presentation (whatever topic I think is interesting that year. I’ve discussed Randolph Caldecott, other awards given by ALSC, the history of the picture book, etc.) People then have a short period of time to look at books again before casting their second ballet. This time they need to vote for their top 5 in preferential order. We weight this ballot and come up with 5-6 finalists. The people split into small groups which look at each finalist. After that we meet as a whole group to discuss the finalists and then people vote for their top 3 books in preferential order. These ballots are tallied on a white board and we declare a winner and decide upon honors. It is a wonderful day!

  5. Robin Smith says:

    From Adam:
    My third grade class just completed our mock Caldecott today. Our process is pretty straightforward, through this blog (and with some help from my fantastic colleague Robin), I choose an 8-12 book shortlist for us to examine comprised of books that I feel are different from one another and also represent books that stand a good chance of being recognized. This year I whittled it down to eleven books. After that the students are given the requirements and we discuss what it means to be distinguished. From there students work in partners dissecting and taking notes on each of the books. After all the books have been viewed we start the voting process. First, I go through all the books and ask students to raise their hand if they think that book could be the most distinguished book. As long as one hand goes up the book stays. After that we go through each book one at a time to debate its merits. Why is it the best? Why should it not win? This is where some really interesting points are made. Finally, we head to a secret vote, which I live tally on the board so they can visualize the results. We then continue by eliminating books with low totals and revoting until the winner and honor books are clear (usually this happens after three rounds but today we only needed two).

    In the end our results were:

    Winner: Green
    Honor: Z is for Moose
    Honor: Step Gently Out

    I think in the end the cut aways helped push Green above the rest. They would go back to this book over and over again flipping back and forth to see how seamlessly a moth on one page was something entirely different on another (they must have looked at the “Jungle Green” page a hundred times). Also, while Green won, Z is for Moose had a lot of support as well. This was mainly after students noticed that the things pictured on the ball and cat during the dedication pages were hidden in the background on their respective letter pages later on in the story. I think this helped them notice the small details and appreciate this book further. Details is a word they used a great deal in their discussions and I think it is what led them to their final conclusions. All in all it was a lot of fun and we look forward to hearing the actual results soon.

  6. Robin Smith says:

    From Mary Ann Scheuer

    We have had a wonderful time talking about what books the Caldecott Committee might be discussing this year. I’ve run a Mock Caldecott unit with our 2nd graders, and it’s been a fantastic opportunity to have them really delve into their thinking about how pictures add to a story.

    Calling Caldecott has been a wonderful resource for me, as I’ve searched for books to include in this unit. Thank you so much for your thoughtful posts.

    Here are the roundups I did, sharing my student’s thoughts:

  7. Robin Smith says:

    From Cheryl

    In Rhode Island, 16 school librarians and public librarians gathered for our mock Caldecott on January 16th. I put together a list of nominees (many of them from the titles discussed here, and other books with excellent reviews) and posted the list on our agency’s website. Librarians have about a month to review the books independently. When we gather for our mock Caldecott, the first 30 minutes are spent looking over the books, which gives people the chance to review books they may not have been able to get at their libraries.

    I asked for volunteers to present books (ahead of the meeting), and about approximately half of our books were claimed. The presenters shared what they appreciated and their concerns. We used the Whole Book Approach as our model, starting with the book orientation, jacket, cover, title page, artistic medium etc. Then, others around the table chimed in with their comments/concerns. After the presentation and discussion, we voted whether or not to keep the book on our final voting list.

    When we were done with the presentations (I briefly presented the books w/o champions), we had 8 books on our final voting list: Extra Yarn, Z is for Moose, Little Dog Lost, Unspoken, Oh, No!, This is Not My Hat, Bear Has a Story to Tell, and Baby Bear Sees Blue.

    On our 2nd ballot, we had our winners:

    Winner: Bear Has a Story to Tell
    Honors: Z is for Moose and This is Not My Hat

    (I was personally rooting for Little Dog Lost, which I came to truly appreciate while preparing my presentation for it … I first looked at it when it came up for discussion here, so thank you for bringing this book to my attention!).

    To see all of the books we considered:

    Thank you for all of your work putting Calling Caldecott together. It’s been great fun following along all Fall.

  8. Robin Smith says:

    From Misti:

    We did a Mock Caldecott at my library — this was our second year of doing one, and we’ve done it the same way both years. We schedule it as a two-hour program. Beforehand, those of us who are running the program look at lots of eligible books and narrow it down to 15 titles. At the beginning of the program, I do a brief introduction about what the Caldecott is, criteria, etc. Then we briefly introduce each book. Then, the bulk of the program is spent letting participants look over all of the books on our ballot, and once they’ve done that, we vote. This year, our results were:

    Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole

    Honor books:
    Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff
    Bear Has a Story to Tell by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead
    One Special Day by Lola Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve

  9. Robin Smith says:

    Also, folks from the CCBC listserv are posting their Mock Caldecotts and I loved this list, which has just one of the books from our list on it (Green)

    The Indian Community School 3rd and 4th graders participated in a Mock Caldecott election. Our results were as follows:
    Mock Caldecott Medal-Magritte’s Marvelous Hat-written and illustrated by D.B. Johnson
    Mock Caldecott Honor-Last Laughs written by J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
    Mock Caldecott Honor-Green written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

    The students enjoyed the process, starting with 15 books and narrowing it down to 8.

  10. Over the past week we’ve been rereading all the caldecott books in preparation for today’s mock. We reread Green, The Quiet Place, One Cool Friend, Z is for Moose, Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Extra Yarn, This is Not My Hat, Hello, Hello, And Then it’s Spring, Baby Bear Sees Blue and Oh No!
    So instead of doing some the balloting and re-ballotting that I’ve always done for these mocksI figured I could turn it into a writing activity. Each of my first graders simply wrote about which book they think should win and why……About five minutes into writing one of my students asks “Wasn’t LET’S GO FOR A DRIVE a new book in 2012?” When I told them it was indeed published this year about half the class began furiously erasing their writing to start anew. I wasn’t surprised to find Let’s Go for a Drive the run away winner of my first grade class’s mock caldecott….I would love to have known what might have won instead had that student not reminded his classmates about one of the eligible piggie and elephant books. Anyway the rest of the results had second in voting was This is Not My Hat and third was Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs……(yes we have a serious Willems addiction and are not seeking treatment) with the remaining votes going to Oh No and Extra Yarn.

  11. Anyone who thinks we adults can sway the voting with kids is crazy! My students love to make their own choices!
    Eric, I have run Mock Geisels in the past and I BEG to try that with your first graders. It is an amazing experience to work with new readers on books for new readers. A first grade teacher at my school runs one and they always learn so much. For them to see what it takes to be a book for new readers is empowering.
    I love this story.

  12. Bill Wright says:

    My 3rd graders voted today for their Caldecott picks:

    MEDAL—Chloe and the Lion
    HONORS—Extra Yarn, Green, I Have a Dream, Ocean Sunlight, and Unspoken.

    Surprisingly, we were able to get a winner on the first ballot, but just…Chloe got the minimum 12 first place votes we needed on our 22-member committee. The Honors were a bit harder…since the mean old committee chairman (me) wouldn’t let more than 5 honor books, we finally ended up going back to the voting results to take This Is Not My Hat out…it was the only one of the six not to have gotten any first place votes!

    We start in mid-November with a journal entry answering the question of “What makes you go “wow” about a picture book?” The answers become a list that then introduces the idea of criteria. We then look at the real criteria, with the kids raising their hands for every word they don’t fully know the meaning of (quite a few…who wrote those things anyway?), and then we attack the dictionaries. Once we’ve found all the definitions, we can do a “translation” of the criteria.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been scouring the internet and my librarian friends to come up with a milk crate full of books…this year we started with 27! We talk a bit about how to look at a book for Caldecott, look at some previous medal and honor winners, and then start looking at the contenders. At first, the kids are fast and not very discerning, but after a bit of time and hearing some of the observations and questions that some of the more eagle eyed kids and I make, they slow down and really get into the process. At first, I have them make notes, but then around the middle of December, I say no more notes…just read and be familiar with as many of the books as possible.

    Right before the holiday vacation, I asked the kids for their list of five books that needed to be included in the discussions, any order. This first time having to make in-or-out choices was hard for some of the kids, and it was amazing for me to hear their thinking about their choices! Any books not getting at least 2 votes were struck from the list, so we ended up discussion 20 books.

    The discussions involve taking each book in turn and letting anyone who wants to speak either for or against it (or both) with me sometimes playing devil’s advocate, or asking them to clarify their thinking, or adding things I’ve noticed or have gleaned from discussions here and elsewhere online.

    Once we’re done with all the discussions, we vote! Over the years, we’ve chosen the same winner as the real committee twice, and had some real winners as honors and vice versa several times as well. Now we wait to see what Monday brings!

  13. Bill Wright says:

    Robin…what about your kids?? Did your results get eaten by the Angry Birds or internet zombies or whatever took out the first versions of the comments?

  14. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    I will be saving this fabulous explanation for my Mock Caldecott next year!
    Thanks for taking the time to share with all of us, Bill.

  15. Francesca Mellin says:

    My 3rd graders voted on Friday and I have a tie – first time ever – for first place between Z is for Moose and Green, so I quickly arranged for a run-off voting time on Monday morning. The other three books we examined were Extra Yarn (which came in third), Baby Bear Sees Blue, and And Then It’s Spring. We start in November, using kid-friendly language to understand the criteria. The students record their observations in a booklet and have an opportunity to recommend books to put forward for examination. After we have declared a winner, we have a “medal ceremony” to put a gold seal and a commemorative label inside the book.
    I’ve loved seeing all the other great ideas posted here; can’t wait to try some of them next year!

  16. Robin Smith Robin Smith says:

    Okay, I admit I had to erase my first answer, Bill, because my faulty memory failed me. Between teaching, trying to get stuff straight for the blog, saving the day by figuring out how to get my husband to Seattle in time for HIS committee meetings (He was diverted to Idaho Falls on Thursday!), I had not remembered my class’s vote correctly.

    One of them e-mailed me (thank you Phillip) with the right list.
    Phew. Thank goodness the 8 year old brains can help out my 50+ brain.

    WINNER: Z is for Moose
    Abe Lincoln’s Dream
    Chloe and the Lion
    Extra Yarn

  17. Lynn Van Auken says:

    I’m the librarian in a K – 8 school and conduct a Mock Caldecott with our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. I used to be able to include the 6th graders, too, until the schedule and teachers changed. :- ( And I just haven’t yet been able to convince the 7th & 8th grade LA teachers to carve some time into their curriculums for picture books in January, but I will never tire of sending the invitation!

    I introduce the award to our 3rd graders, and work on enhancing their understanding each subsequent year. One of the joys of this unit is to see how much studetnts’ appreciation for the award and picture book art grows through the years.

    This year, I had a collection of thirty 2012 picture books to consider. I don’t “weed” books from consideration because seeing the range of artwork helps kids understand the differences and clarify the difference between a favorite book or author and a book with distinguished artwork.

    I divide the classes and books into three groups, and each week for three weeks, my third and fourth graders read and evaluate one set of books using a 1 to 3 star rating scale. My 5th graders no longer come to regularly scheduled library classes, so their teacher scheduled them in for an hour in which they moved through all three sets. Not ideal – but better than nothing!

    After all the kids have seen and rated all the books, I simply tally the 3-Star ratings to determine our “School Winners.” It’s not much like the process for the actual award, but the kids get excited about the voting – “Can we announce our winners at Community Meeting?” – and with that many kids participating – around 125 – discussing a short list really isn’t feasible. Although, this year there was a short list clearly evident: of the 30 books in the collection, 15 books garnered the majority of the 3-star votes in all three grades.

    The run-away winner of our Mock Caldecott at the Oak Bluffs School this year was The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Joyce’s Man in the Moon was an Honor book last year, and the kids are standing by his artwork! (This will be the generation of children that grow up to award digital art as a matter-of-course, don’t you think?)

    The stand-alone 2nd place book is Green.

    And firmly holding third: Little Lost Tiger, by Jonathan London and Ilya Spirin.

    To conclude our unit, we read aloud both the school winners and the real winners and I create a display of all the library books by the winning artists. That way, we can appreciate not only this year’s books but the body of work by the honored artists.

  18. Our 2nd graders participate in a Mock Caldecott each year and while I can’t help but pick my own favorites, it is always so interesting to see the stories through their eyes. They often see things that I don’t see or interpret a book’s meaning in a way that had not previously occurred to me.

    The second graders made their individual selections on Friday and I used those choices to create a final top ten (we have been revising our top ten each week since the unit began). We then used this list to rank our top three this morning (before the announcement) and ended up with a medalist and three honors.

    Winner: A Home For Bird
    Honors: The Sandman, Big Mean Mike, and Island, A Story of the Galapagos

    All four classrooms had different winners which was so interesting to see the differences in the opinions and interests of the classes. A Home for Bird was my favorite all along and I tried hard not to swing any votes its direction, but I almost wonder if I read it aloud with more passion due to my love of the book! 🙂

    We watched the awards this morning and cheered for all of the winners. Luckily, we had read all 6 that were recognized and although none of our picks were chosen, we were thrilled with the outcome.

  19. I actually peefrr the top right, probably because it does look like a school book from the 1970s! It is intriguing, with all those different types of map. I like the other two but the picture of the man in the mac is a bit old-fashioned – it would be better if the person did not look so 1950s (putting even the 1970s textbook to shame!). Maybe it could even be a woman.I do think that all three are a bit “fussy”, though, I think they could come up with something a bit cleaner and more modern in design. But – they are all nice, I am just nitpicking.

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