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Horn Book reviews of Caldecott Medal winners, 1950-1959


LEO POLITI, Author-Illustrator    
Song of the Swallows

The swallows always appeared at the old Mission of Capistrano on St. Joseph’s Day and Juan who lived nearby wondered how they could tell that from all others. This tender poetic story of the coming of springtime is touched by the kindliness of the good Fathers of the Mission as a little boy knew it. Lovely pictures in soft colors bring out the charm of the southern California landscape and the melody of the swallow song adds to the feeling of spring.

reviewed in the May 1949 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


The Egg Tree by Katherine MilhousKATHERINE MILHOUS, Author-illustrator
The Egg Tree (Scribner)

Librarians and teachers will give a warm welcome to this new book for Easter with its decorative colored pictures and springtime gaiety. It celebrates the egg festival of the Pennsylvania Dutch so alluringly that the simple suggestions will be widely followed. The story tells about the day Katy and her brother hunted for the colored eggs with lovely designs, hidden by the Rabbit, and how Grandmom showed the children the way to make a tree to hang the eggs on. Katherine Milhous’ illustrations are some of her best.

reviewed in the March 1950 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


Finders Keepers by William LipkindWILLIAM LIPKIND
Finders Keepers (Harcourt)
Illustrated by Nicolas Mordvinoff

Here is a perfect combination of rollicking story and pictures that have strength, life and humor in every line. As vivid and gay as The Two Reds, it seems to me even better than that almost-Caldecott winner. The story which concerns the problem that confronted the two dogs, Nap and Winkle, when each claimed he had found the bone first, has the folk-tale quality not easy to find in modern stories. The pictures I cannot describe in words; all I can say is — get the book at your nearest library or bookstore as soon as possible!

reviewed in the September 1951 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


LYND WARD, Author-Illustrator
The Biggest Bear (Houghton)

This is one of my favorite books of the year. Mr. Ward has told a story full of action, suspense and humor, in the fewest possible words (not another word is needed and not one should be left out). Some of his best pictures supplement the story. It concerns young Johnny Orchard, who decided to shoot a bear so that his farm would not be the only one without a bearskin nailed to the barn. He found a bear, all right. But did he shoot him? That’s the exciting part of the story. An outstanding book in every way.

reviewed in the February 1953 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


LUDWIG BEMELMANS, Author-Illustrator
Madeline’s Rescue (Viking)

Never has Bemelmans done anything for children to equal in popularity his Madeline and this sequel will be heartily welcomed. The ” twelve little girls in two straight lines” are here again with Madeline very much the leading spirit of the school and Miss Clavel as concerned as ever for her young charges. The Rescue is accomplished by Genevieve, a dog who is immediately adopted as a ” pupil” of the school, and remains there until the awful day when the Trustees decide that “this creature of uncertain race” must go. The overwhelming sadness of the little girls changes to joy in a delightful surprise ending. Adults as well as children will enjoy the many wonderful pictures of Paris.

reviewed in the June 1953 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


Cinderella by Marcia BrownCHARLES PERRAULT
Cinderella (Scribner)
Freely translated from the French and illustrated by Marcia Brown

Once again Miss Brown has used her gifts as a storyteller and an artist to make a beautiful book from a well-loved tale — an excellent choice for a Christmas present for little girls, many of whom count “Cinderella” as their favorite story. These pictures are more delicate in line and coloring — and properly so — than her earlier ones for the adventures of the swashbuckling Puss-in- Boots, but both books have the French feeling that belongs with Perrault.

reviewed in the December 1954 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


Frog Went a-Courtin’ (Harcourt)
Illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky

This picture-book version of the old Scottish ballad is a blending from several sources. A familiar Southern Appalachian tune is given on the last page, following many verses, each with a large picture. Some children will recognize the ballad from story-hour listening or home or school singing, but to many it will be new. Mr. Rojaokovsky has drawn bustling, dancing, imaginatively defined figures of Frog, Miss Mousie, Uncle Rat and all the animals and insects, snake and poultry who attend the unique wedding feast. A beautifully made book with two-color and full-color pages. Distinguished.

reviewed in the April 1955 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


A Tree Is Nice by Janice May UdryJANICE MAY UDRY
A Tree Is Nice (Harper)
Illustrated by Marc Simont

A radiant and buoyant picture book whose succession of happy thoughts and double-spreads prove to the youngest that “trees are very nice…. They make everything beautiful.” The children playing, the cows resting, the people on picnics — all appreciate trees. Humorous details and lively action contribute to the conviction that there is much for everyone to enjoy. Striking use of color, especially in the autumn spread.

reviewed in the April 1956 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


ROBERT MCCLOSKEY, Author-Illustrator
Time of Wonder (Viking)

“Out on the islands that poke their rocky shores above the waters of Penobscot Bay, you can watch the time of the world go by, from minute to minute, hour to hour, from day to day, season to season.” So the author begins and then goes on in prose that has the quality of poetry and in beautiful full-color pictures to show children “the time of the world go by” on a Maine island, from a foggy morning in spring, through summer days, a hurricane, and the approach of fall. He has succeeded in transferring his love for the island to the printed page and as you listen to his words and look at his pictures you feel that every day and every season is a “time of wonder.” This is entirely different from any book he has done before, and he has made it a thing of great beauty.

reviewed in the December 1957 issue of The Horn Book Magazine


BARBARA COONEY, Editor-Illustrator
Chanticleer and the Fox (Crowell)

Adapted from the Robert M. Lumiansky translation of the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” in the Canterbury Tales of Geoffrey Chaucer. Barbara Cooney has done her most beautiful work for this five-color picture book and done it with thorough research. Her clean, flat colors and scratchboard drawing spread brilliantly over the pages, the country scenes filled with medieval details gleaned from study of old manuscripts. They make this one of the year’s outstanding picture books. The textual adaptation of the fable about the crowing cock and prattling fox, who flatter each other to their alternating gain and loss, uses colorful words and turns of speech. Chanticleer’s prettiest hen, Partlet, was “polite, discreet, debonair, and companionable”; Chanticleer’s comb was “redder than fine coral and turreted like a castle wall.”

reviewed in the December 1958 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

These reviews of 1950s Caldecott Medal–winning titles are part of our Caldecott at 75 celebration. Click here for more archival Horn Book material on Madeline’s Rescue.



  1. Many thanks for the great article, I was looking for specifics like this, going to look into the other articles.

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