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Daisy Gets Lost (but hopefully not by the Caldecott committee)

Is it just me, or are there are an unusually large number of wordless/nearly wordless picture books worthy of Caldecott consideration this year? So far we’ve discussed Bluebird, Inside Outside, and Flora and the Flamingo. Upcoming contenders include Aaron Becker’s Journey, Jerry Pinkney’s Tortoise and the Hare, and David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles!. So many, in fact, that we’ll be continuing “Wordless Week” into next week.

Today we’re looking at Chris Raschka’s Daisy Gets Lost, a companion book to A Ball for Daisy, winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal.

Here (again) are some relevant Caldecott criteria—

a) Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
b) Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
c) Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
d) Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
e) Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

—all of which Daisy Gets Lost meets and, I would claim, exceeds.

Let’s take it from the top: the title page, which contains a few brushstrokes in a severely limited palette that, looked at one way, is an abstract grouping of blobs and wavy lines and, looked at again, is a vivid portrait of a little lost dog. Look at the eyebrows, the head turned to look both behind him and out at the audience, the ear cocked for any sign of the familiar. Abandonment, worry, unhappy realization, bereft-ness—all that is telegraphed on the title page. And throughout the book Raschka’s gestural art conveys emotion and motion, mood and action, superbly.

The story here is simple—Daisy chases a squirrel and gets lost, stays lost for a tense (but not too tense) time, and is joyfully reunited with her owner. It’s a situation that will resonate with young children, and Raschka creates an authentic and essential emotional experience for them. In fact, this book is particularly strong in its “excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience” (criterion E). Here are just a few ways:

  • I’ve mentioned the limited palette…but note how Raschka uses the red of Daisy’s tongue: it’s a tell for “caught up in the chase.” When Daisy is happily bounding along chasing the squirrel, she sticks out her tongue in concentration; as soon as she realizes she’s alone in unfamiliar territory, the tongue disappears, helping the child audience make the transition in mood.
  • Note how we see Daisy completely alone and lost on only one spread; on the next, even though Daisy herself doesn’t know it, the young audience is reassured that her owner is not that far away.
  • Any sappiness or adult sensibility in the denouement is sidestepped by the final picture in which Daisy’s owner is still celebrating their reunion while Daisy herself (the child stand-in) is eyeing that saucy little squirrel again. Clearly Daisy is ready for the next adventure.

As noted, Daisy Gets Lost is a companion book to a previous recent Caldecott winner. What are its chances this year? I sure “find” it distinguished.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.



  1. Anonymous says:

    The criteria includes:
    3.“Distinguished” is defined as:
    a.Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
    b.Marked by excellence in quality.
    c.Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
    d.Individually distinct.

    And it’s d. that makes me ask what makes this distinct from the other Daisy titles? Does it matter?

  2. Anon –
    In terms of the Caldecott criteria, it does not have to be distinct from the other Daisy titles. As a committee, you are only allowed to compare the book to other books published in the current year, and not take into account AT ALL the illustrator’s previous works.
    Now, I’m not saying that’s easy to do. I know, if I was in that room, that in the back of my mind I would be thinking, “this looks JUST LIKE A Ball For Daisy.” But, that can not factor into the decision making. It’s what has allowed people with a consistent style (Jerry Pinkney, Chris Rashka, etc.) to be awarded multiple Caldecott Awards and Honors.
    tl;dr – as long as it’s distinct from all of the other books published in the same year, that’s all that matters!

    With that being said, and I may be kicked out of the club for this, but I can NOT for the life of me, find Rashka’s illustrations “distinguished.” Obviously it’s just me, because numerous other Caldecott committees have found him worthy of the Award and Honors, and I don’t begrudge them that at all (I’ve been in the room, I know how much you can learn in 48 hours). But I have had people try for YEAR to help me understand the appeal to his illustrations, and I just can’t get it.

    Like I said, it’s obviously just me, but I’ve tried over and over to “get it,” and I just don’t! 🙂


  3. I think Raschka is a pretty polarizing artist, and while he isn’t my personal favorite, I appreciate his creativity and his ridiculous ability to work with mood (look at the spread in Ball for Daisy where Daisy is coming to terms with her ball being broken… amazing). And yes, it’s possible that his general style hasn’t changed too much – those thick brush strokes, amazing use of color and tone – but his books vary greatly. I love Mysterious Thelonious and Yo! Yes?, but to me he is a complete genius because of Charlie Parker Played Bebop… not just the illustrations themselves, which are awesome (and probably the least abstract of all of his books, except for the weird marching thingies) but the fact that he wrote the text to the beat of A Night in Tunisia. Check out the audiobook, it’s amazing.

    Sorry… that was the biggest tangent ever! I have the book at home, so I’ll take a look tonight and then write something that hopefully adds to the conversation instead of derailing it (unlike this comment)

  4. It’s not just you Kevin. I find him the most overrated illustrator out there and for me, BOTH his Caldecott wins are bogus. His first for the THE HELLO GOODBYE WINDOW should have gone to Jon Muth for the magnificent ZEN SHORTS. Even worse was A BALL FOR DAISY (my first graders were bored and restless during the book, and it’s wordless) which won over afar greater choice, the extraordinarily beautiful GRANDPA GREEN by Lane Smith. I am a lifelong collector of Caldecott Medal winners and a veteran teacher with five kids of my own, and I find Raschka a complete mystery. It’s unfair that he should have two medal wins at this time. His one great book remains YO YES! The DAISY sequel should not be even considered for any kind of medal or award.

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