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We’re golden

2014 Calling Caldecott booksI think we’d all agree that last year was a remarkable year for picture books. And that last year was SO spectacular, SO impressive, that this year might have felt a little…flat. I’ve even caught myself feeling kind of bad for the current Caldecott committee — 2013 would be a tough act to follow.

But this week, here at The Horn Book, we finalized our Fanfare list, our choices for the best books of 2014, and it was really hard to narrow down the picture book choices. Narrow we did, though, and yet: of the 29 books on the list, fully 15 — more than half — are picture books, from story books to folklore to poetry to biography to science.

Also this week, I saw the Huffington Post’s Best Picture Books of 2014 list, which Minh Le prefaced thusly:

“After the last fantastic year in picture books, it was hard to imagine 2014 reaching the same heights. And indeed, my initial impression was that this year’s offerings fell short of 2013’s stellar crop. However, as I sifted and sorted through the piles of books to put this end-of-the-year post together, the list of quality books kept growing. By the end, I was as convinced as ever that we are living in a new golden age of picture books.”

Are we convinced? I am. True, this year has fewer picture books that just scream out for Caldecott recognition (although these do exist! “Fewer” doesn’t mean “none”). But there’s a remarkable breadth and depth this year, a host of quieter treasures that deserve appreciation and admiration.

So, yes, I’m convinced. And encouraged and pleased — on behalf of the field, on behalf of the art form that is the picture book, and on behalf of the kids who are the beneficiaries of all this wealth. And also on behalf of this year’s Caldecott committee, who will have no lack of great books on the table come Midwinter.

But what about you? How do you see this year’s crop of picture books versus last year’s?


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. Well, I must say Martha, I am in full agreement with the sentiments you glowingly express here. I too months back cam to the position that 2013 was impossible to match, but I dare say after more exhaustive investigation that 2014 has matched it. Completely. Thoroughly. And with remarkable diversity. 2014 may down the road be seen as the year of the sequel (QUEST, FLORA AND THE PENGUIN, BLIZZARD, FLASHLIGHT, GREEN IS A CHILE PEPPER and others) but the year can also be seen with some measure of accuracy as the year when some of our finest children’s book illustrators achieved multiple triumphs within the same calendar year. I am thinking especially of national treasure Wendell Minor (GALAPAGOS GEORGE, SEQUOIA, and EDWARD HOPPER PAINTS HIS WORLD), picture book illustrator extraordinaire Melissa Sweet (FIREFLY JULY, THE RIGHT WORD), the spectacularly-talented Christian Robinson (JOSEPHINE, GASTON and THE SMALLEST GIRL IN THE SECOND GRADE) and the extraordinary team of Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac -Ms. Lessac was born here and retains her American citizenship and Caldecott consideration – which produced THE MAYFLOWER and MIDNIGHT. 2014 is also a year where some of our most renowned artists followed up serious 2013 bids for Caldecott awards with new efforts of similar exceptional quality. Peter Brown, Brian Floca, Yuyi Morales, Sergio Ruzzier, Jonathan Bean and the aforementioned Ms. Sweet come immediately to mind.

    2014 is also the year when new artists came crashing in like waves. Evan Turk (with fabulous prose by Bethany Hegedus), Lori Nichols, Elizabeth Rose Stanton and a host of others were big hits in the classrooms and with book critics. The African-American and Hispanic authors and illustrators each had one of their most fabulous years ever, and Caldecott attention seems imminent. Great too seeing books like HUGO AND THE BEAR by Katy Beebe and S.D. Schindler and wonderful books like: Neighborhood Sharks; The Farmer and the Clown; Mama Built a Little Nest, The Hug Machine; As An Oak Tree Grows; The Baby Tree; The Pilot and the Little Prince and a Johnny Cash biography illustrated by A.G. Ford. But there are way too many to mention, and as it is I have gone as far as I want to go here.

    This is truly a Golden Age. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing, Martha. I like how you put it, “remarkable breadth and depth this year, a host of quieter treasures that deserve appreciation and admiration.” I couldn’t agree more. What a great time to be a fan of picture books!

  3. Kiera Parrott says:

    Who remembers this: Can you believe it’s been four years since the NY Times declared the picture book dead? DEAD! We scoffed back then, citing circulation and library storytime usage going through the roof. Now we can rightly laugh loudly in their face, waving our hands across the rich, sparkling, increasingly innovative and diverse offerings within the pages of new picture books. This year alone we have everything from chuckleworthy read alouds to picture-book biographies that shed light on little known figures to stunning illustrations that respect the increasing visual sophistication of children and pre-readers. I’d love to say “The picture book is back, baby!” But really, it’s been here all along, getting better and better. Cheers all around.

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