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Crunch time for the Committee is NOW

keep-calm-its-crunch-time-12This is the time of year where everyone feels stressed by looming deadlines. Families coming for the holidays, last-minute gift decisions, year-end reports, and of course, final preparations for the Caldecott committee meetings.

As a member of last year’s committee, I can tell you that December is a high-pressure month. The final round of nominations are due, which means one last soul-searching opportunity to determine which books deserve to be on the discussion table. Committee members may sift through piles and piles of books reviewing the top contenders. Or they may pore over notes, annotations, rating numbers, and spreadsheets seeking the most deserving candidates. Eventually everyone will make their final choices.

Then, the nominations actually have to be written. This is a long, intensive process of crafting careful essays that will only ever be seen by fourteen other pairs of eyes. The selected books are re-read so many times that committee members may think they know them better than their creators. Nominators attempt to brilliantly point out every important detail in the book and why it should be a contender.

Caldecott committee members also must read and re-read all of the nominations in preparation for the ALA Midwinter conference. Each of the committee’s 15 members writes 7 nominations, which means 105 essays to consider, analyze, and compare. Usually, there are fewer than 105 books actually under consideration, because some books receive multiple nominations.

It is also the time to take a really close look at the nominated books. All the nominated books will have been read and reread by this point, but December is a good time for multiple readings and deeper consideration. Research is also done into questionable elements that may be discussed during Midwinter. While all this happening, additional books with late publication dates continue to arrive that need to be reviewed for the first time.

Listservs, Facebook feeds, and blogs (like this one) start to fill with mock Caldecott results. Every review publication releases their Best of the Year lists around this time. Suddenly, it feels as though everyone is talking about the Caldecott. The pressure builds. The days keep getting shorter, and the amount of work keeps growing.

For any members of the current Caldecott committee reading this, don’t worry. There’s all the time in the world. You can do it. December will be over before you know it.

Then you can spend January worrying about the weather forecast and how it will affect your Midwinter travel plans. The most important thing in the world will suddenly become arriving on time to the committee meetings.

It will all work out, I promise.

Just hope it doesn’t snow.

Susan Kusel About Susan Kusel

Susan Kusel is the librarian at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Virginia, the children's book buyer and selector for [words] bookstore in Maplewood, New Jersey, and the owner of Dream On Books, a children's book consulting company.



  1. Jonathan Hunt says:

    “Just hope it doesn’t snow.”


    I was scheduled to present a seminar in Boston that was canceled because of the Snowpocalypse. If I remember correctly four of us were stressed about the storm. I ended up flying into Chicago from Albany. And then we had another blizzard in Chiocago.

  2. Susan Kusel says:

    Jonathan- I was hoping someone on last year’s committee would catch the joke!

    To explain my last line a little more fully- last year it DID snow, at exactly the wrong time, just as the 2015 Caldecott committee was headed on planes, trains and automobiles to the ALA Midwinter meeting in Chicago. Thankfully everyone made it to the committee meetings on time.

    And then there was a terrible blizzard during our committee meetings!

  3. This seems to me to be the best kind of stress, too many books to consider. My first grade is going through this right now and I am stressed but joyful.

  4. It all sounds so exciting, (and yes, busy).
    Thanks for explaining this part of the process to all of us with our own Mock Awards going on around the world. Over here in China, we have some stress involved in getting the books to us in time; anyone traveling to the USA for holidays is always expected to bring a slew of books back so that I am certain to have the winners here for the students to consider…It doesn’t always work out.
    It’s a short timeline this year with the winner announced only a week after we return from break.
    We love this time of year.
    Thanks for your contributions Susan.
    Barefoot Librarian

  5. Nicole Powell says:

    Oh, it’s going to snow! And remember, Midwinter is very early this year. We won’t have a minute to think in January before ringing in the new year and getting to Boston. 🙂

  6. Barbara Klipper says:

    Great essay, Susan, you really captured what last December was like for us. It is hard to believe it’s been a year since we were agonizing over our last nominations!
    For this year’s committee I’ll just add what everyone kept telling us, “trust the process”.

  7. Roger Kelly says:

    Thanks, Susan. This brings back many heartfelt memories from last year. I wish the 2016 Caldecott committee much success, surprise, and delight in their deliberations in January. You’re a team, but you won’t really feel like one until those 2 very long deliberation days–that’s when all the magic happens! Everything before that is preparation, hard work, and angst.

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