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Laying out the voting rules, 2016 edition


Okay, you know the drill. The Real Committee will meet in less than two weeks to make their final decisions. How in the world are they going to do it? I DON’T KNOW. We had a horrible time putting our ballot together, and we didn’t have hours of discussion and gallons of coffee to aid our thinking. The problem this year was getting the list down to size (and this wide-open year, we decided to err on the side of more rather than less). We always want to include everything and miss nothing. We do NOT want to be surprised on Monday, January 23rd. Holy Toledo! That’s just around the corner.

Here are the 24 titles the three of us have chosen to appear on our mock Caldecott ballot:

  1. The Airport Book by Lisa Brown
  2. Before Morning, illus. by Beth Krommes
  3. Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
  4. Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock
  5. Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins
  6. Freedom in Congo Square, illus. by R. Gregory Christie
  7. Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan
  8. Giant Squid, illus. by Eric Rohmann
  9. Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski
  10. Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead
  11. Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph, illus. by Francis Vallejo
  12. March: Book 3, illus. by Nate Powell 
  13. Maybe Something Beautiful, illus. by Rafael Lopez
  14. Miracle Man by John Hendrix
  15. Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
  16. Real Cowboys by Jonathan Bean
  17. Snow White by Matt Phelan
  18. Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White by Melissa Sweet
  19. The Sound of Silence, illus. by Julia Kuo
  20. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, illus. by Erin E. Stead
  21. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
  22. This Is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier
  23. Thunder Boy Jr., illus. by Yuyi Morales
  24. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Tomorrow (Thursday), Calling Caldecott will become MOCK Caldecott: all of you get to vote for the winners and honor books. When it comes time to vote, please just vote for the three books YOU think are most deserving. We really want to know what YOU think. We know there are many, many lurkers out there who follow the blog and know (at least some of) the books. We love to hear from all of you lurkers! We love to hear from non-lurkers as well. Please, for the love of Pete (as my father says at least once a day), restrain yourself from sending this link to your relatives, co-workers, and college group text buddies to help build support for your special snowflake of a book. That messes things up for us. Please, vote only once. However, DO send this link out to other bookish friends who love picture books and who might like to vote. You do NOT have to have read all the books—that would be impossible. Even those of us who work in libraries and schools cannot do that.

So, take the last few hours before voting opens to take another look at your favorites. Maybe get to a library or bookstore to find the ones you have missed.

Here’s the schedule. All times listed are Eastern Standard Time.

Right now! Discussion of books on ballot
9 a.m. Thursday, January 12 Ballot 1 open for voting
9 a.m. Friday, January 13 Voting on ballot 1 ends
1 p.m. Friday, January 13 Ballot 1 results announced on Calling Caldecott; ballot 2 opens
9 a.m. Wednesday, January 18 Voting ends
Noon Wednesday, January 18 Calling Caldecott mock vote results posted


At this point the Real Committee is busy rereading all their nominated books, making notes on what they appreciate and what concerns them. (Experience tells me that a lot of time will given to the concerns — a person has to be ready to defend against others’ concerns and to lay out their own concerns in a way that the others can hear. Minds will have to be changed!) The books are all shipped to Atlanta by ALA, but I found I liked to carry my seven favorites myself, just so I could read my favorite parts aloud. I tend to use Post-Its liberally and find that having MY copy with me means I will not forget anything. I also bring the books about which I have concerns. I like being especially prepared with those books — if I want to change minds, I have to be prepared, even if my luggage is outrageously full.

The Real Committee starts face-to-face deliberations on Friday, January 20th, so they are down to the wire, just like we are here. And here, we would love to hear your pleas for your favorite books — use the comment section below! The Real Committee will be discussing their books over and over until the final ballot … and there can be many, many ballots. Vote carefully! But please vote!


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. Sam Juliano says:

    “And here, we would love to hear your pleas for your favorite books — use the comment section below!”

    I certainly do love the entire slate, and would never question a single choice. Not one. Many are among my own supreme favorites this year too.

    However I will say I am very surprised that Vera Brosgel’s LEAVE ME ALONE did not make this preliminary ballot. Yesterday in my school 170 first grade students named that their favorite book by a wide margin (books by Salina Yoon and Sergio Ruzzier were next up). It is a comedy, but refreshingly so, and I must appreciated the excellent piece that Alia Jones wrote in its defense on this very pages. I could be missing something here as far as Ms. Brosgol’s eligibility, but I do think she’s good on that count. I also have strong reason to believe it will be under the Caldecott radar during their deliberations, though it is just a gut feeling.

    There are other books like BE A FRIEND that I would have myself included, but I don’t envy the position you people are in, and you do have to make some hard decisions.

    Boris Kulikov’s brilliantly illustrated COME HOME ANGUS, another one of my favorites is another I mourn. SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL by Christian Robinson is another I would have liked to see there, as well as books from Fiona Robinson, Deborah Freedman, Jennifer Thermes, Rick Lieder, Matthew Cordell, Raul Colon, Wendell Minor, Susan Hood, Liz Stanton, Toni Yuli, and Jeff Newman. There are others I mourn, but heck all the readers here can’t have all their favorites on the ballot. You people did a great job here, and with only 24 spots you can’t invite everyone to the party.

    Considering the critical scrutiny (and that’s fine and understandable) that was written about the two extraordinary books here from Philip Stead and Erin Stead I was happy to see they still won the majority vote of the Horn Book committee.

    But what a list here! 🙂 Great stuff!!!

    As to my favorite-favorite-favorite book of 2016? Depends on what day you ask me but I will today say THIS IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK by Sergio Ruzzier.

  2. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Well this is a good list. I really like these books. Now to think over how to vote. I think I miss Can One Balloon Make An Elephant Fly, Excellent Ed and Faraway Fox. Oh and what about The Princess and the Warrior?

  3. Sam Juliano says:

    Allison, I completely agree on THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, another top favorite, and also I just thought of THE NIGHT GARDENER. I also love CAN ONE BALLOON, EXCELLENT ED. So so so hard, but a terrific job here…….OK, I’ve said enough. I’ll cast my vote tomorrow. 🙂

  4. Great list! Disappointed that Night Gardener didn’t make the cut. It won, hands down, at my school. Can’t wait till the 23rd!

  5. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Sam, I agree about The Night Gardener. And my students love it too. Yes, me too. Talk with you on the other side of voting!

  6. The Night Gardener won my school’s mock Caldecott.

  7. Sarah Pennachio says:

    Please reconsider Be A Friend by Salina Yoon. In my Mock Caldecott, I’ve been taken with all the details that my students have delighted in finding that make these illustrations much more involved than first glance allows. (Not that I’m suggesting you only give books a first glance!)

  8. The Night Gardener won our Mock as well. It was my tenth choice out of ten, and one I didn’t pre-read to my students. My guess is that its appeal is that it is easily apprenticed in a first sitting, without heavy explanation as to why it is excellent. In the classes where I’d read and discussed They All Saw a Cat the week before that book did much better than Night Gardener.

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