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The Blob (of Books) That Ate Atlanta

I had a delightful holiday, thank you very much. There was a small blemish on my weeks off, though. In between the gift exchanges and deciding What In The World Should We Watch On Netflix, there was that little voice sounding in the back of my brain. The voice said, “Martha is going to want a ballot for Calling Caldecott. She is going to let you come up with it by Tuesday, but if you don’t come up with something voluntarily, she is not going to forget about it.” Then I would turn to the next item on my Netflix list and whisper, “Shhhh,” to the voice. (For the record, we loved Fannie’s Last Supper, Spotlight, and Ava DuVernay’s 13th. Go on and add them to your Netflix queue. I will wait. That will give me some marvelous procrastinating time. I am an expert at procrastination.)

Here’s the problem. We normally come up with a dozen or so top runners to create our Calling Caldecott ballot. This year there are just too many good ones, and no clear frontrunners. If I was on the Real Committee this year, I would have had a helluva time coming up with just seven nominations. I can definitely come up with my top two or three, but after that, I find myself making mental arguments for each of the remaining titles. I peruse the top shelf, move books around, and sigh. Then I have another scoop of Graeter’s Ice Cream. (For those of you who do not have access to Graeter’s Double Chocolate Chip, I know for certain you can order it online. We get our fix at the grocery store.)

Usually, the three of us (Lolly, Martha, and I) submit our lists to one another, and five to seven titles make it to each list. Then one of us suggests the final titles, and the others say, “Fine.” Not so with the folks on the Real Committee. They submit seven titles to the group. With the titles, they will have composed supporting arguments (in the form of a few paragraphs). The first group of three nominated titles is submitted in October. The chair sends a list of titles back to the committee at large and each member is encouraged to reread any title that the other members have submitted. They are going to have to come to consensus in January, so it’s a good idea to start looking at the nominated books very carefully so nothing is missed. I mean, if thirteen people have nominated a book and I have not, I want to read that title again. Maybe I will add my voice to the crowd and nominate it too. Or, I know I better start thinking about WHY I am not even nominating the book.

So, that last paragraph kept me from hearing the little voice.

Calling Caldecott must come up with a list. Martha has asked me for it in the form of a gentle lob. I choose to hit the ball back to you, gentle readers. Please use the comment section below to let us know which five books you think will be wearing shiny stickers on Monday, January 23rd — or at least which five books you’d most like to see on our ballot. Please take a moment and look at the list of books we have talked about (give or take a few titles) here. We will still squeeze a few more reviews out of our dry and bony fingers in the next few days, so feel free to name titles Martha, Lolly, our guest posters, and I have not yet addressed. This could happen to the Real Committee if something fabulous arrives late in the year. It can happen. That’s when folks are really caught off guard at the announcements. So, suggest away. Soon.

I will now light a candle that between 10 and 15 titles will rise to the top. If the candle does not work, we’ll come up with some other (*cough cough*) scientific way to put a ballot together. It will involve torn strips of paper with titles scrawled on it and a paper bag. That would not be pretty. I could lay the books on the floor and see which ones my cat (Spike, the wonder cat) favors. I might do that anyway.

Take a moment. Do it now. I see you walking away from your computer over there in Peoria! Get back to your keyboard and type out five or fewer titles. If I were Oprah, I’d offer you a car if you help a girl out. I’m not. But next time you are in Nashville, I’ll pick up the tab on some Jeni’s or Graeter’s ice cream.


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. Well, I am no expert, but I’ll take a shot at getting this list started. I too am struggling to get down to five books. There are several titles I just don’t want to take off my list, but alas, here we go in no particular order:

    Before Morning by Joyce Sidman
    Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexis
    They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel
    Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
    There Is A Tribe Of Kids by Lane Smith

  2. Edward J Wolfer says:

    Tough to limit myself to only five, since my current list has 25, but if I have to, here are my top five:
    1 Before Morning by Joyce Sidman
    2 Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy
    3 Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer
    4 Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh
    5 Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    What about THE BOSSIER BABY (Frazee) and IT IS NOT TIME FOR SLEEPING (Castillo)? They were both November publications so I wonder if that might account for relatively little Caldecott buzz. Am I alone in my appreciation of them? I know they have stiff competition, but still . . .

  4. Another way of looking at this would be to see the craziness of trying to choose among diverse books the “best”. I found out this year, after my most cherished book of all time, The Hired Girl, was not recognized with even a Newbery Honor last year, that it is way more fun and so much less stressful to just refuse to play the game. Discussing and identifying the merits of each book. is wonderful, but I no longer can get excited about choosing a very select few.

    I’m so sorry you have only one reply. I wonder if, given the circumstances of November, 2016 going forward, if others are focusing on other issues.

  5. In just the time it took me to write my reply TWO more responded to your request! The world now moves at an incredible pace!

  6. Eric Carpenter says:

    That wasn’t too hard.
    From top choice to fifth choice.
    1. The Airport Book
    2. Freedom in Congo Square
    3. Emma and Julia Love Ballet
    4. Snow White
    5. We Found a Hat

  7. Emmie Stuart says:

    Robin, I share your feelings on both the difficulty of narrowing down this year’s contenders and Grater’s Double Chocolate Chip. I’ve been deliberating all day and have finally selected my top five + a wild card pick. In no particular order (because THAT is definitely too hard)…

    1) The Airport Book (Brown)
    2) Miracle Man (Hendrix)
    3) Before Morning (Krommes)
    4) Be a Friend (Yoon)
    5) Emma and Julia Love Ballet (McClintock)
    Wild Card: Pond (Jim LaMarche)

  8. Kathy Wolf says:

    If Some Writer doesn’t get there, I’ll be disappointed. I also love They all saw a cat and We found a hat.

  9. Alec Chunn says:

    ONLY FIVE!? Ok…
    1. They All Saw a Cat
    2. Thunder Boy, Jr.
    3. Henry & Leo
    4. Giant Squid
    5. March: Book 3

  10. Alec Chunn says:

    And, following Emmie’s lead…
    Wild Card: Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler, ill. Jonathan Bean

  11. I’ve had issues posting, so if these “nominations” seem familiar, I’m really not trying to stuff the ballot!
    Nanette’s Baguette – Mo Willems
    Before Morning – ill. by Beth Krommes (Sidman)
    Maybe Something Beautiful – ill. by Rafael Lopez (Campoy & Howell)
    Samson in the Snow – Philip Stead
    Are We There Yet? – Dan Santat

  12. Emily Ross says:

    This is a hard year!
    1. Are We There Yet won my class Mock Caldecott
    2. Some Writer was gorgeous
    3. Ideas Are All Around can only be understood through its illustrations
    4. March Book 3 has powerful images
    5. The Airport Book is simple on the surface but weaves many stroies through its pictures

  13. Cherylynn says:

    1. Jazz Day
    2. They All Saw a Cat
    3. Snow White
    4. Radiant Child
    5. Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

  14. 1. Maybe Something Beautiful
    2. They All Saw a Cat
    3. Thunder Boy Jr.
    4. Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
    5. Some Writer!

  15. Lynn Van Auken says:

    Hi Robin & All Other Picture Book Lovers,
    I don’t have my top 5 yet either. I’m a little behind with my classes this year and am still trying to put together a collection for my students to read and review. I have a burning question about eligibility that I’m sure someone here will be able to answer.

    Is A Child of Books eligible for the Caldecott? Sam Watson is in London and Oliver Jeffers is in Brooklyn, as far as I can tell. And they share the credit for the story and illustrations (as far as I can tell.) What’s the ruling on this special book?

  16. Giant Squid
    They All Saw a Cat
    Airport Book
    This is Not a Picture Book (The illustrations themselves are not overwhelmingly distinguished, but the way they interact with the text certainly is)

    And then it devolves into a four-million way tie….

  17. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    1. Freedom over Me by Ashley Bryan
    2. The Airport Book by Lisa Brown
    3. Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins

    (I feel like I have too many contenders to offer a 4 or 5.)

  18. Sue Rokos says:

    We all saw the cat
    Snow White
    We found a hat
    Some Writer
    School’s first day of school

  19. The Night Gardener
    Freedom in Congo Square
    This Is Not A Picture Book
    The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

  20. You know Graeter’s Ice Cream!! That makes this Cincinnati girl happy.
    1. They All Saw A Cat
    2. Thunder Boy Jr.
    3. Radiant Child
    4. Dear Dragon
    5. Freedom in Congo Square

  21. Karen Kosko says:

    Freedom over Me by Ashley Bryan
    The Airport Book by Lisa Brown
    Some writer by Melissa Sweet
    Thunder Boy Jr by Sherman Alexie
    We found a hat by Jon Klassen

  22. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Phew! I was wondering if this was why we hadn’t heard anything from You Three yet, Robin. I remember you saying early that you felt like you hadn’t seen THE book yet. I’ve been thinking about that a lot.
    The week of the 16th, we do our mock vote in our K-3 classrooms, so that is no help to us.
    Not in any order:
    1. Before Morning
    2. Giant Squid
    3. Radiant Child
    4. Maybe Something Beautiful
    5. The Airport Book
    Wild Card (I like this idea, but am I cheating or making things more difficult?):
    Thunder Boy Jr.

  23. Susan M. Dailey says:

    Sound of Silence
    Jazz Day
    This Is Not a Picture Book
    Freedom in Congo Square
    They All Saw a Cat

  24. Carmen R. says:

    1. Some Writer!
    2. Miracle Man
    3. Snow White: a graphic novel
    4. The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles
    5. Are We There Yet?

  25. Susan M. Dailey says:

    In response to Jonathan Hunt, I always debate about including books that are sequels/companion books. That’s why I almost left “Bossier Baby” off our consideration list. The fact that “Boss Baby” is being made into a movie also played into the internal debate. Probably not fair or accurate, but I wonder if this might make the current book seem too “commercial.” I also debated long and hard about including “Flora and the Peacocks” on our list. (We have around 100 titles because most people use the workshop for collection development. That’s why I ultimately decided to included them.)

    I haven’t seen the Castillo book you mentioned, but I did include “Twenty Yawns” illustrated by her. I’ll see if I can find “It Is Not Time for Sleeping.” Funny that both her books about about bedtime this year.

  26. Susan M. Dailey says:

    Jonathan Hunt, are you THE Jonathan Hunt of Heavy Medal? If so, I wanted to let you know that I’m quoting you in my Mock Caldecott presentation. I’m talking about how shocking last year’s choice of “Last Stop on Market Street” was as the Newbery winner. You offered reasonable and thoughtful comments on your blog post after the announcement. And I loved the title of the post–“Everything Is Awesome!”

  27. Jill Bean says:

    My top 5:
    Giant Squid
    Maybe Something Beautiful
    Miracle Man
    Real Cowboys
    Sound of Silence

  28. Allison M. says:

    They All Saw a Cat
    The Airport Book
    Maybe Something Beautiful
    Freedom in Congo Square
    The Princess and the Warrior

  29. Dean Schneider says:

    1. Freedom Over Me (Ashley Bryan)
    2. Some Writer! (Melissa Sweet)
    3. Freedom in Congo Square (r. gregory christie)
    4. Before Morning (Sidman/Krommes)
    5. School’s First Day of School (Rex/ Robinson)

  30. Safranit Molly says:

    I hope you are still collecting suggestions for the ballot. Here are mine–leaving several beauties behind as I comitt to these five:

    1. The Storyteller by Evan Turk
    2. Maybe Something Beautiful by Isabel Campoy
    3. The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito
    4. Giant Squid by Candace Fleming
    5. Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
    With a loving honorable mention for Some Writer which is in my top 5 for Newbery but is also a strong contender for Caldecott and Sibert.

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