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I’m rubber and you’re glue

Over on the Horn Book’s Facebook page, there’s an opinion that Javaka Steptoe only won the Caldecott Medal because his father was John Steptoe. When pressed for evidence, the (former, as she’ll tell you) subscriber replied that “the pattern of ALA award committees in the past several years in its selections of winners/honors. Promote diversity for diversity’s sake.”

Never mind that you’ve shifted from arguing nepotism to arguing special pleading, we get it, Steptoe only won the Caldecott because he is black. (I wonder what this writer would make of Steptoe’s off-the-cuff remark during his acceptance speech that many of the silver-stickered picture books created by African Americans in the past should rightfully be regarded as winners of the gold.) Given that none of us who were not committee members has any evidence to suggest that the committee did anything other than to fulfill its charge to select the most distinguished picture book of the year, I must say that you are full of hot air. And racism: do you not see that assuming someone only won something because of his race says more about your own beliefs than it does about the award?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Therese Bigelow says:

    I’m glad that narrow minded person is an ex subscriber. I wanted to use an impolite word about the narrow minded thinking. Not only is it insulting to all the great authors and illustrators out there, it also insults the intelligence of the Newbery and Caldecott committees.

  2. From the moment I first opened Radiant Child it leapt out as distinguished. Painting on found wood, adding even more depth to this creative and moving work is evidence of how deserving Steptoe is of this award. Each page is a masterpiece and together they form a book that absolutely earned the Caldecott.

  3. What an asshat. Nice rebuttal, Roger.

  4. The Painted Comment says:

    I imagine it was the “Basquiat” part of the equation, and not the Steptoe part, that was pure catnip to the members of the committee.

  5. What a nice reply to an unexpected comment. Thank you.

  6. I read Javaka Steptoe’s Hendrix book and thought, “This person’s next book will be a Caldecott contender.” And I knew exactly dick about the history of Javaka Steptoe’s family.

    I mean, do we assume that every member of the Pinkney family is out of contention because Jerry has been honored for his work? That’s just silly.

  7. Not only do you not know my ethnic background, but you blindly assume I am a racist. How shameful. I have literally hundreds of picture books, junior novels and YA boks in my personal library written and/or illustrated by black artists because of their high quality. I faithfully supported the Horn Book for many many years through subscriptions and promoted it to colleagues as the best of the best in children’s review sources.

    We met, Roger, at ALA Annual Conference in 2007 and I was absolutely thrilled to meet the editor of my beloved magazine.

    My point is, a political agenda is driving the awards; you were upset that The Farmer and the Clown did not garner any attention (as was I), and thus named it winner in the picture book category for the BGHB awards. And, the CSK and Belpre awards are inherently racist: They exclude artists based on the color of their skin.

    If you want to go the juvenile route, I will conclude with this: You are rubber, I am glue- the truth sticks to me and bounces off of you.

    PS. YOu may thank me anytime for garnering traffic on this FB page (not much before) and receiving two new subscriptions from K.T.

  8. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    Agnes has a good point. When I evinced dismay with the Caldecott committee’s passing over THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN, I was implicitly accusing the committee of indulging in criteria unmentioned in the rules. So yes, I believe that award committees don’t necessarily follow their own rules. (But by the way I had nothing to do with BGHB choosing Frazee’s book, much as I applauded the choice.)

    The reason I am accusing you of racism is that you have given no other reason than race for this year’s Caldecott choice. You have not stated its deficiencies nor the superior virtues of another candidate. You are doing precisely what you accuse the committee of: making it all about race.

  9. Sam Juliano says:

    Let’s see. The Caldecott Medal began in 1937. There have been TWO, count em, TWO African Americans who have won the gold. Steptoe and before him Jerry Pinkney for “The Lion and the Mouse.” If diversity is such a mitigating concern, why the previous blanks over so many years? The argument is a pathetic one, but beyond it has not factual validity.

  10. Sam Juliano says:

    I return here just to clarify the assertion I made in my comments above of a few days ago, since it has been brought to my attention. I did not count the two record-making consecutive Caldecott Medals won by Leo and Diane Dillon as African American wins, as the illustrator in the duo, Diane, is Caucasian. But a husband and wife collaboration for many reasons does complicate things. I know the New York Times obituary credit Leo with being part of the Caldecott equation in those 1969 and 1970 triumphs.

  11. Roger Sutton Roger Sutton says:

    I’m not sure what you mean by “the illustrator in the duo.” The Dillons were true collaborators in their illustrating. When asked who did what for a particular picture or book, they would exchange puzzled glances and say they had no idea.

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