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Five questions for Julie Danielson of Calling Caldecott

In 2017, Calling Caldecott welcomed Julie Danielson to the team. Along with Martha Parravano and Lolly Robinson, Jules — author of the Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog — stays up-to-date on the 2018 Caldecott contenders, offering entertaining observations and useful insight into the awards selection process.

1. How has your first year of Calling Caldecott gone so far?

JD: I’ve enjoyed it. It’s different in fundamental ways from what I do at 7-Imp, but it’s refreshing to try something new. I also learn a lot from having others edit my writing, so I really like that part of working with Martha and Lolly.

2. What trends have you noticed in 2017’s picture books?

JD: In children’s lit in general, we’re seeing more books about activism (and activists), resistance, and women’s rights, all in response to the current administration. Rah! (This is remarkably different from something like we’ve seen a lot of books about yetis, isn’t it?)

3. Award predictions? Favorites?

JD: I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you my favorites are Silent Days, Silent DreamsWindows; Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut; and The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way)There’s also A Different PondOh, it’s too hard. May heaven bless this year’s committee.

4. What contenders not recognized by past Caldecott committees do you still lament?

JD: I still cry real tears over Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds, illustrated by Hadley Hooper.

5. What’s your favorite bit of Caldecott lore?

JD: I’ve always loved the story about the 1957 award winner, A Tree Is Nice (written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont) and how it almost didn’t make it into print. The policy at Harper’s Department of Books for Boys and Girls at that time was that every submission would be read by two different people on staff. “Here are a couple of pages,” a report said, “by a lady who thinks a tree is nice. Birds sit in it. Cows lie under it. Who cares?” Fortunately, Ursula Nordstrom disregarded that and published it anyway.

From the January 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.



  1. “JD: I still cry real tears over Patricia MacLachlan’s The Iridescence of Birds, illustrated by Hadley Hooper.”

    I mourn with you. The ravishing art and the book in general is greater than the Kandinsky book that won. It remains one of the very best picture books of the past five years, and oh that cover. It is stunning every time you pick the book up. I am NOT criticizing the committee of that year (the year of the seven winners) remotely. I have praised their work and choices at other forums exceedingly, but I continue to see the MacLachlan/Hooper book as one of the greatest ever about an artist. That was certainly quite a year for extraordinary books about artists as Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor further confirmed with that exquisite “Edward Hopper Paints His World.”

    Much enjoyed this capsule interview!!

  2. Lori Kilkelly says:

    Ohhh, The Iridescence of Birds is oft referenced in my day to day work. Such an absolutely captivating pb bio. And the illustrations. Just, whoa.

  3. Lee Bennett Hopkins says:

    An odd story about A TREE IS NICE by Janice May Udry. After winning the Caldecott she was given a 1971 Corretta Scottt King Honor Book for MARY JO’S GRANDFATHER (Whitman). I am sure she was the only Caucasian to receive this honor.

  4. OOPS: The book was MARY JO’S GRANDMOTHER.

  5. Julie: “I don’t have a crystal ball, but I can tell you my favorites are Silent Days, Silent Dreams; Windows; Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut; and The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way). There’s also A Different Pond. Oh, it’s too hard. May heaven bless this year’s committee.”

    Crashing this post to comment for a second time, and please excuse my indulgence on that count, I wanted to voice the same difficulty as we proceed forward. The wealth of picture book riches this year has been pretty overwhelming to narrow it to ANY number really. I remember you also expressed the warmest of regard for Peter Sis’s ROBINSON and Lane Smith’s A PERFECT DAY, two books that are very dear to my own heart, and seemingly still major contenders for Caldecott recognition. I’ve stated my own absolute favorites on other posts, but today I have some pointed additions and/or encore reference points. Calling Caldecott hasn’t yet gotten to Mordecai Gerstein’s spectacularly beautiful and engrossing THE BOY AND THE WHALE which is arguably as magnificent as his Twin Towers Caldecott Medal winner. A few books like Danna Smith and Bagram Ibatouille’s THE HAWK OF THE CASTLE seems TOO exquisite, though I say that is the most favorable of terms. Ibatouille is some master! And then each year there is the matter of the “late breaker,” the picture book that grabs you by the throat a bit of time after the initial very warm impression. Sometimes it is because of something emotional that clicks, or encore classroom readings in preparation for Calling Caldecott, it can be a variety of different reasons.

    In this vein I must reference the great Tennessee educator and writer Emmie Stuart, who stated back on October 27th:

    “In my opinion, there is not another 2017 picture book that so fully “displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations.” ”

    Ms. Stuart of course was referring to Stephanie Graegin’s magisterial LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST, a wordless picture book that repeatedly captivates children, and inspires a full period of classroom discussion each time. Not only is is a bonafide weeper, a lesson on sharing and compassion, but a magical story with homage after homage crafted with astonishing originality. My classes simply ADORE this book, and frankly so do I.

    As the film pundits always add in their round-ups:

    FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: “Little Fox in the Forest” by Stephanie Graegin

  6. May Heaven Bless this year’s committee, indeed! They have a challenging task (privilege) this year.

    “A Tree Is Nice” is one of my all-time favorite books. Marc Simont is a gem. I’m so thankful for Ms. Nordstrom’s wisdom. Thanks for the neat trivia, Jules! I started researching “Mary Jo’s Grandmother” and ten minutes later I had purchased a copy.

    Sam, I’ve had the same experience regarding “Little Fox” and my students. I’ve had to order two more copies (bringing our school library’s number up to four) because there has been such a high demand for the book.

  7. Allison Grover Khoury says:

    Always nice to hear Jules’ opinions about, well, anything! Thanks for joining the Calling Caldecott team – you are doing a wonderful job. I love your list of favorites. I don’t envy the committee either.

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