Calling Caldecott: Not a Crystal Ball

We mentioned this in yesterday's post, but it's worth repeating: our mock vote yesterday was really close! WOWZERS. (You can head here to see the results if you haven't seen the numbers yet.) As we watched the results come in yesterday, we were oohing and aahing over how close it was, especially between the top two titles (Dreamers and Julián Is a Mermaid).

We are happy that so many of you voted and that you chose such superb books! We love the diversity we see in these titles (in the characters and in the books' creators). And remember how we mentioned in this discussion how many excellent picture books this year have been created by female illustrators? All but one of the books chosen yesterday were written and illustrated by talented women.

If you are bummed out that your favorite book didn't win the mock vote (though we hope you are not seriously depressed, because remember: it's only a mock vote), here's something to consider:

As the vote was unfolding this week we got curious and went back through the years to look up our mock stats. It turns out that our readers have an impressive track record of putting the actual Caldecott winner on the second Calling Caldecott mock ballot — but not choosing it as the mock winner OR giving it any mock honors. (The only exceptions to this have been that last year the real winner, Wolf in the Snow, was named a Calling Caldecott mock honor — and in 2012 the actual winner, A Ball for Daisy, didn't even appear on the second Calling Caldecott mock ballot.) Our readers also tend to have a fabulous track record of picking as our mock award winners ones that, in the real world, go on to receive honors from ALA. (The only exceptions to this are, again, last year: our readers chose After the Fall as the winner, yet it received no actual award or honors, and in 2015, people chose The Farmer and the Clown as a mock winner, but it also received no ALA recognition.)

But in 2017, readers chose They All Saw a Cat as the mock winner; it went on to win a real honor. In 2016, readers chose Last Stop on Market Street for the mock winner; it went on to win a real honor. In 2014, readers chose Journey as the mock winner; it went on to win a real honor. You get the idea.

Are we saying Dreamers won't win, come Monday, and it will receive an honor instead, or even no recognition? Absolutely not. NOPE. But we thought it was important to stress the lack of real-world connection between this blog's annual results and the actual Caldecott results. All of this is to say, really: we here at Calling Caldecott don't have a crystal ball, and we are not interested in attempting to use one. (We say that a lot, don't we? But it's worth repeating.) We don't have any Caldecott tarot cards (though we'd love to see who'd illustrate them). These mock votes have no impact whatsoever on what the actual committee will decide this very weekend. That is, indeed, part of the thrill of the actual awards! Did you see this piece yesterday, "Children's Authors Cope with Award Seasons Jitters"? Agent Steven Malk is quoted as saying:
The mocks can sometimes create the illusion that a field of favorites has emerged and that this short list of books is what the committee is discussing, but that is simply not the case. What’s being discussed among the award committee is known only to the committee. I tell my clients that being "in the conversation" is meaningful in itself and ultimately all you can ask for.

He is exactly right — and we like the advice he gives his clients.

The joy of this blog for us anyway is not predicting (we don't do that and aren't in the business of doing that), and it's not even ultimately the mock vote (though it's fun to do). It's the rich discussions we get to have from August till the new year about these distinguished books. How often do you run into people having conversations about picture books? Well, we realize that depends on what you do for a living. But still. It's a wonderful thing — we think so anyway — to take a deep dive into these books, and that's really what it's all about. It's about the appreciation of the picture book as an art form, no matter which books win big on Monday.

On that note, we want to thank everyone who participated in Calling Caldecott this year. Thanks to our remarkable guest posters, who brought such a wealth of insights and perspectives: Autumn Allen, Thom Barthelmess, Betsy Bird, Edith Campbell, Alec Chunn, Rebekah Dutkiewicz, Amy Seto Forrester, Amanda Foulk, Elisa Gall, Elissa Gershowitz, Monique Harris, Jonathan Hunt, Alia Jones, Megan Dowd Lambert, Erika Long, Grace McKinney, Sabrina Montenigro, Emily Prabhaker, Adrienne Pettinelli, Tarie Sabido, Dean Schneider, Emmie Stuart, Roger Sutton, Misti Tidman, and Brian Wilson. We are truly grateful for the diversity of voices, the thoughtful writing, and the careful attention to all the books on the table this year. Thanks too to everyone who commented this fall and to everyone who voted this past week.

The ALA Midwinter conference begins today! And the Actual Winners of the 2019 Caldecot Medal will be announced at the Youth Media Awards press conference on Monday morning. We will be back afterwards for a discussion of The Books That Won and The Ones That Didn't. And, again, because the Real Committee consists of 15 individuals coming together to form one entity that is the 2019 Caldecott Committee, there's really no predicting what they will choose. We will be here to discuss and dissect — whatever happens.


Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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