2020 Caldecott Announcement

The wait is over! The 2020 Caldecott Medal Selection Committee has made its choices: one winner and three honor books.

The winner is:

The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson and written by Kwame Alexander: 

Cover of The Undefeated

The honor books are:

Bear Came Along, illustred by LeUyen Pham and written by Richard T. Morris: 

Cover of Bear Came Along

Double Bass Blues, illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez and written by Andrea J. Loney: 

Cover of Double Bass Blues

Going Down Home with Daddy, illustrated by Daniel Minter and written by Kelly Starling Lyons: 

Cover of Going Down Home with Daddy


Congratulations to all!

The big winner this morning is The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Our readers chose it as a mock honor book. You all also chose Bear Came Along as a mock honor book, and it did receive a Caldecott Honor this morning. Going Down Home with Daddy made a strong showing in our mock vote but didn't quite get into the top tier, although as we noted in our post, if we had gone on to a second and third ballot, it could easily have risen up. And Double Bass Blues wasn't on our ballot, but Nicholl Montgomery wrote about the book here in December. 

Remember how we wrote in this post from early 2019 (which we linked to last week here at Calling Caldecott) that our readers tend to have an impressive track record of picking as our mock winners ones that, in the real world, go on to receive Caldecott honors? That did not happen this year. Our readers chose Oge Mora's Saturday as the mock winner, but that book wasn't recognized this morning by the real Caldecott committee. (Many of you may be in mourning about that. Other titles our readers were enthusiastic about, such as Field Trip to the Moon, My Papi Has a Motorcyle, A Place to Land, Another, and Truman, were also passsed over by the committee.)

A few trends we notice with these four books: three of the illustrators are men; all four are artists of color. This is the third instance of a single African American illustrator winning the award (the first two being Jerry Pinkney in 2010 and Javaka Steptoe in 2017). This is the first Caldecott medal for Nelson, though he won honors in both 2007 and 2008. And for all the honor illustrators — Gutierrez, Minter, and Pham — it's their first time for any Caldecott recognition! 

Here's where we ask some of our favorite questions: What are your thoughts? Did you watch the webcast this morning, or were you there in person in Philadelphia? Are you surprised by the choices? Are you pleased with the number of honor books named this morning, or did you want more? Did your favorite win? What do you mourn, if anything? As Robin Smith used to always say, it's important to "trust the process," as in: remember that these committee members worked so hard for a whole year and made the choices they did for specific reasons.

With that in mind, we'd love to hear your thoughts. 


Martha V. Parravano and Julie Danielson
Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog. Julie Danielson, co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog, writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
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Gail Elizabeth​ Winskill

I am very pleased with the winning list. I certainly respect the process, which must be so hard with all the wonderful picture books published every year. It is so great to see new artists appearing this year. Yes, I always have my favorites but this award opens our eyes to new creators. Bravo!

Posted : Jan 28, 2020 03:30

Sam Juliano

In response to the bevy of questions you ask I will try forward my two cents. 1.) Yes I do "trust" the process and over the last several years on a numbers of picture forums I have defended the committee, even in such instances when pointed criticisms have surfaced. However "trusting" does not denote blind agreement or engaging in group-think. As to the committee members doing what they do for "specific reasons" the results are an "opinion" of sixteen (16) people not the ALA at large, even if they "represent" the association. In the end they pick their favorite books, much like any arts-oriented organization in any field does when they are entrusted to determine the highest quality. The Horn Book voters, many of who are book scholars, librarians, critics and elementary teachers are just as attuned as any past or present committee in determining what is "best" if there is even such a thing as "best." The absence of "Saturday" by Oge Mora (a book that like last year's "Dreamers" is roundly adored ) is startling not only because the HB readers anointed it, but also because a number of key reviewers predicted it would triumphed and that this was "Mora's" year. That said, yes I positively LOVE LOVE LOVE all the books that were chosen. "GOING DOWN HOME WITH DADDY" is my #1 favorite book of 2019 (I've stated this several times online, but how often can we say our favorite book won?) so I was over the moon when I heard it read out. THE UNDEFEATED is a flat-out masterpiece so again I say "Bravo!" BEAR CAME ALONG is a joyful picture book that seems headed for eternal classroom stardom (It simply HAD to win here as it did!) And then we have the "big surprise," like last year's "The Rough Patch", the unexpected inclusion seemingly inclusive to this committee. Nonetheless like Brian Lies' sublime and moving work about grief DOUBLE BASS BLUES is a stylistic tour de force that is difficult to criticize. Hence, sustained APPLAUSE to the four winners. No arguments. No regrets. Not a bad word of any kind. The surprise was what was NOT chosen. No Truman. No My Papi Has a Motorcycle. No Vroom!, no Scarecrow, No Another, No Field Trip to the Moon, No A Place to Land. no Fry Bread. No A Stone Sat Still. No Home in the Woods. And of course as mentioned no Saturday. This treasure trove of riches seems to indicate that either four (4) or five (5) honor books would have been ideal, but like everyone else I know how the voting is negotiated so it usually doesn't go above four. Fair enough.2.) Yes I was in Philadelphia yesterday with my wife spending hours in convention hall where I spent some quality time with some friends. We witnessed the RUSA awards announcements. We left late last night so weren't able to manage the actual YMA this morning though we of course watched the transmission. Ha, the Reading Terminal Market is quite an amazing place, quite the equal with food anyway with Boston's Fanuil Hall.3). It was fantastic to see the artists of color dominate especially as 2019 was truly and unequivocally a banner year for them; even with the winners accounted for there wasn't enough room to accommodate extraordinary work from Jerry Pinkney, Oge Mora, Christian Robinson, Patricia Martinez-Neal, Luke Pena, Raul Gonzalez, April Harrison, Charley Palmer, Bryan Collier, John Parra. Finally, Kadir Nelson is of course a spectacular artist, and his win here is a rightful acknowledgement for his towering greatness. I state the obvious but I'll say it anyway.

Posted : Jan 27, 2020 06:03

Molly Sloan

Today was a thrilling day! Yes! I got up at 5am to watch the awards live and it was a thrill! I love the suspense. I love that they announce the honors first and then the winner so you are pulling so hard for your favorite books until the world knows the winner. It’s a riveting hour (plus); a book lover’s extravaganza! Congratulations to the wonderful winners of the medals. I am thrilled for Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson. Undefeated is a truly special book and I am glad that it has been recognized and will take center stage in libraries and bookstores across the nation. It is important and memorable. Bear Came Along was a favorite amongst my kids so they were thrilled to see it recognized. I think the Caldecott medal is perhaps even more wide open than the Newbery in that there are SOOO many deserving titles every year. This year there are several top tier books that did not get recognized by the Caldecott committee (Saturday, My Papi, The Little Guys, Daniel’s Good Day, What Is Given From the Heart, You Are Home--to name a few of our favorites). Those are the breaks; there are only so many medals to give. Just because a book does not receive a medal doesn’t make it any less worthy of our appreciation. I always tell my Caldecott Club kids that their winners matter as much or more to me than the actual winners. So today we celebrate and savor the book love. Then we gather ourselves up and start reading for 2021! Hurrah! Hurrah!

Posted : Jan 27, 2020 06:02


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