CaldeGeisel 2019

We here at Calling Caldecott are happy to welcome back the three librarians who run the show over at Guessing Geisel, the blog that celebrates beginning readers and annually runs a mock vote for the Geisel Award. Amy Seto Forrester, Amanda Foulk, and Misti Tidman visited last year, and today they are back to discuss one particular 2018 book with Caldecott/Geisel crossover potential. —JD

As the co-founders and hosts of the mock blog Guessing Geisel, we’re always on the lookout for titles that have crossover appeal with other awards, especially the Caldecott. Why? First, because beginning readers are seldom honored by Caldecott and Newbery committees, with the classic exceptions of Little Bear (Little Bear's Visit, a 1962 Caldecott Honor book) and Frog and Toad (Frog and Toad Are Friends was awarded a 1971 Caldecott Honor, and Frog and Toad Together won a 1973 Newbery Honor). So anytime there’s the potential for a crossover win, we’re positively exuberant.

More importantly, titles for beginning readers are a much-overlooked art form and one that we’re dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness around. And what better way to get librarians, educators, caregivers, and readers excited about a beginning reader title than to have not one but two shiny award stickers on the cover?

With all that in mind, in this post we’d like to take a closer look at Emily Tetri's Tiger vs. Nightmare and its potential for a CaldeGeisel win. This is Tetri’s first full-length graphic novel, and it’s clear she’s spent time honing the story — as well as the lush illustrations.

Tiger and the monster under her bed are best friends. Every night Tiger brings Monster a plate of dinner, and then the two play together until bedtime. Tiger sleeps soundly every night, knowing that Monster is there to ward off night terrors — until Monster is confronted with a mighty, powerful nightmare. Can Tiger and Monster figure out a way to defeat the bad dreams?

The text is divided between dialogue presented in rounded speech bubbles and narrative presented in rectangular white boxes. This design element creates a clear distinction for new readers between narration and dialogue. Additionally, the layout of speech bubbles is thoughtful so that it’s easy to tell at a glance which character is speaking. Not only do these design elements contribute to the clear visual storytelling, they’re also supportive of new readers who need these visual cues to help them navigate the textual elements of a story without being overwhelmed or confused.

The facial expressions throughout the story are incredibly evocative — an artistic achievement that is also relevant to Geisel criteria, giving beginning readers clues as to the tone of voice for each line of dialogue and supporting comprehension of the primarily dialogue-driven text. Tiger’s reluctance and uncertainty when asking Monster what happened the night before, and Monster’s shame at having failed its friend, are conveyed clearly through their postures and facial expressions; their palpable fear when hiding together under the covers; their newfound resolve; and the determination they feel after their day of armoring up and preparation. Tetri has even answered the question of how to effectively illustrate an elaborate handshake between friends. While each animal in Tiger’s daytime life has clearly penciled outlines, Monster’s back is typically rendered only in watercolor brushstrokes, reinforcing the ambiguity of Monster's place in concrete reality.

The retrofuturistic world that Tetri creates for this story is conveyed entirely through the watercolor and mechanical-penciled illustrations — from the very first view of the family home with the various hover vehicles parked along the street and in the driveway to the interior of the garage, bathed in friendly yellow sunshine. Warm yellows, greens, and browns color the daytime hours, while cool blacks, blues, and grays depict the isolation of nighttime. In addition, there’s a definite difference in the sense of movement between the daytime and nighttime scenes: Tiger’s daytime activities have a solid, grounded (though not static) feel, which contrasts with the dizzying sweeping and swooping of the nightmare figures. White bordered panels alternate with full-page illustrations, creating a cinematic effect. Transitional book readers will find a lot of humor in this empowering story about conquering a fear of nightmares. Don’t neglect to peek under the jacket to see our confident, fierce Tiger squaring off against the menacing nightmare.

The creator’s intentional use of color shines throughout. The imaginative variety of frequently whimsical-styled nightmares, conveyed in the blue-black and white of nighttime, are often even more amorphously bordered than Monster. Even THE nightmare — with its elongated, menacing skull, punctuated with large shining dark eyes — is otherwise a sweeping, growing black cloud trailing behind the skull. This provides a wonderful contrast to the vibrancy of Tiger’s days and emphasizes her triumph — the warm, dazzling glow of sparkling confidence that leaves no room for the nightmare (and thus makes it go “pop”). Throughout the book, but particularly in this scene, Tetri brings the reader not just into the action of the story but into its emotion as well. Looking at the art on these pages, the reader feels the victory over the nightmare, right along with Tiger and Monster.

There’s precedent for a graphic novel to receive Caldecott recognition and Geisel recognition, but it has never yet been the same title — maybe this will be the year. With so much to appreciate from both award perspectives, we have high hopes for this book about fiercely loyal friends who empower each other to be brave in the face of, literally, their worst nightmare.

Amy Seto Forrester, Amanda Foulk, and Misti Tidman
Although they work in libraries separated by many miles, Amy Seto Forrester (Children's Librarian at the Denver Public Library, Denver, Colorado.), Amanda Foulk (K-12 Specialist at Sacramento Public Library, Sacramento, California), and Misti Tidman (Collection Development Librarian for Youth Materials at the Mansfield/Richland County (Ohio) Public Library) served together on the 2016 Geisel Award Committee. They created Guessing Geisel as a platform to spark conversations that would expand understanding of the award criteria, provide assistance to those planning Mock Geisels across the country, and celebrate good books for beginning readers.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

Amanda Foulk

The sci-fi details utterly delight me! I love the window into the world, and into the parents as people with their own personalities, interests, and humor (the dinner table scene where they are poking Tiger with a fork!)- I suspect it's one of the things about this book that triggers Calvin and Hobbes memories for me.

Posted : Dec 13, 2018 08:57

Julie Danielson

I am popping in to say I love this book too, and you all captured it well. Thank you! I love the bizarre little sci-fi details in the book that don't get (or need) any explanation. It leaves me wanting to know more about Tiger's world.

Posted : Dec 13, 2018 05:36


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more