Reviews of the 2016 Caldecott Award winners

Winner:


mattick_finding winniestar2 Finding Winnie: The True Story of the 
World’s Most Famous Bear
by Lindsay Mattick; 
illus. by Sophie Blackall
Primary   Little, Brown   56 pp.
10/15   978-0-316-32490-8   $18.00   g

A little boy named Cole curls in the crook of his mother’s arm and asks for a story; she spins him two. The first one tells of a veterinarian, Harry Colebourn, who buys a baby bear at a train station on his way from Winnipeg to the WWI European Theater. He calls her Winnie, and the two become deeply attached, until Harry ships out to France, regretfully depositing Winnie at the London Zoo. There the second story begins, wherein a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne befriends Winnie, playing with her in her enclosure and inspiring his father to write some most beloved children’s tales. The end of the second story closes the loop by bringing us back to the little boy in his bedroom: Harry Colebourn was Cole’s great-great-grandfather, for whom he is named, and our stories are true. Mattick, who’s the storytelling mother in this book, 
embellishes her family’s tale with especially evocative and playful language (“The train rolled right through dinner and over the sunset and around ten o’clock and into a nap and out the next day”), matched by the period warmth of Blackall’s still, balanced, and carefully composed images. The sum total is as captivating as it is informative, transforming a personal family story into something universally resonant. A facsimile photo album at the back features photos and records documenting both stories’ landmark events. THOM BARTHELMESS

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books:


andrew_trombone shortyTrombone Shorty
by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews; illus. by Bryan Collier
Primary   Abrams   40 pp.
4/15   978-1-4197-1465-8   $17.95

In New Orleans parlance, “Where y’at?” means “hello.” As an opening greeting (repeated three times, creating a jazzy beat), it also signals the beginning of this conversational and personable 
autobiography. Andrews, a.k.a. Trombone Shorty, concentrates on his younger years: growing up in Tremé, a neighborhood of New Orleans known for its close-knit community and commitment to music; making his own instruments before acquiring and learning to play the trombone; practicing constantly; appearing onstage with Bo Diddley; and finally forming his own successful band. Collier’s expressive watercolor collages layer and texture each page, creating a mix of images that echo the combination of styles Andrews uses to create his own “musical gumbo.” Strong vertical lines burst from his trombone like powerful sounds, while circular shapes float through the pages like background harmonies spilling out of homes and businesses. Hot colors reflect the New Orleans climate, while serene blues are as cool as the music Trombone Shorty produces. An author’s note adds detail to the text; two accompanying photographs of Andrews as a child reinforce the story’s authenticity. Collier discusses his artistic symbolism in an illustrator’s note. Read this one aloud to capture the sounds and sights of Trombone Shorty’s New Orleans. BETTY CARTER

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

henkes_waitingstar2 Waiting
by Kevin Henkes; illus. by the author
Preschool   Greenwillow   32 pp.
9/15   978-0-06-236843-0   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-06-236844-7   $18.99   g

Waiting is a huge part of every child’s life, and Henkes uses a light touch to address the topic. Five toys wait on a windowsill. An owl waits for the moon; a pig holding an umbrella waits for rain; a bear with a kite waits for wind; and a puppy on a sled waits for snow. The fifth toy, a rabbit head on a spring, “wasn’t waiting for anything in particular. He just liked to look out the window and wait.” Henkes’s five friends are drawn with confident brown outlines filled in with a muted palette of light greens, blues, and pinks in colored-pencil and watercolor. A straightforward text sets up predictable patterns, while the design is varied, with horizontal and oval vignettes and full pages showing the entire window — including an especially striking sequence of four wordless pages. Time passes slowly, day to night, through wind, rain, and seasons, while small changes in the characters’ body positions and eyes show a range of emotions, from dismay (at lightning) to curiosity (at small trinkets added to the sill). Near the end, a large, rounded toy cat joins the quintet and waits for — what? Suddenly, we see that she has four smaller nesting cats inside. The book ends as quietly as it began, with welcoming acceptance of the five new inhabitants on the now-crowded windowsill. Henkes provides no deep meanings and sends no messages; he’s just showing what waiting can be like. Perhaps listeners will find a model for making long waits seem less tiresome: be still and notice what’s around you. LOLLY ROBINSON

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

weatherford_voice of freedomstar2 Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of 
the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford; 
illus. by Ekua Holmes
Intermediate   Candlewick   45 pp.
8/15   978-0-7636-6531-9   $17.99

Weatherford’s latest picture-book biography (Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom, rev. 11/06; I, Matthew Henson, rev. 3/08; among many others) chronicles the life of civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, from her beginnings as the youngest child of Mississippi sharecroppers, through the evolution of her political awareness, to her lasting impact on the civil rights movement. Weatherford incorporates direct quotes (indicated by italics and sourced in the endnotes) into her free-verse text, using a conversational, colloquial voice that makes the transitions seamless. The book tackles complex and little-addressed aspects of life under Jim Crow (such as Hamer’s forced sterilization under a Mississippi law) and of the civil rights movement (such as the battle she waged at the 1964 Democratic convention against proposed compromises that would have weakened the movement). Artist Holmes, in her children’s literature debut, elevates an already-excellent narrative with richly colored collage illustrations that layer meaning upon meaning with scraps of historical photos, newsprint, maps, musical scores, and more. Using shadows, patterns, and alternately vast and intimate perspectives, she adds emotional heft to the contrasts between Hamer’s public stature and personal experiences. This majestic biography offers a detailed, intelligible overview of Hamer’s life while never losing the thread of her motivations, fears, and heroic triumphs; and places the civil rights movement in personal, local, national, and international contexts. An extensively detailed timeline, an author’s note, source notes, and a bibliography are appended. CLAIRE GROSS

From the September/October 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

de la pena_last stop on market streetstar2 Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt de la Peña; illus. by Christian Robinson
Primary     Putnam     32 pp.
1/15     978-0-399-25774-2     $16.99

CJ, a young black boy, has a flurry of questions for his grandmother one rainy day: “How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?” “How come we don’t got a car?” “How come we always gotta go here after church?” Only at book’s end do readers learn that “here” is a soup kitchen in a hardscrabble part of town (“How come it’s always so dirty over here?”) where CJ and Nana work every Sunday. Nana has a bottomless supply of look-on-the-sunny-side answers (“Sometimes when you’re surrounded by dirt, CJ, you’re a better witness for what’s beautiful”), but she isn’t dispensing bromides; the economical, exquisitely composed collage illustrations showing the pair in a glamour-free urban setting forbid a glib reading. CJ and Nana develop a fellowship with the bus driver, Mr. Dennis, and with the other passengers (a blind man and his dog; an old woman holding a jar of butterflies; a man playing the guitar), and it takes just a gentle nudge from Nana for CJ to unhesitatingly drop the coin Mr. Dennis gave him into the musician’s hat. De la Peña and Robinson here are carrying on for Ezra Jack Keats in spirit and visual style. This quietly remarkable book will likely inspire questions of a sort less practical-minded than CJ’s; it will also have some adult readers reaching for a tissue. NELL BERAM

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Allison Williams

My students and I have loved Finding Winnie, but we are curious about the parallels with the other Winnie book published last year, Winnie : the true story of the bear who inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sallie Walker. The story is similar, the use of actual photographs is similar and some of the art actually portrays the same moments. I'm just surprised that I have read no comparisons in the press about these two books.

Posted : Jan 13, 2016 09:36


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