The 2022 Robin Smith Picture Book Prize

This is the fifth annual Robin Smith Picture Book Prize. My wife, Robin — teacher, writer, conference speaker, children’s book committee regular, and co-founder of Calling Caldecott — died of cancer in 2017. I am heartened that this prize in her honor represents so much of Robin’s spirit. The five years’ worth of selections is a wonderful gift for teachers and parents looking for a small, curated sample of some of the best picture books from the last five years, books Robin would have loved and would have read aloud with great enthusiasm from the rocking chair in her second-grade classroom, From 2017 until now, the books are The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall, River by Elisha Cooper, and The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl.

And, now: The Ramble Shamble Children by Christina Soontornvat and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Robin would have loved Castillo’s dark-lined impressionistic illustrations of this multiethnic family of children. She would have noticed what is not in the illustrations — video games, cell phones, laptops, hovering parents. It's just children playing, reading, gardening, feeding chickens, and little Jory looking after the mud. It would have reminded Robin of Barbara Cooney’s Roxaboxen, one of her all-time favorite picture books, about another group of children on their own, creating a town out of their imaginations. It reminds me of my selection of The Blue House last year. Clearly, I like stories of scruffy, ramble-shamble houses that are less than perfect — but more than able to contain a cozy family life. Perhaps it’s because that’s how my house is, too, the house Robin and I shared and raised two children in — kind of scruffy and worn and cluttered (especially with books and children’s book art), yet homey. As my friend Emmie says, “Everywhere you look, there’s something interesting to see.” And Robin would have appreciated Soontornvat’s rhythmic and understated writing — just enough text, with plenty of action, dialogue, and humor to make a great read-aloud choice.

This year there’s even a new Robin Smith Picture Book Prize gold sticker affixed to the cover, created as a gift to me by my daughter, Julie Schneider, and her designer friend Cristina Gomez. Those are lupines on the sticker. Robin loved Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius, and people sometimes compared her to Miss Rumphius in how she made the world a better place, Robin by teaching young children and Miss Rumphius by planting lupines throughout the Maine countryside. I sprinkled Robin’s ashes on a stand of lupines outside the house on Little Cranberry Island, Maine, where we visited in the summers of her last years. The sticker, along with the book it adorns, is a precious reminder of Robin and her legacy in the world of children’s literature, a legacy I have tried my best to continue.

 

                                           

Dean Schneider
Dean Schneider teaches seventh and eighth grades at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee.
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Amy Gilmore Graville

Robin was a cherished and beloved educator. My entire family often remembers her and the impact she had on us all, mostly my sister, Sarah. We recall her words of wisdom and teach them to our children: “Can’t say can’t play” and we knit many stitches thinking of her instruction and contagious passion for learning. Is there a way to purchase these stickers? I would love to gift these books to my children and friends/family and it would be extra special to have the Robin Smith Picture Book Prize sticker on them.

Posted : Apr 06, 2022 12:55


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