Reviews of the 2015 Caldecott Award winners


santat_adventures of beekleThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
by Dan Santat; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.
4/14     978-0-316-19998-8     $17.00

Imaginary friend Beekle waits and waits for a child to think him into existence. When it doesn't happen, Beekle sails off to the real world — a city full of boring adults — to find her. Santat's bright digital illustrations capture the vivid land of imagination, the drab adult world, and the giggle-inducing expressions on marshmallow-like Beekle's pudgy white face. SHARA L. HARDESON

From the Fall 2014 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

Honor books:

nana in the cityNana in the City
by Lauren Castillo; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Clarion   40 pp.
9/14   978-0-544-10443-3   $16.99

Visiting Nana in her new apartment in the city, the unnamed child narrator is initially unreceptive to the city’s appeal. Upon first impression, “the city is busy. The city is loud. The city is filled with scary things.” However, Nana promises to show her young visitor all the ways that “the city is wonderful — bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and their tour the following day does just that. Here is a vital, independent grandmother for the new millennium, one who is just as likely to clap for a street performer or bring a pretzel to a homeless man as she is to knit with her cat or serve milk and cookies in her cozy kitchen. The loving relationship between her and her grandchild is clearly conveyed by their easy interactions, in particular the red cape she bestows upon the child to encourage bravery in a new place. Castillo’s simple, meaningful text is well served by her richly detailed, brightly saturated watercolors, which convey a city bustling with crowds, construction, traffic, and events, juxtaposing colorful foregrounds against monochromatic backgrounds to suggest that even more activity lies beyond the book’s depicted scenes. The accessible story arc outlines worthwhile messages about openness to new experiences and changing one’s perspective, all couched in the security of spending time with a loved one. The young narrator concludes: “The city is…the absolute perfect place for a nana to live. And for me to visit!” Readers will feel the same. CLAIRE E. GROSS

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


rosenstock_noisy paint boxThe Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art
by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by Mary GrandPré
Primary   Knopf   40 pp.
2/14   978-0-307-97848-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-307-97849-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97850-9   $10.99

One of the pioneers of abstract art, Vasily Kandinsky experienced “colors as sounds, and sounds as colors,” a neurological condition called synesthesia. Concentrating primarily on the artist as a child and young adult, Rosenstock takes known events and embellishes them with dialogue and specific sounds for the colors (“He brushed a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings”). GrandPré does a fine job showing color and sound as abstractions while presenting the artist and his surroundings in a more realistic manner. At first we see young Vasya as a proper and obedient child, surrounded by squared-off edges and dark colors. But when he receives a paint box as a gift and begins to hear sounds as he mixes the colors, the page compositions open up. As angles give way to swirls, GrandPré provides a visualization of the freedom that results when an artist finds his voice. An author’s note provides more information about the artist and four reproductions of his later work. Sources and recommended websites are included. LOLLY ROBINSON

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


barnett_samanddavestar2 Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-7636-6229-5    $16.99

This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way. SAM BLOOM

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Viva Fridastar2 Viva Frida
by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author with photos by Tim O’Meara
Primary, Intermediate   Porter/Roaring Brook   40 pp.
9/14   978-1-59643-603-9   $17.99   g

There have been several books for young readers about Frida Kahlo, but none has come close to the emotional aesthetic Morales brings to her subject, as a Mexican artist herself who understands the particular landscape of Kahlo’s imagination. By selecting several of Kahlo’s recurring symbols — monkey, dog, parrot, deer, hummingbird — she achieves artistic depth and lends child appeal to a very spare, ethereal text. Morales also incorporates Señor Calavera (a figure who recurs throughout Morales’s own work), representing the dance with death Kahlo engaged in all her life. Morales initially shows Kahlo as a puppet: made from steel, polymer clay, and wool, the three-dimensional figures (photographed and digitally manipulated inside double-page-spread collages) are works of art in themselves. The illustrations are accompanied by just a few words of text in both Spanish and English (“busco / I search // Veo / I see… // Juego / I play”) that leave readers with a dreamlike impression. As we enter Kahlo’s mind, the medium and style change, and the pages are illustrated with lush acrylics, showing her winged feet carrying her across the spreads, arrows whizzing past; one eventually hits her pet deer in the foreleg. This allusion to Kahlo’s famous painting The Little Deer may be lost on most young readers, but the accompanying text (“siento / I feel”) will get the basic meaning across. Morales (Niño Wrestles the World, rev. 7/13) once again impresses us with her artistry in an ingenious tour de force. KATHLEEN T. HORNING

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


bryant_right-word_170x231star2 The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary    Eerdmans    48 pp.
9/14    978-0-8028-5385-1    $17.50

Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the thesaurus. A solitary, though not unhappy, child, Roget spends his time keeping lists and ordering the natural and cultural wonders he finds in abundance. He studies to become a doctor, teaches, joins academic societies, raises a family, and continues to capture and classify the universe, eventually publishing his Thesaurus, a catalog of concepts ordered by ideas, in 1852. Bryant’s linear telling follows Peter closely, expressing his curiosity, sensitivity, and populist spirit in language that is both decorous and warm. Clever book design and visionary illustration add layers of meaning, as images come together in careful sequence. On the cover a cacophony of iconographic ideas explodes from the pages of a book. The opening endpapers arrange these same concepts in a vertical collage that recalls spines on a bookshelf. The title spread features the letters of the alphabet as stacked blocks, as a child manages them, and from there the pages grow in complexity, as Roget himself grows up. Sweet embellishes her own gentle watercolors with all manner of clippings and realia, corralling the pictures into order according to concept, number, or color. A timeline and detailed author and illustrator notes follow the narrative, with suggested additional resources and a facsimile page of Roget’s first, handwritten book of lists. And the closing endpapers, with the comprehensive classification scheme of the first thesaurus, fully realize the opening organizational promise. THOM BARTHELMESS

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


tamaki_this-one-summer_170x241star2 This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    320 pp.
5/14    978-1-59643-774-6    $17.99

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Horn Book
Horn Book

Be the first reader to comment.

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.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.