Reviews of the 2024 Caldecott Medal Winners


by Vashti Harrison; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    64 pp.
5/23    9780316353229    $19.99
e-book ed.  9780316566223    $12.99

As Harrison writes in her author’s note, “In childhood, big is good. Big is impressive, aspirational. But somewhere along the way, the world begins to tell us something different: That big is bad. That being big is undesirable.” Words matter, as a beautiful little Black girl learns. The girl, a dancer who wears a leotard and tutu throughout the book, “grew and learned and laughed…and grew and grew and grew. And it was good…until it wasn’t.” When she accidentally gets stuck in the baby swing on the school playground, her classmates and even her teacher hurl hurtful words and laughter, which begin to affect the youngster’s self-esteem and self-perception. The text is spare but pointed; Harrison’s emotionally powerful, pink-hued illustrations focus on her protagonist’s inner experience. The girl looks like a giant in school and at dance class, “exposed, judged, yet invisible.” The openness of the illustrations gives way to more cramped and overwhelming compositions as the girl, now in blue-gray, feels increasingly hemmed in by others’ judgments — a visible statement about the impact of fatphobia and the adultification of Black children. This girl’s story ends triumphantly; she takes her teacher’s and classmates’ hateful words and hands them back, saying, “These are yours. They hurt me.” This book offers readers an opportunity to remember that we all deserve love and respect — no matter what size we are. MONIQUE HARRIS

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

In Every Life
by Marla Frazee; illus. by the author
Preschool    Beach Lane/Simon    32 pp.
2/23    9781665912488    $18.99
e-book ed.  9781665912495    $10.99

In her latest picture book, Frazee says she “hoped to capture and honor what we all have in common, no matter who we are or where we live.” Each line of text begins with “In every...” and appears on its own spread with Frazee’s signature pencil and gouache vignettes of people, young and old, epitomizing the sentiment expressed (à la her layouts for the similarly inspirational Everywhere Babies, rev. 5/01, and All the World, rev. 9/09). While the text is earnest, Frazee finds ways to insert light humor into her illustrations, such as a child using the potty for “In every hope, blessed is the doing.” Wordless full-bleed spreads are interspersed between the vignette pages, showing wide landscape views with people finding peace and joy in nature; these offer viewers a chance to pause and reflect on that line’s meaning. She also chooses a predominant color for each line’s font and its accompanying art to aid young listeners in linking them together (e.g., yellow is the color associated with the line “In every smile, blessed is the light”). The affectionate domestic scenes feature a diverse mix of people and are a visual testament to Frazee’s inclusive goal of showcasing the commonalities “in every life.” According to her author’s note, she’s revised a baby-naming blessing that she attributes to the Jewish faith (the original source of which is unknown, “but it has been adapted and used widely in welcoming ceremonies of all kinds”) by simplifying the poem and adding her own lines, including passages about smiles and sadness. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The Truth About Dragons
by Julie Leung; illus. by Hanna Cha
Primary    Holt    40 pp.
8/23    9781250820587     $18.99
e-book ed.  9781250347374     $10.99



There Was a Party for Langston
by Jason Reynolds; illus. by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey
Primary    Dlouhy/Atheneum    56 pp.
10/23    9781534439443    $18.99
e-book ed  9781534439450    $10.99

An intriguing photograph of writers Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka dancing at a party at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is the springboard for Reynolds’s first (traditional) picture book. In 1991, people in Harlem gathered to celebrate the grand opening of the Langston Hughes Auditorium and the literary brilliance of its namesake. At the “fancy-foot, get-down, all-out bash,” guests boogie to the beats and bops of music as renowned word-makers are pictured leaning in from the spines of books on the shelves, captivated by the dazzling whirlwind of excitement. The master poet, Langston Hughes, was called “the ‘word-making king.’” He “could make the word America look like two friends making pinky promises to be cool, to be true” and turn words into laughter, “bringing joy to the little and the big.” In his own evocative and kinetic style of word-making, Reynolds exudes reverence for Langston and the festive tempo of the occasion. The Pumphreys’ vibrant illustrations, created with digitized handmade stamps, extend the theme of wordsmithing in creative interpretations of text, as in the double-page spread of Angelou and Baraka dancing with the letters of their first names forming the shape of their bodies. A jubilant tribute to the enduring legacy of one of the most prominent voices of the Harlem Renaissance and others whom he has inspired. PAULETTA BROWN BRACY

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Mexican Freedom Fighter
by Aida Salazar; illus. by Molly Mendoza
Primary, Intermediate    Scholastic    48 pp.
3/23    9781338283419    $19.99





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