The Caldecott Medal recognizes the best illustrated book of the year, with a couple of honor books rounding out the award. The ALA Youth Media Awards will take place on January 28th in Seattle, but before the winners are announced, we’re collecting our picks.
My favorites are below, along with a brief description of why I think each title is a contender. Let the picture book reading commence!
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illus. by Adam Rex; Hyperion Book; 16.99
A hilarious discussion of what it means to collaborate, this fourth-wall-breaker is my top pick for the medal. Various techniques make this a fantastic visual feast. The author and his illustrators are claymation-style figures, while the story characters are cartoonish drawings who perform on a more realistically-drawn theater set. Simply put, there’s a lot to look at here, and it’s all awesome!
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illus. by Jon Klassen; Balzer & Bray; 16.99
Yes, Mac Barnett again. What can I say? I’m a fan. This time, the story is gentle and fairytale-esque, and it’s paired with Jon Klassen’s whimsical, folksy illustrations. The graphics are restrained, beautiful, and like the story itself, simple and lovely. The marriage of text and image is near-perfect here, and it’s easy to see why it’s already garnered hefty critical acclaim. One of the strongest contenders for either the medal or an honor.
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Candlewick Press; 15.99
I know! I’ve already nominated Jon Klassen! But he totally deserves two mentions, you guys. As my fellow bookseller Erin pointed out, the illustrations are perfect for teaching kids about inference. The text is narrated by one character, but the illustrations follow another. Of all the books on this list, this is the one in which the text and illustrations are the most intertwined—one simply could not exist without the other. And, of course, it’s hilarious, with a (somewhat) ambiguous ending that leaves some things to the imagination. (If you want to know what Jon Klassen said about it when we asked him, give us a call.)
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illus. by Erin E. Stead; Roaring Brook Press; 16.99
Erin Stead’s already a Caldecott medalist for A Sick Day for Amos McGee, and her odds are good this year, too. Some (including my bookseller buddies) would say that Bear Has a Story to Tell has a higher chance for an award, but I’m sticking with my all-time Stead favorite. Her illustrations here are, true to form, both grounded and whimsical, combining realism with flights of fancy. And there are so many layers to find—part of the fun is staring at the spreads, picking out the little details that a reader might miss with a first glance.
The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf, illus. by The Brothers Hilts; Putnam; 16.99
Debut children’s author Karina Wolf’s story is charming and atmospheric, and moonlight-infused illustrations from The Brothers Hilts (yes, they’re really brothers) elevate this book from a great read aloud to a visually prolific pick—there are oodles of cool details to pore over. Quirky and unique!
Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop; Little, Brown; Ages 2-6
Stoop used pieces of wood for the background of her illustrations, so the striations of the rings add a fantastic textural element to each spread. There’s a dreamlike quality here as the color palette shifts from the brilliant rust, yellow, and green of sunset to the deeper twilight hues of indigo, teal, and gold. And against these soft, atmospheric hues stands our little heroine, who pops off the page in her bright red ensemble (and, of course, her red knit cap!). It’s a sumptuous visual feast that fully deserves its place on the New York Times’ Best Illustrated list.
Others to watch: Bear Has a Story to Tell, Unspoken, Abe Lincoln’s Dream
What are your picks for Caldecott? Comment and let us know which books you think deserve an award!