Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lots Going on in the Caldecott World

English painter and book illustrator Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886),
for whom the award is named [source: NPR]

This year, the Caldecott Medal turns 75!  Some children's book illustrators might not have gotten a lot of sleep over the weekend. That's because they might have been wondering if this could be the year they win one of the grand prizes of children's literature: the Randolph Caldecott Medal... more here, from NPR.

This morning, this year's winner was announced:  John Klassen for This is Not My Hat...

It's a really nicely illustrated book, but I honestly thought Klassen's other book Extra Yarn, by Mac Barnett, would win (and I like the story better)!  

I have not reviewed This is Not My Hat, but you can Read Roger Sutton's thoughts here at the NY Times. He notes:
A plucky little fish has stolen a dapper little hat from a sleeping big fish. The fish is upfront with us about its theft (“This hat is not mine; I just stole it”), and prattles on about just why he is going to get away with the hat and the crime (“And even if he does notice that it’s gone, he probably won’t know it was me who took it”). Meanwhile, the pictures show the big fish waking up and methodically, inexorably hunting the little fish down until they are both deep in the weeds, from which the big fish emerges alone. Only God knows what happened, but the big fish has recouped his hat. 

As was true with “I Want My Hat Back,” in which a rabbit and a bear provide the dialectic, the ethical position in “This Is Not My Hat” is complicated. Don’t steal, obviously. But given that children’s literature champions the small and the weak, there is also this: Don’t get caught. Depending on where you are on the political spectrum, “This Is Not My Hat” could be a cautionary tale of either righteous class struggle or uppity proletarians. The decision to separate the action in the cool black, gray and green under­water noir pictures from the postulates of the text (“And even if he does guess it was me, he won’t know where I am going”) means that not all picture-book audiences will be old enough to thoroughly get it. I read the book to a 3-year-old, but it was too deep for him; when I watched a 6-year-old and her father read it together, they were appropriately and gleefully scandalized.

If you didn't read my review of Extra Yarn, you can find my post here. I love the message of this sweet story:
Jon Klassen's understated style matches this quirky, sweetly told tale. At the very beginning, we're told: "This looks like an ordinary box full of ordinary yarn.  But it turns out it isn't."  A girl named Annabelle come across the box "filled with yarn of every color" on a cold winter day in her cold, drab town.  With the seemingly endless supply of yarn, she makes rainbow colored knitted creations for everyone (and everything) in the town - even the mailboxes and buildings. 

A pompous and greedy archduke appears on the scene and tries to buy the box from Annabelle, who's not interested in selling it for anything.  He manages to have it stolen, only to find it empty. In a satisfying ending, we realize the box wants to be with someone who is generous in sharing any "extra" with others!

I honestly think all the candidates for the medal are amazing picture books - it's such a personal taste thing, in my opinion, and hard to pick a winner - which is why I don't follow this stuff real closely.  (To see all the contenders, click here). Have you read both Klassen books?  What do you think?


  1. I printed a few lists of the different Caldecott and Caldecott Honor books a few years ago to cross off as I collect books for my children's library. There are quite a few books that either my husband or I do not like on these lists. I don't know what I should do with these books that I have already collected. They obviously won for a reason, but my husband would argue that the people who are selecting these are not necessarily people we should look to for advice.

    I have enjoyed Klasses's I Want My Hat Back but, it is not a book I would pay full price for. Next time at the library or Barnes and Noble I will look for his new winner.

    My husband wrote a post about children's books last night on our blog: http://thecrabtree.net/blog/blogentry/77-books-for-children I would enjoy hearing your thoughts!

    1. Thanks for stopping by - I'll check it out.

      I totally agree with you. I often perused the Caldecott Medal shelf of books at our library when I'd take my kids. I certainly wasn't impressed with everything I saw. So many favorite books left out!

      This year, I was especially excited to see two more books on the candidate list from the husband and wife team of Erin and Philip Stead! (they won previously for "A SIck Day for Amos McGee" - one of my favorite books!)

      But sometimes I think art just should not be judged - there are so many uniquely beautiful picture books out there - seems a shame to hand out awards. The work that goes into the illustrations is incredible.