The winners of the 2014 Caldecott Medal (along with the other ALA Youth Medal Media Awards, including the Newbery) will be announced on Monday morning at 8am. You can watch a live webcast of it here: ALA – Webcast 2014. The fashions are a little different than the Academy Awards, but I’m looking forward to it.
As I gaze into my crystal ball, I predict that my favorite books of the year won’t be in the winner’s list. But here they are anyway:
The story of an exclamation mark in a world of periods. No matter how hard he tries to fit in, he always stands out. Then one day, he meets a new punctuation mark, who asks him LOTS of questions. He is so overwhelmed by her, he shouts, “STOP!” He didn’t know he had it in him. After that, he discovers he has a whole range of abilities, and goes off to make his mark. The illustrations, set against a background of elementary school writing paper, are simple, funny, and whimsical. I loved this book so much I gave it to my son’s third grade teacher at the end of the school year, because she is one of those amazing people who celebrates each student’s unique personality and talents. Of course, it also works brilliantly as a lesson in punctuation.
If my four-year-old were on the Caldecott Committee, this book would win hands down. I can’t tell you how many times she’s begged me to read it. It’s also the book I’ve read the most for storytimes. It’s time to count the monkeys. The trouble is, the monkeys have been scared away by 1 King Cobra. More and more animals and odd characters (6 beekeepers, 8 lumberjacks) appear on every page. The narrator’s asides are hilarious, and so are the bright, colorful illustrations. This is an ideal book for storytime.
“You might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you. That’s why the dark is always close by.” Laszlo is afraid of the dark, until the dark calls to him, and summons him down into the basement. I love the deliciously creepy language of this book, and the idea of the dark being alive. Jon Klassen won the Caldecott last year for This is Not My Hat, so I doubt this book will win, but it was one I personally savored.
Mo Willems is a picture book rock star. He has a genius for writing books that are perfect for sharing with kids of almost any age. This one is about a sly fox who invites a demure goose to dinner. Kids love joining in on the repeated chorus, “That is NOT a good idea!” And there is a surprising twist at the end.
My daughter loves this book, and it’s been a great tool for discussing how different things that come up at her preschool (not including someone in a game, talking about an upcoming birthday party with a child who wasn’t invited) might make people feel. Brian feels invisible. When kids in his class choose teams, he is left out. When kids talk about the fun party they went to, he was never invited. But then a new boy arrives in school, and Brian makes a shy effort at friendship. And when the new boy is accepted as part of the class, he reaches out to Brian, and makes him no longer invisible. The beauty of this book is in the artwork. Brian is drawn in black-in-white, with small hints of color whenever he feels “seen.” A lovely book.
This year, there were a number of wonderful wordless, or nearly wordless picture books, several of which are top contenders on several of the Best of the Year lists. These books are hard to share at storytime, but they are still great adventures for kids to enjoy on their own. The one that seems most likely to win is:
If Hiyao Miyazaki (the filmmaker behind My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away) were to make a movie of Harold and the Purple Crayon, it would resemble this book. A girl with a red marker draws a door on her bedroom wall, and escapes into a beautiful world of lights and castles. The girl draws a boat, a balloon, and a magic carpet, but then she is captured. She is rescued by the creations of a boy with a purple crayon, and the two set off together. A magical book for kids (and adults) of any age.
Other books that I loved were:
A wordless lift-the-flap ballet between a flamingo and a little girl who tries to emulate him. I shared this with a group of preschoolers and had them try to do the motions along with the girl. They had a blast!
Duncan’s crayons are unhappy, and jealous of each other. They have each written him a letter complaining that he uses them too much, or too little. A brilliant story idea that would also be a wonderful intro to a lesson on letter-writing.
Terrific lesson on the elements of story, with lots of tips on writing, all packed into a fun story. This is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, about a pencil who has to take on a dangerous pencil sharpener, called the Wolf 3000. My daughter loves this book too.
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman and LeUyen Pham (Amazon.com link)
My favorite nonfiction picture book of the year is this biography of quirky genius Paul Erdos. As a boy Paul loved numbers. At age four, he would ask people what day they were born, then calculate how many seconds they had been alive. Since he never learned how to cook or do laundry, as an adult, he travelled around the world living out of hotels and working with other mathematicians. Fascinating and fun.
So there you have it. My favorite picture books of 2013. What are yours, and which book do you think will win the Caldecott Medal?