Who Was Randolph Caldecott?

This is Not My Hat Collage by Geovanni

This is Not My Hat Collage by Geovanni

Every January, I try to do a series of storytimes related to the upcoming announcement of the newest winner of the Caldecott Medal.  This year’s winner will be announced on Monday, January 27 at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association.

This week, I read some of my favorite Caldecott Medal Winners from previous years, both for my Family Storytime, and to two classes of second graders.  But before I get to those, it occurred to me that I had never thought to wonder who Randolph Caldecott was, and how the award came to be named after him.  So I looked him up.

According to the Randolph Caldecott Society UK web page, Caldecott was a British artist, who lived from 1846-1886, and was known for his children’s book illustrations.  Every year, he would select or write a collection of stories and rhymes, which he would illustrate and publish at Christmastime.  The books were enormously popular, and brought him international fame.  Like many of the best children’s authors and illustrators (Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Margaret Wise Brown, and Beatrix Potter to name a few), Caldecott never had children of his own.   Sadly, he suffered from heart problems and gastritis, and died a few weeks before his 40th birthday, while traveling in St. Augustine, Florida.

I haven’t been able to find an explanation for why the American Library Association in 1937 decided to name the medal after Randolph Caldecott.  After all, according to the guidelines, the award-winning artist “must be a citizen or resident of the United States,” and Caldecott was British.  Why not name it after an American illustrator like Johnny Gruelle, Wanda Gág or N.C. Wyeth?  My only guess is that it had to do with the quality of Caldecott’s illustrations, and the seamless way he integrated them with the text.  Maurice Sendak is quoted as saying, “Caldecott’s work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book. He devised an ingenious juxtaposition of picture and word, a counterpoint that never happened before. Words are left out—but the picture says it. Pictures are left out—but the word says it.”  And that is the quality that defines the best picture books.

I just learned about a new book by Leonard Marcus entitled Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing.  I will have to check it out to find out more, especially after reading this intriguing conversation between Leonard Marcus and Brian Selznick, winner of the 2008 Caldecott Medal (I love to show kids Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which is not a picture book, but a 533 page heavily illustrated novel).  In the meantime, you can see samples of some of Caldecott’s illustrations on the Randolph Caldecott Society web site.

But now, back to the storytime.   After I explained the Caldecott Medal to the kids, and showed them the seal on the covers of the winning books, I read these:

hat

This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Amazon.com link) 2013 Caldecott Medal

It amazing the range of reactions I get whenever I read this book aloud.  I remember sharing it with some second grade classes last year where some of the kids were very nervous.   In one class, every time the little fish bragged about his certainty that the big fish whose hat he stole would never find him, this one boy would say, “No!  Don’t say that!  He’s going to eat you!”  This year, though, all the second graders laughed.  The Kindergartners at storytime, however, looked concerned.   The fish is so shockingly naughty and brazen (although, of course, most of the best and most memorable children’s book heroes are naughty).  The beauty of the book, though, is that the ending is unspoken.  Klassen leaves you with the image of the big fish wearing his hat, and leaves the rest to your imagination.   So when I asked my storytime group what happened at the end, they said, “The big fish got his hat back.”  The second graders, on the other hand, said, “The little fish got eaten.”

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Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (Amazon.com link) 1996 Caldecott Medal

I think about this book every time I stand on a swivel chair, which I do often, in spite of this being in part a cautionary tale about that very thing.  My only complaint about this book is that it’s really one you want to sit down with and pore over by yourself, to enjoy all the humor in the illustrations, and some of that gets lost in a storytime setting.  But the kids love it anyway.  At my family storytime, many of them exclaimed over it when they first saw me pull it out of the stack, so clearly they had heard it before (and hopefully had a chance to look at it up close).  Officer Buckle’s safety speeches suddenly become a big hit at schools when he is partnered up with a new police dog named Gloria, until Officer Buckle discovers why.  This is a wonderful story about a friendship and the importance of working together, and it has great safety tips besides.

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Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes (Amazon.com link) 2005 Caldecott Medal

I remember being surprised the first time I saw this book, because the style was so drastically different from Henkes’ other books like Chysanthemum and Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse.  But since then, this has become one of my favorite read-alouds (along with A Good Day, which is perfect for toddlers).  The language in this book is so simple, and compelling: ”It was Kitten’s first full moon. When she saw it, she thought, there’s a little bowl of milk in the sky. And she wanted it.”  The story is funny because of all of Kitten’s mistakes and accidents, but you also feel her frustration, so it is deeply satisfying when she comes home wet and exhausted to find her own bowl of milk on the porch.  There was a little tussle over who was going to get to check this one out after I read it.

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead; illustrated by Erin H. Stead (Amazon.com link) 2011 Caldecott Medal

I’ll admit, I hadn’t ever noticed the mouse and the red balloon that appear several times throughout this book, until one of the second graders pointed them out.  And then I was instantly transported back to reading Goodnight, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann with my son when he was small, and trying to find the red balloon and mouse on every page.  It’s a subtle reference, but I loved it.  The kids loved the pictures of the zoo animals packed into the bus to visit their sick zookeeper friend, and the idea of the owl being afraid of the dark.

SONGS:

1,2,3,4,5, I Caught I Fish Alive

B-I-N-G-O  To go along with Officer Buckle and Gloria, I brought out the library’s St. Bernard hand puppet (who likes to lick people’s faces), and we barked the missing letters.

INSTRUMENT PLAY WITH A CD: Old MacDonald Had a Farm by Rufus Thomas from Sing Along with Putumayo (Amazon.com link)  This rock-and-roll version of Old MacDonald is always fun.

CRAFT: This is Not My Hat Collage

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For this craft, I cut out pieces for the kids to color and assemble the little fish from This is Not My Hat, and brought some plants from my yard for them to glue down.

I originally had a crazy idea for taping the fish to a piece of yarn, and cutting a slit in the paper, so it would look like the fish was disappearing behind the plants when you pulled the yarn.  But I would have needed thicker paper, and it seemed to complicated for the short time the kids had to assemble the craft.  Still, I mocked it up with my daughter, and even though we tried it with construction paper, which is flimsy, she still had a lot of fun playing with it.

I drew the fish shapes freehand, and they’re not great, but if you’d like the template, you can print it out here: fishtemplate

OTHER BOOKS:

Along with A Sick Day for Amos McGee and This is Not My Hat, I read these four books to some second grade classes this week:

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (Amazon.com link) 2004 Caldecott Medal

This is one of my absolutely favorite Caldecott winners to read aloud, although I usually share it with older kids.   In 1974, Philippe Petit walked, danced, ran, and lay on a tightrope across the Twin Towers.   It was an illegal act, so he and some friends disguised themselves as construction workers, then carried the 400 pound cable up the elevator, and then up ten flights of stairs to the roof.   Getting the wire across the gap was a harrowing experience all its own, and at one point, the cable fell, pulling Petit’s friends in the other tower to the edge of the roof.   And then he stepped out onto the wire, a quarter of a mile above the ground.  The illustrations in this book are dizzying.  The kids are always transfixed.   And even though Petit broke the law (yes, another naughty character, but a real one!), he did so ready to face the consequences.  After he stepped off the wire, he held out his hands for the cuffs.  He was sentenced to perform in Central Park for free.   There is one line at the end of the book that says, “Now the towers are gone,” and always, always the kids ask why.  The first year I read it, I wasn’t prepared, and in the pause while I tried to frame my answer, I could hear a bunch of kids exclaiming to each other the bits of information they knew.  Fortunately, I knew that this year on September 11 the principal at the school had spoken to all of the classes in the school, explaining about the tragedy, and telling the kids that they should “remember the heroes.”  So this time, when the question came, I was able to remind them of that, and, while I’m sure they still had questions, they seemed to accept that.  That question is the only reason I haven’t read this book at my regular storytime, since I’m not sure how comfortable my storytime parents will be with whatever explanation I give, and the inevitable questions that will follow.   But otherwise, this is an exhilarating book, and one of the best examples of a nonfiction picture book I know.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (Amazon.com link)  1964 Caldecott Medal

I shared this book with the second grade because I wanted to show them that they all knew at least one Caldecott winner.  This book is so much a part of our popular children’s culture now (most of the kids had seen the movie too), but I also wanted them to stop and think about how revolutionary the book and the art were when it first came out.  Max is the ultimate naughty character, fulfilling that fantasy all kids probably have of running away and going wild.   I like to mention how controversial this story was, even down to the last line.  In an interview, Sendak once talked about an argument he had with his editor, Ursula Nordstrom, “One of the fights I had with Ursula—and her whole office—though it seems silly now, was with the last line of the book [about Max’s dinner]: “and it was still hot.” It bothered a lot of people, and they wanted me to change it to “and it was still warm.” Warm doesn’t burn your tongue. There is something dangerous in “hot.” It does burn your tongue. Hot is the trouble you can get into. But I won.”  We were lucky Sendak was always a bit like Max.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig (Amazon.com link) 1970 Caldecott Medal

This was one of my favorite books as a child, and I still love it.   Sylvester the donkey is thrilled to find a pebble that makes wishes come true, until he has a run-in with a dangerous lion, and accidentally wishes he were a rock.   Steig really draws out the drama of Sylvester, helpless and alone on the hill as the seasons pass, while his parents worry and mourn.  Of course, it has a joyfully happy ending, where the family is reunited, and they decide to lock the magic pebble away, at least for a while, realizing that now that they were together again, “they all had all that they wanted.”   Before I read this book, I usually tell the kids that William Steig wrote the picture book Shrek, which, oddly, most of them have never seen, although most of them have seen the movies.

So You Want to be President by Judith St. George; illustrated by David Small (Amazon.com link)  2001 Caldecott Medal

I made the mistake of reading this book last to one of the classes, and it was a bit too long.  Still, it’s a fun collection of facts about the presidents, both the traits that many of them shared, as well as the things that made each one unique.  The illustrations by David Small are colorful and funny, and there are some great quotes scattered throughout the text.  My favorite is from Ulysses S. Grant, about his own musical ability, “I know only two tunes: one of them is Yankee Doodle, and the other isn’t.”  This is a great book to share on President’s Day or around Election time.

You can find the complete list of Caldecott Medal winners here.  Please tell me your favorites, and more importantly, who do you think will win this year?

 

Scary Stories!

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Q-tip Skeleton by Sophia

I love Halloween. The only thing that frightens me about the holiday is that I know the instant it’s over, it will be Christmas. And not just in the stores, because Christmas has already begun its red and green invasion across our local Rite Aid. No, I mean, that as soon as October ends, that whole eight weeks between November 1 and December 25 will vanish like a pepperoni pizza in a room full of teenagers.

But for now, I get to enjoy the huge variety of great picture books about monsters, witches, pumpkins, and ghosts. The only challenge is gauging the scariness level for the wide range of ages I read to. This week, I did Halloween-themed storytimes for two groups of toddlers, two groups of preschoolers, two second grade classes, and my family storytime group (mostly Kindergartners). This post is mostly about my family storytime, but I’ll list some of my favorites for the other age groups below:

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When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor and Nick Sharatt

“When a monster is born, there are two possibilities: either it’s a Faraway in the Forests Monster or it’s an Under Your Bed Monster.” This book explores all the different things that might happen with each decision a monster might make, each with hilarious twists: it might eat the principal, it might meet a kitchen girl and fall in love. The kids love joining in on the repeated line, “There are two possibilities.” This one was quickly snatched up by one of my family storytime kids. The parents enjoyed it too, especially the line, “Hey, I’m a monster. You’re a monster. Let’s get married!”

peas

The Monster Who Ate My Peas by Danny Schnitzlein and Matt Faulkner

I love this book. It’s rare to find a long story in rhymed verse that reads so well all the way through, and is easy for the kids to follow. When a boy doesn’t want to eat his peas, a horrifying monster appears to offer a trade: he’ll eat the peas in exchange for the boy’s new soccer ball. The boy accepts, but the next time he has to eat peas, the monster returns asking for his bike. I had read this to two classes of second graders the morning before my family storytime, and I thought it was really interesting that, when I asked them if the boy should give up his ball or his bike, most of the older kids said, “Yes.” (The Kindergarten kids at family storytime said, “No” every time.). But when the monster demands the boy’s puppy, all the kids were emphatically against the deal, and also worried about what was going to happen to the dog. Luckily, the boy decides to eat the peas himself, and the monster disappears in a deliciously satisfying ending. A couple of the Kindergartners thought this one was scary, which surprised me because I remembered reading it to them a year or so before. But then I know from my own kids that they find different things frightening at different ages. The second graders loved it.

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Crankenstein by Samantha Berger; illustrated by Dan Santat

This one was recommended by my friend Kerri, on her blog What is ML Reading? It’s a fun read-aloud because the kids get to make that Frankenstein “Mehrrr!” noise all the way through. It describes all the things that can turn a normal kid into Crankenstein: waiting in long lines, running out of maple syrup, getting ready for school, and bedtime. It would pair well with another of my favorite books: What are You so Grumpy About? by Tom Lichtenheld. This one got snatched up too.

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Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown

Always a hit! As I told the kids: this one’s only scary if you’re a rabbit. But it has all the hallmarks of a horror movie: dark shadows, creepy breathing, things that aren’t there when you turn around. In this case, the monsters are three creepy carrots, who stalk poor Jasper Rabbit until he decides to take matters into his own hands. It’s a fun read, with a funny twist at the end, and it works for a wide range of ages.

SONGS:

Jack-o-Lantern (For the tune, click here)

Jack-o-lantern, Jack-o-lantern,
You are such a spooky sight!
As you sit there in the window
Looking out at the night.

You were once a yellow pumpkin
Growing on a pretty vine.
Now you are a jack-o-lantern,
Let your candlelight shine!

1 Little, 2 Little, 3 Little Witches

1 little, 2 little, 3 little Witches (hold up three fingers)
Fly over haystacks, fly over ditches (fly your hand around)
Fly over moonbeams without any hitches
Hey ho! Halloween night! (Clap!)

1 little, 2 little, 3 little witches
Flew over barbed wire, tore their britches
Had to go home and get some stitches (mime sewing)
Hey ho! Halloween night! (Clap!)

On Halloween (to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)

The ghosts in the house go, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”
“Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo!”
The ghosts in the house go, “Boo! Boo! Boo!”
On Halloween!

The witches in the house go “Hee hee hee!”…

The bats in the house go “Eee eee eee!”…

The kids at the door say “Trick or treat!”

I asked for suggestions from the kids for other spooky Halloween things, or things they plan to be for Halloween.

Five Little Pumpkins

Five Little Pumpkins sitting on a gate (hold up five fingers)
The first one said, “Oh my! It’s getting late!”
The second one said, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one said, “But we don’t care!”
The fourth one said, “Let’s run and run and run!”
The fifth one said, “It’s Halloween fun!”
Then “OOOOOOH” went the wind,
And out went the light! (Clap)
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight. (roll hands)

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Q-Tip Skeleton by Olivia

CRAFT: Q-Tip Skeletons

I am grateful to the Crafts Ideas website for including a printable template for the skull. I cut those out ahead of time and broke up the Q-Tips into different sizes. One thing I learned the hard way: it’s much easier to break Q-tips with your hands than to cut them with scissors. With the scissors, I was wearing out my hands, and Q-tip bits were flying across the reference desk like tiny cotton missiles!

The kids used glue sticks to glue their skeletons to black paper. If you do a search for Q-Tip Skeletons online, you’ll see an astounding variety of styles. Some of them get pretty elaborate, and include fingers and toes.

OTHER HALLOWEEN BOOKS (with recommended ages):

Babies and Toddlers:

Halloween Countdown by Jack Prelutsky; illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Wonderful counting rhyme in a board book format. The ghosts are adorable, and there’s a “Boo!” at the end. This one really works well for any age.

Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino

A classic board book of the fingerplay, Five Little Pumpkins (see above). Most of the kids knew this one already.

Tucker’s Spooky Halloween by Leslie McGuirk

Tucker is an adorable white dog who would like to be something spooky for Halloween, but his owner has other plans. Simple, cute story in a board book format.

Preschool:

Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman; illustrated by S. D. Schindler

A witch grows a pumpkin for pumpkin pie, but is unable to pull it off the vine. One by one, different Halloween creatures try their hand until a bat suggests the solution. Fun, repetitive story with great illustrations.

Pumpkin Trouble by Jan Thomas

When Duck gets his head stuck in a pumpkin, his friends Mouse and Pig think he is a monster. Short, funny read-aloud with a lot of visual humor. This is one of my daughter’s favorites.

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems

Leonardo is a terrible monster. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t scare anyone, until he meets Sam. This is a sweet story, and perfect for storytime because of the large pages with lots of white space. You have to take a big breath when you get to the page where Sam explains why he’s crying. I love everything Mo Willems writes.

Elementary Grades:

The Skeleton in the Closet by Alice Schertle; illustrated by Curtis Jobling

Another wonderful rhyming story. I have actually read this one to younger kids, but I point out the cuteness of the skeleton and tone down the spookiness in my voice. A skeleton climbs up the stairs of a little boy’s house, saying it’s “Coming to get some skeleton clothes!” In the end, it raids the little boy’s closet and comes out fully clothed.

Zombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio; illustrated by Scott Campbell

I’ve read this one for Valentine’s Day too. Poor Mortimer tries everything to meet the girl of his dreams: giving out chocolates (full of worms), hearts (the organ kind), and even diamond rings (with the finger still attached). But nothing works until he places a personal ad in the paper, and meets Millicent, who loses her shoe (and her foot) at the ball. This one got lots of appreciative “Ews!” and “Yucks” from the second grade, both for the gruesome bits and the romantic ones.

The Book that Eats People by John Perry; illustrated by Mark Fearing

The second graders and I had fun acting scared of this book, because IT EATS PEOPLE! Deliciously gruesome, but not for younger kids unless they have a high tolerance for horror.

Next week I will be doing Halloween books again, probably sticking with the lighter, funnier ones. I would love suggestions, so please send me your favorites and I’ll list them below.

You Be the Judge! The California Young Reader Medal

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Star Wand by Ramona

 

This week I read the nominees for the 2013-2014 California Young Reader Medal for Primary Grades.  Every year, a committee composed of members from four different reading and literacy organizations selects five books in five age categories: Primary (grades K-3), Intermediate (grades 3-6), Middle School/Junior High (grades 6-8), Young Adult (grades 9-12) and Picture Books for Older Readers (grades 4 and up).  Kids all over the state have all year to read or listen to the books and vote for their favorite before the winning books are announced on May 1.

I had shared these books last week with two second grade classes, and was curious to see if I got the same result from my evening storytime group, which has a number of Kindergarteners.  They enjoyed all the books, and they scrambled to check them all out at the end, but there was definitely a clear favorite.

The five books were:

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Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown

When a bear named Lucille finds a little boy in the woods, she names him Squeaker, and begs her Mom to let her keep him.  But Squeaker proves to be a challenging pet, especially when he disappears.  Although this one only got one vote, the kids enjoyed it thoroughly.  I love the author’s note on the back jacket, where he says that as a kid he found a frog and asked his mom if he could keep it.  She asked him if he would like it if some animal took him home to be it’s pet.  His reply, “Absolutely!”

Ballgame_jacket

Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies

Great book for baseball fans.  This is a rhyming story about a baseball game between two rival teams of bats.   The illustrations of the bats are adorable, and the writing conveys the tension of watching a close game.  This one didn’t get any votes from my storytime group, but a couple of the second graders chose it as their favorite.

stars

 

Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

This is a quiet book about the wonder of stars of all kinds: stars in the sky, stars in moss, snowflakes, pumpkin flowers.  The illustrations are large and lovely, and the language is beautiful.  I love the idea of keeping a star in your pocket, just to know it is there, for days when you don’t feel so shiny.   It’s a different style of book from the other four, and even though none of the storytime kids chose it as their favorite, several of them clamored to check it out, and it did get a couple of votes from the second grade.

 

chicken

Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

This one was the big winner with my storytime group, as well as with one of the second grade classes.  It’s one of my favorite read-alouds.  Little Chicken won’t go to bed without a story, and she promises her father not to interrupt.  He caves, and reads her Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little, but every time he gets to the most exciting part of the story, Little Chicken can’t help jumping in to save the main characters: “Out jumped a little red chicken and she said, ‘Don’t go in!  She’s a witch!’  So Hansel and Gretel didn’t.  The End!”   This would be a great book for fairy tale units as well.

press

Press Here by Herve Tullet

This one surprised me.  I had read it before, but never shared it with a group of kids.  They LOVED it, especially in the second grade, where it was the overwhelming favorite with the first class, and a close contender in the second.  It got a few votes from my storytime group too.   It’s a simple, interactive book that reads a lot like an iPad app (and in fact, there is an app based on it).  Each page shows a series of different colored dots, with instructions like “tap five times on the yellow dot,” or “turn the book to the left.”  The instructions appear to change the dots in different ways, causing them to move, change color, or multiply.  Towards the end, it instructs you to clap once.  The dots get bigger.  Clap twice.  They get even bigger.  In both the second grade classes, the kids were practically screaming each time I turned the page to show the bigger dots.  They were so excited!   It was astonishing and hilarious, and I had such a good time reading it with them.  I could imagine lots of ways to use this book in a classroom, to accompany lessons on color, number, pattern, or direction.   It would also be fun to have kids experiment with making their own dot books.

CRAFT: Star Wands

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Star Wand by Claire

I have very forgiving coworkers.  The storytime ended just before the library closed, and there was glitter everywhere!   But it couldn’t be helped.  We had to make the star wands described in the book Stars, because if you wave a magic wand, you might see a wish come true.  Who could pass up that possibility?

I cut out stars on yellow card stock ahead of time, and gave each child a chopstick and some tape to make the wand.  They decorated their stars with glitter (of course!), as well as stickers and markers.  Each one was unique.

Which book would you vote for?  This year’s California Young Medal Award winners won’t be announced until May, although the nominees for 2014-2015 will be revealed in February.  To learn more about the award, visit:  http://californiayoungreadermedal.org/

Second Grade Caldecott Committee, Part 2

A week after challenging two second grade classes at a local elementary school to pick their favorite book out of four picture books published in the past year, I read them four more. Here they are:

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Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Adam Rex

This is one of those books where the author and illustrator enter the story, this time to get in an argument about whether Chloe, the protagonist, encounters a lion or a dragon. In a fit of egotistical rage, the author, Mac, fires Adam, has him eaten by the lion, and hires a new artist. But he isn’t happy with the results.

The kids got a kick out of this one, and it did get several votes. It’s a challenge to read aloud, because it reads more like a play or a comic, so I had to find really distinctive voices for each of the parts to convey who was speaking. I have to admit that even though it’s a funny book with a clever premise, I was uneasy about a couple of things. For one, the author says another character is “clearly an idiot,” which is something that I probably wouldn’t have even thought twice about when I was a kid, but the climate today, especially in schools, is really sensitive to words like “idiot” and “stupid.” The word did get a sort of surprised (and slightly delighted) reaction from some of the kids, as if I read the f-word out loud in class. But the author in the story is being a big jerk, so I guess it fits his character.

My other concern, which bothered me more, is that when the author draws his own pictures, the other characters go on and on about how horrible they are. This point is crucial to the plot, because it’s how the author gets his come-uppance and learns that the illustrator is important (it’s also how he gets the illustrator out of the lion). But the drawings that the other characters are insulting are still much better than anything I could draw, and probably better than the second graders I was reading to could draw as well, so it pained me a little to plant the idea that these were horrible drawings.

I don’t know. I’m probably being a bit too sensitive, which is unusual for me because I usually love the slightly edgy picture books. In any case, the book has gotten a lot of attention, and appeared on several Best of the Year lists, and the kids certainly did seem to like it. Plus it presented a fun challenge for me as a storyteller, and gave me a good opportunity to discuss the difference between authors and illustrators. Not my favorite of the year, but I can see why it is popular.

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Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri

This was far and away the favorite in the first class I read to. It’s kind of a bizarre version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Apparently dragons LOVE tacos. AND parties. They especially love TACO PARTIES. But, the narrator warns, you must be very careful not to give them any spicy salsa, or terrible things will happen. Which of course, they do. The kids loved the pictures of the dragons breathing fire uncontrollably and burning the house down. And the book made both classes laugh out loud. Definitely one I will be reading again at storytimes.

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A Gold Star for Zog by Julia Donaldson; illustrated by Axel Scheffler

By the author/illustrator team behind The Gruffalo this is another funny, colorful, rhyming tale, this time about a dragon who longs to earn a gold star at dragon school. Each year he gets injured in some way, and is rescued by a girl who turns out to be a princess. As the mother of a preschooler deep in the princess phase, I appreciate it because it is an “Anti-Princess” book. Or at least the princess declares she’d much rather be a doctor. I also like how she puts a stop to the near battle between the dragon and a knight by complaining that “the world’s already far to full of cuts and burns and bumps.”

Surprisingly, this one didn’t get many votes from either class. I think they all enjoyed listening to it, but it wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as some of the others, and it felt a bit long. I think it probably work better for kids to read one-on-one, because they’d have a better chance to take in the detailed, whimsical drawings.

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Rabbit’s Snow Dance by James and Joseph Bruchac; illustrated by Jeff Newman

This was the top choice of the second class, and my favorite of all the books on the “Best of the Year” lists so far.

Joseph Bruchac is known for his versions of Native American folk tales (as well as his delightfully creepy novel Skeleton Man). This picture book is based on an Iroquois legend explaining why rabbits have short tails. The story goes that Rabbit once had a long, beautiful tail, but one summer he grew impatient with the weather and wanted it to snow, so he played his drum and sang his special song over and over again, until everything is covered with snow except for the highest branch of the tallest tree. And there Rabbit falls asleep, and well, let’s just say he learns his lesson.

Ever since I first read this book to my three year-old two weeks ago, she has been going around the house chanting, “I will make it snow. Azikanapo!” and “EE-OO! Thump! Thump! EE-OO! Thump! Thump! Yo Yo Yo! Yo Yo Yo!” The second graders were no different. Even though it was the last book I read on a glorious sunny Friday afternoon at the very end of the day, I could hear them in the halls after school singing, “EE-OO! Thump! Thump!” Even though it’s a bit lengthy for some of the age groups I usually read to, the chants are enough to hold their interest. This is a book that will probably become one of my all time favorite read-alouds.

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The second graders are all anxious to know which picture book will win the real Caldecott Award tomorrow morning, and so am I. I’ve promised that I will do my best to try to bring the actual book in to read to them on Friday. I hope they won’t be disappointed in the result. Some Caldecott winners are definitely more readily appealing to kids than others, and I’m curious to know what this year’s committee decides.

No matter who wins, it’s been a fun and engaging exercise for both me and the kids to see which ones they liked the best. Even though there were clear favorites in both classes on both the days that I read to them, there were a lot of different opinions. And that was only with four books each week to choose from. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be for the Caldecott committee to choose one winner out of all of the hundreds of books that have been published this year!

The Second Grade Caldecott Committee

Today I read four recently published picture books to two separate classes of second graders, and asked them to choose which one they would award the Caldecott Medal if they were on the selection committee.

The four books were:

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Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown
Jasper Rabbit loves to munch the carrots of Crackenhopper Field, until they start to follow him. The large glossy black and white (and orange) illustrated panels in this book were just creepy enough to keep the kids uncertain about whether they should be frightened or amused. Still, they were riveted all the way through to the surprise ending.

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This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
A tiny fish boldly steals the hat of a sleeping fish many times his size. He is sure he will get away with it… The fun of this book is in the contrast between the little fish’s boasts, and the illustrations of the big fish hunting him. Younger children may not get the joke, but may not pick up on the implied ending either (let’s just say the little fish gets what’s coming to him). The second graders all knew what was coming though. One boy kept shouting, “No, don’t keep saying things like that. The big fish is going to eat you!” This one got quite a few votes from both classes.

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The Day Louis Got Eaten by John Fardell
The overwhelming favorite book for both classes. When her little brother Louis is eaten by a Gulper, Sarah knows just what to do. Unfortunately the Gulper is eaten by a Grabular, who is eaten by an Undersnatch…well, you get the picture. The kids LOVED this book, especially the colorful, cartoon-like illustrations of Sarah, whose bicycle magically transforms to carry her across water, underwater, and anywhere else she needs to go.

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I’m Bored by Michael Ian Black; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

The second-most popular book for both classes. A little girl complains about being bored, until she meets a potato who thinks kids are boring (and would much rather play with a flamingo). Trying to convince the potato that kids are far from boring leads the girl to demonstrate just how many amazing things kids can do. Another great read-aloud, with large, clear, funny illustrations on lots of white space. The kids liked chiming in whenever the potato said “Boring!”

The kids were excited about all of the books, and begged to have a chance to see them up close afterwards. I had chosen these out of several lists of the best picture published in 2012. It was interesting that there didn’t seem to be much consistency between the lists, and there didn’t seem to be any one clear favorite among professional reviewers. I’m just as anxious as the kids were to know which book actually will win the Caldecott this year!