Saturday, January 15, 2011

Library Run: Potential 2011 Caldecott Winners

This month I was supposed to meet with the judges for the RI Mock Caldecott award, but I wasn't able to attend. (I was off in Fantasyland...) However, I had indeed checked out all but three of the books that made the Finals, and wrote notes and such to send to the committee.

All the books I read so far this Winter!

After reading through all the books, I began to feel a bit downhearted. Here is what I wrote in my "Journal," (the Notes app on my phone):

So I'm on the committee for the RI Mock Caldecott award, (which will be meeting early January) and I've just read all the books on the potential nominee list, and I'm finding myself asking...

What makes a Caldecott Medal winner? What distinguishes the art of the winning books from the other books?

Yes, I know each winning artist is talented, and each in their own way. And I know some of their creations were a breakthrough in the childrens' book world- no other artist had done it that way before. Some excelled at pen and ink, some at the brush, and others at graphic elements or use of color. And even some had lacked in story, which was made up for in art.

But what makes the art in a children's book better than all its brothers of that year?

I'm staring at this stack of books in front of me and I'm astounded. It's like comparing apples to oranges! I may like the color of the orange best, but I might just prefer the taste and texture of the apple instead. Of children's books, There are the realistic, the comic, the dramatic, the subtle, the serious...collage, Sculpey, paint and ink...pencil, sketchy, tightly rendered and plain old fun. (And I'm having the same problem deciding on which style to "stick to" in my own work!)

How could I possibly say that this art was better than that one? That the past two years this artist spent picking himself apart did not indeed deserve a gold medal?

I can only sort them into piles: the ones I could see a medal on without having a complaint about it, the ones that if they had a medal I would understand why but perhaps it could have been another book, and the ones that if I saw a medal on them I would indeed have something to say.

And the things I would say would be things like this:

"A Caldecott winner would know better than to place that character's face in the gutter like that," or

"That color palette is nice, but it isn't apropriate for the story at all," or

"I've seen this particular artist do much better work, and I'm a tad disappointed,"

or even

"My two-and-a-half year old niece could do a better job than that."

So I guess a Caldecott winner would have to indeed be the best of the best. It isn't about whether I like it best from all the others, or that no one else can paint like he or she can, or that it was the funniest darned thing I've read in a while. It's about how they used their creativity within the rules and the parameters of creating a children's book, and if they thought outside the box while still technically conforming to the inside of the box. Its about the marriage of the words to the art- their relationship and bond. The little things that matter and small details, the surprises along the way, and how they handled the hard nitty gritty stuff.

So did the artist just get down on one knee and pop the question, or did he send off a million red balloons into the sky that spelled out "You make my heart soar"?

I guess that's how they decide who wins a Caldecott medal? That's how I would, anyway.

So with that in mind, I'm going to go back through these books and do what we do in class: pick it apart, ask questions, and could it have been done in a better more clever way?

Cleverness AND talent? Yes, I believe that DOES deserve a gold medal!

After that pep talk from myself, I decided that these are some of my favorites:
Baker, Keith. LMNO Peas.
Birdsall, Jeanne; illustrated by Matt Phelan. Flora’s Very Windy Day
Fleming, Candace; illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Clever Jack Takes the Cake.
Howe, James; illustrated by Randy Cecil. Brontorina
Nyeu, Tao. Bunny Days
Perl, Erica; illustrated by Julie Denos. Dotty

And that these are my favorites to WIN the Caldecott Medal:
Barnett, Mac. Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World).
Hill, Laban Carrick; illustrated by Bryan Collier. Dave the Potter
Nelson, Maryilyn; illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. Snook Alone
Stead, Philip; illustrated by Erin Stead. A Sick Day for Amos McGee
Thomson, Bill. Chalk
Winter, Jonah. Here Comes the Garbage Barge

But no matter what our results were for the Mock Caldecott, the REAL award winners are what really matter! Congrats to all the talented artists! And if you haven't heard the buzz already, here's what happened in the news.

Crazy world we live in, ain't it? Good thing we've got some books to read. :)

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