Caldecott Contenders


Which book will win the prestigious Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year? Join librarians and other interested folks at the Headquarters Library downtown to discuss five of the contenders. Our library’s Mock Awards program, a discussion of books eligible for the American Library Association’s Caldecott and Newbery Awards, runs from 3:00-5:00 in the library theater, and all are welcome.

          The five Caldecott possibilities show the great span of today’s picture books, from stories for the youngest to nonfiction for upper elementary school readers.

           “A Kitten Tale” by Eric Rohmann. “Once there were four kittens who had never seen snow.” Three of the four are very worried about the cold, the wet, the piles and the drifts, but the adventurous tiger kitten says only, “I can’t wait!”  Simple shapes outlined in black, generously displayed on double page spreads, convey the personalities of each kitten. Simple does not mean simplistic in this reassuring picture book.

          “A River of Words, The Story of William Carlos Williams” by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The words in this book appear not only in the text, but also in Sweet’s collage illustrations, where she mixes typefaces, handwriting and drawings to illustrate the life of the poet. Inviting and accessible, this will introduce a new generation to the family doctor whose after-hours work gave us the vivid images of the plums in the icebox and the red wheelbarrow in the rain.

“Twenty Heartbeats” by Dennis Hasely, illustrated by Ed Young. A rich man commissions an artist to paint a portrait of his best-loved horse. But years go by, and the artist has nothing to show him. When the rich man storms the artist’s studio, the artist, challenged, finally draws the portrait. It’s only when he explores the studio further that the rich man discovers the hundreds of pictures the artist drew in his years-long attempt to capture the perfection of the horse. Ed Young’s collages on rice paper are a masterful accompaniment for a fable about an artist’s journey.

          “What To Do About Alice?” by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. Alice Roosevelt was so high-spirited that her father famously said, “I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.” Kerley captures her personality through a breezy, informative text that follows her from the sad circumstances of her birth up through her marriage and tenure as one of the grand dames of Washington. Fotheringham illustrates the story is an equally refreshing style, using a lively page layout and cartoony portraits to bring Alice to life.

          “Our California” by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Rafael López. Brilliantly colored acrylics fill every inch of the pages in this rhyming tour of the state. From San Diego, with its surfers, lighthouses and famous zoo, to the gold rush town of Eureka, with its fir-covered hillsides, the landscapes and history of this vast state are celebrated in double-page spreads crowded with detail. 

          “Baseball Hour” by Carol Nevius, illustrated by Bill Thomson. A baseball practice session is recounted in rhyming text and photorealistic illustrations in sepia, black and white with striking red highlights.  The kids’ ordinary activities – throwing, hitting, and running – are made extraordinary by Thomson’s unusual perspectives and precise attention to every detail.

          The announcement of the actual awards will be made on Monday, January 26.

Originally published in the 1/13/09 Free Lance-Star newspaper.