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Caldecott and Other Great Picture Books

Caldecott Medal

On February 2nd the American Library Association announced the 2015 Youth Media Award winners. Among those awards is the Caldecott Medal, awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Congratulations to the 2015 Caldecott Award winner, The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend, illustrated and written by Dan Santat! I’m not an artist or an illustrator, so the awards for illustrations made me stop to look at picture books from a different angle—illustrations.

I borrowed The Adventures of Beekle from the library. The illustrations are very colorful and imaginative, and, I think, match the feelings of Beekle. There are illustrations of children with their imaginary friends on the inside covers, done in black and white over blue background, which adds to the picture book experience, and also adds to the story. As a reader, I always like when there are illustrated end pages rather than blank pages. Much of the story experience in this book is told through the illustrations.

In addition to the Caldecott Medal winner, this year Caldecott Honor Awards were given to five picture books for young readers, and one graphic novel for young adults. I wasn’t able to find all of these books at the library, but I did take a look on line at the ones that I couldn’t find. Here are a couple of the Honor Books that I did get to look at.

Nana in the City written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
The illustrations of the city in the beginning of the book lack as much brightness—when the young boy thinks the city is busy, loud and scary. Later, as Nana shows him how the city is a wonderful place, the illustrations become brighter and more colorful—I like the contrast. I like the textures shown in the illustrations, too.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett.
I read this book last year, and at the time I thought that the illustrations carried the story. I still feel that way. Sam and Dave are digging a hole, hoping to find ‘something spectacular.’ Through the illustrations we see that as they dig, they change directions, just missing their ‘something spectacular.’ What most impressed me in the illustrations was that the story seemed to begin and end in the same place, but subtle details in the illustrations show that it’s indeed not the same place. For example, what was an apple tree in the beginning of the book, is a pear tree at the end. You’ll have to check out the book to find the rest.

Of the winners that I didn’t get to look at (yet), there were two books that I definitely want to read.

The Noisy Paintbox by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre, written by Barb Rosenstock
I checked this book out on line. From what I saw, I loved the colors and the art style. The story line also sounded interesting to me, and I hope to be able to read this one soon.

The Right Word by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, written by Jen Bryant
This is another book that intrigued me when I looked it up on line. I’m a list-maker, and this is a story about Roget, of Roget’s thesaurus—a list-maker. The illustrations seemed to be very ‘busy,’ which matches Roget’s list-making personality. I’m interested in seeing more.

I love when the words and the illustrations work together in a picture book to create a beautiful work of art. There are a couple of picture books in my own library which are not Caldecott winners or honor books, but books where (in my opinion) the illustrations worked with the text to create a ‘winning’ picture book.

One is God’s Quiet Things, illustrated by Rick Stevens, written by Nancy Sweetland. I love the soft pastel illustrations. They seem to take me to a new dimension where I can feel as well as see the quiet things in nature that God created. The writing is also very soft and lyrical, which I enjoyed.

Another book, which combines text and illustration to create the story, is Mole Music, written and illustrated by David McPhail. Mole’s story is told in the words, but the effects of what he does is shown in the illustrations. It leaves a very powerful impression on the reader.

For those of us who write for children but don’t illustrate their work, I hope this inspires you to take a ‘different’ look at picture books.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  Read More 
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