Newbery / Caldecott 2013: The Fall Prediction Edition
For the final prediction edition of the 2013 Newbery/Caldecott Awards be sure to see my latest post here.
A little late but still got it out before the end of October and the imminent arrival of Frankenstorm. I spent a goodly part of yesterday preparing for the hurricane by baking pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Now you know where my priorities lie.
The year has passed like a blur and there’s an interesting consistency to the books being discussed for Newberys and Caldecotts. Newberys anyway. This may be an entirely Wild Card Caldecott year as far as I can tell. There are no sure fire winners. Only worthy contestants. Let’s begin!
The Unfortunate Son by Constance Leeds – I stand by this one. It was weird when I put it on my last prediction list and weirder still that I’ve not removed it. But the fact of the matter is that when we think of the word “distinguished” and apply it to writing, Leeds’ book stands up time and time again. If you haven’t read it yet, I think you’ll have to grab yourself a copy and take a gander. Shield thine eyes against the brown-ness of the book jacket and enjoy the stellar writing. Yes, it’s a wild card, but such a lovely fun one.
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin – In spite of having one of the more difficult names to remember, I think this is my current front runner. Yep. I think we’ve got a gold medal winner on our hands. It isn’t just the fact that it’s better than its predecessor (which won an Honor back in the day). It’s the fact that Lin seamlessly weaves her folktales into the narrative in such a way that you half suspect she made them up (she didn’t). It’s the fact that the writing is cyclical, referring back to itself and to the characters both telling and listening to the story. It’s the fact that it’s masterful. Nuff said.
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Obed – My pet beloved, and STILL it is not out yet. Is there any way to curse a book more than to release it in November? Talk is minimal about it, though it has gotten starred reviews already and Travis Jonker gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up over at 100 Scope Notes. Consider this one the stealth contestant. Nobody will see it coming . . .
Wonder by R.J. Palacio – Normally when a book breaks as early as this one did in the year it is either forgotten or less discussed by the year’s end. Not the case with Wonder. This is a case of a book coming out in the right place at the right time. It managed to simultaneously touch people on an emotional level, wow them on a literary one, and (most important of all?) it falls under the sway of the current Anti-Bullying craze sweeping the nation. Whole schools are adopting it as their One Book reads. I had a discussion with someone the other day about how many award winners win simply because of timing. Could Smoky Night by David Diaz or The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordecai Gerstein (or even Johnny Tremain for that matter) have done so well if they hadn’t be published precisely when they were? By the same token, Wonder at least has a VERY good chance at a Newbery honor. Note that it didn’t make it onto the National Book Award finalists, though. That may be why I’m not so sure of its gold chances.
Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker – If the book is sunk by anything at this point it may be the ending. Not the happiness found there, mind. I was a-okay with all of that. Rather, the lack of attention the press takes in the story and the mildest of mild slaps on the wrist to the characters. Still, in terms of character development this is maybe the strongest children’s novel of the year.
Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz – Shaking off the rather ridiculous notion that the book is boring (how much more blood would it take to be exciting exactly?) what has surprised me time and time again about this book is the reaction from patrons and librarians. I expected to be the one lonely voice howling in the wind about its loveliness. Instead I find myself just an average alto in a very large chorus. Nina at Heavy Medals thinks it’s a love it or hate it title, but I have been surprised at how few folks I’ve run across dislike it or think it’s anything less than fantastic. I recently did a Wolves of Willoughby Chase event and when asked who is akin to Joan Aiken, Ms. Schlitz’s name popped immediately to mind. For writing alone, this should win something.
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin – Just as folks like Jonathan Hunt have their own tendencies when they talk about potential winners (he pushes YA, nonfiction, and easy/picture books) my personal bugaboo is the YA novel that wins a Newbery. The award goes until the age of 14 so, technically, many is the book that could win. However, I’ve always disliked it when a book meant for an older audience wins the day. We have the Printz and though it does not receive the same press as the Newbery, I feel it covers the tween crowd quite nicely. There are always exceptions, which is why I’m not exactly sitting down to rewrite the Newbery criteria. Case in point, Bomb. What I love about this is that while it does have an older audience in mind, the content is the kind of thing I’ve had many many 10, 11 and 12-year-olds asking me for over the years. They want bomb info. This book delivers and, amazing as it is to say, Jonathan actually agrees with me on this one. Wowzer!
Crow by Barbara Wright – I have a co-worker with a near supernatural sense of ALA Award winners. A year ago she kept harkening back to A Ball for Daisy. Kept saying how worthy it was and how the wordless sequences really put it over the top. This year she’s been getting the same feeling about Crow. I will admit to you that it took a long time for me to pick this Reconstruction-era tale up but when I finished I was glad that I did. It is worthy? No question. What may sink it is the question of kid-friendly reading. Technically this is not a serious consideration on the part of the Newbery committee, but it’s still something they take into account. Then again, my co-worker is so rarely wrong . . .
Not Mentioned (and why!):
- The One and Only Ivan by Katharine Applegate – I was very fond of this one but I’m not sure if I’m ready to stick my flag into it and declare it a whole new world. It does some great things and like Wonder is very timely (the real Ivan died this year). Trouble is, it relies on a plot point that I’ve heard contested in more than one circle, so I’m not sure if it will get all that far.
- The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine – I was actually a big fan of this one. Really well done. Just didn’t quite have that little extra something to make it a Newbery.
- No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson – Too YA. Though if we consider the sheer lack of multiculturalism this year I’d be more than happy to have it seriously considered.
- Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead – Love the book but I’m not sure of its long term staying power. A good one to be aware of in any case.
- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage – I adore it but this has turned out to be a hugely divisive book. Please, oh please, dear sweet committee, prove me wrong!
(this kind of thing is so much easier to do when the New York Times Best Illustrated List has already come out)
And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Erin E. Stead – In a year that could conceivably be considered Stead vs. Stead vs. Stead (this, Phil’s A Home for Bird, and the duo’s Bear Has a Story to Tell) of all the Steadifying of 2012 this book remains my favorite. It’s not just Fogliano’s delightful but careful and subdued writing. It’s how Ms. Stead has chosen to portray the sheer swaths of time left waiting for something to grow in the spring. This is a book about restraint (a notion foreign to most small children). Let us hope the committee is not the least bit restrained and gives is a glorious little award.
Step Gently Out by Helen Frost, photographs by Rick Lieder – As a woman who spent her young adult life certain that she would become a professional photographer (ah, crazed youth) my heart is still firmly in the court of photography. There is, naturally, the question of whether or not a book complemented by photographs constitutes “illustration”. In the fine art world photography has always been pooh-poohed as a lesser art, and some of that prejudice slips down even to the world of children’s literature. Indeed, no work of pure photography has ever won a Caldecott (the only near exception being Knuffle Bunny‘s mix of photos and images). Certainly I always thought that if any photographer got such an award it would have to be Nic Bishop. If it happened to go to Rick Lieder instead, however, I would not mind a jot.
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen – The last time I mentioned my predictions I failed to include this little gem. The response from the artists out there was a universal cry of support. Mr. Klassen is very big amongst his fellows. That being said, there is some concern that the heroine of this book does not hold her knitting needles correctly. I can’t seem to find my copy but if true then this could potentially disqualify the book. FYI.
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger – I refer you now to Lolly Robinson’s discussion at Calling Caldecott where she waxes rhapsodic about the various traits worth celebrating in the title. To my horror, however, she pointed out a small mistake. It sounds like a mild design issue and hopefully not a dealbreaker. Just the same, it could well reduce what I once thought of as the Caldecott frontrunner to an Honor. Or maybe not! I’m still counting on getting a green Newbery/Caldecott dress out of this.
Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff – A smart mix of tribute and original storytelling/art. One of the younger Caldecott contenders seen here, and I think that’s important. It is restrained in its text, but to just the right degree. Hopefully the committee will see it for the smart little book that it is.
Not Mentioned (and why!):
- Z is for Moose by Kelly A. Bingham, ill. Paul O. Zelinsky – Hugely popular it is. Lots of fun as well. I’m just not certain it outshines the other potential candidates this year, that’s all. Still a stellar piece of work, no matter how you slice it.
- This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen – No, I’m afraid his work on Extra Yarn has a better chance. This one is a visual stunner, but not quite there on the writing side.
- Oh No! by Candace Fleming, ill. Eric Rohmann – Great book but alas someone showed me a perspective problem near the end that may sink it for the committee. Doggone it.
And your thoughts?
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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