Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Fall Prediction Edition
Now we’re in the thick of it. Do you hear that? That is the clicking ticking sound of the reanimation of the Heavy Medal and Calling Caldecott blogs. They’re a little groggy right now, trying to get their bearings, figuring out which foot to try first. But don’t be fooled by their initial speed. Very soon they’ll be acting like well-oiled machines, debating and comparing and contrasting like it’s nobody’s business. But why let them have all the fun? Time for a little predicting on my end as well! I’ve been discussing these books with folks all year and through our debates I’m getting a better sense of the titles that are more likely than others to make it in the end. So, with the inclusion of some fall books, here’s the latest roster of predictions. Please note that as the year goes on I tend to drop books off my list more than I add them. This is also my penultimate list. The final will appear in December.
2015 Newbery Predictions
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
It’s so satisfying when you like a book and then find that everyone else likes it too. This was the very first book I mentioned in this year’s Spring Prediction Edition of Newbery/Caldecott 2015 and nothing has shaken my firm belief that it is extraordinary. It balances out kid-friendly plotting with literary acumen. It asks big questions while remaining down-to-earth. And yes, it’s dark. 2014 is a dark year. It’ll be compared to Doll Bones, which is not the worst thing in the world. I could see this one making it to the finish line. I really could.
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
You know what? I’m sticking by this one. Graff’s novel has the ability to create hardcore reader fans, even though it has a very seemingly simple premise. It’s librarian-bait to a certain extent (promoting a kid who likes to read Captain Underpants will do that) but I don’t think it’s really pandering or anything. It’s also not a natural choice for the Newbery, preferring subtlety over literary largess. I’m keeping it in mind for now.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
Notable if, for no other reason, the fact that Nina Lindsay and I agree on it and we rarely agree on anything. As it happens, this is a book I’ve been noticing a big backlash against. It sports a complex and unlikeable heroine, which can prove difficult when assessing its merits. She makes hard, often bad, choices. But personally I feel that even if you dislike who she becomes, you still root for her to win. Isn’t that worth something? Other folks find the blending of historical fiction and fantasy unnerving. I find it literary. You be the judge.
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson
I could write out yet another defense of this remarkable novel, but I think I’ll let N.D. Wilson do the talking for me instead:
brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The frontrunner. This is Woodson’s year and we’re just living in it. I’m waiting to hear the concentrated objections to this book. Waiting because I’m having a hard time fathoming what they might be. One librarian I spoke too complained it was too long. Can’t agree myself, but I noted her comment. Other than that, nobody disagrees that it’s distinguished. As distinguished as distinguished can be, really. If it doesn’t get the gold (look at all the nice sky-space where you could fit in a medal!) I will go on a small rampage.
Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon
Betcha didn’t see that one coming. You were probably expecting a discussion of Revolution or A Snicker of Magic or something, right? Well darling, I’ll confess something to you. I like simple books. Reeeeally simple books. Books so simple that they cross an invisible line and become remarkably complex. I like books that give you something to talk about for long periods of time. That’s where Hanlon’s easy chapter book comes in. What do I find distinguished about this story? I find the emotional resonance and sheer honesty of the enterprise entirely surprising and extraordinary. And speaking of out-there nominations . . .
Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers
Face facts. Jeffers is a risky Caldecott bid, even when he’s at his best. The man does do original things (This Moose Belongs to Me was probably his best bet since moving to America, though I’d argue that Stuck was the best overall) but his real strength actually lies in his writing. The man’s brain is twisted in all the right places, so when you see a book as beautifully written as this one you have to forgive yourself for wanting to slap medals all over it, left and right. A picture book winning a Newbery is not unheard of in this day and age, but it requires a committee that thinks in the same way. I don’t know this year’s committee particularly well. I can’t say what they will or will not think. All I do know is that this book deserves recognition.
Let the record show that the ONLY reason I am not including The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos in this list is because it does require a bit of familiarity with the other books in the series. I struggle with that knowledge since it’s long been a dream of mine to see a Joey Pigza book with the Newbery gold and this is our last possible chance to do just that. Likewise, I’m not including The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis only because knowledge of Elijah of Buxton makes for a stronger ending to the tale But both books are true contenders in every other way.
And now for the more difficult discussions (because clearly Newbery is a piece of cake….. hahahahahahahaha!!! <—- maniacal laughter)
2015 Caldecott Predictions
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, ill. Jonathan Bean
I only recently discovered that if you take the jacket off of this book and look at it from left to right you get to see the entire story play out, end to end. What other illustrator goes for true emotion on the bloody blooming jacket of their books? Bean is LONG overdue for Caldecott love. He’s gotten Boston Globe-Horn Book love and Ezra Jack Keats Award love but at this moment in time it’s downright bizarre that he hasn’t a Caldecott or two to his name. Hoping this book will change all that.
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, ill. Floyd Cooper
I’m sticking with Floyd here. The man’s paid his dues. This book does some truly lovely things. It’s going to have to deal with potentially running into people who just don’t care for his style. It’s a distinctive one and not found anywhere else, but I know a certain stripe of gatekeeper doesn’t care for it. It’s also one of three African-American ballerina books this year (Ballerina Dreams: From Orphan to Dancer by Michaela and Elaine DePrince, ill. Frank Morrison and Firebird by Misty Copeland, ill. Christopher Myers anyone?) but is undeniably the strongest.
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales, photographs by Tim O’Meara
People don’t like it when a book doesn’t fall into their preexisting prescribed notions of what a book should do. Folks look at the cover and title of this book and think “picture book biography”. When they don’t get that, they get mad. I’ve heard complaints about the sparse text and lack of nonfiction elements. Yet for all that, nobody can say a single word against the art. “Stunning” only begins to encompass it. I think that if you can detach your mind from thinking of the book as a story, you do far better with it. Distinguished art? You better believe it, baby.
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman
Seriously, look me in the eye and explain to me how this isn’t everybody’s #1 Caldecott choice. Right here. In the eye.
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
What can I say that I haven’t said a hundred times before? I’ve heard vague whines from folks who don’t care for this art style. *sigh* It happens. I’ll just turn everything over to the author for her perspective on the story behind the story then.
Remy and Lulu by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison
Okay, try to think of a precedent for this one. Let’s say this book won the Caldecott gold. That would mark the very first time in the HISTORY of the award itself that two unmarried artists got a medal for their work, yes? And yet the book couldn’t exist without the two of them working in tandem. Remy and Lulu is an excellent example of a book that I dismissed on an initial reading, yet found myself returning to again and again and again later. And admit it. The similarities in some ways to Officer Buckle and Gloria can only help it, right?
I don’t think I gave this book adequate attention the first time I read it through.
Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray, ill. Kenard Pak
I heard an artist once criticize the current trend where picture book illustrators follow so closely in the footsteps of Jon Klassen. And you could be forgiven for thinking that animator Kenard Pak is yet another one of these. Yet when you look at this book, this remarkable little piece of nonfiction, you see how the textured watercolors are more than simply Klassen-esque. Pak’s art is delightful and original and downright keen. Can you say as much for many other books?
This is one of those years where the books I’m looking at have NOTHING to do with the books that other folks are looking at. For example, when I look at the list of books being considered at Calling Caldecott, I am puzzled. Seems to me it would make more sense to mention Blue on Blue by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes, Go to Sleep, Little Farm by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, or Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg by Debi Gliori (wait . . . she’s Scottish and therefore ineligible?! Doggone the doggity gones . . .).
So! What did I miss?
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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