Newbery / Caldecott 2016: Spring Prediction Edition
There are traditions we adhere to because they are what we know. And what do I know? I know how much fun it is to predict Newbery and Caldecott winners WAY way way before I oughta. Why do I do it? Because it’s fun. Mind-blowingly ridiculous on some level. But fun.
Each year I also see whether or not my predictions had any bearing on the actual winners. With that in mind, here’s how I’ve done for the last six or seven years or so.
2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.
Ah, I was doing so well for a while there but 2014 was clearly a bust. To be fair, I hadn’t read the three Newbery winners by this point in the year since they were all later season releases. On the Caldecott side there were a fair number of books I could have considered. But if the 2015 wins tell us anything, it is that books beloved in the early part of the year can completely turn around and be forgotten by the second half.
And yet, I still love these little predictions. If only because I get to cheer on the books I like the most.
This year, actually, my predictions are a bit backwards. Usually I feel like I have a strong handle on the Newbery and a weak grip on the Caldecott. This year? It’s flipped. But enough jabber jawing. Let’s look at some pretty pretty books:
2016 Caldecott Predictions
A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins, ill. Sophie Blackall
Blackall has never won a Caldecott. One might wonder why that is and come to the conclusion that her clean lined style is too seemingly simple for the committee. Perhaps, but if so it’s a misguided interpretation. I recently had the pleasure of hearing her speak about the research she did on this book, and it made me wonder if any of the Caldecott committee members would hear her, or anyone at her publishing house, say similar things. Because once you know the sheer extent to which she fought for details like the book’s ice pit, that is knowledge you can never unknow. Mind you, if her other book out this year about the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh wins instead, I’ll be perfectly happy with that instead.
Float by Daniel Miyares
The wordless book is the picture book illustrator’s equivalent of a monologue. Suddenly the words vanish and you’re center stage, commanding the audience’s attention by sheer will and artistic technique. It can be intimidating. Now this year we’re seeing a utterly gorgeous (and Canadian) Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson getting a lot of press. It is not, however, the only sidewalk-inclined wordless picture book out there. Miyares, who has flown under the radar for a number of years, has created his own subdued and rather lovely tale of a boy, a boat, a storm, a loss, and coming home to daddy. I’ll need some more time to process this one but I like a lot of what it’s doing.
The Moon Is Going to Addy’s House by Ida Pearle
I’m sorry the scan of the cover is so crummy here, since part of the lure of this book (aside from the near magical use of cut paper to convey movement and characters) is the use of color. This is a lush, magnificent title that manages to take cut paper and make it live. There’s one particular shot of a little girl running to her daddy that will drop your jaw to the floor and shatter it completely. Absolutely stunning.
Night World by Mordecai Gerstein
I’m always wary of Newbery/Caldecott prediction lists that are full of previous winners. It always strikes me as a technique bereft of imagination. That said, sometimes it just makes good, clean sense. The next two artists you see mentioned here are previous winners in one capacity or another. Gerstein’s book plays with tones and hues and what you do or do not see when the sun is gone. It has a killer ending where the sun rises and the colors return to the world that’s worth the price of admission alone. We haven’t seen him win anything since The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Maybe this year’s the year to rectify that.
The Whisper by Pamela Zagarenski
Not to be confused with the 2015 Aaron Starmer novel of the same name (though the two pair together eerily well). I will confess to you that in the past I’ve not been the biggest Zagarenski fan. It’s something about the crowns she draws. I must have a low crown tolerance. So credit it to low expectations if you like, but when I picked up The Whisper to read I expected the same old, same old. What I got instead was a book so imaginative and clever that it may just as easily live on as a writing prompt title as a work of beautiful art. I do wonder if my love of the text is affecting my view of the art. Maybe so, or maybe this really is the best thing she’s ever done. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
2016 Newbery Predictions
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
I really only have three titles on the old Newbery side of things this spring. It isn’t that I haven’t read a lot of potential winners. I have! It’s just a trickier year than I was expecting. Now Ryan’s book listed here is a big thick brick of a title. A definite paperweight, should you need one. It takes three stories and a single instrument to highlight three very different lives before and during WWII. I’m still picking apart my thoughts on it and I haven’t had a chance to have a nice long conversation with anyone about it yet, so all I’ll say is that it will certainly be a discussed title by the committee.
Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Of all the books list here in this post today, this is the book that I think has the best chance at a win. What Stead has penned here is a middle school book, so it presses up against the upper ends of the Newbery’s age range (14). I’ve already heard some folks wonder if they enjoyed it more as an adult than a kid would. Time will tell on that account, but if the Newbery is supposed to go to the most “distinguished” children’s book, then this is the one to beat. I can’t think of anything else this year that approaches its level.
Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Tricky one. On the one hand the story is great, the characters vivid, the setting a character in and of itself, and some of the prose just heartbreakingly lovely. On the down side, it’s got a couple scenes that could have been cut down or out. There’s a confusing love triangle that serves no apparent purpose, and a dentist/moped sequence that I had to read and reread a couple times to myself to understand. To win a Newbery this book will have to overcome these elements. Then again, it stays with you long after you put it down. Funny to mention it after Goodbye, Stranger too. One book contains a lacy bra, and this book contains a plethora of thongs.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
You wouldn’t know it from the cover, but this is one of the year’s most enjoyable reads. Review after review comments on how much fun the reader had getting through it. It shouldn’t work but Bradley (who I pegged for a Newbery years ago for her Jefferson’s Sons, only to be disappointed) has amazing skills and an even better cast of characters. I almost wonder if this book has a Newbery chance, considering the pleasure it elicits from my fellow gatekeepers. Guess we’ll just have to see.
That’s all she wrote, folks. What have you preferred thus far? Surprise me.
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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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