Newbery/Caldecott 2017: The Summer Prediction Edition
Fickle little me. Titles appear. Titles disappear. Many of the books I placed on my Spring 2017 predictions list are gone by June, and what has changed? Aren’t the books as wonderful now as they were when I originally propped them up? Of course they are, but I’ve done enough book discussions in the intervening months that I feel as if I’ve a better grasp on what’s a contender. Not that my track record is by any means perfect. These are, as ever, just my professional opinion. And I may have gone a little crazy with the Caldecott predictions this time around . . .
Be sure to check out the 100 Scope Notes post on books that Goodreads readers think have a real shot too.
2017 Caldecott Predictions
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, ill. Yuyi Morales
I read this one a long time ago and liked it just fine. Personally, it wasn’t hitting me in the same way as Yuyi’s previous two books had, but I certainly enjoyed the spirit and energy and sheer love coming off the pages. Then I talked about it with a bunch of other librarians and when we sat down and looked at those images, one after another, and discussed how one leads to another and how well Yuyi is able to convey familial affection with just the simplest of movements . . . well, I’m sold. In fact, I may have just been convinced that this is her best book yet.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis
Unlike many of my honored colleagues, I’m pretty darn neutral on Ellis. As a person she’s sweet as peaches on the vine but her art has never left me feeling warm and snuggly. Now those of you who know me know that I’ve a weakness for weirdness. Dark horse medal contenders are my favorites. All the more reason that I should incline towards this strange, silly, downright odd little tale of bugs speaking their own (very comprehensible) language and the flower that inspires them. I’ve read this book many times to my own kids and I can honestly say that it’s a perfect combination of luscious, lovely, occasionally terrifying art and kid-friendly storylines.
Miracle Man by John Hendrix
I mean, I put it to you. Can a Jesus book win a Caldecott in the 21st century? Considering that the 1938 Medal Winner, which is to say the very first Caldecott ever given out, went to Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book, I’d say there was a precedent. This is another wild card, and I don’t envy the Caldecott committee this discussion. It’s hard to not to be in awe of Hendrix’s typography alone.
Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, ill. Beth Krommes
Do you do that thing I do where if a person has won a Newbery or Caldecott Medal (not Honor) before then you sort of give them second billing when thinking about future award winners? I do that all the time, but when you see a book as gorgeous as this one you put all that aside. In this hot June month, something as lovely, cool, and refreshing as this snowbound wonder book is of infinite relief. Krommes outdoes herself here, and the emotional beats of the book thump strong. Is that a phrase? I’m keeping it in.
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, ill. Erin E. Stead
Mmm. Deceptively simple, this one. Like Krommes, Stead already has a nice and shiny Caldecott Medal under her belt. I had the pleasure of hearing Cuevas and Stead discussing this book during Day of Dialog at Book Expo this year. Here’s a fun game: Read the text without looking at the pictures. You might get an entirely different view of the proceedings. Stead’s mark is so strong and her images so beautiful that it may contribute heavily to the book’s potential win. We shall see.
Ideas Are All Around by Philip Stead
Mind you, he has another book out this year (Samson in the Snow) and it wouldn’t surprise me even a hundredth of a jot if he won the Caldecott for that instead. This is Mr. Stead’s hoity-er toity-er offering. Beautiful, no question. But a touch on the esoteric side.
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
I have been waiting for this book for approximately five years. Little, Brown & Co. is sick to death of me asking, “This year? How ’bout this year? Is it coming out this year?” To see the art in person floors you. Steptoe painted entirely on found wood and the storytelling of Basquiat himself is sublime. This is one of my top picks, no question at all. You are in for such a treat when you read it!!!
The Storyteller by Evan Turk
GAH!! So good! So very very very very good. I’m not going to railroad you with reasons. Just read my review if you’re curious.
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo
Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Books, as awarded by a clearly BRILLIANT committee *cough cough*. Vallejo is a first timer here, but you’d never know it from the art. As I’ve mentioned before, the book doesn’t slot into any categories very easily. Hopefully the committee will recognize the art for what it is – extraordinary and distinguished.
They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
And, the winner. Done. Nothing more to see here, folks.
I’m sorry . . . you’ve not seen this one? Oh. Well, it’s quite simple. Wenzel has created the Caldecott winner for 2017. Don’t know what’s confusing about that. You’ll understand when you see it for yourself. I don’t want to call it self-explanatory. Let’s just say, it’s a bit of a given.
Freedom in Congo Square by Carol Boston Weatherford, ill. R. Gregory Christie
Like Yuyi’s book, it took me a little while to come around to this one. Christie’s art changes subtly from book to book. Here, he appears to be channeling the ghost of Jacob Lawrence. That’s a good thing. An amazing solution to rendering slavery and its horrors accurately but still in a way that’s friendly to kids on the younger end of the education scale. After you read this one, you just gotta dance.
2017 Newbery Predictions
My Newbery reads continue to lag vs. my Caldecott reads (picture books are just easier to read quickly!). Fortunately, I’ve been lucky in what’s crossed my plate. If the jury would be so good as to consider . . .
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
A long shot, no question. Its potential relies entirely on the kinds of readers you’ll find on the Newbery committee this year. This book requires one to stretch their incredulity from time to time. If you can do so, the rewards are vast. Such a good bedtime book. It would be a joy to see this make the list.
Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan
I call this one Simon & Schuster’s Secret Weapon. But don’t take my word for it. Read this brief plot description for yourself: “Using original slave auction and plantation estate documents, Ashley Bryan offers a moving and powerful picture book that contrasts the monetary value of a slave with the priceless value of life experiences and dreams that a slave owner could never take away.” Only it’s even better than that. Bryan is doing something completely new here and the writing is perfect. Don’t count this one out. I think it has some real legs.
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo
It’s good. Deeply sad (a theme in 2016) but an honest-to-goodness page turner. I reviewed it here but I’m still parsing it in my mind. There is a LOT to chew on in these scant little pages.
When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano
Poor poetry. I’ll be your friend. This is a book where the poems start off sounding pretty rote (this is hardly the first poetry-for-every-season-of-the-year book in the world) but then you get sucked into Fogliano’s writing. I like the art just fine, but the text is the true star of the show. You may read my review here if you’re curious.
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm
Here’s a fun quiz question for you: Has a prequel to a Newbery Honor ever won a Newbery itself? If this book continues Holm’s winning streak we may get our answer. Mind you, Holm has never won herself a Newbery Award proper. This wouldn’t be a bad book to do so. Just saying.
Pax by Sara Pennypacker
We had our Pax push and even a Pax backlash, so at this point I think we’re ahead of the game. Clearly this book has legs and a LOT of people discussing it. I think it continues to be one of the strongest contenders. A book that could only be tossed out on a technicality.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela Turner, ill. Gareth Hinds
YES! What’s that line from The Princess Bride? “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” Not so many giants and monsters in this and the true love . . . well, you could make a case for it. Otherwise, I think we’re pretty close. Bloody but upbeat, that’s for sure. You can read my review of it here.
Wolf’s Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Originally written as an adult novel, this book was turned into one for kids with very little touches and tweaks. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a very strong one. I could see it going head to head with all the other major contenders. Better go out and read it when you get a chance. My review is here.
And that’s all she copiously wrote! What have I missed? Spill it. I know there’s a gap in there somewhere a mile wide.
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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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