31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eight – 2017 CaldeNotts
They can’t win a darn thing, and that’s the truth. Sorta. Each year picture books are considered and assessed by the Caldecott committee to determine which titles are the “most distinguished” contributions to the field of children’s literature. And every year truly beautiful contenders will fall by the wayside, winning nothing. Why? Because when the Caldecott was established American was very intent upon creating a children’s book award that celebrated Americans. Times have changed and we’re not quite so worried about our place in the world, but the stipulation remains. Caldecotts can only go to Americans. As such, this year we’ve seen books that, were they eligible, would carry home the gold the silver and any other precious metal you can name.
Full credit for the word “Caldenott” goes to the recent Calling Caldecott piece penned by Thom Barthlemess. There are some additional selections there, should you wish for more than this little posting.
2017 Caldenott Contenders
The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler
I like to use the original covers, whenever possible. You’ve a lot of French imports to choose between in a given year. Yet few, I would guess, released in American in 2017 quite compare to what Simler has done here. If this is scratchboard art then it’s the finest, most elegant I’ve seen in years. Sometimes I just like to stare at the pictures and figure out how a person would go about making them at all. Sometimes.
Home in the Rain by Bob Graham
Call me a dreamer. I know that Graham isn’t a usual Caldenott contender, and the reasons are clear. He does a similar style with every book, and he goes in for tiny human moments. Still, the man isn’t afraid of great sweeping aerial views and implications far above and beyond the small events being captured on his pages. This was such a lovely book this year, and he just doesn’t get enough credit for how he puts these stories together. That is all.
My Valley by Claude Ponti, translated by Alyson Waters
If this book looks a touch familiar that may have something to do with the fact that it was featured on the 100 Scope Notes Year in Miscellanea under the heading “Weirdest Book of the Year”. He’s not wrong, and you’ll note that he highly recommends it. I do too. But I’d argue that the imagery isn’t so much psychedelic as infused with its own set of rules and expectations. Everything that happens in this book is completely logical within the confines of the narrative. That’s part of the reason I like it so much. Dreams have dream logic. This book has valley logic, and once you understand the rules you can just go along with it. Plus those breathtaking vistas and details are to die for. No doubt about it. If this book were originally American it would spark much discussion.
On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna, translated by Jill Davis
I remember when a librarian handed me this book and I looked up on it with distrust. Didn’t we already have a picture book out in 2017 where a kid in a red coat with a pointed hood went out into nature? But Alemagna’s story translates beautifully and the art wouldn’t let me go. Even on this tiny cover image here you can get a sense of how the artist displays light on cloudy days.
Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, ill. Sydney Smith
If I had to declare a Caldenott winner, it would be Schwartz & Smith’s. Sometimes I have this fantasy that Sydney Smith has moved to America and taken up residence in the U.P. or something where he can be eligible for all the lovely awards. Hey. A girl can dream.
The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi
Perspective is such a difficult concept to convey in a picture book, but is so effortlessly managed here. As the little bunny travels on her mother’s (and eventually father’s) shoulder she gets these child’s-eye glimpses into other people’s homes. There is so much warmth to these snatches of information, even if they do sometimes feel sad at the outset.
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, ill. Matt James
Surprise! Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Well I like a lot of what this book is doing, particularly with night and light and snow. But above and beyond all of that, I like the kids. Though they aren’t really named, you get these little glimpses into their individual personalities, which I really like. The art being lovely doesn’t hurt matters any either.
Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:
December 1 – Board Books
December 2 – Board Book Reprints & Adaptations
December 3 – Wordless Picture Books
December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds
December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books
December 6 – Alphabet Books
December 7 – Funny Picture Books
December 8 – CaldeNotts
December 9 – Picture Book Reprints
December 10 – Math Picture Books
December 11 – Bilingual Books
December 12 – Translated Picture Books
December 13 – Books with a Message
December 14 – Fabulous Photography
December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales
December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year
December 17 – Poetry Books
December 18 – Easy Books
December 19 – Early Chapter Books
December 20 – Comics for Kids
December 21 – Older Funny Books
December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction
December 23 – American History
December 24 – Science & Nature Books
December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Picture Books
December 26 – Unique Biographies
December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books
December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books
December 29 – Fiction Reprints
December 30 – Middle Grade Novels
December 31 – Picture Books
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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