Newbery / Caldecott 2019: Spring Prediction Edition
That’s right, folks! I’m pleased as punch to announce that as of right now I’ve been making grossly incorrect predictions of the Newberys, Caldecotts, and other ALA Youth Media Awards for a good solid decade. That’s a decade I’ll never get back, by the way. Worth it.
As per usual, let’s round-up how I’ve done in the past and compare with how I did last year:
2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.
2016 spring predictions: Zero correct, though the commenters do mention two books that would go on to win.
2017 spring predictions: Due to the fact that I hadn’t read a single book I thought was a Newbery contender, last year marked the first time I just eschewed that particular medal entirely. On the Caldecott side, however, I got one Caldecott right, and that just happened to be the ultimate winner (Wolf In the Snow). Score!!
This year I’m feeling really good about the potential winners. I’ve been reading a lot more Fiction and Nonfiction for older readers and I’ve seen a SLEW (a verifiable SLEW I tells ya!) of Caldecott contenders.
I would be amiss, however, in not noting a great big conversation brewing in the wider world of children’s literature. Folks have noticed that when you add the numbers up, men win Caldecotts more often than women. Women, in turn, win more Newberys than men. No idea why it shakes out that way. In any case, if Caldecott prediction lists that slant heavily towards double X chromosomes get your goat, I hope you’ll be pleased with some of the stuff I’ve found out there this year. It’s already shaping up to be very strong.
Finally, you’re going to see me include two books on this list that I haven’t even seen firsthand yet. This isn’t an exact science, people. The most I can do is to see when a book is positioned to be in the right place at the right time. In both of these cases, the books are on the precipice of consideration. Feel free to disagree vehemently.
2019 Caldecott Predictions
Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe, ill. Barbara McClintock
As anyone can tell you, the likelihood of a work of Nonfiction title winning a Caldecott Medal has increased considerably in the past few years. That said, there remains a bit of a prejudice against facts vs. fiction. I have noticed, though, that Caldecott committees have a soft spot in their hearts for artists that try something new (see: last year’s Award winner). Now Barbara McClintock has been working in this field for decades. She is good at what she does and I believe it is safe to say that she has never won any kind of a Caldecott Award or Honor in all that time. If she were to win for anything, it would be for this. Bear in mind as I say this that I thought LeUyen Pham should have won a Caldecott Honor for The Boy Who Loved Math (I still think that, actually) so perhaps math is the one topic the Caldecott will never touch with a ten-foot-pole. We shall see . . .
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, ill. Ekua Holmes
If you’re crying “FOUL!” right now because I’m including this book sight unseen with only the jacket to go by . . . I see where you’re coming from. However, consider the following. Ekua Holmes gets better and better with every book she does. She has already won one Caldecott Honor (for Voice of Freedom). With this book she has created the marbled papers herself. Also, I cannot stop looking at this cover. Now look me in the eyes and tell me it’s not already a contender.
A House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano, ill. Lane Smith
One of those author/illustrator pairings where you convince yourself the two have worked together before. They have, right? I mean, it feels like they’ve been partners in picture book creation for years. Fogliano and Smith. Smith and Fogliano. As it happens, this is the debut of their pairing, and they’re amazing together. The real danger with this book is that you may get it mixed up with the similarly colored, similar-looking, Philip Stead book All the Animals Where I Live. I’ve mixed the two up repeatedly this year. Don’t be doing that. They’re very different inside. This particular book has the advantage of a very strong text mixed with Smith’s remarkable art. I know I said he was a contender for the Caldecott last year, but this year I REALLY mean it!
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
A debut! Love is premiering with this strong title (a book that’s been growing its buzz from the minute its F&Gs fell into critics’ hands) and when you look at it I want you to consider several factors.
1. Notice that the fish in the early dream sequence mirror the people in the Mermaid Parade at the end.
2. Notice that the big fish in the dream sequence wears a pattern that appears on the abuela’s dress later.
3. Notice that every minor character in the background feels like a real human being.
The case rests, your honor.
If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino
If you can read this book without getting a certain song from the Secret Garden musical caught in your head, you’re better than I. Folks have been gaga for Marino’s work for years, but I always held a bit back. She’s talented, no question, but I was waiting for The Big One. The book that would push her over the top and get folks talking. That book has finally arrived and it was worth the wait. Look at the use of watercolors, and how they shift in mood and tone to fit the different times of day. It’s a book done entirely in silhouettes (something I haven’t seen done this well since Peggy Rathmann’s The Day the Babies Crawled Away). It’s lush and moving and beautiful. I don’t even LIKE horses, and I was swept away by Marino’s work. Brava.
New Shoes by Chris Raschka
Raschka’s such a funny duck. He vacillates between artsy and kid-friendly, sometimes bridging the gap between the two, sometimes falling into the crevice. His previous Caldecott Awards (yes, he has two already) were for his more kid-friendly fare. They were nice. They were fine. But in this book he’s trying something really kid-friendly and more than a touch creative. The book is told entirely from a child’s-eye view. We are looking constantly at first their old shoes and then their new shoes. Not since Ramona Quimby celebrated her bright red boots have we seen a kid revel to this degree in new footwear. A shift in perspective is certainly something we could all use this year, that’s for sure.
They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki
To be clear, Jillian Tamaki never expected to be a Caldecott Honor winner. I’m not even entirely certain she wanted to be one, when her YA graphic novel This One Summer created a huge upset with its appearance on a list usually slated for the 3-7 set. Now it appears Ms. Tamaki is willing to consider the possibility of a Caldecott, but on her own terms. In They Say Blue (which is in the running with When You Reach Me for the award of Most Difficult Children’s Book Title to Remember) this graphic novelist shows that when challenged, she can wield a watercolor brush with the best of them. All you have to do is look at her rendition of a crow to know that this is going to be a highly debated title in the year to come. Tamaki’s making a dive for the gold.
Seeing Into Tomorrow by Richard Wright, ill. Nina Crews
To my mind there is only one kind of children’s book that stands less of a chance of winning a Caldecott than a work of Nonfiction. Photography! With the exception of Knuffle Bunny‘s Caldecott Honor win, photography has never won a Caldecott. I’m sure that over the years folks have debated whether or not photography even constitutes “illustration” (it does) and Nina Crews brings that fact to life. She’s been working with photography and Photoshop for years and years now. In this collection of Richard Wright haikus, she integrates kids and nature in inspiring ways. It is, without a doubt, her strongest work to date. Mock Caldecotts around the country, I implore you. Consider photography once again! You won’t regret it if you do.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
If this cover looks weird, that’s only because the only image of the jacket of this book that I’ve been able to find so far is this one for its CD. Due out in October of this year, the book is actually a work of Nonfiction, but in a picture book format. Again, I’m just going off my knowledge of Yuyi’s works and the subject matter, but you know and I know that the woman brings the talent. This book is already a contender. Don’t let it out of your sight.
2019 Newbery Predictions
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
It’s strong. As strong as Elijah? I think so. The great hurdle it’s going to have to overcome is the dialect. Some librarians may take great issue with this channeling of Mark Twain’s twang. Others will look upon it fondly, and don’t forget – Rodman Philbrick did very much the same thing years ago when he wrote The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg and that book won a Newbery Honor. I think Mr. Curtis is on to something here.
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, ill. Ian Schoenherr
This is just one of those books that’s wholly enjoyable from start to finish. Murdock manages to make medieval Europe precisely the kind of place you’d like to visit for a while, and Boy is a character I wish I could know personally. Just the most pleasant read. We need some of those this year.
The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix
Though, hey, if you want to give it a Caldecott too, I won’t stand in your way. Hendrix pours his heart and his soul into this fascinating examination of the philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer, also managing to work in the most engaging explanation of how Hitler rose to power and started WWII you will ever find in a book for kids. It’s chilling. It’s amazing. It’s Hendrix’s pièce de résistance.
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras
I need to read more Fiction. Clearly this list today is a bit on the short side, but I’d maintain that all the books here are examples of magnificent, distinguished writing. In the case of Ms. Magras, this is her debut novel and it’s a doozy. I think it should probably garner an award for the mere fact that the story moves at the speed of lightning, yet manages to keep a coherent, comprehensible, understandable whole. No mean feat. No mean book. Better read this one too.
That’s it! Apologies for the whiteness of the Newbery list, by the way. I’m working on reading books to alleviate that problem. In the meantime, what are YOU reading and enjoying this year?
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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