Newbery / Caldecott 2020: Spring Prediction Edition
Is it just me or does it year 2020 look wrong whenever you see it written down? Like it’s some kind of typographical printer’s error. 2020. Doesn’t sound like a year. Sounds more like the vision I never had.
Well, silly numbered year or no, this is roundabout the time of year when I start stretching the old award-season muscles. And I gotta tell you, I’ve probably never gotten them so doggone wrong before. This past award season was a humbling affair, teaching me once again that you simply cannot accurately predict this things.
Here’s I’ll show you. Check out how I’ve done in the past:
2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.
2016 spring predictions: Zero correct, though the commenters do mention two books that would go on to win.
Okay. So maybe I wasn’t as off last year as I was in 2016. But still, this time I tread cautiously. I’m going to pull out the books for you that I think have a darn good chance. At the very least, they’re contenders, if not outright winners. That said, I just haven’t been finding much in the Newbery category. Nothing against what’s out there, it just hasn’t quite hit me right, so forgive the tiny number of titles.
Something to guide your reading then.
2020 Caldecott Predictions
Elvis is King! by Jonah Winter, ill. Red Nose Studio
But it won’t. No, I’m not optimistic about Red Nose Studio’s chances. Never mind that when you look at this book the meticulousness of the models is jaw-dropping. There’s a scene where Elvis’s mother stands in a store looking at a guitar. And every single one of the shelves is packed to overflowing with different items. The amount of work that went into that scene alone deserves all the things. Yet I’ve noticed something about Red Nose Studio. No matter what committee gathers to discuss his work, you’ll always have that one member that squirms and says, “I don’t like it.” His style is not universally adored. For that matter, complex modelwork isn’t particularly beloved of Caldecott committees in general. Ever see one win? No? There’s a reason for that. But today’s list isn’t going to be about what I necessarily will think will win (clearly) but what I wish would win. And I do wish Red Nose Studio could get his due someday. I mean, the inside cover of this book alone . . .
The Full House and the Empty House by LK James
Is it just me, or are my longshots getting longshottier? Still, I can’t help but love this little book so very much. At first I thought I might be the only one, but I’ve been encouraged by the other people I know that have picked this one up to read it. This debut is just so beautifully rendered. I may not be able to predict awards all that well, but I can predict talent and Ms. James is a talent that is going to go incredibly far once the big houses start noticing her. It would be awfully swell if this could win something. Mind you, if it did win then poor Ripple Grove Press would be in the position of Agate when Crown won its multiple awards. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t mind so much . . .
Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons, ill. Daniel Minter
I know I’ve seen other Daniel Minter books before. You probably have as well. But when I read this book I just had to stop and stare and take notice. Maybe it was the chickens. Turns out, I’m a real sucker for how Minter draws chickens. The book itself sports a plot that’s familiar but not overly so. What will our hero get his grandmother for an upcoming special day? But it’s the art that transforms everything and elevates it to another level. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but by gum I like this book a lot!
My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero, ill. Zeke Peña
Can I tell you a secret? Of all the books I’m featuring on these lists today, I think this one might have the best shot. I don’t know why, but I have a really good feeling about it. Maybe I’m being too far swayed by how good the writing is as well, but this story about a girl taking a motorcycle ride behind her dad has this incredible sense of place that you just don’t get in every book you pick up. So for right now, at least, this is my #1 pick.
Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore
Just in case you’re curious, I am making some effort at determining that each of the artists listed here today are stationed here in the U.S. (otherwise they wouldn’t be eligible). Ms. Moore, for example, worried me slightly when I saw that she’d won the Australian Institute of Medical and Biological Illustration. Happily she’s safely ensconced in Ohio now, so that’s all to the good. This book makes some of the librarians on my staff swoon. It’s an environmental message, sure, but it sort of stands apart from the pack by being a polar bear book where it shows, rather than tells, what a polar bear’s life can be these days.
¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market! by Raúl the Third, colors by Elaine Bay
Should a colorist share credit with an illustrator if they win a Caldecott? Raúl Gonzalez, aka Raúl the Third, did the killer art here but Elaine Bay could be given some of the credit for its look at the end. Of course, that’s always assuming the book wins something. This has been touted as Richard Scarry but with a Mexican market setting, and we all know that Mr. Scarry never won himself any Caldecotts. Still, there is so much going on in these pages. So much time and work and attention. So many details that reward closer inspection. After I finished reading this to my 4-year-old, he just looked at me and said, “This place looks cool. We should go there.” I want more kids out there to say that.
Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Obviously I was way off when I thought that Seeger’s Blue would win anything last year, but I stand by that hope. This book, I’d argue, carries a different kind of emotional weight, but a weight just the same. It sucks you in, looking like a cutesy fuzzy bunny book, and then is suffused with this kind of philosophical melancholy, but not in a sad way (does that make sense?). If they gave out Caldecotts for books being more than their furry little packages suggest, this would win by a landslide.
You Are Home: An Ode to the National Parks by Evan Turk
One of these days, by gum, one of these days they’re going to give Turk that Medal he deserves. The downfall of this particular book may be wrapped up in the Caldecott criteria. Does the art in You Are Home mix well with the text? How well are they integrated? For my part, I think this book does, almost entirely through art, a stand up and cheer job of nailing home the beauty and importance of America’s National Parks.
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, ill. Kadir Nelson
Nelson hasn’t won a Caldecott in years. Sometimes this is because his art and text don’t intersect much. In the case of this book, I think the intersection is there, but it will be the Caldecott committee’s call, determining whether or not portraiture (which is what much of this is) is deserving of an award. It’s also Nonfiction, which has a tendency to make some committees skittish. I dunno. I’d just love to see Nelson win for once.
2020 Newbery Predictions
Eventown by Corey-Ann Haydu
Kids often sense that there is something wrong with society at large. This book just confirms it. I wonder at the chances of it winning. It’s going to depend a lot on whether or not the current Newbery committee is open to this kind of magical realism. It’s one of those books about grief that talks about it in a wholly new way. And speaking of grief . . .
The Line Tender by Kate Allen
My own book committee at work jokes this year that if we find any two parents in a middle grade novel in 2019 we’ll have to disqualify it immediately. So far, no worries. The generalization surrounding Newbery books is that they’re depressing. You know. Kira-Kira type stuff. That hasn’t really been the case for the actual winners in the last few years, though the Honors have sported plenty of sorrow. Now Kate Allen’s novel has some pretty weighty stuff in it, but I was impressed by her light touch with the material. I have also noticed that librarians that come in contact with this book have a tendency to turn into quivering piles of ILOVEITSOMUCH goo. So I’m hat tipping to the goo on this one. It really is remarkably written. And in terms of action it could be said to be the polar opposite of . . .
Spy Runner by Eugene Yelchin
I don’t want to say too much. I’ll be reviewing this soon. Just . . . wow. Can I admit to you that Breaking Stalin’s Nose wasn’t a book I necessarily understood? Well I cannot say for certain whether or not I understand this one better, but I certainly do love and adore it.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
I always get a little miffed when comics win Newberys, though I kind of like it when they win Caldecotts (doesn’t happen often). Honestly, we should just have an Illustrated Book Award from ALA for them and be done with it. But this book . . . this book has some great writing in it. Not descriptive, necessarily, but it works like a kind of puzzle of different issues. Somehow, Craft throws together this myriad selection of things that black kids have to deal with, from big to small and back again, and yet he never loses his grasp on the narrative. It all fits in, works, and makes the book stronger as a result. I’m still not sure how he did it, but as writing goes, this one deserves some credit where credit is due.
And yourself? What are you finding particularly gorgeous and enticing 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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