Newbery/Caldecott 2022: Final Prediction Edition
Okay. Time to put my money where my mouth is. I’m crummy at predictions, but this year I have had some inklings. Could be completely wrong. After all, I should note that these are not all the books I would necessarily want to win this year. They’re the ones that make the most sense to me convincing their committees. And I’m giving myself some extra limitations, just for fun. Though there is no written limit to the number of Honors you can bestow, I’m going to cap myself off at four Honors per award this year. Just for kicks.
If you feel that this doesn’t contain enough of your favorites, good news! You can join me on Facebook Live on Monday, January 24th here at 7 a.m. CST, an hour before the Award announcements go live (here). I’ll be going through a lot MORE books for fun! Join me! Pre-Game shows are the best.
And now, some thoughts.
2022 Caldecott Predictions
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Floyd Cooper
It isn’t because Floyd Cooper passed away last year without ever winning a Caldecott Award. It isn’t because this is a timely subject, beautifully rendered by Weatherford in the text and long overdue in our literature. It isn’t because there is a push across the country right now to remove books that are honest about the horrible parts of American history from our children’s shelves. It’s all those things. And yet, for all of that, it wouldn’t quite be enough if it weren’t for the fact that this is, without a doubt, Floyd Cooper’s best work. That’s saying something, since the man was amazing right up until the end. There was never a drop-off in his talent. He kept it 100 right until the end. Now here’s a committee secret: When you are deciding what deserves the Gold, it helps to have a wide array of arguments for your favorite that you can pull out in the course of your debates. No other picture book this year can be cited as more of a winner than this one. I truly believe that.
By the way, this year I had a chance to go to New York City to see the Society of Illustrators Show. This video was playing as I entered the lower level. It’s a discussion between Floyd and Cheryl & Wade Hudson and really shows off what a stellar fella Mr. Cooper was. Just a perfect accompaniment to this book.
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, ill. Nikkolas Smith
Honestly, if this won instead of Unspeakable, I wouldn’t cry. I could see this really launching Smith’s illustrious illustrator-of-picture-books career. And look at all the different places different awards could fit on this cover! Let’s see… we could work in some Coretta Scott Kings in there, and maybe a Newbery Honor if we’re feeling cheeky, and and and . . .
Watercress by Andrea Wang, ill. Jason Chin
I’ve had such a back and forth with this book over the year but it was Travis Jonker’s own Caldecott Medal Predictions that made me realize that this universally beloved book is going to get Jason Chin yet another Honor in 2022. I should note that the Mock Caldecott my library runs is voted on by local kids and they all voted for Watercress to take home the Gold. When my co-worker Mr. Brian alerted Jason Chin, Mr. Chin sent just the most wonderful email in response. I can’t write it here without his permission but essentially it mentioned that awards are strange since they turn the creation of books into a contest, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t nice to receive. He then thanked the kids for taking so much time looking at this book. If he wins the Gold for this, he’s gonna give one heckuva good speech.
Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor
Because the Caldecott committee is going to have to remember that you can’t just award trauma. It’s tempting. You’ll note that these other books are all pretty darn traumatic. It can be hard for a vertical story about a plucky little kingfisher to make its mark known. That said, of all the fun picture books in 2021, this book was the most accomplished. It works in STEM themes, is funny, is a GREAT readaloud, and is beautiful to look at. I don’t think this would be the year for it to take Gold, but I do hope it’ll at least Honor.
Wishes by Mượn Thị Văn, ill. Victo Ngai
Basically, anything that convinces Victo Ngai to keep making picture books is a good thing. If it means giving her all the Honors and medals and what have you, let’s do it. Give her all the things!!!
2022 Newbery Predictions
Too Bright to See by Kyle Lukoff
I am aware that when a committee is considering which book before them is most deserving of a Newbery, they are not allowed to take into consideration the authors’ public face. This is a pity, since much of a Newbery winner’s job is to speak publicly in front of large crowds. Now I keep mentioning the fact that there is this nationwide censorship push happening right now. We cannot pretend that the Newbery committee is unaware that their choice, at this moment in time, will act as a response to this movement, whether they want it to or not. Whatever they choose, that book will be discussed, argued about, endlessly debated, and, in some cases, virulently hated. We are also celebrating the Newbery’s 100th birthday this year (check out my Newbery Timeline, if you’ve a moment). Now. Picture, if you will, the announcement of what will win the 100th Newbery Award . . . and it’s to the very first Trans author to ever win any kind of a Newbery anything. It is that bright, golden, glorious moment that would lift us out of our mid-pandemic funk, if only for a moment. This book is deserving too. It’s beautifully written, smart, and kid-friendly (who doesn’t like super creepy dreams?). It was nominated for a National Book Award (one of the few children’s books to be so) and had it not been up against YA novels I think it would have carried that away too. Plus, Kyle would be an ideal spokesperson to face the backlash such a win would receive from the book banners.
This is the moment for this book. This is the year. This is my pick.
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, ill. Sophie Blackall
Two words: Psychotic goat. I mean, if you need more than that then there’s the whole beautiful writing part of the equation to consider too. DiCamillo is a victim of her own success, though. She’s better at what she does than almost anyone else. So much so, that you know that if she had debuted with this, she’d be a surefire winner. As it stands, hopefully it’ll turn some heads.
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
You know, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. It’s funny but this horrifying space dystopia is a clear cut award winner, through and through. My sole objection is that the cover’s so pretty, I wouldn’t want to cover up any part of it with any kind of a Medal. But you know what? I’m willing to make that sacrifice. That’s how big I am.
Lotería by Karla Arenas Valenti
Honestly, I’d just be so delighted if this got some award love. I keep certain books that take big swings in their writing close to my heart. I’m still a bit gutted by this book’s ending, and I keep thinking about it. That’s good. It means that a committee might be in my shoes. They might remember it long after they read it. That’s half the battle right there.
While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown
Not a lot of Nonfiction on this Newbery prediction list, is there? It’s always good to have one on here, and out of everything I think Waka has the best shot. Her book is incredibly interesting while, at the same time, being very relatable. I’m feeling a real pull from this one. We’ll see.
What are your predictions? Remember: It’s hard to separate what you want to win from what you think WILL win. Where do you fall?
Filed under: Newbery / Caldecott Predictions
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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