Newbery/Caldecott 2023: Spring Prediction Edition!
2023. Wow. I dunno, but that year looks more futuristic to me when it’s written down.
But yes! The time has come again. Every year I create four different Newbery/Caldecott posts, one for each season, to try and predict where the Newbery and Caldecott Awards might go the following spring. My track record is . . . well, it does tend to be a little spotty. But please bear in mind that when the Spring Prediction Edition comes out, I haven’t seen the bulk of the fall releases. As such, here’s how I tend to do:
2014 spring predictions: Zip. Zero. Zilch.
2016 spring predictions: Zero correct, though the commenters do mention two books that would go on to win.
Not too shabby, right? Got a little spotty in 2014 and 2016 but besides those years I at least get one right.
Unfortunately, I might be shooting myself in the foot this year. In the past I would pretty much post any old prediction that was out there. This year, I’m really limiting the number of books I’m going to mention as contenders. This is as much a tacit acknowledgement that I’ve read less than I should have, more than anything else. Still, of what I have read, I really and truly believe that each and every last one of these books has a more than decent chance at the gold. They are:
2023 Caldecott Predictions
Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, ill. Daniel Minter
Of all the titles I list here today, this is the one that I’d say was the clearest slam-dunk of them all. We have all the right elements in place. First and foremost, Daniel Minter already has a Caldecott Honor to his name, all thanks to Going Down Home to Daddy. Then you have the writing of Nana Ekua-Hammond which parses so perfectly the history of the color blue. It’s a nonfiction picture book title, and we never see enough of those winning Caldecotts, so I’d be particularly pleased if this grabbed the gold this year. I really and truly would.
Kick Push by Frank Morrison
A lot of children’s librarians carry with them a mental list of artists that have never won Caldecotts and seem mighty due. Frank Morrison certainly ranks in this respect. It isn’t that he doesn’t win awards. Heck, the first time I ever saw his work it was because he won a John Steptoe. But Caldecotts have, by and large, eluded him until now. Perhaps this is because his style, when he really leans into it, is what one might call “stylized”. Not every librarian on a committee digs that. What makes Kick Push different is that because Morrison’s writing the words alongside his pictures, the two meld together better than in many of his other books. And he’s a really good writer too! Movement, energy, action, it’s all here. Maybe the Caldecott committee will recognize that fact at long last.
Knight Owl by Christopher Denise
What we have here is a classic Newbery contender, and that’s a fact. A book that has the distinct feel of a old-fashioned readaloud. Denise delves into classic illustration tropes in this tale of a tiny owl that yearns to become a knight. The art in this book does marvelous things with light, and there’s more than one homage to famous artists of the past hidden in these pages. This is, in a sense, the Mel Fell of 2022. You get what i mean.
Where Butterflies Fill the Sky by Zahra Marwan
Hey, I’m just as surprised as you about my including this book here. But the more I read it, the more I look at it, and the more I consider its art, the more convinced I become that this book has something going on inside that I just have never seen before. It’s that melding of Kuwait and New Mexico in the art. It’s the writing and the story. It’s the fact that the tone, which is notoriously hard to capture on a page, is so keen. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but I seriously think that this book has a shot. A very good one too.
2023 Newbery Predictions
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
I’m not dead to the irony that should this book win a Newbery, we’ll have had a Last Cuentista win on 2022 and a Last Mapmaker win in 2023. I am totally okay with that plan. Now Ms. Soontornvat is, herself, a multi-award winning author. She’s even won multiple Newbery Honors before for books like A Wish in the Dark and All Thirteen. This book, though, is a feat of personal editing. It’s as if she said to herself, “I wonder if I can create a richly imagined high fantasy world with as few superfluous words as possible.” The action here is tight! The descriptions perfectly placed. The care and speed and meticulousness of the enterprise just leaves you reeling. My top Newbery pick, bar none.
Marshmallow Clouds by Ted Kooser & Connie Wanek, ill. Richard Jones
Poetry, eh? Do I seriously think it has a shot? I do. This cover? It’s misleading. Inside this book you’ll find poems that stick inside your brain, no matter how resistant you might be to the form. Kooser and Wanek are clearly engaged in some kind of sorcery since you can never figure out where one poet started and the other stopped. It’s introspective, to say the least, and incredibly lovely. Probably the most impressive book of children’s poetry in years and definitely worth a serious conversation.
And that’s it! That’s all she wrote! Be sure to tell me precisely which titles I’ve forgotten and why you think they have what it takes to make it all the way to the top. To Newbery/Caldecott gold and beyond!
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.
SLJ Blog Network