Newbery/Caldecott 2024: Summer Prediction Edition
Those early spring prediction posts for Caldecotts and Newberys are always fun to create because everything is so fresh and new. But by this point in the summer, some of the fall releases have made themselves known. Publishers that believe that they may have award winners on their hands tend to release them around either April or October. Personally, from a prediction standpoint, April is always the preferable month. That said, we’ve seen some truly beautiful fall books already. And just imagine what we’ll find before the Fall Prediction Post this year!
A couple thoughts have definitely shifted since my last post. I’ve dropped some books and added others. Come see!
2024 Caldecott Predictions
An American Story by Kwame Alexander, ill. Dare Coulter
Everybody loves a newbie. I am also firmly of the opinion that relatively new illustrators have a distinct leg-up over the competition when it comes to Caldecott Awards. It helps, of course, if they are supremely, uniquely talented. Now interestingly enough, this is not Dare Coulter’s only book out this year. I just received in the mail another title she worked on, due out this fall, called Zora, the Story Keeper by Ebony Joy Wilkins, out with Kokila. Still, this is the one to put your money on. It has the distinction of being written by a fellow who already wrote a picture book that won a Caldecott Award, plus she’s doing fun, eclectic things with her art and modelwork. And while I no longer necessarily consider it the frontrunner, it’s gotta be up there.
Evergreen by Matthew Cordell
Does it help Matthew Cordell or hurt Matthew Cordell that Hot Dog by Doug Salati won the Caldecott Award last year? As any committee member will be quick to tell you, it shouldn’t matter either way. After all, each book being considered for a Caldecott Award is being judged entirely on its own merits. Right? Maybe. The fact of the matter is that the committee will at least know in the back of their minds that the book that won in 2023 was a far more standard Caldecott winner in terms of content than in the last few years. And Evergreen shares that feeling. It screams “classic” and has subversive underpinnings that are hard to ignore. If there are at least two committee members that are intensely passionate about this book then I think we might see it sweep it all. Otherwise, it could get bupkiss. We have no idea, but I’m disinclined to believe the “bupkiss” theory.
The Fire of Stars: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of by Kirsten W. Larson, ill. Katherine Roy
I’m still over-awed by the work that Katherine Roy poured into this book. Nonfiction can, historically, be a difficult sell to a Caldecott committee. Though they’d deny it to their graves, their hearts usually belong to fiction, first and foremost. The trick to any nonfiction book winning a Caldecott is to not allow the committee to forget that it existed in the first place. In this respect I submit this little inclusion. It’s a great book and different than a large chunk of the science-related picture book bios of women out there. And speaking of nonfiction . . .
Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan
I’m actually quite embarrassed that I haven’t reviewed this one yet. Seems a rather egregious absence in my roster. Lanan’s no stranger to inclusion on one of these lists. Years ago I was quite taken with the work her watercolors did in The Lost Package. Happily, with this book she’s really upped her game. Taken from a spider’s p.o.v., it does this marvelous job of showing how the senses that we humans use to navigate the world are exceedingly different from those of your average little spider. But the real beauty? A gatefold that reveals how a spider actually sees the world. It’s a flex from a publisher that can afford to put such things in their books, and I think it pays off tenfold. Still, if any members of the committee fear spiders, that could be enough to relegate it to the “Nope” category.
The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker
Recently Matthew Winner, I believe, conducted a series on Twitter where he broke down precisely what it is about this book from Aaron Becker that makes it so awe inspiring. To my delight, Becker saw this and was able to add this own commentary as well. Hopefully someone somewhere has captured this exchange and recorded it for posterity, because I personally believe it’s a marvelous defense of why this book should certainly receive some kind of Caldecott love. Best of all? Becker was able to confirm something that I had only just suspected before: There really is a burned out jeep at the beginning of the book! WOOHOO!
The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale by Jon Klassen
Not always, but mostly Jon Klassen tends to do well when he’s flying solo on his picture book projects. Last year he tried his hand on the fairytale/folktale genre by working with Mac Barnett on The Three Billy Goats Gruff, and the end result was fantastic. It is my own personal belief that that book didn’t get enough attention or credit for what it did so well. Happily, it seems to have given Klassen a taste for the genre. Enter, The Skull. Having already done my end-of-year write-up for this book, here’s what I said about it:
“When a runaway girl encounters a lonely skull living in a beautiful home, the two strike up a fast friendship. A clever and touching tale adapted for a modern audience. Maybe it’s the fact that I just finished binging Lockwood & Company on Netflix (which features its own girl/skull relationship) but I’m inordinately fond of this strangely sweet folktale adaptation. 2023 is turning out to be a very strong year for folktales and there’s no better example of this than the Author’s Note at the end of this tale. Klassen does a wonderful job of telling the story of how he encountered this folktale in a school library on one of his tours and the tale haunted him. When he finally had the chance to see it again, he was shocked to discover that the book didn’t end the way he remembered. But isn’t that true of all folktales? We hear them and then our brains remember them in different ways.”
There Was a Party for Langston, King of Letters by Jason Reynolds, ill. Jerome and Jarrett Pumphrey
Folks have been whispering that the Pumphreys were due for a Caldecott Honor at least for years, but the right project just hadn’t quite presented itself. That may have finally changed at long last. It suppose it helps to have Jason Reynolds in your corner. What’s remarkable about this book isn’t simply the artists’ use of handmade stamps, but the integration of words within the typography. The sheer design of this title is a pleasure to read, and it may be the year’s most marvelous example of the relationship between text and image in picture books. I’ll be exceedingly interested to hear what other folks think of it when it comes out in October.
Tomfoolery: Randolph Caldecott and the Rambunctious Coming-of-Age of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, ill. Barbara McClintock
The Caldecotts are not the Oscars. They don’t inordinately reward books about their own industry any more than is proper. And indeed I was skeptical of this one. Seemed like Caldecott wouldn’t have a lot to say about books for kids today. Happily, Michelle Markel and Barbara McClintock were able to disabuse me of that notion quite neatly. Now I was a huge fan of a previous picture book bio that McClintock did years ago called Nothing Stopped Sophie, so I knew Barbara had the chops. What surprised me about the book was how much it really did have to say about the art of making books for kids fun. It’s a lovely ode to the Caldecott Award itself, sure, but more than that it speaks volumes about what we owe to those artists able to tap into both great illustration and stories that children will want to read. McClintock, of course, has never received any Caldecott love in the whole of her illustrious career. Seems high time we change that fact, yes?
2024 Newbery Predictions
The Eyes and the Impossible by Dave Eggers, ill. Shawn Harris
My thoroughly unscientific method of determining how much attention a book is or is not getting is to see how many reviews it gets pre-pub on sites like Goodreads. This book? Well, it’s the rare case of two different publishers (McSweeney’s and Knopf) putting the book out simultaneously. Does that mean it has twice the publicity team? Perhaps not, but whatever is going on its doing a great job of getting its name out there. Eggers has written middle grade before but nothing previously published matches what he’s doing here. Extra points for getting Ethan Hawke to do the audiobook. If you haven’t seen a book trailer yet, check it. It’s a trip:
A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat
It’s hardly a controversial statement to declare that Dan Santat, a man who already had a Caldecott Award win under his belt for Beekle, has a chance at the double whammy of winning a Newbery as well. And why not? Newberys have gone to comics before, and this one allows Dan to do what he does best: tap into the emotional energy and authenticity of his own life. By far his most sophistical GN to date, you can already see where the medal (or medals plural?) would fit on this cover.
But . . . it turns out, it may not be the only graphic memoir with the eye on the prize. It may not even be the only book about a boy taking an epic trip to another country. Because coming up in August we now have . . .
Mexikid by Pedro Martín
I. Love. This. Book. Look, about the time a kid’s Pop Rocks get stuck in his snot and start creating huge bubbles, I knew we had a future classic on our hands. So where the friggin’ heck has Pedro Martín been all these years? This doesn’t feel like a debut, but rather like a polished retelling of his Mexican/Mexican-American family and upbringing. The storytelling is wielded expertly, leaping back and forth in time, managing to make you laugh uproariously one moment and get a little weepy the next. I mean, at the moment that the family’s digging up grandma’s grave before she floats down the river . . . you know what? I’ll stop describing it to you. You’re just going to have to read it yourself in August. Believe me. It’s worth the wait.
The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity by Nicholas Day, ill. Brett Helquist
Narrative nonfiction doesn’t win a lot of Newberys unless, of course, your name rhymes with Schmeeve Schmeinkin. What struck me as remarkable about this book was how incredibly readable it was. This is a huge pleasure. A true delight. I picked it up on a whim and found myself blabbing incoherently to my family members about it for the bulk of our Memorial Day weekend. In truth, I can’t think of the last time I’ve enjoyed a work of chapter book nonfiction this much. Surely SURELY a committee that reads this will recognize that this is something out of the ordinary. It’s funny but has a lot to say about contemporary beliefs in conspiracy theories too. Wowzah.
My Head Has a Bellyache by Chris Harris, ill. Andrea Tsurumi
The only thing a Newbery committee likes less than a work of nonfiction is a work of poetry. I’m hoping this Chris Harris book proves me wrong, though. Funny? But of course. But more than that, Chris also has heart. There are poems in here about parenthood that we can all recognize as expertly done. You know what? I said it before and I’ll say it again: This is better than Shel Silverstein. OH YEAH! I SAID IT!
The Probability of Everything by Sarah Everett
This one snuck up on me, but has a lot of the features I like in a potential Newbery winner. It’s smartly written. It doesn’t feel like any other book I’ve ever seen. It’s clever, but kid-friendly. It makes the child reader feel smart as they go through it. And it involves a great big asteroid headed to Earth, ready to destroy everyone and everything we love. That last one isn’t an absolute requirement of Newbery winners, but it sure as heck doesn’t hurt! The trouble (and this was outlined in the Shelf Talker blog perfectly) is that to describe this book fully is to give stuff away about it. The good news is that it’s out in late June so you don’t have to wait much longer to read it yourself. And believe me – you’re gonna want to see it personally.
UPDATE: Alas, it appears that Ms. Sarah Everett falls into the “inconveniently Canadian” designation. I had hoped that she was born in the States but the only information I was able to dig on her indicated that she was, instead, born in West Africa. Such a pity. This is a wonderful book.
Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow
The frontrunner, folks. And it’s not just me saying that. Head on over to Heavy Medal as of this posting and you’ll see that Erin Bow’s January release has been gaining speed, momentum, and maybe even a little controversy ever since it came out. The January release of any book is a real risk. It is exceedingly easy to forget January books. What you hope for is for word-of-mouth to carry a book to nomination season, but there’s never any guarantee that that kind of thing might occur. Here, it’s happening and I couldn’t be more pleased.
So lemme have it. What did I miss? What do you love?
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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