Has the Caldecott Award Become a Quasi Newberry?

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 Recently I was reflecting on this year’s Caldecott Winner The House in the Night. It is a nice story but were those illustrations really worthy of an award? Thinking back I remembered reading an article about the Newberry Award and the question posed about whether or not it has lost its way over time. I feel very much the same way about the Caldecott Winners. Over the years there has been a definite shift in what books are chosen and which one eventually ends up as the winner. The fault may lie in the criteria itself that is used to select and choose those winners. (Not withstanding my belief that the publishing world has a say in all of this). Specifically I refer to: Committee members must consider excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

Okay, then how does this fit with this year’s winner or those in the past 15 years? If you ask kids what their favorite Caldecott Winners were from this period, Golem, The Three Pigs, Joseph had a Little Overcoat, The Man who walked between the Towers, My Friend Rabbit, So You Want to be President, Smoky Nights and last year’s winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret would probably not be on their list but on an adult list though not necessarily. There are 2 reasons why 1) kids don’t understand them as is probably the case with The Man who walked between the Towers and 2) don’t find the illustrations appealing as in Golem’s case. Interestingly kids have like those Caldecott winners the most that are silly, well illustrated and are appealing to them which do not have to be in color. Case in point: Tuesday, Flotsam, Make Way for Ducklings, Madeline’s Rescue and the Polar Express are all huge favorites with any group of children that I have worked with.my-friend-rabbit

So what is it I am trying to say here? Only this –as Adults we need to be more mindful of what a child’s view of a picture book is and stop thinking like adults when judging the Caldecott nominees. It’s time to remember the best illustrators are those who can reach out to children not adults so stop trying to make the Caldecott Winners into a twin Newberry.  

That’s just my thought on the matter.

(Mark Taylor, Children’s Librarian)

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