Last Tuesday I held a "Mock Caldecott" at my house. We had about 20 ladies and one gentleman show up. The Caldecott Medal is an award given to the most outstanding picture book released during a calendar year. In our activity I passed around 39 pictures books and gave the guests 1 minute to look at each. Then we had a series of votes to choose what we thought were the winners. Here is what they chose.
The Winner of the Edgemont Caldecott: Chalk by Bill Thomson.
In this wordless picture book some children find a bag of sidewalk chalk. As they each draw pictures on the playground, the pictures become real. One child draws a sun which rises up off the ground and drives away the rain cloud. Another draws butterflies which then come off the tarmac and fly away. When the third child draws a dinosaur, the children find themselves in trouble and have to hide from a giant T-rex by scrambling into the climbing structure. Finally one clever boy draws rain clouds. As the rain falls it washes away the chalk, and the dinosaur disappears. Thomson has amazing skill and his acrylic and colored pencil pictures almost look like photographs. They are done with bright vivid colors and Thomson uses a variety of perspectives to give the story drama. The people at our Caldecott activity loved the book because the story shows the power of a child’s imagination.
The Boy in the Garden by Allen Say
In this story a Japanese boy goes to visit a famous garden. While he is there he sees a crane and tries to sneak up on it. When it doesn’t fly away he realizes it is a statue. Embarrassed by his mistake he runs into a tea house. There he meets a beautiful woman and realizes that she is the crane woman from a well known Japanese folktale. The boy takes the role of the woodcutter in the story and goes out to find wood for the crane woman, but comes home empty handed. Suddenly he wakes up and realizes his adventure has only been a dream. Allen Say won a previous Caldecott medal for his book, Grandfather’s Journey. This picture book has the same realistic style watercolor illustrations as his earlier works. They are done with beautifully subdued greens, yellows and rosey gray tones. The Caldecott group agreed that the pictures seemed restful and did a good job of suggesting the Asian culture.
Three Little Kittens by Jerry PinkneyThis is an illustrated version of the favorite childhood rhyme of the same title. Jerry Pinkney, who won the Caldecott Medal last year for his book, The Lion and the Mouse, uses watercolor to create three very cuddly looking kittens and the stern but loving mother cat. The pictures are loaded with charming detail like hidden mice and birds who don’t want to get too close to the cats. Pinkney manages to give each of the kittens, and especially the mother cat, a lot of personality. The Caldecott group felt like this book would appeal to very small children, and could be read and enjoyed over and over again.