09 January 2008

And the (mock) winner is......

This afternoon I met with fellow librarians representing the Southeastern Massachusetts Library System to try our hand at selecting a Caldecott Winner. The 2008 Caldecott Medal will be awarded on Monday 14 January (along with the Newbery, Seibert, and Prinz) at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Philly. We will see how our selection stacks up at that time. This was the first time I had taken part in such an event, and it was good fun. We were a group of 14, so we were only 1 body short of the actual nominating committee. But we only had 2 1/2 hours to select, defend, and vote on a title, as opposed to the conclave that will duke it out this weekend. As it was, we had to award a tie, because after two ballots and a hand count we were evenly split. We started with 29 titles, selected in advance by Melody Allen of the Rhode Island Office of Library and Information Services. Those 29 were narrowed down to 17. We then split into three groups, with each group commissioned to select two titles of the 17 to present and defend (and there could be no duplication between groups.) Although only 6 books were presented, each member was allowed to vote for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd selection from the group of seventeen finalists. First time through I voted as such:

Dogs and Cats by Steven Jenkins
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Jabberwocky by Christopher Myers

Second time through I voted:

Dogs and Cats
First the Egg
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, Illus. by Kadir Nelson

When it came for a hand vote, I went with First the Egg.

But as I said, it was a tie. And so I present to you, the 2008 Caldecott Winners for the most distinguished American picture book for children published in English in the United States, as chosen by SEMLS:

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice Harrington, Illus. by Shelly Jackson
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Honors went to:

Fred Stays with Me! by Nancy Coffelt, Illus. by Tricia Tusa
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, Illus. by Kadir Nelson

Aside from providing a bit of fun, this afternoon's exercise was a great lesson in objectivity and critical analysis. It was new for me to take these books and judge them on the merits of a single aspect, in this case the illustrations (especially since I tend to pay more attention to text.) It was too easy to dismiss a title simply because the story or subject matter itself did not appeal to me. In order to judge fairly and according to the criteria which I had been given, I had to evaluate the effectiveness of the illustrations, not just as enhancers of the text, but as the heart of the story-telling process itself. Peter Sis' The Wall, for instance, is text heavy in a way that is not likely to attract a young reader. But the context and execution of the paneled illustrations does a superb job of presenting the themes discussed in all that text, in a way that is accessible to children. They may not read all the information about life in Communist Prague, but they will understand from the pictures that the place the author is describing is oppressive, colorless, and uniform. So in that regard, the book is outstanding.

Although I had enjoyed most of the 29 titles submitted for consideration, there were some severe omissions, in my opinion (where oh where was The Pink Refrigerator by Tim Egan?!) Here are the other 24 titles:

The Apple Pie That Papa Baked (Thompson, Lauren, illus. by Jonathan Bean)
At Night (Bean, Jonathan)
Beetle Bop (Fleming, Denise)
The Cheese (Palatini, Margie, illus. by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher)
A Closer Look (McCarthy, Mary)
Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars (Florian, Douglas)
The Crow (Paul, Alison)
Dog and Bear (Seeger, Laura Vaccaro)
Dogs and Cats (Jenkins, Steve)
Duck, Duck, Goose (Hills, Tad)
A Good Day (Henkes, Kevin)
Heat Wave (Spinelli, Eileen, illus. Betsy Lewin)
Jabberwocky (Myers, Christopher)
Knuffe Bunny Too (Willems, Mo)
Leaves (Stein, Ezra David)
Let it Shine (Bryan, Ashley)
Lightship (Floca, Brian)
Little Red Riding Hood (Pinkney, Jerry)
Mary and the Mouse, The Mouse and Mary (McClintock, Barbara)
Pictures from our Vacation (Perkins, Lynne Rae)
Rainstorm (Lehman, Barbara)
Velma Gratch and the way Cool Butterfly (Madison, Alan, illus. Kevin Hawkes)
The Wall: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain (Sis, Peter)
The Wizard (Prelutsky, Jack, illus. Brandon Dorman)

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