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Check It Out

Courier Article by Carol Cariens
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Librarians Name Their Choices in Mock Caldecott Event

On January 14 EVPL's Youth Librarians hosted their annual Mock Caldecott program for area librarians and other friends of children's literature. The official Caldecott Medal, part of the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards, was first awarded in 1938 "…to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year."

Working from an initial list of 38 titles (each had received a minimum of 3 starred or highly recommended reviews in standard review journals) our group narrowed the list to 10 picture books that in our estimation embodied the essence of a Caldecott title. Will we match the official Caldecott Committee's choices when their announcements are made on January 18? Time will tell. In the meantime we're pretty happy with our choices. So, without further ado…..

Our pick to win the 2010 Caldecott Medal? We're thinking PINK—Jerry Pinkney, that is, for The Lion & the Mouse. Four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Pinkney rightfully deserves the "gold" this year for his masterful adaptation of Aesop's tale of kindness rewarded. Set in the Serengeti Plain and told with minimal text Pinkney allows his golden-hued watercolors to convey the plight of the magnificent lord of the jungle and the derring-do of his small but resourceful rodent rescuer. If you can only buy one children's book this year, make this the one.

Our pick to win an official Honor nod? The Negro Speaks of Rivers, a poem by Langston Hughes with illustrations by E. B. Lewis, also a former Caldecott Honor recipient. Written when Hughes was 18, Rivers became "the song of the Harlem Renaissance". Acting "…as interpreter and visionary…" Lewis and his stunning watercolors show the powerful influence of rivers throughout time on culture, spirit, and resiliency.

Rounding out our "best of the best" list were:

All the World. Illustrated by Marla Frazee, text by Liz Garton Scanlon. 2008 Caldecott Honor recipient Frazee could repeat her Honor this year with delicate pencil and watercolors that aptly express how even the small pieces of our everyday life make up the parts of a larger whole.
Chicken Little. Text by Rebecca Emberley, illustrations by Ed Emberley. A delightful adaptation of the "sky is falling" tale told in bold, riotous color by a father-daughter team. Dad is a former Caldecott Medallist (for Drummer Hoff).

Coretta Scott. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson, text by Ntozake Shange. Shange, a past Coretta Scott King Award winner and Nelson, a Caldecott Honor winner collaborated on this poetic tribute to Coretta Scott King's early life. Nelson's oil paintings accurately embody the quiet dignity of Coretta Scott King.

Crow Call. Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, text by Lois Lowry. Lowry's first foray into picture book publishing tells a story from her own past, a young girl getting reacquainted with her father recently returned from World War II. Ibatoulline's watercolors complement this gentle read that has implications for today's military families.

My People. Photographs by Charles R. Smith, Jr., poem by Langston Hughes. Pairing Hughes' poignant 33-word poem with Smith's stunning sepia-toned photographs was truly inspired. Visual perfection.

Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Color. Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, poems by Joyce Sidman. Playful poems spanning the months are charmingly enhanced by Zagarenski's European-influenced art done in mixed media on wood.

Redwoods. Illustrations and text by Jason Chin. When he finds a book about the magnificent redwoods on the subway a young boy becomes immersed in the story more than he realizes. Watercolor illustrations provide just the right levity for this delightful fantastical fiction story.

Sweethearts of Rhythm: the Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, poems by Marilyn Nelson. A tuneful tribute to the famous interracial female dance band is highlighted by Pinkney's energetic watercolors of the era when "swing was the thing!"

So, how did we do? Quite well, actually. The Lion & the Mouse did receive the Caldecott Medal and All the World and Red Sings from the Treetops took Honor designations. Our own Honor pick received a Coretta Scott King Illustration Honor and My People received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. Five out of 10? Not bad, not bad at all.