Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Diaz. Published 1994. Caldecott Medal 1995. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 9780152018849
A young boy witnesses a riot on the street outside of his Los Angeles apartment, which causes his family to examine its relationships with the neighbors and brings the residents of the apartment building together despite the tensions mounting in the city. David Diaz uses a lot of color to portray not just the racial identity of each of the characters, but also the darkness of fear as the building residents evacuate their homes in the middle of the night due to fire. I love the way the borders of some of the illustrations suggest what happens in the text. My favorite is the spilled cereal on the border of the page where some rioters break into a store. I was around 12 or 13 when this book came out and I remember avoiding looking at it when my mom recommended it because I was worried it would upset me. Still, though, I do think it's appropriate for somewhat older children in late elementary school and even middle school who are prepared to discuss issues surrounding race and might need a jumping off point for doing so.
Blackout by John Rocco. Published 2011. Caldecott Honor 2012. Hyperion Books. ISBN: 9781423121909
This is one of my favorite books of 2011, and I was thrilled to see it honored for its excellent illustrations. In panels reminiscent of the graphic novel format, John Rocco tells the story of how a blackout in New York City brings one family together. There is some very simple text in the book, but much of the action is told through images, and the story is much richer for it. I love the use of color to bring the night to life, and also the way speech bubbles and other sound words are incorporated into the illustrations to give a strong sense of how the city might sound when there is no electricity. I reviewed Blackout earlier this year on my book blog. http://sharingsoda.blogspot.com/2011/08/review-blackout-by-john-rocco.html
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes. Published 2008. Caldecott Medal 2009. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 9780618862443
This book is based on cumulative rhymes such as "The Key to the Kingdom." The text itself doesn't introduce much of anything that hasn't been done before, but the illustrations, with their detailed cross-hatching and selective use of gold coloring really stand out. I love the way the gold endpapers set the reader up to look for that same color in the illustrations, thus drawing the eye to such objects as the sun, the book, the teddy bear, and the key. The child's bedroom reminds me a little bit of the room in Goodnight Moon, and the overall mood of the book is very relaxing, preparing the reader to drift right off to sleep when the book is done. I also really like the book within a book device, which I know appeals to a lot of kids.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.