Tops and Bottoms by Janet Stevens. Published 1995. Caldecott Honor 1996. Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 9780152928513
Tops and Bottoms is a trickster tale wherein a clever hare repeatedly tricks a lazy bear into giving him the edible parts of his vegetables, whether they be tops, bottoms, or middles. The orientation of the book is switched from portrait to landscape, so that each illustration effectively portrays a top and a bottom. It's a great treat for the reader to uncover subtle details like the hare's carrot shirt and the bear's honeybee tie, and to see the many little hares peeking out from behind piles of vegetables. Stevens uses the orientation of each page to provide a unique perspective. We look up on the porch where the bear sleeps from the point of view of the hares who deliver the vegetables to the bottom of the steps. She also draws the tops, bottoms, and middles in their correct place on the tall two-page spreads to reinforce the meanings of those words for the new reader. I love the accuracy of the details in the different vegetables, and the wonderful personalities infused into the bear and hare characters.
The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. Published 2009. Caldecott Medal 2010. Little, Brown. ISBN: 9780316071222
Jerry Pinkney's wordless retelling of this fable has never done much for me. I recognize Pinkney's signature style, and can certainly see the detail that went into getting the animals just right in each illustration. But I am not naturally drawn to animal books, and therefore just sort of breezed through this one. The one thing that did impress me, though, was how realistic the story becomes when the animals are shown in their natural habitat, making only their natural sounds with no human qualities or actions. I think it's easy to use talking animals to tell stories like this, but a greater challenge when the illustrator relies on the true behaviors of those animals to convey plot points instead.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. Published 2010. Caldecott Honor 2011. Candlewick. ISBN:978076364168951699
Papa wants to read Chicken a bedtime story, but she just can't stop interrupting. The illustrations convey the events of bedtime, as well as the events of the various fairy tales Papa and Chicken read together. Chicken's interruptions are also illustrated, as she bursts into the scene of each picture book, taking each of the classic characters by surprise. Best of all, Chicken writes her own story in the end, which Stein has illustrated with perfect child-like crayon drawings. So many different styles and so many details went into this book, it's amazing that one illustrator was able to do it all himself. I reviewed Interrupting Chicken last year on my book blog.
Time Flies by Eric Rohmann. Published 1994. Caldecott Honor 1995. Crown Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780517595985
This wordless picture book uses light, shadow, and perspective to portray visually the evolutionary relationship between dinosaurs and birds. The story follows a bird from a museum dinosaur exhibit, all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs and back again to the present day. I have never felt like I truly understand the nuances of what happens in this book, but it is very striking to look at, and I think kids who are interested in dinosaurs would love knowing that the birds we see everyday are their descendants. The book also does an excellent job of conveying that sense of wonder one gets from entering a museum's dinosaur exhibit.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.