Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey. Published 1957. Caldecott Medal 1958. Puffin Books. ISBN: 9780140502015
This is one of the only Robert McCloskey books I did not read for the project I did on him in graduate school. I’m not sure how I skipped it, since it is definitely the kind of picture book I usually love. It reminds me a lot of All the World, which I frequently name as my favorite picture book of all time. McCloskey captures the same carefree childhood innocence Frazee infuses into her illustrations for All the World, and both books have a timeless quality that extend their relevance far beyond the decade of their publication. Time of Wonder was published in 1957, but aside from the somewhat dated-looking print, there isn’t much to date this book to the 1950s. My absolute favorite illustration in the entire book is the moment when the hurricane bursts the door of the house open and the wind and sand sweep everything “hair-over-eyes across the floor.” I’m really impressed by the way McCloskey was able to capture so much movement in a still picture. This book has sort of an awkward ending that feels sort of incomplete, or tacked on, but aside from that, it’s near perfect.
Flotsam by David Wiesner. Published 2006. Caldecott Medal 2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 9780618194575
I had this marked as "read-library-school" on Goodreads, but I knew instantly upon opening the book that this was not the case. I had actually never read this before at all. And shame on me, because it's great! Without a single word, David Wiesner tells the story of a boy on a beach who uncovers a strange camera from the water on which have been photographed the strangest creatures - a clockwork fish, turtles with entire cities of shells on their backs, even starfish who walk upright on just three of their legs. Also on this camera are pictures of kids who have found the camera, each of whom is posed holding the photograph of the previous child. A microscope reveals that the earliest image is black and white, suggesting this camera has been circulating for a long while. I can't imagine this book with text - the silence of it all is what makes it so moving. It's as though time stands still for a moment, and the true meaning and interconnectedness of human life becomes so strong and so obvious. There is so much to see in this book, and so much to think about. It's the perfect book to share with older kids, and a great opportunity for adults to spark discussions with the kids in their lives.
Swimmy by Leo Lionni. Published 1963. Caldecott Honor 1964. Dragonfly Books. ISBN: 9780394826202
Swimmy, a black fish, is the only one to survive when a fish eats all of his friends, who are red fish. When he sees another group of red fish in similar trouble, he discourages them from merely accepting their fate and motivates them into action, thus scaring off the enemy fish and saving their lives. I used to read this book to my fifth grade CCD classes to demonstrate the concept that every person is a necessary part of society. It's a tricky concept to describe, but this book does such an awesome job of showing, not just telling, how teamwork and community can counteract times of difficulty and bring about hope. And the artwork - especially the jellyfish and the "seaweed forest" - is just gorgeous. At no point can the reader forget the story takes place underwater, even when the page is almost completely white. This is definitely my favorite of Leo Lionni's books.
Tuesday by David Wiesner. Published 1991. Caldecott Medal 1992. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN: 9780395870822
Think Tuesday nights are boring? Think again. This surreal wordless picture book depicts one Tuesday night on which frogs rise on their lilypads and levitate ominously through their town. It's so hard to describe Wiesner's style, but it's not hard to tell that he is a genius. I love the way he draws people, and the twist at the end of the story is just perfect. I haven't really seen kids interact with this book, but I'd love to know what they think about it.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.