In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. Published 1970. Caldecott Honor 1971. Harper Collins. ISBN: 9780060266684
The day I checked this book out of the library to read for this challenge, several little girls were running around the children’s room with it, giggling over Mickey’s nakedness. I found myself hoping none of their parents tracked me down and presented me with a book challenge - and I think my reaction sums up the controversy surrounding this book. I’ve read it before, though never very seriously, and honestly, what I take away from it each time is an unsettled feeling. The book just makes me uncomfortable. The sinister-looking bakers scare the heck out of me, and the nakedness is unnerving. I recognize that Sendak is a genius, but I don’t think I will ever understand this book. It’s like a dream that you can’t describe once you wake up. I do think it’s interesting how closely the illustrations resemble pages from contemporary graphic novels, though. There might be an untapped audience for this book among comics readers!
The Graphic Alphabet by David Pelletier. Published 1996. Caldecott Honor 1997. Scholastic. ISBN: 9780531360019
I really like alphabet books, and this one is exceptional. I like that the artist - David Pelletier - set himself the challenge of retaining the letter’s shape while also portraying the meaning of a word beginning with that letter. This approach is effective throughout the book, but especially for avalanche, devil, noodles, and my favorite, x-ray. While simpler books might be best for toddlers and preschoolers, kids learning to read can enjoy reinforcing their letter knowledge by identifying each letter in its corresponding image.
Color Zoo by Lois Ehlert. Published 1989. Caldecott Honor 1990. HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780397322596
I have a love/hate relationship with Lois Ehlert’s artwork. Some of her books just don’t work for me, and others are very impressive. This one falls on the impressive side. Ehlert takes two important preschool concepts, colors and animals, and combines them in a book that looks simple, but operates on several levels. For the youngest readers, it’s an early lesson in knowledge of shapes and animal sounds. As kids age, it becomes inspiration for a fun art project. Though I haven’t done so yet, I’d love to do a story time with this book, Perfect Square, and My Heart is Like a Zoo. They’d be a great combination!
A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams. Published 1982. Caldecott Honor 1983. Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780688009144
I have had this nagging feeling for a long time that I didn’t like this book as a child, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember why. After finishing it, I decided it must have been the fact that the main character’s family has recently lost everything in a fire. While the story is actually a hopeful tale of rebuilding after loss - something that can speak to everyone on some level - I had a childhood phobia related to fires thanks to fire safety lessons at school, and I doubt I would have been able to get past that fact. As an adult, I’m still not in love with this book, but the image of the then-empty and now-full money jar really stood out as strong and aesthetically pleasing images. I also really liked the way the chair represented different things to different members of the family, and how it encourages the reader to really appreciate the simple things in life.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.