Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann. Published 1995. Caldecott Honor 1996. Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN: 9780399226168
Poor Officer Buckle. I feel his pain whenever I get up in front of a story time group and notice that no one is paying attention. I think kids understand that feeling too - the fear that no one is listening to the important things they have to say. Gloria is a wonderful asset to the performance, but even her exciting jumps and flips create a problem. Officer Buckle realizes it’s not him but Gloria who is so popular. Thankfully, though, the students at the schools recognize it’s the partnership that works, not Officer Buckle on his own, or Gloria on her own, and everyone comes out feeling important . I love kids’ books with adult main characters, because they show that all people, regardless of age, face challenges, and it they help kids see the adults in their lives as real people, not just authority figures, or folks doing a job. This book is great for demonstrating empathy, and also reinforcing good listening skills.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. Published 1969. Caldecott Medal 1970. Simon & Schuster. ISBN: 9780671661540
From childhood, I have been troubled whenever I know something as a reader (or viewer) that characters in a book (or show) have yet to discover. It makes me so anxious that I either want to stop reading, or skip quickly ahead to the (hopefully) happy ending. This is probably why I have never liked Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. There’s nothing wrong with the story - it’s well-told, well-illustrated, and has an important moral. The animals are depicted with very human characteristics and clothing, and the subtlety of facial expressions shows Steig’s wonderful skill with just a few carefully placed lines. I just can’t handle the pain the parents face when they think their beloved Sylvester has gone missing, and it makes me nuts that the magic pebble is right there, and there’s nothing I can do to alert them!
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. Published 2003. Caldecott Medal 2004. Scholastic. ISBN: 9780312368784
Mordicai Gerstein’s name was not familiar to me the first time I heard it in library school, but only because I don’t pay attention. In truth, he was the illustrator of one of my favorites series of books during childhood - the Something Queer books by Elizabeth Levy. Since becoming a librarian, I’ve discovered others of his wonderful books, including Applesauce Season (written by Eden Ross Lipson) and his 2011 poetry collection Dear Hot Dog. This biography of a street performer who walked a wire between the twin towers is interesting on its own, but made much more compelling and emotional by the events of September 11th. I love the way Gerstein frames the book with the loss of the towers, but without dwelling on how they fell, and I think his straightforward style resonates with kids, whose natural curiosity demands the facts but whose level of comprehension still demands simplicity. I also love the unique perspectives in the illustrations which give the sensation of being high up in the air. This is one of my favorite Caldecott books thus far!
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully Published 1992. Caldecott Medal 1993. Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN: 9780698114432
This book tells the story of a young girl whose talent for walking the high wire is discovered when Bellini, a famous tight-rope walker, comes to stay at her widowed mother’s boarding house. Bellini has developed a fear that prevents him from performing, which Mirette, through her persistence and determination, helps him to overcome. The plot reminds me somewhat of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which also focuses on a child helping an adult overcome an emotional roadblock. I’m not sure the picture book audience can relate to that kind of plotline, but the illustrations are very beautiful. Of the two high wire books on the list, however, my favorite is definitely Gerstein’s.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.