The Gardener. by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small. Published 1997. Caldecott Honor 1998.
I love the detailed illustrations in this one, coupled with Lydia Grace’s letters from her Uncle Jim’s house. I expected the ending to be hokey, but it was surprisingly satisfying, and the final image almost brought tears to my eyes. I love the little details in the background of the pictures - FDR’s photo hanging on the wall of the bakery, the cat hanging around on the outskirts of the action on almost every page, the watermelon waiting to be eaten on the roof when the garden is finally finished. Even the end papers are part of the story. This is one of those perfect picture books where words and illustrations are equally important and equally well-done.
The Wall. by Peter Sis. Published 2007. Caldecott Honor 2008.
This book reminded me a lot of Breaking Stalin’s Nose. The content is similar and kids who read and enjoy one might like the other as well. The detailed illustrations, complete with captions, will appeal to readers drawn to graphic novels and comics. The image of the baby at the start and end of the book gave me the creeps, but I enjoyed the journal excerpts, and the drawings and photos from Sis’s life that make up the borders of those pages. My favorite image of all, hands down, is the page depicting the bright pyschedelic colors of Western pop culture in the 1960s.
Starry Messenger by Peter Sis. Published 1996. Caldecott Honor 1997.
The cursive font used as part of this book’s illustrations is nearly impossible to read, but if you can get past that, there is a lot to learn from the text and illustrations combined. Because the text and illustrations convey different levels of detail, kids can return to this book again and again as they age and take away something different each time. My favorite image in this one is of the courtyard where all the children play. It is reminiscent of Sendak’s drawings for Ruth Krauss’s books, and of Martin Handford’s Where’s Waldo. I especially appreciated the child-like way Sis drew the courtyard enclosure - I think every kid draws walls as though the spaces they surround are big square boxes.
Seven Blind Mice. by Ed Young. Published 1992. Caldecott Honor 1993.
The most memorable part of this book is the boldness of the colorful mice against the field of black, and the way each mouse’s imaginings about the elephant match his color. This book is a great tool for teaching kids the dangers of jumping to conclusions or making snap judgments. It might also make an interesting companion for a science lesson about making hypotheses and testing them out.
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.