John Henry. by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Published 1994. Caldecott Honor 1995.
Try as I might, I could not get into this book enough to enjoy it. The ending had the biggest impact, but even that didn’t make me connect with it. I do think, though, that it would be nice to include this in a tall tales lesson or display, to add some diversity.
Coming on Home Soon. by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published 2004. Caldecott Honor 2005.
This book brings the reader into the lives of one specific African-American family during World War II. Rather than getting heavily bogged down in history, it focuses on the passage of time as one little girl waits for word from her mother who has left home to find work. The text is poetic, but not inaccessible, and the illustrations are realistic and filled with warmth and emotion. Oddly enough, though, my favorite page is the spread of the snow-covered landscape, where the girl decides, “One day I’m gonna set off to see it all. Maybe I’ll go by railroad.” It represents hope for the girl’s future even in the face of less than ideal circumstances.
The Talking Eggs by Robert San Souci. illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Published 1989. Caldecott Honor 1990.
The Talking Eggs seems to draw from several well-known fairy tales: Cinderella, Diamonds and Toads, and Baba Yaga. I think it appeals to kids because they enjoy seeing an underdog come out on top. Personally, I appreciated the fact that we never have to see the woman remove her head - the text simple alludes to it. I also absolutely loved the clothed rabbits and their different faces, outfits, and dance moves. That page of the book has a ton of personality!
Henry’s Freedom Box. by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Published 2007. Caldecott Honor 2008.
This is a very accessible story for younger kids about slavery and the Underground Railroad. Though readers will undoubtedly be upset by the loss of Henry’s family to the slave trade, an issue which is never resolved, I think they will be equally amused and pleased by the clever way Henry achieves his own freedom. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations suit the tone of the book perfectly. He pays careful attention to faces and expressions, and uses unique perspectives to focus the reader’s eye on the important pieces of each illustration. My favorite pictures are the two-page spread where Dr. Smith addresses the box Henry will travel in, and the image a few pages later of Henry scrunched up inside the box.
Mirandy and Brother Wind. by Patricia McKissack. illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. Published 1988. Caldecott Honor 1989.
story didn’t do much for me, but I was interested in the wind being
characterized as a man. The ending felt like a let-down, though. (This is one of the few books of this challenge about which I truly have nothing to say. Hence the very short commentary!)
See other Caldecott Challenge participants' blogs on the challenge page at LibLaura5. Follow my challenge progress here.