When I signed up to participate in the Caldecott Challenge last January, I don’t think I realized just how many books I was agreeing to read - or how many of them would be so difficult to find. As of today, I have read all but five of the Caldecott Medal and Honor Books from 1938 to 2012, but to accomplish this task, I had to visit at least five different libraries, including the Library of Congress. I still hope to finish the challenge - possibly after another visit to the Library of Congress when I have the chance - but for now, I’m going to declare myself finished with just this one final post of reviews. Starting in March, I will starting posting weekly picture book reviews.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Published 2007. Caldecott Medal 2008.
I saw the movie based on this book before I ever got around to reading the book. For the most part, the story is the same, but I will admit that the book’s ending got more of an emotional reaction out of me than anything in the film adaptation. I still don’t really understand everyone’s fascination with Brian Selznick’s style. I guess it’s neat the way he zooms in and out on various aspects of his drawings. I just don’t see it as a very effective storytelling tool. Still, though, this is a hugely popular book with most kids, and they could do worse.
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith. Published 2011. Caldecott Honor 2012.
I reviewed Grandpa Green when I first read it in late 2011. While it’s not that popular with the kids I know, I still think it’s visually appealing and emotionally satisfying. I still stand by what I said in my initial review, which you can read here.
White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin. Published 1947. Caldecott Medal 1948.
I love the old-fashioned illustrations in this book. The thick clumps of snows on the trees remind me of childhood snow days, and I like the sense of community created by each character’s speculation about and reaction to the wintry weather. Kids are also surprisingly drawn to this book. Whenever I’ve read it at story time, the kids have always pointed out various details that interest them, and they often move closer to me to be able to see the book better.
Fables by Arnold Lobel. Published 1980. Caldecott Medal 1981.
I have always loved Arnold Lobel, but I don’t know that I have ever read this book before. I love his contemporary-feeling fables, and the beautiful pictures with which he illustrates them. My favorites are the ostrich, all dressed up because he is in love and the elephant father whose slipper is on fire. My favorite opening sentence of any of the stories is “All night long, the sleeping Pig dreamed of candy.” That is an absolutely perfect beginning line.
A Very Special House by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Published 1953. Caldecott Honor 1954.
Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak made such a perfect picture book writing team. This book speaks to children on their level and celebrates creativity in an exuberant and empowering way. The text reminds me of the way preschoolers just ramble on and on about whatever is important to them, regardless of their audience and the illustrations are just wonderfully imaginative and full of life. For a book drawn in only four colors, it is surprisingly successful and appealing.
Puss in Boots by Marcia Brown. Published 1952. Caldecott Honor 1953.
I love this story, but I’m not especially fond of this version’s illustrations. They don’t really grab my attention and in some of them, the details are unclear. I do like the look on the cat’s face on the front cover - as though he knows many things we don’t - but not much else spoke to me about this one.
Finders Keepers by Will and Nicolas. Published 1951. Caldecott Medal 1952.
This book is strange and disappointing. I expected the two dogs to learn that it didn’t matter who the bone belonged to, but instead, they gang up on the dog who tries to take it from them! I thought that was an unusual turn to the story, and that it might actually upset kids. I also didn’t really understand the importance of the farmer, the goat, or the barber, who all take something from the dogs and then fail to assist with the bone problem. This was just a weird reading experience I don’t care to repeat.
The Caldecott Challenge was hosted by LibLaura5. View my full list of reviews here.