Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka - winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal (ages 3 - 8)

Our 2nd graders at Emerson have loved thinking about which picture books should win the 2012 Caldecott Medal, participating in a mock Caldecott of our own. Yesterday we read A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka, who was awarded the 2012 Caldecott Medal this past weekend by the American Library Association. This wordless book will appeal to a wide range of children, from young preschoolers on up. Our students responded to the way Raschka expressed so many emotions purely through his paintings.

A Ball for Daisy
by Chris Raschka
NY: Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2011
ages 3 - 8
available from your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
2012 Caldecott Medal
Daisy is a happy, eager little dog who loves her red ball. She leaps and bounds, playing with it at home and then at the park. But one day at the park, another dog starts playing with Daisy's ball. The ball suddenly POPS! and Daisy is despondent. Her owner, a young girl not depicted until half-way through the book, tries to comfort Daisy.

Children respond to Daisy's emotions throughout the story - how excited she is playing with her favorite toy, the despair she feels when she loses that toy. Raschka captures these emotions through Daisy's expressions, movement and posture. We had a great time with 2nd graders looking at Daisy's eyes and practicing different emotions our eyes convey.

The story concludes with another trip to the park, as Daisy and her little girl meet the dog who popped Daisy's ball. This little brown dog and her owner have brought Daisy a new ball, and the book ends with a very happy Daisy cuddling on the couch with her new ball. Our students loved the ending, recognizing that's what you should do if you break a friend's toy. They wondered if Daisy and the brown dog will become friends.

The first time I read A Ball for Daisy I mistakenly thought it was only for young preschoolers. My 2nd graders have shown me, once again, how much they can get from a wordless picture book that explores and celebrates a rich palette of emotions. They appreciated Daisy's emotions, they loved Raschka's use of color and lines, they noticed patterns and details I passed by on my first reading. Picture books, especially wordless ones, let children develop their love of stories, and their understanding of illustrations and visual imagery.

Other reviews can be found in many places, including:
  • A Year of Reading: "brilliant illustrations that tell so much of the story to the reader.  You cannot help but feel what the dog feels throughout the story--all the ups and downs."
  • Waking Brain Cells: "From the bright red of her ball to the striped couch in green, the book embraces color.  Raschka also uses color to convey emotion, which is particularly effective when the air itself is colored with purples and blues after Daisy’s ball is popped."
  • ProseAndKahn: "Daisy is drawn with a minimum of squiggly lines, but her posture and expressions speak volumes. The contrast of moods between the walk to the park and away from it, is striking. Readers will feel pity for the poor lonely dog trying to nap without his favorite toy."
  • NPR interview with Chris Rashka:  Raschka has a simple criterion for choosing his subjects: "Anything that creates a strong emotion in me," he says. "Whether it's music, loss of something, loneliness or friendship — if that emotion is heightened in some way and painted to fit in between the covers of 32 pages, that can become a picture book."
  • Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: "I’m a raging fan of Raschka’s minimalist, vigorously-stroked artwork".
The review copy came from our local bookstore Mrs. Dalloway's and our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support. Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


  1. Thanks for this great review. I'm enjoying learning more about this book before I get the chance to actually read it. It's on order at our local library, so I hope to read it soon! Wordless picture books are just starting to grow on me, so I'm anxious to read it for that reason, too...

  2. Thanks for sharing, Mary Ann. A nice, succinct review, with great links and quotes from others. While I like Raschka, I had not been excited about reading a story about a dog and her ball. I have obviously got to go read it now. It's waiting for me on hold at my library.