Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best picture books of the year: Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 1

Each year, a group of librarians gather together to discuss the best picture books of the year, awarding the Caldecott Medal to the artist of the "most distinguished" American picture book for children. This year's Caldecott winners will be announced on Monday, January 28th - we are very excited to see which artists are recognized with this great honor!


The students and teachers at Emerson have been reading and discussing many of the best picture books this year. It's a wonderful opportunity to talk about how the illustrations add to a story, creating meaning and emotions. This week, I'd like to share some of the books we've been discussing. Look for Part 2 and 3 later this week. For now, here are some of our favorite potential Caldecott books:

Baby Bear Sees Blue
by Ashley Wolff
Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2012
ages 2 - 5
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
My students were charmed by this sweet book, loving the rhythm of the story, the unexpected items selected to focus on each color, and the rich, saturated color of each illustration. On each page, they noticed the details in Wolff's illustrations, as well as the balance between large figures and spaces and small detailed illustrations.
Step Gently Out
poem by Helen Frost
photographs by Rick Lieder
Candlewick Press, 2012
ages 4 - 9
reviewed here
available from your local library or on Amazon
Lieder's photographs took my students' breath away. As one student said, "They make the images pop out." The brilliant color, the compositions, the contrast between blurred backgrounds and crystal clear animals, and the incredible details in each photograph are astounding. The photographs complement Frost's words and extend them, giving readers fascinating images to contemplate on each page. Students also remarked about the pacing, the way that the photographs allow you to read the poem slowly, savoring each image.
Oh, No!
by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2012
ages 3 - 8
review by 100 Scope Notes
available at your local library, on Amazon and as a
"Read & Listen" iBook for the iPad
Flemings rhyming text and Rohmann's colorful illustrations absolutely captivated my students. They chanted along with me, saying the choral, "Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!" and "Oh, no!" right in time. But best of all, they loved the way Rohmann changed his perspective with each page, showing just enough of each scene to draw you right in. They loved the playfulness of having to find the tiger - spotting his claws wrapping around the tree, or his tail poking out from the bushes.

Rohmann creates his illustrations using relief prints with the reduction method (see here for an explanation of what that means), and you can see some fascinating examples of his work in progress at the wonderful blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. While Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 wonders whether problems with the perspective will cause this trouble, my students and I would agree with Ed Spicer (see the comments in Betsy's post) that the animals in the hole can sense the tiger prowling outside the hole without having to see him. Rohmann's illustrations add to the humor, energy and pacing of this wonderful book. This is one we will read again and again.
Nightime Ninja
by Barbara DeCosta
illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown, 2012
ages 3-8
Horn Book review
available at your local library and on Amazon
Ed Young's expressive collages hooked my students from the cover, with those big eyes peering out from the black disguise. My second graders loved the twists and surprises that Young reveals in his illustrations, as he slowly hints that the Ninja might be a young boy with an active imagination. My students would agree with the Horn Book, which writes, "Young’s art, however, perfectly pairs with the minimal text. His cut-paper and cloth illustrations do the heavy lifting here, imbuing the tale with mystery, beauty, and emotion." The illustrations create tension and pacing that captivates young readers, making them want to turn to this book for multiple readings.

Many thanks to the publishers for sharing and supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Simon & Schuster, Candlewick, Random House, and Little, Brown. 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 ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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