Monday, January 16, 2012

Caldecott winning books: mid-1940s

I'm continuing my Caldecott Challenge, reading as many of the books which have been recognized as distinguished picture books by the American Library Association. This week, I have read several books from the mid- and late-1940s. While this was a dark time for Americans, the picture books reflect a celebration of children's innocence. Two books in particular struck me from this week's reading: A Prayer for a Child and Juanita.
A Prayer for a Child
by Rachel Field
illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones
NY: Macmillan, 1944
1945 Caldecott Medal
ages 2 - 5
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
This sweet book is a poem written by Rachel Field for her daughter, sending a message of love and joy. The illustrations are sweet, and I would think this would make a lovely present for a new young family. But somehow, the illustrations didn't appeal to me quite the same was as in Juanita. It seemed to me that this little girl was a bit generic, that it didn't resonate as one specific little girl. I wish I could put my finger more specifically on that feeling. But, then again, it could be that it would connect more to someone from the this background. A good Twitter friend, Aly Beecher, told me, it "seemed a lot like New England to me. Something resonated for me in everything about the illustrations." A Prayer for a Child reminded her very much of her grandparents' summer cottage.
by Leo Politi
NY: Scribner, 1948
1949 Caldecott Honor
ages 3 - 6
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
I adored this book - absolutely adored it. Politi captures the atmosphere of Olvera Street, the historic Latino community in downtown Los Angeles, in a way that both celebrates Juanita's innocence and childhood joy, and honors this Mexican American community. Juanita's parents own a small shop, or puesto, on Olvera Street. It is Juanita's fourth birthday, and her parents give her a small white dove (symbolic? yes, I do think so). On the day before Easter, Juanita takes her dove to the Old Mission Church for the annual Blessing of the Animals. 

I am so happy that Juanita is still in print, reprinted by Getty Publications. Many of my friends who are joining me in the Caldecott Challenge have not yet been able to see this, so I made a short video sharing it with friends. Here's a quick look at these books:

For more Caldecott books, head over to the fantastic Laura Given's blog: LibLaura5. Over 40 bloggers have signed up for the Caldecott Challenge! Come join us!

These review copy came from my local library collection. 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. What a nice video wrap-up and commentary. Hope to see more of these! :)

  2. Great post. I enjoyed seeing the images from inside the books--it gives me a bit of hope that as I keep progressing in the Challenge the books will become more childlike (some of the early ones are kind of heavy). I'm not reading them in order--but I am working my way through the 30s and 40s right now, along with some of our tried and true books from later years. I see a glimmer of light in my near future.

  3. Thanks Anna and Elizabeth! I have really enjoyed reading these older books. I'm glad you liked seeing the images from inside the books. I hope you enjoy reading these :)