Caldecott Year in Review: 1942

1 11 2019

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I’ve really dragged my feet on getting my thoughts on the 1942 books posted. To be honest, I think I was a bit bored by the honor books this time around. Not that they were terrible books per se – just a bit dated and on the wordy side.

Caldecott Honor Titles

In My Mother’s House by Ann Nolan Clark; illustrated by Velino Herrara

American Indian life is expressed through free verse poems in this honor title. A note states that the poetry is based on poems written by Native American children collected by the author through her work in New Mexico. The poems discuss the people, way of life, flora and fauna of the indigenous people of that region. The illustrations are mostly black and white, pen-and-ink drawings with a few full-color paintings interspersed.

Nothing at All by Wanda Ga’g

I would classify this book as an original fairy tale. It is the story of three puppies – one with pointy ears, one with curly fur, and one that is invisible (named Nothing-at-All). When a young brother and sister adopt the two visible puppies, Nothing-at-All longs to be visible too so they will adopt him as well. A jackdaw bird with a book of magic tells Nothing-at-all about a spell that will help him achieve invisibility, and sure enough, after following the nine day process, Nothing-at-all becomes “Something-after-all” and is reunited with his brothers and their new family. Ga’g’s pencil drawings feature soft, rounded edges and a muted color palette (lots of pale green and reddish-orange). Nothing-at-all’s transformation is depicted by showing him starting as a blank white circle to a blank, puppy-shaped space to a fully-formed visible dog.

Paddle-to-the-Sea written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling

The lengthy text in this book traces the journey of a small carved Indian in a canoe as he travels from a small town in Canada through the Great Lakes region the sea. Each double-page spread consists of a full page of text on the left side and a full page color illustration on the right. The text pages often contain illustrated borders as well, some depicting the scenery of Paddle’s latest stop on the journey, some ship schematics, maps, or information on the Great Lakes. Paddle’s journey is somewhat interesting, but this book is definitely longer than a typical picture book.

An American ABC by Maud and Miska Petersham

This title is a typical alphabet book. Each letter of the alphabet is linked to a word that somehow relates to American history. The typical layout of each entry is a two-page spread. On the left  side is the associated word and a brief explanation accompanied by a full-page illustration on the right side. The Petershams, who illustrated together, had a bold style. Their human and animal figures exhibit defined musculature. Strong lines are created by the separation of colors using white negative space rather than outlines. Their medium is pencil drawing with a limited color palette – lots of appropriately patriotic red and blue accents. As with other books of this time period, there are some troublesome depictions of people of color – several references to Native Americans as “red man” and in fact, the letter “r” in this alphabet is for “Redskins;” new Americans are only shown as immigrants of white, European origin; the only African-American shown in the entire book is a young man gaping at young George Washington riding horseback. Despite some lovely artwork, this title is difficult to read today.

Caldecott Medalist

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Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Despite 1942 having what I would consider somewhat lackluster honor titles (man, am I just not in the right frame of mind for reviewing these titles?), the medal winner is a true classic that is still beloved by readers today. The endpapers depict a duckling emerging step-by-step from an egg.  The story is about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard who find a perfect spot for raising their ducklings right in Boston’s Public Garden, which Mrs. Mallard leads the ducklings to with a little help from some friendly police officers. The story has just enough drama without being scary, and is told much more succinctly than many of those in the award and honor books from previous years. Throughout the book, text and illustrations are printed in brown, a warmer choice than standard black ink. The large size of the book and the realistic, pencil drawings that fill the pages are especially inviting.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

Caldecott Year in Review: 1941

10 07 2019

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There was a very short list of books selected by the committee in 1941 – just one honor title and the medal winner. Both of the creators were awarded Caldecott honors in 1939. Overall, I wasn’t particularly blown away by these selections, though I don’t know what other titles were published that year that might have been in the running.

Caldecott Honor Title

April’s Kittens story and pictures by Clare Turlay Newberry

This title is similar in format to Newberry’s previous Caldecott honor book Barkis. It features quite a bit of text with accompanying illustrations every other page or so. This time around Newberry added touches of red/pink to the otherwise black and white color scheme. Any cat-lover can see that Newberry’s ilustrations truly capture feline qualities, but these merely serve as portraits of the cats described in the text rather than an extension of the story itself. In the story, a young girl is faced with the dilemma of finding homes for her cat’s new kittens.

Caldecott Medalist

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They Were Strong and Good written and illustrated by Robert Lawson

This title chronicles the author’s own family history, tracing the lives of his grandparents and parents. It was a little tough to read this one through a modern lens. It is definitely of its time (it was written 80 years ago after all). The author’s family is all of western European descent, and the treatment of people of color in the book is troubling. Lawson’s family members are repeatedly described as being “strong and good” even though some of them lived on former native lands or owned slaves. I wouldn’t share this title with a group of children as a read aloud, but for historical perspective and student research I think it’s valid to have it in a library collection. The illustrations are similar to those in Lawson’s other work – black and white pen and ink drawings. Each family member is introduced with a portrait centered on the page followed by a brief introduction underneath. Then the rest of their life stories are presented in a format with a few lines of text on the left-hand page accompanied by a full-page illustration on the right.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography


Caldecott Year in Review: 1940

10 04 2019

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Going into a new decade with the Caldecotts, I’m starting to be familiar with a few more titles. Of the four books named in 1940, the medal winner and three honor books, there are two that I would consider classics that are still popular with readers and library users today.

Caldecott Honor Ttitles

Madeline story and pictures by Ludwig Bemelmans

This book is still probably one of the most well-known titles on the Caldecott list. I still remember winning a game of Trivial Pursuit in college for knowing the author of the Madeline books. (Yes, I’m clearly a book nerd – no news there!). Madeline tells the story of a girls’ school in Paris, in particular standout student Madeline, and the nun who teaches the girls, Miss Clavel. Throughout the story, the girls see the sights of Paris, and the big event of the story comes when little Madeline has to have her appendix removed. Fortunately, the surgery goes smoothly, and all is well again. The illustrations are primarily pen and ink drawings, done in a simple color scheme of black, white and yellow. Some bright, vivid full-color illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book, and these vibrant pictures depict scenes of the girls’ adventures around Paris particularly well. Obviously this book is a classic for a reason. The text has a great, bouncy flow to it, and the illustrations are full of life.

The Ageless Story with Its Antiphons pictured by Lauren Ford

On the other hand, I was not familiar with either this book or its creator prior to reading this one for my independent study. The Ageless Story is part of the tradition of some other Caldecott titles, previous ones like Animals of the Bible and those to come like Prayer for a Child, that draw on religious themes for subject matter. This book begins with an introductory letter from the author to her goddaughter followed by several pages retelling the story of Jesus’ birth and early life. The rest of the book contains selections from Gregorian chants on one page accompanied by a painting and a translation of the Latin text from the chant on the facing page. Intricate borders around the double page spreads look like quilt pieces entwined with gold leaf. There is a very interesting juxtaposition between the text and the illustrations that really sets this book apart. The settings of the paintings look like early New England even though the scenes depicted are Biblical events. It’s a fascinating combination.

Cock-a-Doodle-Doo: The Story of a Little Red Rooster by Berta and Elmer Hader

I was also not aware of this particular title by the Haders, though I have read their Caldecott-winning title from later in the decade, The Big SnowCock-a-Doodle-Doo is the story of a stray chick taken in by a family of ducks on a farm. Shortly after being rescued, the chick escapes to a wild adventure in the meadow and woods outside the farm fence. Little Red narrowly misses being caught by several predators, including an owl, a fox, and a hawk, before settling down on another farm with other chickens where he grows into a fine big rooster. The illustrations alternate between black-and-white pencil drawings and lovely full-color paintings throughout the book.

Caldecott Medalist

Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin D’Aulaire

Another title that I was definitely familiar with before now. I loved the D’Aulaires’ books growing up, and from the circulation statistics on their books in my current library collection, children today are still drawn to their work. This is of course a biography of Abraham Lincoln. The president’s life story has been simplified here for young readers, drawing heavily on some of the legends that have developed about him over time. This particular telling ends after the Civil War ends rather than including Lincoln’s death. Eighty years since its publication, some of the episodes related in the book are somewhat cringe-worthy, particularly the depictions of African-Americans and American Indians. Like some of the other Caldecott titles I’ve already reviewed, this book contains lengthy text. There is more variation in the layout of the illustrations throughout the book than in many of the previous titles though. There are pencil drawings of various sizes throughout – some small, some full-page, and even some double spreads. Some illustrations are black and white and some are color. Many illustrations simply depict what is being described in the text they accompany, but much of the illustration work is also used in a decorative manner. For instance, some illustrations create a kind of border around the text on selected pages. I think this variation in illustrations and the authors’ engaging storytelling style both keep the reader’s interest despite the large amount of material covered.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography


Storytime Share: Gifts

31 12 2018

For my December outreach storytimes, I wanted to do something sort related to the holidays without doing a straight up Christmas storytime. That being said, I did read Where Is Baby’s Christmas Present? to the baby class at one of my visits at a church-based preschool because the little ones in that class just can’t get enough lift-the-flap books.



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Love Monster and the Perfect Present by Rachel Bright; illustrated by the author

When Love Monster wants to give someone special a present, he discovers that gifts don’t have to come from the store to be perfect. Preschool

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Thank You Bear by Greg Foley; illustrated by the author

When Bear finds a small box, he can’t wait to show it to his friend Mouse, but he starts to have doubts when other animals don’t think the box is as special as he does. Toddler; Preschool

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Where Is Baby’s Christmas Present? by Karen Katz; illustrated by the author

Baby searches all over the house to find his/her Christmas present. Baby, Toddler

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Bears and a Birthday by Shirley Parenteau; illustrated by David Walker

Four small bears prepare a birthday surprise just for Big Brown Bear. Toddler, Preschool

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Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won; illustrated by the author

When animal friends are feeling grumpy, the gift of a hat cheers them right up. Preschool


“Monster, Monster, Turn Around”

Act out the rhyme while reciting

Monster, monster, turn around

Monster, monster, touch the ground

Monster, monster, reach up high

Monster, monster, squint your eyes

Monster, monster, show your teeth

Monster, monster, stomp your feet



I did a version of the “Book Bear” flannel hiding Book Bear behind a set of different colored presents rather than books this time. Check out Storytime Share: Bears for more information on Book Bear.


Recommended Read: Picture This

19 12 2018

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Picture This: How Pictures Work by Molly Bang

I’ve read Picture This a few times. The first couple of times it was assigned reading for either a materials course or children’s services course I took in library school. I recently read the 25th anniversary edition and came away with new insights once again.

There’s a reason this book has stood the test of time and been reprinted in an anniversary edition. It’s a classic. In the book Bang explores how stories are told visually and how the elements of illustration and design affect our emotional response to pictures and the stories they tell. In particular, Bang focuses on the elements of color, shape, and composition.

Using the traditional story of Little Red Riding Hood as an example, Bang walks through the elements one by one to show how each one affects the emotional impact of the story. She uses simple shapes and a limited color palette and makes subtle changes to demonstrate how even a small change in one element can change the entire feel of a picture. Is the wolf more menacing with a pointed snout or a curved one? Is a purple background scarier than white? How does the shape of the wolf’s tongue or eye affect our attitude toward it? It’s pretty amazing how such a seemingly small difference from one version of a picture to another can really change the overall emotion it conveys.

In addition to the examples she creates for the Little Red Riding Hood scenes, this anniversary edition also includes a few illustrations from Bang’s Caldecott Honor book When Sophie Gets Angry – Really, Really Angry to further explore the ideas Bang puts forth throughout the book. This is definitely a recommended read for anyone interested in picture book illustration.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

Caldecott Year in Review: 1939

8 11 2018

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Whew! The number of Caldecott Honor titles jumped from two in 1938 to five in 1939. The six books named in 1939, the five honors and the winner, are quite diverse in terms of setting, characters, artwork, and format.


Caldecott Honor Titles

The Forest Pool story and pictures by Laura Adams Armer

Set in Mexico, this is the tale of a young boy named Diego, his friend Popo, and his parrot Polly, who set off into the forest to catch an iguana to add to their zoo. Polly the parrot and the iguana alert the boys to a hole in a tree branch where Diego’s father finds pearls hidden. The artwork is a combination of full-page paintings every few pages and small, line drawings accompanying full pages of text. The paintings are done with soft, curvy shapes in vibrant colors – bright greens and blues with warm reds and golds.

Andy and the Lion written and illustrated by James Daugherty

This title is a retelling of Aesop’s “The Lion and the Mouse” fable. In this version rather than a mouse pulling a thorn out of a lion’s paw, a young boy named Andy performs the brave deed. The text and illustrations for this title are more integrated with each other than in most of the other early Caldecott selections. The placement of the illustrations varies from page to page as well. Page turns are very important to the pacing of the story. Often a page turn comes in the middle of a sentence to create anticipation for what happens next. The illustrations are black ink drawings accented with a golden color similar to that of a lion’s coat.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs translated and illustrated by Wanda Gag

In this traditional telling of the fairy tale, Snow White’s wicked stepmother visits the princess at the dwarfs’ cottage in disguise three times. The first time, she ties the laces on Snow White’s corset so tightly that the girl faints; the second time, she is knocked out by a poison-tipped comb; the third time, a piece of poisonous apple catches in her throat making her appear dead. Rather than a kiss from the prince waking her up, Snow White regains consciousness when her glass casket is dropped and the piece of apple is dislodged. Gag’s black and white illustrations for the story are done with some type of printing, perhaps linoleum cut or woodblock? These illustrations are more integrated with the text than some of the books from this or the previous year, but the text is still quite lengthy.

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf; illustrated by Robert Lawson

Wee Gillis is a young boy in Scotland who is asked to choose whether he would rather live with his father’s family in the Highlands or his mother’s family in the Lowlands. Over time he goes back and forth between the two, learning how to call the cattle in the Lowlands with a loud call and how to stalk stags in the Highlands by holding his breath to sneak up on them quietly. Both of these skills develop his lungs, making him the perfect person to play the biggest bagpipes in Scotland, which means he can now live in between the Highlands and the Lowlands rather than having to make a decision of one over the other. This title is the second collaboration for Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson (after The Story of Ferdinand). Throughout the book, text is on the left page with full-page black and white, pen and ink drawings on the right. The text is also more limited than some of the other titles seen so far.

Barkis story and pictures by Clare Turlay Newberry

When young James receives a puppy for his birthday he doesn’t want to share Barkis with his sister Nell Jean, even if she shares her cat Edward with him. However, when Barkis falls in the creek near their home and Nell Jean saves him, James has a change of heart. This title still contains more text than many of today’s picture books. Most spreads have text on the left page and illustrations on the right, though a few pages do contain a combination of both. A simple color scheme based on shades of brown and black is used throughout the book. This color scheme works especially well for the brown cocker spaniel and calico cat in the story. Author and illustrator Newberry was well known for her depictions of animals, particularly cats, and her talent is very evident in this title.

Caldecott Medalist

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Mei Li written and illustrated by Thomas Handforth

As the New Year approaches, young Mei Li sneaks out of her house to explore the New Year Fair in the city like her big brother. She takes along her three lucky pennies and three lucky marbles which she ends up using on her adventure. The illustrations for this title are lithographs reproduced from copper plates. I’m not very familiar with this medium, and I’d like to research it more. Handforth based the character of Mei Li on his neighbor while living in Peiping on a Guggenheim Fellowship. The black and white illustrations are integrated with the text, and the placement of each changes from page to page. The composition of the drawings as well as the figure poses and facial expressions (even those of the animals in the story) convey movement and emotion.

For more information on Handforth and Mei Li I highly recommend K.T. Horning’s in-depth piece “Mei Li and the Making of a Picture Book” in the January-February 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. This article also discusses the apparent struggle the early Caldecott committees had discriminating between illustrated books versus picture books, a phenomenon which has been evident to me from just these first two years of selections. Many of the titles do not fit into the typical definition of what is considered a fully realized picture book. I think it’s going to be interesting to see the trends and transitions of picture books as I continue this project.

Picture Book Independent Study Bibliography

Storytime Share: Books to Sing

28 09 2018

There are so many books out there based on songs or intended to be sung rather than just read. I love to sing, so I like to use these books in storytime. Sometimes I even do a whole storytime with singable picture books. It can be a vocal workout, but it’s lots of fun.



Row, Row, Row Your Boat by Jane Cabrera; illustrated by the author

This extended version of the traditional song is accompanied by Cabrera’s signature cheery paintings. Toddler, Preschool


Sing by Joe Raposo; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

The classic song about singing just for the joy of singing is accompanied by illustrations that show a bird that has lost its song being inspired by a young musician. Preschool


The More We Are Together by Rookie Toddler

This board book is based on the traditional song and accompanied with illustrations of friends at play. Baby, Toddler


If You’re Hoppy by April Pulley Sayre; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

Various animals show how they can be hoppy, sloppy, growly, flappy, and a little bit scary in this book that encourages movement and laughter. Toddler, Preschool


The Bear Went Over the Mountain by Iza Trapani; illustrated by the author

The author expands on the traditional song with additional verses all about the bear using his five senses to explore his environment. Preschool


Little White Duck by Walt Whippo and Bernard Zaritzky; illustrated by Joan Paley

One by one, animals arrive to a pond, but they are eventually scared away when a snake arrives. Toddler, Preschool


Songs: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It”

Flannels: “Down by the Bay” and Five Little Ducks”