The ones that got away: books that I wish had won a Newbery or Caldecott

Every year I predict the books that I think will win the Newbery and Caldecott. Sometimes I get a few right, and I always get quite a few wrong. There are some that I still feel regrets about not winning. Here are my top three for both awards. How about you? Share your favorites in the comments!

This is my last post before my annual break. I’ll resume with 2023 books in a few weeks.


Wishes by Muợn Thị Văn, illustrated by Victo Ngai

Published by Orchard Books, 2021

 “The night wished it was quieter.  The bag wished it was deeper.  The light wished it was brighter.” The simple text and beautiful illustrations tell a powerful story about refugees escaping with their wishes and hopes for a better life.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2017

Even adults gasp at the final few pages where Humpty Dumpty overcomes his fears and learns to fly. The illustrations are both funny and inspiring.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Published by Neal Porter Books, 2019

This was one of my go-to books when I was reading to classes on Zoom. It’s such a great book for teaching inferencing, and Zoom allowed the kids to study the pictures and try to figure out who the child is looking for in the city.


The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016

With all due respect to The Girl Who Drank the Moon (the 2017 Newbery winner), it has never come close to the kid appeal of this book and its 2018 sequel.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, 2018

Part mystery, part historical fiction, part family and friendship story, this book dealt with serious issues of racism, bullying, and homophobia without ever losing its light touch. Varlan Johnson got a Coretta Scott King Honor, but no Newbery.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016

Jason Reynolds went on to write three more books exploring the challenges of members of this resilient middle school track team. This was a National Book Award Finalist but passed over by the Newbery committee.

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