Five Caldecott Predictions

As I was with the Newbery, last year I went 0 for 5 on my Caldecott predictions.  Find out on January 28 if I did any better this year.  It’s not a super original list; every illustrator on it has won at least one Caldecott.

The Stuff of Stars by Marian Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Published by Candlewick

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This wasn’t a personal favorite, but I have a great appreciation for the artistry that went into capturing the creation and history of the universe from before the Big Bang to the present day.


Hello Lighthouse! by Sophie Blackall

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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The artwork may not be innovative enough for a Caldecott, but it is so gorgeous and captures the feel of living in the small, round interior of the lighthouse.


Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Disney-Hyperion

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The detailed artwork in this book amazes me, particularly when I consider I reviewed four books illustrated by Dan Santat this year.  Obviously, his prolific output doesn’t affect the quality of his work.  I was rooting for him last year for After the Fall.  Maybe this year.


Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Published by Roaring Brook Press

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So far, three fourth and fifth grades at my schools have chosen this book as their number one Caldecott choice.  Deceptively simple, the art tells the story masterfully.


Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick

Published by Scholastic

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Win or lose, this book is destined to become a classic with kids just learning to read.  The text is simple enough for the earliest reader, yet the detailed illustrations will be appreciated by adults.  It’s likely to win a Geisel Award as well.

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Five books I’d like to see get a Newbery–and why I am probably wrong about just about all of them.

After my crushing defeat predicting the Newbery last year (0 out of 5), I have become a bit more philosophical (jaded?) about what I think deserves a Newbery versus what actually wins.  Well, the medal says it’s for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children”, and here’s what I thought met that criteria.

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

Published by Little, Brown

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I know, it’s a sequel, but I can dream, can’t I?  Roz is so loved at my school, and many readers (including me) liked the second book even better than the first.  Charlotte’s Web for the 21st century.


The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix

Published by Harry N. Abrams

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This one’s a little old for the Newbery (in my opinion), but I loved it so much and would be thrilled to see it get some recognition.  It would also make an interesting Caldecott choice.


The Parker Inheritance by Varlan Johnson

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books

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This may have been my favorite middle grade novel of the year, and I think it’s the most likely to get any kind of Newbery recognition.  I loved the flashbacks to the past that informed the story from the present, and the way it all came together in the end.  The mystery was fun, too, even if it figuring out the key clue seemed a little improbable.  It’s been a surprisingly tough sell at my schools, though.


Lu by Jason Reynolds

Published by Atheneum

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Two years ago, I was rooting for Ghost.  Last year, it was Patina.  It’s probably a waste of space to put this on the list, but I loved the whole Track series and thought Lu was one of the best.  At least Jason Reynolds got his Newbery last year.


Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Published by Arthur A. Levine Books

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The somewhat improbable (but feel-good) ending is a slight flaw in the writing, but the story has so much heart and so many memorable characters, I can forgive that.  It’s probably not quite Newbery caliber, but should it win, it would be an easy one to promote to the elementary school crowd.  Plus, it’s based on the author’s life, which is cool, and it speaks to the immigrant experience.

End of the year lists

As I’ve done in previous years, I’ll be posting my favorites in different categories for the next several days, then taking a vacation for the first few weeks of January.  It’s hard for me to believe I’m wrapping up the fourth year of doing this blog.  Thank you to everyone who reads the reviews, whether you’re a daily subscriber someone who checks in every once in a while.  I always love to hear feedback at this time of year, so please post a comment if you have something to say about A Kids Book A Day this year!

This Is Christmas by Tom Booth

Published by Jeter Publishing

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Summary: A young chipmunk asks his mother, “What is Christmas?” Together, they see badgers decorating with holly, beetles carrying wrapped presents, and geese singing carols. His mother tells him all of those things are part of Christmas, but when he goes to bed on Christmas Eve, the little chipmunk still doesn’t feel like he understands what Christmas is. A snowstorm arrives in the night, and the chipmunks awaken to a beautiful snowy world. They gather with the other animals to sing and play, and the young chipmunk realizes that this is Christmas. 40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros: The beautiful illustrations have a somewhat retro look, and the simple story is just right for sharing by the Christmas tree with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

Cons: I didn’t really understand how playing in the snow constituted Christmas more than presents, carols, and decorations.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal

Published by Tiger Tales

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Summary:  Bear’s simple Christmas Eve is interrupted by a frog bearing a brochure for the Christmas Extravaganza Hotel.  He’s sure he’s at the right place, but Bear informs him that his map’s upside down, and the hotel is on the other side of the world.  Bear takes pity on Frog, and tries to create a Christmas like the one pictured in the brochure. They bake cookies, visit a tree decorated with snow and birds, and have a snowball fight and picnic in the woods.  When it starts to get dark, Frog is ready for some flashing lights, but all Bear has is some candles. Frog is disappointed, but then Bear gets an idea. He leads Frog outside for the most spectacular light show imaginable: the aurora borealis.  Heading back inside, they hear jingle bells heading for the rooftop, and dive into bed. The next morning there’s a new sled under the tree, and the two friends head outside for more adventures. 24 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  A cute and cozy Christmas story that emphasizes the joys of simplicity for the holidays.

Cons:  Frog seems scantily clad for an amphibian traveling in the far

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Andre Ceolin

Published by Sleeping Bear Press

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Summary:  At the end of a busy day driving his taxi, Edgar finds a hamster in the back seat.  One of his customers must have lost it, and Edgar reports it to the cab company’s lost and found.  In the meantime, he takes the hamster home and feeds him. They share some supper, and Edgar decides to name his new friend Chickpea after one of the salad ingredients.  Together they light two Hanukkah candles. By the time Edgar is lighting four candles, he’s making toys for Chickpea and sending photos of him back to his family in Israel.  When a woman and her son show up outside his apartment building after work one evening, Edgar’s heart sinks. Sure enough, it turns out the boy had gotten a new hamster for his classroom, and it escaped when they were all riding in Edgar’s cab.  Edgar shows them his pictures, and they can see how happy Chickpea is. “I think this hamster belongs with you,” says the woman.  “He looks right at home.”  The final page shows the two friends sharing jelly doughnuts, with all the candles lit on the menorah behind them.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I know Hanukkah is over for this year, but I just saw this book this week.  It’s a charming story, and the illustrations of Chickpea are adorable. Edgar’s story is compelling, and he seems to have a positive, can-do spirit.  Put this on your holiday list for next year.

Cons:  I was hoping for a little romance for Edgar when the woman and her son showed up.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino

Published by Scholastic Press

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Summary:  Jillian is excited to be getting a new baby sister, and when Emma is born, the family is thrilled.  But tests reveal that she has hearing loss, and Jillian’s parents have some difficult decisions to make about their new daughter.  Jillian turns to a friend from a tween fantasy online forum, a boy named Derek who is Deaf. He introduces her to the Deaf community, answers her questions, and straightens out some of her misconceptions.  He is also Black, as is Jillian’s aunt, and Jillian finds she has a lot to learn from both of them about racism. When one of Derek’s friends, a Deaf Black girl is shot and killed by police for not stopping when she is out for a run (she couldn’t  hear their shouts), Jillian realizes she still has a lot to learn about how the world around her works. The story concludes with three chapters: nine months later, three months after that, and three years after that, to show the reader how Jillian’s family has changed and grown as Emma has grown up.  256 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This book fills a need for stories of Deaf kids and their families; I learned quite a lot about cochlear implants, American Sign Language and the Deaf community (including the capitalization of the word Deaf, a convention from the book I am continuing in this review, as well as capitalizing Black).  There were also a lot of thought-provoking conversations and situations about race, both with Derek and members of Jillian’s family.

Cons:  The story got bogged down with so many issues.  Derek and Aunt Alicia seemed to exist mainly to educate Jillian about race and the Deaf community; they needed a few more dimensions to make them seem more like ordinary mortals.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.