It’s awards day!

Just watched the livestream of the announcements:


Honor books:

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Berry Song by Michaela Goade

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jason Griffin

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington

Winner: Hot Dog by Doug Salati



Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez

The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat

Maizie Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee

Winner: Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson

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.

5 favorite graphic novels

When it comes to graphic novels, I definitely have a “type”.

Scout Is Not a Band Kid by Jade Armstrong

Published by Random House Graphic

And that “type” is middle school realistic fiction. If it takes place in a band room, so much the better. Scout and Merrin learn they have more in common than they thought when Merrin tutors Scout in the fine art of trombone playing.

Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos

Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

A nearly wordless memoir about the author’s journey from Cuba to the US to live with foster parents as part of Operation Peter Pan.

Invisible by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, illustrated by Gabriela Epstein

Published by Graphix

Five kids are in the principal’s office when the story opens, clearly in some kind of trouble, but going back to the beginning shows how they have been unfairly labeled, both for their diverse Latinx roots and their unique personalities.

Ride On by Faith Erin Hicks

Published by First Second

Mean girls and new friendships are at the center of a rivalry between the laid-back Edgewood Stables and the elite Waverly Stables.

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Joanna Cacao

Published by Graphix

The prolific Christina Soontornvat makes her second appearance on my favorites lists with this memoir of trying out for the seventh-grade cheerleading squad at her Texas middle school.

5 favorite chapter books

The books I couldn’t put down.

The Vanquishers by Kalynn Bayron

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

A nice blend of humor and creepiness made me glad I broke my vow to never read another book about vampires.

Playing Through the Turnaround by Mylisa Larson

Published by Clarion Books

I do love a good band story, and this one has an empowering message and a great cast of characters with issues that many middle schoolers will relate to. Short chapters and multiple points of view made ut a quick and enjoyable read.

You Only Live Once, David Bravo by Mark Oshiro

Published by HarperCollins

Although this story addresses some serious topics, it is also a ton of fun: a narrator with a great self-deprecating sense of humor, a wisecracking talking dog, and a plot that adeptly handles the intricacies of time travel.

The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon

Published by Charlesbridge

Rory deals with middle school, bullying, and speech therapy in this realistic and sympathetic debut novel.

A Song Called Home by Sara Zarr

Published by Balzer + Bray

A new home with a new stepfather, an absent father, a rebellious sister…Lou is coping with a lot of upheaval, and Sara Zarr tells her story with empathy and a lot of heart.

5 favorite read-alouds

Kid-tested and approved.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff retold by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Published by Orchard Books

A gross troll who speaks in funny rhymes and a hilariously oversized billy goat who defeats him. Kids got a big kick out of this, and I think we can all look forward to the future fairy tale retellings that have been promised us from this team.

Puppy Bus by Drew Brockington

Published by Harry N. Abrams

If you’re trying to get kids over their back-to-school jitters, climb aboard the puppy bus for a riotously good time with a boy who accidentally gets on the wrong bus on his first day of school.

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Published by Christy Ottaviano Books

A wise little owl finds out what has been wiping out the bigger knights and uses his nocturnal skills to defeat it–and then befriend it. Don’t rule this out for a Caldecott.

Hot Dog by Doug Salati

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

This nearly wordless book was a close second in many of my mock Caldecott votes. The colors and details help the reader share the relief of the dog and its owner when they escape the city on a hot summer day.

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat

Published by Chronicle Books

This choose-your-own fairy tale adventure was one of the biggest hits of the year with both students and teachers. It’s engaging and interactive, and Dan Santat’s fabulous illustrations could win him another Caldecott.

Six Coretta Scott King Award predictions

I couldn’t narrow this list down to five, nor do I want to speculate on if they will earn recognition for the writing or the artwork. These books could also be Caldecott and/or Newbery contenders.

I have a Coretta Scott King mock awards PowerPoint for sale on TPT with ten contenders each for author and illustrator awards or honors.

Swim Team by Johnnie Christmas

Published by HarperAlley

Longlisted for the National Book Award, this graphic novel has lots of popular appeal as well as excellent craftsmanship in both the writing and art.

Ablaze with Color: A Story of Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey, illustrated by Loveis Wise

Published by HarperCollins

Ablaze with color is right, with the brilliant illustrations that celebrate artist Alma Thomas’s work.

H Is for Harlem by Dinah Johnson, illustrated by April Harrison

Published by Christy Ottaviano Books

I was ready to hop on the train to NYC after reading this lively book with its colorful illustrations covering the history of Harlem and filled with interesting places to visit.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington

Published by Roaring Brook Press

I learned a lot about Mamie Till-Mobley’s courageous life in this stunning book that combines Angela Joy’s free verse with Janelle Washington’s unique cut-paper illustrations.

Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Published by Crown Books for Young Readers

Carole Boston Weatherford’s reworking of this spiritual and Frank Morrison’s graffiti-inspired illustrations make this a great resource for teaching Black history. Morrison could also be considered for Kick Push and Uncle John’s City Garden, and Weatherford for The Faith of Elijah Cummings.

Star Child: A Biographic Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi

Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers

Ibi Zoboi’s admiration for science fiction author Octavia Estelle Butler shines through in both the writing and art of this unique biography.

Five Caldecott Predictions

There are some years when I choose a book on this list with a sense of obligation, but not this year. I love all five of these books for a variety of reasons and would be very happy to see any of them win.

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Sophie Blackall already has two Caldecott Medals, so maybe the committee will decide to spread the wealth a little, but I don’t see how this book can’t be a top contender with its incredible artistry, craftsmanship, and circle-of-life story.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

The Day You Begin by this team has become a first-day-of-school favorite, and I think this one is even better, reminding us of how we get through difficult times, with oblique references to 2020, both the pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement.

Action! How Movies Began by Meghan McCarthy

Published by Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

This may be more of a personal favorite than a top contender, but I was just wowed by the detailed renditions of movie scenes as well as the cohesive writing of many different topics in movie history.

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, ill. by Daniel Minter

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

Caldecott, Sibert, King…there are many awards that could go to this fascinating and gorgeous picture book that covers so many different aspects of the color blue.

Gibberish by Young Vo

Published by Levine Querido

In my mock Caldecott, second and third graders voted this as their favorite. Kids loved the illustrations and how they show a friendship blossoming on Dat’s first day in an American school.

Mock awards: Caldecott and Coretta Scott King 2023

As I did last year, I’ve created a Mock Caldecott slideshow that I’m selling on Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes an introduction to the award and 20 books that I think may win. Each book gets its own slide with the title, author, and publisher, as well as a picture and facts, questions, and things to notice about the book.

I’m trying something new this year: a Coretta Scott King Award slideshow, also available on Teachers Pay Teachers. This has a similar introduction, with ten slides for the illustrator award and ten different books for the author award.

Each slideshow sells for $6.00. Please stop by and take a look!

Gibberish by Young Vo

Published by Levine Querido

Summary:  Dat has sailed on a boat, flown on a plane, and today he is taking a school bus.  His mother warns him that when people speak it will sound like gibberish but tells him, “Just listen and do the best you can.”  As the day unfolds, that’s exactly what Dat does.  The world is gray, people look unfamiliar, and adults call him Dav or Dan.  But one girl keeps popping up unexpectedly, playing with him at recess, eating with him at lunch, and riding home with him on the bus.  By the time they get home, the two kids are friends who understand each other’s names and can introduce each other to their moms.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  I love how this story builds empathy for non-English speaking kids thrown into American schools.  The illustrations are clever, incorporating a code that can be cracked if you study the endpapers, and showing how Julie gradually transitions in Dat’s eyes from a gray monster-like creature into a colorful human.

Cons:  The story sets the bar pretty high for finding success and a new friend on the first day of school.