Normally we focus on books for older kids and teens here at Stacked, but books for younger kids have been on my mind lately thanks to my new position (where I’ll be involved with materials for kids of all ages). A few years ago, I did a post on Newbery honors and winners that I loved as a kid, and I thought it would be a fun exercise to do the same for the Caldecotts, though I’ve also included a few I came to as an adult (I have to go back further in my memory for picture books and it’s tougher). Which Caldecotts are your favorite, both to read and to teach/recommend?
The ones I remember and enjoyed as a kid:
Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola
I loved all of Tomie DePaola’s books as a kid (particularly his two about Texas wildflowers, which are more problematic for me now as an adult). His books are some that I remember as vividly for the pictures as the words. A lot of award-winning picture books our school librarians and teachers read us had illustrations that were either very realistic or very ornate. DePaola’s are neither, which I really liked.
The Amazing Bone by William Steig
I liked this story about a pig named Pearl who came upon a bone that could talk, which eventually gets her out of a scrape. It was such an odd idea to me (in a good way), and I still remember a lot of Steig’s narration.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
This is one that I remember our school librarian reading to us. I loved that it was a fairy tale, and a different fairy tale from the ones I was already well-acquainted with. I remember the vivid illustrations quite clearly, particularly the bold colors and the striking cover image.
The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales illustrated by Lane Smith
Long after I had given up picture books for my own personal reading (as opposed to the reading forced upon me by teachers), I still returned to this one over and over. It’s still funny, with hilarious illustrations that compound Jon Scieszka’s side-splitting humor. Never was there a more perfect marriage between writer and illustrator. I loved The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs, published in 1989, just as much.
And a few faves I’ve read as an adult:
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
It’s the pigeon. Willems’ illustrations are simple and expressive, and no one really does this kind of story better. He just gets kids of this age.
Flotsam by David Wiesner
I like illustrations that are unique or a little wacky or super detailed, but then sometimes I just want something beautiful, and Wiesner is my guy for that.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee illustrated by Erin E. Stead
I love this sweet story and its sweet illustrations. The idea of animals visiting a zookeeper when he’s sick is just too good, and Stead’s drawings are unique and a perfect fit. Betsy Bird describes the elephant in this way: “Look at this cover and then stare deep into that elephant’s eyes. There are layers to that elephant.” It’s hard to make me care about books about animals, but Stead does it handily.
Journey by Aaron Becker
This is a favorite of mine to give to parents of newborns (not because it’ll be great for newborns, but I do think it’s a good book to grow into, for a kid to find on a shelf one day and get lost in). It’s been likened to Harold and the Purple Crayon for a new generation, but the art is very different (in a way that I appreciate). I love the watercolor-type style of the illustrations and I love the color palette, not to mention the story that ignites kids’ imaginations.