Caldecott Club Session 4

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Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. I hosted our fourth Caldecott Club session on Thursday, December 20 from 3:30-4:30 at Lincolnwood Public Library. A wonderful thing about Caldecott Club is that it can grow in unexpected, delightful ways, starting with a core group who bring their friends – and sometimes even siblings – to the subsequent sessions. Together, our discussions become more nuanced and thoughtful with more voices to share their perspectives.

During the Caldecott Club we look at amazing picture books and try to determine what makes them special and worthy of going to our Voting Party in January to win our Mock Caldecott. (If you’re new here and want to learn about our program, check out first blog post about Creating a Caldecott Community.)

The books we discussed were:

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat
Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers
Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel
Imagine! by Raúl Colón

Picture Walk

Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. I had a volunteer help hold open the book for us at each table, so we could all look at the pictures together – and make it easier for us to point out things they noticed. For the picture walk, we discussed each book’s visual features to examine the techniques the artists used and how they worked. Often I would prompt the group by asking them: What did you notice? How does this page make you feel? What makes this art distinguished? I incorporated a timer again thanks to our Head of Youth & Teen Services, Emily, to help me keep on track and one of our dedicated participants was in charge of the timer. I often struggled with giving each book equal time, so adding a timer helped us focus and made it fun for the kids to see if we could beat the clock. (And we did – but not for the next book… I wonder if the Caldecott Committee struggles with their timers. I bet they do.)

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

Our group instantly noticed the little details on the cover of Drawn Together. M.M. spotted the “Caldecott Medalist” above Dan Santat’s name, which prompted her to ask where the Caldecott Medal sticker was. (Hint, hint, 2019 Caldecott committee…) We then discussed that Dan Santat had won the Caldecott award for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, which conjured up all sorts of positive feelings and love for Beekle. Our group was instantly drawn to the book cover, noticing so many colorful details and making predictions about the story. I used the dedication page with photographs of Minh’s Vietnamese grandfather and Dan’s Thai grandmother to share more about the origins of this book in their relationships with their grandparents. The boy and his grandfather’s facial expressions and body language stood out to the group as they used visual cues to understand emotions in each scene. Thanks to Dan Santat’s parents, we have the translation of the grandfather’s words in each scene, so I had a participant turn back to the copyright page to read the grandfather’s dialogue. M.A. noticed something startling: “They say the same thing at the same time.”  F. added, “they don’t know how to communicate with each other.” We noticed that there is no narration in the text this whole time, amplifying the tension between them. M.M. reflected on the boy’s experience, saying, “If he understood, he’d be so much happier.” Once the narration began, we took turns reading the text. Once the boy and grandfather started drawing, everything changed. With a dramatic page turn, our group gasped in wonder at the vibrant colors and intricate painting that demonstrated the boy’s modern art style and his grandfather’s traditional methods. “This is a nice book. I like this,” M.A. declared. They noticed Dan Santat’s details like the wand/staff on opposite sides of the distance between and marveled when they are impacted by using each other’s magical devices. They noticed that the bridge was made of the dragon they faced – and it made us think about the dragon from the movie they were watching.

D. wondered if Dan Santat told Minh Lê what to write, so I was able to share they did not talk throughout the creation process. We talked about how Minh Lê had written the text, purposefully leaving lots of room for Dan Santat, as he said in a Publisher’s Weekly interview with Dan Santat, “My approach as a picture book author is to tell a story as streamlined as possible, to basically just create space for you illustrators to work your magic.” I shared the quote that Minh often shares in interviews from Antoine de St. Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.“ M.A. shared the beautiful case cover secret, showing the grandfather’s sketch book underneath the jacket. They really appreciated the artistry and details within this book to the point where we had to stop discussing it or we’d never get to our other books. Such is the challenge of a beautiful work of art. Later, while we were waiting for our ballot team to figure out the winner, I played the video below from Dan Santat where he explains how he made the art for Drawn Together. Dan said in the Publisher’s Weekly interview, “You have no idea how much this book changed me as an artist. I used to work mostly digitally. Beekle was probably a good 80% digital and 20% traditional. Drawn Together was completely opposite. It was more of a 75% traditional and 25% digital. The computer was mainly just for collaging all the elements together and I moved parts around like a puzzle. Now I work more in the manner of Drawn Together in my current projects. I’ve embraced the impulsiveness of creating and I’ve reverted back to using more traditional media over digital.”

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

We then turned our attention to another book about a relationship with a grandfather. I shared with the group that Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers was made with graphite and illustrated digitally. According to an interview with Alyson Beecher of KidLit Frenzy, the Fan Brothers explained that  “We scan the monochrome drawing and then colour it in Photoshop. Again, it’s a collaborative process and we can always count on the great feedback from our editor and art director to help steer us in the right direction if we’re unsure about something.” The kids shared that they had learned about monochrome in art, which is fantastic and helped them understand this text better. (Imagine doing a Mock Caldecott in an art class! How phenomenal would that be?) Our group noticed the muted colors when Finn makes his ship and the colorful changes when he embarks on his magical journey. With a dramatic page turn, he wakes up on the ocean and meets the great golden fish. Our group gasped with wows and whohs and statements of approval. Ever the pragmatist, D. asked, “Where are his parents?” This book definitely asked us to suspend our disbelief and expect the unexpected. My favorite spread was the Library Islands, obviously. (It was fun to point out the intertextuality in this scene, especially the book spine with The Night Gardener written on it.)

Our group made a connection between finding the picture of a jellyfish in the grandfather’s room and the spectacular bird’s eye view scene of the floating jellyfish. D. mused again, “Did the water fall away or did the boat lift from the water?” which shows just how this book sparks wonder. As F. said, “[this book has] things that can’t happen but when you imagine it, they do.” R. was blown away by the double-page spread when Finn is heralded home by the moon (a symbol for his grandfather) and a wave of fish birds, declaring, “the picture is really pretty and glowing – and the birds.” The art was just overwhelming. MA.M. disagreed: “I like the one with the whale better.” There’s definitely something for everyone in this imaginative book. When Finn heard the voice calling him home, the group predicted that it was the grandfather. We talked about how you can feel like you hear their voice when you miss people. Using metaphor, this book helped us have a deeper understanding of the process of grief and loss of a loved one. D. still mused “I wish it was real.” We concluded by sharing the secret case cover, which left our group speechless.

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

With time counting down, we had to zoom through Hello Hello. We began by exploring the case cover secret and endpapers. This book has so much kid-appeal to engage kids of all ages – because animals. I shared the theme of our interconnected relationship with animals and challenged the group to find these connections. I tried to remember everything I had learned from him during his visit last spring to Evanston Public Library, where he said, “I want you to feel how interconnected everything on earth is; Wildlife conservationists are superheroes for animals.”

R. loved the panda on the second spread. I pointed out those Wenzelian eyes that Brian Wilson mentioned in his Calling Caldecott post. R. noticed that the black cat on the previous page was on this page and the fish on this page continues on the next one. Suddenly, everyone started making these connections and seeing how the pages flow together, sharing their realizations and insights. As F. said, “the fish from the other page is saying hello to them.” They loved the colorful rainbow of animals and were curious to know more about the real life animals. I. just wanted to touch the “Hello Pattern, Hello Pose” page with its lush textures and vibrant colors.

R. admitted being a bit disappointed that it wasn’t textured, but agreed that the illustration was effective since it made her want to touch it, especially the pangolin. (Brendan, If you ever want to remake this book into a touch & feel book, these kids would definitely be your first takers.) D. wanted to know if there was really a turtle like the one on this page, which again could lead us into all sorts of research and inquiry. And thanks to the fantastic back-matter that lists the animals in order of appearance, D. and I could go do research about the green sea turtle (endangered). Some kids wanted to know if these animals are really endangered. I pointed out the note from the author at the end that indicated that “many of these creatures are in trouble- considered to be Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.” With the chart of animals and their innate sense of curiosity, they can learn more about these animals and seek out ways to help them. As Brendan Wenzel wrote, “The more that people know about these creatures, the better the chance they will share this planet with us for many years to come. It starts with saying hello.” R.’s response: “I am so voting for this book.”

Imagine! by Raúl Colón

We finished our picture walk by exploring pictures that walk… Immediately M.D. made a connection between Imagine! and Journey by Aaron Becker, a 2014 Caldecott Honor book, as both imaginative wordless picture books. M.A. declared that “no words make it really cool.” I shared with them that Raúl Colón made this book with watercolor, prismacolor pencils and lithograph pencils on Arches paper. R. noted that “It would take a lot of time to make this book.” D. shared that the texture of the paper “looks like thumb prints.” When the boy checked his helmet and and skateboard, our group was curious to know if he had to pay. I hope that they waived the fee to make the museum more accessible to him as a young person. As they journeyed into the museum, R. remarked that “you can never get too close to the art,” making connections between her experiences and the boy’s encounters in the museum. I truly believe that good picture books are like experiencing art museums at your fingertips – with no alarms to stop you from getting as close as you want to be. The more kinds of picture books we can share with young people, the more beauty they will see and create in the world.

When the boy brings the characters into the city, we discussed how they experience all kinds of art, from music and dance (the group was excited to point out all the kinds of instruments) to reading and writing. Our group was very curious to know if the boy liberated real paintings. I shared that the paintings were  Picasso’s Three Musicians, Rousseau’s The Sleeping Gypsy, and Matisse’s Icarus. Ever curious, D. remarked, “Isn’t that copying? Can’t you go to jail for that?” (Imagine the possibilities using this book to share a lesson about fair use, copyright, and art.) After this session, I found that Raúl Colón addressed this question in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, saying, “The only issue was the use of the paintings. The museum holds the copyright, so if I was using a painting I had to make sure it wasn’t the full image. I couldn’t show a whole full painting by itself. I had to make sure the boy or something else was in front of it. When the characters came out of the painting I was allowed to change them around. That’s why the Matisse character has a hat and heels.” When the boy makes art from the art he has seen, our group wondered again about copying and discussed how all art is inspired by other art and it’s how the boy combined the inspiration that makes it unique.

Voting 

After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to ballot. Each child received a paper ballot to select their top 2 choices (the first place book got 3 points, the second place book got 2 points). I asked for a helper at the beginning to help tally the results on our new  fancy whiteboard. The top 2 books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 10.

 

And the Session 4 Winners Are….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Books Going to the Party

 

Over the course of our 4 Caldecott Club sessions, we selected 8 books to go to our Voting Party. The books we’ll discuss to determine what is the best picture book are:

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

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

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrations by Jacqueline Alcántara

 

Join Us Next Time! If you know a young person in 1st-8th grade who is interested in joining us, please register for our next Caldecott Club program on January 10 from 3:30-5:00. Note our new end time since we need extra time to talk about 8 books. You don’t need a library card to sign up, but you do need a love of books & conversation!

Thanks for sticking all the way through this post… hope to see you next time!

– Eti

Resources

A librarian always provides her resources – here are a series of resources I found while preparing for this program that you may want to check out:

 

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

In Conversation: Minh Lê and Dan Santat (Publisher’s Weekly)

Drawn Together: An Interview with Minh Lê (Reading Rockets)

Minh Lê: Drawing From Family Stories For Inspiration (88 Cups of Tea Podcast)

Drawn Together by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat: Interview with Mr. Schu

Minh Lê & Dan Santat Talk with Roger (Horn Book)

Drawn Together by Mihn Lê and Dan Santat Book Talk (Colby Sharp)

Drawing Forth Inspiration, interview of Minh Lê & Dan Santat by Julie Danielson

Struggling For Words, A Boy And His Grandfather Are ‘Drawn Together’ At Last (All Things Considered)

Creative Playdate Podcast Episode 17: Interview with Dan Santat

Author Minh Lê Collaborates with Illustrator Dan Santat for Drawn Together by Susanna Baird (Spine Magazine)

Author Interview: Minh Lê on Drawn Together by Traci Sorell (Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations)

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

Ocean Meets Sky – An interview with The Fan Brothers by Alyson Beecher (Kid Lit Frenzy)

How two brothers collaborate through their love of drawing | Drawing With (YouTube Video)

Ocean Meets Sky by Katie Cunningham (SLJ’s The Classroom Bookshelf)
In Conversation: The Fan Brothers (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Fan Brothers: Over the sea, across the sky interview by Julie Danielson (Bookpage)

 

Hello Hello by Brendan Wenzel

HELLO HELLO by Brendan Wenzel by Mike Boldt (Picture Book Builders)

Hello Hello by Brian Wilson (Calling Caldecott)

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #582: Featuring Brendan Wenzel (Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Blog)

Caldecott Honoree Brendan Wenzel on Illustration, Conservation, and Inspiration

Imagine! by Raúl Colón

Q & A with Raúl Colón by Antonia Saxon (Publisher’s Weekly)

Live Art: Facebook Live with Raúl Colón

Let’s Talk Illustrators #79: Raúl Colón (Let’s Talk Picture Books)

Imagine! by Brian Wilson (Calling Caldecott)

The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner interview with Raúl Colón