Caldecott Club 2021: Session #2

Posted & filed under Blog, Book Discussions, Youth & Teen.

Welcome back to our 2021 Caldecott Club! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians at Lincolnwood Library. We have come full circle during this, our 4th Caldecott Club, inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. This year we are hosting a collaborative virtual Caldecott Club WITH Mr. Brian and Evanston Public Library. We have been learning so much about how to host this program virtually – and it’s been so fun to join together across our community to geek out about gorgeous picture books!

We met together on Zoom on December 7 with a group of wonderful readers, their families, and friends to talk about all things picture books. We were joined by our program buddy, Kevin, and our Evanston Library buddy, Laura. We designed this program to be open to kids from around 1st grade through 8th grade and up 🙂 because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. I’ve tried to recap their brilliance in this post. (You can read the recap from Session #1 here.)

We began our program by reviewing what the Caldecott Award is. Mr. Brian shared how it is the award for the most distinguished American picture book for children, given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children. Thank you to Curt Leppert at Baker & Taylor who has shared print posters with us in years past – and provided this graphic for us to use this year. You can find it in our resources.

Mr. Brian put the books in a cardboard box, so he could dramatically open it just like the grown-up committee does when books arrive in the mail.

The books we discussed in session 2 were:

Honeybee by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

You Matter by Christian Robinson

Picture Walk

Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. For the picture walk, we discussed each book’s visual features to examine the techniques the artists used and how they worked. Often we would prompt the group by asking them: What did you notice? What does it make you wonder? How does this page make you feel? What makes this art distinguished? (Shout out to Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach. I highly recommend her book, Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See.)

We added to our usual picture walk toolbox by encouraging participants to share and listen in lots of ways. People could unmute themselves and talk, raise their hands, use the chat, and use the reactions – and people did all of these things throughout the program, so ended up having a rich discussion in many places at the same time.

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

Mr. Brain began the picture walk by sharing how exceptional Candace Fleming’s writing is Honeybee – and definitely encouraging us spend time reading it. (I highly recommend checking out Mr. Brian’s Calling Caldecott post!) With only 10 minutes (or so) per book, we sadly did not have time to read it all – but there’s always more to explore with picture books. He talked about how Eric Rohmann created detailed and realistic oil paintings to express this informational story. Mr. Brian also shared how the creators made sure to enlist the help of bee and pollination expert Dr. Mark L. Winston to fact-check their text and art to ensure accuracy. He shared that “bees are our friends. It’s okay to be nervous around bees, but we need them.” (Honeybee could be wonderfully paired with The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter by Eric-Shabazz Larkin.) He helped us think critically about perspective as Eric Rohmann shows small parts of Apis and gradually reveals her cell and bee community to show her very busy life. He also talked about how Candace Fleming builds anticipation for flying while Apis does all the things. Our group definitely noticed how realistic the art is in Honeybee.

Here are some of their great comments:

“I think they look pretty real from the illustrating.” 

“The lighting makes the bees look really real, with the shading in the colors.”

“They are scientifically real.”

“The little details make it look real.”

“The hair texture makes it feel like I could FEEL it.

“Whoah… that literally looks like a movie scene.”

“This book shows you a lot of the bee’s life.”

“The pollen in its hair is EXTREMELY REALISTIC, it’s almost scary.”

Our Caldecott Club was entranced by the cinematic way Apis’s story is told. We, of course, had to film the dramatic page turn to open up the gatefold and see Apis flying. Mr. Brian talked about how the color palette and shapes change as she encounters the outside world.

This book also provoked personal connections from stories of ways people have helped bees to stories of being stung (ouch!). It also inspired some great scientific questions about dying queens, bee language and communication, and their life cycle. I was particularly charmed when we talked about bees dancing – and participants did their own wiggly bee dance in response. Outstanding picture books should make us all dance.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

I (Eti) began our discussion by asking, “how is water important to you in your daily life?” People shared different answers from drinking, bathing, hydration, keeping us alive, hygiene like hand washing and teeth brushing and watering plants. S. added “soaking when I am weary.” This helped frame our discussion thinking about our relationship to water. 

We talked about how this book is based on Indigenous-led movements to protect our water and land, specifically the water protectors at Standing Rock. I was able to share some of the research that Michaela Goade did to honor those who were there, including showing photographs of water protectors and Indigenous art, thanks to attending the ALSC Institute this past fall.

We began our picture walk through We are Water Protectors and it was clear our group was engrossed in this beautiful book. They were engaged by the art style, which C. said, “I think the art style is as if it were carved in stone…” The vivid watercolors absolutely draw in readers – and I only wish the digital version could do it justice. Looking at the image about coming from water, L. & S. noted, “it seems like the circle of life.” Michaela Goade’s use of circles, curves, and waves throughout the book effectively show the circular nature of water – and our relationship to it. Our group had much to say on the startling spread predicting the damage the black snake would unleash.

One reader remarked, “It’s (the oil) spilling into the water – and it makes me ashamed for some humans that did it.” We talked about how the illustration shows the animals running away from the pipeline that is destroying their home. C. suggested, “The goose on the right is deformed which maybe symbolizes what the “snake” will do to animals.” Another person shared, “I don’t like it because it’s trying to destroy their home.” Our group had very strong reactions to the black snake, which shows the effectiveness of Michaela Goade’s art and Carole Lindstrom’s powerful words. On the red spread with just the pipeline snake, L. & S. said, “It seems angry and evil.” I love how C. noticed, “it makes the tree over there die,” which I had literally never noticed before.

But our attention was not focused on the extraction industry, but on the water protectors banding together. We immediately talked about how beautifully “strong and determined,” the girl looks as she urges us to take courage. Y. said, “she is determined and her hair-water has animals and plants,” helping us see how the water grows stronger in her hair as she rallies her people.

We Are Water Protectors | Carole Lindstrom | Macmillan

We talked about the shift in perspective as the book focuses on how she fights for the creatures, animals, and plants who cannot speak for themselves, leading to the dramatic page turn when we are looking down at the earth.

Interior Image

One participant said, “it shows all the animals together around the earth, in the earth, plants and water.” L. added, “the animals and people are together fighting against the snake.” We talked about how this image shows how interconnected we all are, as the text declares, “we are all related.” (I love the Earth spread so much!) We talked about the powerful repetition of the refrain,” We stand/with our songs/and our drums/we are still here,” which gains momentum with each chorus, growing the community of water protectors who are still advocating for the water right now. Finally, we reached the grand finale with the beautiful diverse community of water protectors standing up, youth and Elders together in solidarity. As always, we looked for and found our friend with the eagle feather standing up against the black snake.

Interior Image

I made sure to point out the outstanding back-matter (you know how much I love good back-matter) and the Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge. (There’s a copy of the pledge (and other fantastic educational resources) in our Grab & Go Kits.) I also shared that we were honored to have Carole Lindstrom send us a signed We are Water Protectors poster that we will raffle at our Voting Party in January. Thank you so much, Carole!

Check out Young Water Protectors: A story about Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor,
and his new book Young Native Activists: Growing Up in Native American Rights Movements!

Mr. Brian then kindly led us in our movement break where people could get their wiggles out through jumping backs or any other kind of movement that they preferred to get their bodies moving before our next book. It’s hard to sit for so long, especially later at night!

The Ocean Calls: A Haenyeo Mermaid Story by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

We began our picture walk by talking about how Jess X. Snow created the art digitally with hand-painted textures and line work. Accordion to Jess X. Snow, “The Ocean Calls was created through drawings made with Procreate with the apple pencil on the iPad, which is the preferred medium that I use for illustration work these days. After the inking was done, these drawings were then colored in digitally with watercolor and gouache brushes, and then sent into photoshop, where I then layered it with hand-made textures of paper, and textures of real rocks, underwater, bubbles, and sand.” How cool is that! It’s also worth noting that Jess worked collaboratively with Yuan Zheng, the primary assistant, who also did the character designs. They also worked with Zoraida Ingles and Sean Devare as assistants to finish the coloring. These collaborators are all named on the copyright page.   

We talked about how this book is based on the real-life haenyeo of Jeju Island in South Korea, Korea’s southernmost island, who are professional women divers and marine specialists who understand the sea’s ecological environment, passing down their knowledge intergenerationally as they support their families. (There’s so much more to discuss and explore in the incredible back-matter, of course…) I was able to share some awesome images that Jess X. Snow shared during a recent Facebook Live storytime with Tina Cho that I highly recommend watching. It’s clear that they put so much care and attention into crafting each illustration and ensuring the haenyeo were respectfully and accurately depicted.

We began our journey by talking about Dayeon’s feelings wanting to be a “treasure-hunting mermaid” like her grandmother juxtaposed with the scary experience she had in the water last summer. We talked about how the visuals express Dayeon’s worry about diving with her grandmother. One reader shared, “She feels worried that it’s gonna happen again.” We noted how her grandmother helps her develop the skills needed to dive, practicing breathing and ensuring her gear is on correctly. This book uses mermaid imagery throughout the book, so I told our group to make sure to look for it. They noticed their mermaid-shadows in the field of canola flowers. 

We talked about how the art almost works like animation or a comic to show Dayeon’s progression into the water. Our group thought about what they would do if they were called to the ocean with the grandmother. We talked about how the art shows the grandmother supporting Dayeon and taking each step in the process gradually and carefully. When they finally dive, we noticed the continual mermaid imagery from the mermaid in the background to the fins in the bubbles.

We experienced a magical page turn when they finally head into the underwater world of treasures, the color palette shifting to show more purples, reds and oranges. A reader pointed out, “I like the dolphins – they look so cool. It’s just really pretty. I don’t think there’s real purple water, but it’s really pretty.” We talked about how Jess X. Snow used a surreal fantastical palette to make this experience feel magical and full of possibility.

As the sun sets, we experienced another perspective shift to view of the boat of haenyeo from above, with the mermaids in the water – and Dayeon feeling “at home in the sea.. Like a mermaid, like a true haenyeo.” We then marveled at the awesome back-matter to check out later – and the gorgeous bird’s eye view of Jeju Island as the end paper. 

You Matter by Christian Robinson

Mr. Brian shared how Christian Robinson’s art is playful and whimsical and wonderful, using acrylic paint and collage to create the art. He shared that this book explores shifting perspectives and points of view. We began our picture walk with a girl looking into a microscope, noticing the shapes and textures of the collage. Mr. Brian shared how the illustration shows the sea creature swimming against the tide, going its own way. We then go back to prehistoric times with creatures coming up from the water, charting our long history. We then zoom in on the mosquito being a mosquito, pulling back on the big reveal biting the t-rex.

We then see the bigger picture of the asteroid hitting the Earth as the dinosaurs running. Our perspective shifts even more as we zoom out into outer space.

We talked about the astronaut is missing someone on Earth and immediately the perspective shifts to an apartment building on Earth with a child holding a rocket. Our group suggested that the child might be the astronaut’s kid, showing the interconnectedness within the story. This book calls us to notice all the little details! The busy street can make us feel lost and alone, but Mr. Brian pointed out that on the next page, they’re together again with the dog. We talked about the oldest thing on the “old and young” page, thinking about the ancient tree. When we looked at the people feeding the pigeons, Mr. Brian pointed out it paralleled the creature coming out from the ocean in the beginning, repeating the same text, coming full circle. When we looked at “the small stuff too small to see,” Mr. Brian made us think about all the small creatures all around us.

Our perspective shifted to be in an airplane looking down at the city streets we’ve been exploring – and then we’re looking down from the point of view of the airplane. It seems really simple but everything is connected together. As Christian Robinson has said, “You matter simply because you’re here because you exist.”

Did you know that you can get a You Matter bookmark in our Grab & Go Kits?

Make sure to check out Making Space with Christian Robinson! We did the activity below in our summer Junior Justice League session and it was exactly what our hearts needed.


After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to vote. This year, since we met virtually, I created a google form for people to vote for their first and second choice. (If you’re interested in the technical details, I downloaded the results into an spreadsheet, changed the 1s to 3s (since 1st place gets 3 points, 2 gets 2) and then added up the totals. I then was able to screenshare to show how we got our results for full transparency.

And the Session 2 Winners Are…

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Join Us Next Time!

Please join us for our next Caldecott Club session on January 4, 2021 from 7:00-8:15pm CST, where we will pick our final 2 books to go to our Voting Party! You can pick up a free Grab & Go Program Kit at Lincolnwood Library in our Great Green Box or contact me to pick up a kit. You can also access our digital Grab & Go Kit at Check out what’s in our program kit in the video below!

Since you’ve spent all this time reading this post, I’ll even let you know which books we’ll be discussing. You can even watch us share the reveals below:

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita


You can put Caldecott Club books on hold at our libraries here.

I have created a RESOURCE GUIDE with activities, videos, podcasts, program kit supplies, handouts, and more to share the sources we’ve used and continue the learning! We hope it will be useful for you to explore these books at home – and maybe even create your own Caldecott Club!

But wait, there’s more! Make plans to join out Caldecott Club Voting Party on TUESDAY, January 19 where we will pick the winner(s) of our Mock Caldecott. And then, we’ll join together to watch selections from the Youth Media Awards on January 25! That’s right, it’s three Caldecott Club events in January to start 2021 with beautiful picture book celebrations!

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

 – Eti