Caldecott Club 2021: Session #3

Posted & filed under Blog, 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 January 4, 2021 with a group of wonderful readers, their families, and friends to talk about all things picture books. We were joined by our program buddy, Ann, 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 recaps from Session #1 here & Session #2 here.)

We began our program by Mr. Brian review the books that we’ve selected to go to our Voting Party and revealing the books we would discuss. With so much to do in so little time, we compressed our usual review to get to the books faster. But you can check out all of our resources to learn more about the Caldecott award and our books.

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 3 were:

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

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

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

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.

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

I (Eti) began our discussion by sharing research that I did about the origins of this extraordinary, beautiful book. As Tami Charles said in a Shelf Awareness interview, “This story was born from love and a deep desire to keep my son, Christopher, little forever, which I think most parents can relate to! I wanted to keep him shielded from the cruelties of the world. But as he grew older and had questions about injustices against people of color, I needed to do something. What better way than to write Christopher a love letter to remind him of all the reasons why he matters to me, and to the world?” I listened to the Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner interview with Tami Charles many times and learned something new each time. I highly recommend checking out the amazing Books of Wonder author event with Tami Charles and her son, Christopher, moderated by Jason Reynolds! It’s such a gift to have these author events available to us at this time. I also shared information from Bryan Collier about the art, including information from his Illustrator’s Note, saying, “I was partially raised by grandmother who was a quilt maker. When you see the art, you see her influence, as join collage and petal shapes together to make a whole idea or image. To visually tell this story, I started with the shape of a single flower petal to build a blossoming effect in all backgrounds — like the night sky, interior wallpaper, and the child’s storybook. Faces appear on those petals, representing the voices of ancestors chanting: “You matter.” As our main character is faced with navigating today’s challenges of identity, self-worth, survival, and the ability to thrive, he is surrounded by a community of family.” I made sure to tell our group to pay attention to the petals and how they change throughout the book.

We began our journey by noticing the adorable photograph of the baby on the title page, literally at the center of the solar system mobile, the center of his family’s universe. I had to read the first page of this book, the language is just so powerful. “They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space … if that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.”

We talked about the importance of the faces of the ancestors in the petals, exploring how the illustrations express the ideas in the text that “long before you took your place in this world, you were dreamed of, like a knapsack full of wishes, carried on the backs of your ancestors as they created empires, pyramids, legacies.” People pointed out the textures and patterns on the petals. We talked about how from even the endpapers, it was anticipated that the child would be born using the shooting star in the sky.

As the child grows older, our group marveled at the scene reading a book with his mother. L. & S. shared, “the story seems to lift out of the book.” Our group expressed how the petals convey that experience of “like a mirror staring back at you, and really saw yourself… same hair, same skin, same dreams.” B. shared how they look like fire, clear and colorful. Our group really embraced pointing out wherever there were petals.

As our group discussed the school scene, they expressed how it made them feel, sharing “it makes us feel shy and lonely,” “stressed,” and “frustrated.”
R. pointed out that there were no petals in this spread itself, which surprised them. We talked about how when you “question your place in the universe,” you can feel disconnected from the ancestors and the things that remind you that you matter. Our group really connected to the next spread of the marked up math, responding to our discussion about how he is feeling, saying he’s “disappointed and frustrated because he got bad grades.” B. added, “like he is not good enough.” We definitely have all been there before. Our group did notice the petals on the floor, sparking the idea that he’s not alone.

We talked about the powerful image of the boy in front the Black Lives Matter mural, with rivers across his face with his eyes closed, connecting to the ancestors.

We then talked about the dramatic page turn as his eyes open, looking directly at the reader, surrounded by a garden of petals, enfolding him like a cape. Ms. Ann shared, “The leaves look like a throne now!” Our group noticed it is similar to the cover. D. added it “reminds me of a peacock which is very royal.” B. shared how this spread also uses the same red petals as the carpet in the school scene. Kids noticed things I never do! Our kids really appreciated the use of colors throughout the book. We noticed how the petals burst in the air as he’s embraced by his parents, supported by an entire community who love him. As S. & L, said, “it’s like everyone’s together and happy.” We close by reading the last page, with Christopher grinning at the reader, in Tami’s embrace, with the words, “You mattered. They mattered. We matter.. and always will.” I, of course, pointed out the excellent back-matter to delve deeper into these conversations. We also included the discussion guide for educators and caregivers, created Vera Ahiyya, known as the Tutu Teacher, in our resources and our Grab & Go Kit. It’s an invaluable learning resource.

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Mr. Brian shared how Jillian Tamaki often makes graphic novels and comics and has recently been making some wonderful picture books, especially informed by her understanding of sequential art. He also shared how this book is inspired by Jillian volunteering at a community kitchen in Brooklyn. He pointed out that this book mixes realism and surrealism.

From the first moment we explored the cover, our group was charmed, noticing how the people were cooking, flying, and jumping in the air. “I like this. It looks funny… there’s butter floating in the air,” one reader declared. (We agree!) When we turned to the endpapers, they gleefully said, “there’s the butter again.” I hereby declare the subtitle for Our Little Kitchen: An Ode to Butter (and Community). Ms. Ann shared, “Julia Child would love it!”

Mr. Brian told us to pay attention to the lettering and how it changes – and communicates information. He also helped us notice the white space on the pages – and how it’s used to show the energy of each scene. Ms. Ann shared how it reminds her of Lucy Knisley’s work, which we love. Our group pointed out how when more people arrive, it’s get louder. Ms. Ann shared, “It feels like everyone’s SO EXCITED to see one another.” S. shared, it’s “getting more hectic.” Mr. Brian shared how the scene with the beginnings of the garden leads the way to the next spread showing it in its glory. One reader pointed out how the spread shows a progression in the story as the person in the green apron looks thoughtfully at the oven, knowing they’re missing something, to then head into the garden to get it.

Mr. Brian showed how the action starts to speed up as they get to work – and the images start to become more surreal. Of course, one of our young readers noticed the apple balancing on the kid’s head. I love how kids shared that they have made an apple crumble in class. (We should all make our own for our party!) We then started to notice the kid throughout the book. We talked about how the surreal beans scene, as S. said, “it must be a lot of beans.”

Mr. Brian shared how Jillian’s use of lettering helps express the onomatopoeia of the sounds of the food preparation and cooking. Ms. Ann added, “they look like the action — the chop is sharp and clean, the sprinkle is light like really sprinkling.” Y. said they want to express (the idea). We talked about using perspective to show time’s almost up with the leader in front telling everyone they have 15 minutes. We then return to the realistic view with overhead shots showing the community coming together to eat. Ms. Ann said, “I love how they’re talking to one another — they are friends, a community.” This spread instantly inspired a reader to start reading the dialog aloud. S. shared, “I’m jealous of them.” This scene definitely makes us miss being together in person.

Mr. Brian then pointed out how we see the full little kitchen for the first time. He pointed out how the scene is revealed with the drawing of the building. Ms. Ann shared, “It’s like a dollhouse with the one wall open so you can see inside.” We talked about the contrast between the dining area and the kitchen in its size. L. shared, “it looks fun.” As time runs out, we talked about the panic tomato red background shows how it’s time to get started. Once they start sharing the meal, a reader said, “it makes me feel calm, like everything is now good.” Mr. Brian pointed out how Jillian uses pictures to convey the conversations with the community as they eat. (This gave me major Owly, the graphic novel series, feels.) L., said, “The food looks yummy.”

When our young friend we’ve been following talks for the first time, yelling, “Ok, time to clean up!,” our kids pointed out that the adults are trying to eat and relax, making this a funny scene. Mr. Brian then pointed out the excellent author’s note at the end.

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

I (Eti) began our picture walk by sharing how Samara Cole Doyon wrote this gorgeous book for her daughter, Nadia. As she wrote in A Note from the Author, “My hope is that we will give all children the chance to embrace and celebrate the many vibrant pieces of themselves, joined together with the same fierce and unrelenting love that sews a cherished family heirloom.” We talked about noticing the different senses expressed in the book since it is a feast for all of them. I’m so grateful for the incredible conversation on the Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner with Samara Cole Doyon & Kaylani Juanita, which was so vital to guiding our discussion and highlighting the breathtaking details from the text and pictures.

We talked about how the metaphor in Samara’s initial text connects to something beautiful about the next child on the next spread, who will be the protagonist in the following image. Our group, of course, noticed the puppy joining the girl and her Daddy on the mountain hike. They also noticed the shadows and layers on the trees, which is amazingly done digitally. We also noticed the bee motif throughout the book.

We talked about the image of the girl on the “radiant brown.. like my skin,” page jumps off the page. Our group noticed that “she has tons of protection just like me.” We then got to join her at the fall fair, with the text, “smooth, creamy brown. Like the flawless flow of caramel gloriously smothering my favorite fall fair delight.” The words are just delicious!

I love the personal connections the kids made throughout the book. When we got to “magnificent homespun brown,” we returned to the quilt from the title page, showcasing all the things we’ve experienced woven together. I then pointed out the fantastic Note from the Author to explore in more detail.

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

This book is illustrated in acrylics, colored pencils, and graphite on hand-textured paper by Juana Martinez-Neal. Mr. Brian told us to notice how she paints people and the body language, telling us, “no one paints people quite like Juana Martinez-Neal.” Mr. Brian started us out by thinking about the character of Swashby, which prompted these responses:

“He’s kind of scared and he thinks he should have brought somebody else.”

“He feels alone and lonely because he wasn’t born with a sister or brother.”

“He’s a hermit.”

L. noticed how he has a big beard, like he’s hiding behind it.

Mr. Brian showed how the neighbors are hidden initially with their backs to the reader, using illustrations to show details about them with their beach supplies and fun. We talked about Swashby’s reactions to his neighbors, spying out the window. Mr. Brian talked about the girl’s body language after the sea told her to Sing. This is a great book to make predictions about – and our group made excellent ones!

Mr. Brian shared how the page turns show the humor. During the PLAY scene, Mr. Brian asked what Swashby is doing. One reader shared, “he’s asking her to get in the hole and he’s gonna bury her under it.” We talked about how this scene shows he’s starting to play as he showed her how to dig for wet sand. Mr. Brian shared how he loves the way Juana draws the water dripping off of Swashby and the girl as he saves her. Afterwards. Mr. Brian asked us how Swashby feels at the end and our group declared happy.


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 3 Winners Are…

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

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

Cover of Our Little Kitchen

Join Us Next Time!

It all comes down to this, friends: The Caldecott Club VOTING PARTY! We will meet on our new day, TUESDAY, January 19 at 7:00-8:15pm CST where we will pick the winner(s) of our Mock Caldecott. If you’ve missed our sessions so far, no worries. You can check out our recaps & put the books we’ll discuss on hold at our library. Just make sure to register.

To review, the books we will discuss at our Voting Party Are:

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

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

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

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

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

But wait, there’s more Caldecott Club fun! We’ll join together to watch selections from the Youth Media Awards on January 25!

You can still pick up a free Grab & Go Program Kit at Lincolnwood Library in our Great Green Box or contact our library to pick up a kit, while supplies last. You can also access our digital Grab & Go Kit at Check out what’s in our program kit in the video below!


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!

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

 – Eti