Caldecott Club Returns!

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Creating a Caldecott Community

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. I hosted our first Caldecott Club session on Thursday, November 8. I also held this program last year inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. I had the opportunity to volunteer during this program, so it was a particular thrill to create my own Caldecott Club with lots of advice and input from Brian. I loved how we created a community of young readers eager to see more deeply and use their artist’s eyes to examine picture books.

I am so grateful for the chance to offer this program again with some of the young people who joined us last year – and many new friends. We designed this program to be open to kids from 1st grade through 8th grade because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. Last year, I was delighted when we had a second grader and a middle schooler sharing the air, both providing their insights and learning from each other. 

What’s a Caldecott?

So what is the Caldecott Award? 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. I shared a poster from Baker & Taylor of previous award winners, so the kids could spot some familiar faces and find connections between them. We discussed what makes a good picture book, enabling the kids to create the language we used to evaluate the books. I also gave them a fantastic kid-friendly evaluation guide, thanks to Holly Jin at Skokie Public Library who shared this resource with me.

Once we established our criteria, we were ready to explore the books. I had put them in a cardboard box and taped it up, so the kids could dramatically open up the box just like the real committee members do when books arrive in the mail. Brian did this at his Caldecott Club session and the kids were filled with eager excitement every time. Each group received a copy of the book, so they could look more closely at the books.

The books we discussed in session 1 were:

We Don’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrations by Jacqueline Alcántara
Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuyi Morales
Seeing into Tomorrow: haiku by Richard Wright, illustrations by Nina Crews

Picture Walk

Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. I had a student volunteer help hold open the book for us, 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: How well does this book do what it’s trying to do? What did you notice? How does this page make you feel? What makes this art distinguished?

The group was adamant that we should read We Don’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins first. One of the most effective features of this book are the dramatic page turns that amplified the humor. They pointed out the particular grossness of the dripping saliva on the kids – and their various reactions – after they are almost eaten. “They don’t look very happy,” said N. “ “They also look really dirty and disgusting and like they should go take a shower,” said R.  The art definitely did an excellent job conveying that feeling. We also talked about the monochrome backgrounds that make Penelope and her classmates stand out on the page. The children’s reaction to this experience caused A. to exclaim, “they made a wall,” which I had not noticed until she brought it up. (I love how kids notice things I never do.) Naturally, the big twist of the story (which I will not spoil for you) delighted everyone. For this book, I did read much of the text as we did our picture walk since it really amplifies the humor (“because children are delicious”) but the art itself made it a favorite too.

Next, our group read The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrations by Jacqueline Alcántara. The group really enjoyed the creole words and phrases, reading aloud with energy and enthusiasm. I was happy that I could show them the awesome author’s note and creole words and phrases in the back matter to extend their curiosity. Our group really picked up on the resilience and joy in play that is expressed in the text and illustrations. They noticed qualities of light and shadow when a storm threatens their game – only to prove that they can play on, no matter what, almost leaping off the page. It was super fun when we all said, “Goal!” together. The kids’ reaction to this page as the sun shone on them: “They feel really happy. They feel like nothing can stop them.” The kids even noticed the footprints the kids made as they got into their bath. They noticed the cycle of the day that happened throughout the story, including the different end papers.

We then continued with our picture walk through Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuyi Morales. I loved sharing this beautiful, exceptional, dare I say distinguished (I do) true story of Yuyi Morales’s journey to the United States, carrying her backpack of gifts. She finds her way to the public library and discovers the magic of picture books – and tells her own story. My favorite spread is the moment of connection with the librarian giving the library card to Yuyi and baby Kelly… “where we didn’t need to speak. We only need to trust and we did.” It felt pretty special to have one of our participants, M., read many of the pages as we explored the book. We talked about the incredible art materials that Yuyi Morales used to create the art, leading us to explore deeper in her author’s note.

Finally, we read Seeing into Tomorrow, haiku by Richard Wright, illustrations by Nina Crews, which prompted the kids to ask about photography being eligible for the Caldecott Award, which it definitely is. We dove into talking about how Nina Crews used collage to show young African American boys in nature, using all sorts of perspectives and techniques. They shared their own nature associations while reading the book;  one of the pages reminding them of seaweed. I loved showing them the secret easter egg of Donald Crews and his grandson (Nina’s son) by the freight train. One young person was so into the haikus that she went through each one to check the syllables. I then had her read the final poem aloud for all of us, sharing her poetic style. We talked about our favorite spreads and moments.  

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 (This year I even got a fancy whiteboard because the math part stresses me out.) The top 2 books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 10.

And the Session 1 Winners Are….

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 November 29 at 3:30-4:30. You don’t need a library card to sign up, but you do need a love of books & conversation! You can see some more photos from our last event here on Facebook, too. 

Since you’ve spent all this time reading this post, I’ll even let you know which books we’ll be discussing:

We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

They say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin

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

  – Eti


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:

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

Simply 7 interview with Ryan T. Higgins (Jena Benton blog)
Review of the Day: We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins by Betsy Bird
Booktalk by Colby Sharp
We Don’t Eat our Classmates (Podcast Bunny Presents #11)

The Field by Baptiste Paul, illustrations by Jacqueline Alcántara
Review of the Day: The Field by Baptiste Paul, ill. Jacqueline Alcántara by Betsy Bird
The Field Book Trailer
Interview with Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara (This Picture Book Life)
Q&A With Illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara about her debut picture book, The Field (Latinxs in KidLit)
A conversation with Baptiste Paul & Jackie Alcantara (KidLit Nation)

Dreamers/Soñadores by Yuyi Morales

Interview with Yuyi Morales with Mr. Schu
In Conversation: Yuyi Morales and Neal Porter
Yuyi Morales keynote: SLJ Day of Dialog 2018
The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner: Interview with Yuyi Morales
Dreamers Book Trailer
Dreamers video with Yuyi Morales

Seeing into Tomorrow: haiku by Richard Wright, illustrations by Nina Crews

Conversation with Nina Crews: Seeing Into Tomorrow: Haiku by Richard Wright (What’s The 411 Books)
Seeing into Tomorrow Trailer
Review of the day: Seeing into Tomorrow by Betsy Bird|
5 QUESTIONS with Nina Crews, illustrator of “Seeing Into Tomorrow (James Preller’s Blog)