Caldecott Club Session 3

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Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. I hosted our third Caldecott Club session on Thursday, December 6 here at the library. After the wonderful conversations we had during our second session that blew my mind with the connections the kids made, I was eager to share some new picture books. I didn’t even realize it when I planned this session, but all of these books are about creativity, community, and individuality. 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.)

One quick correction — our winners for session 2 were A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin and Blue by Laura Vaccaro Seeger.

The books we discussed in session 3 were:

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
What If… by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato
This is the Nest that Robin Built by Denise Fleming
The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes


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, 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? This time I also incorporated a timer thanks to our Head of Youth & Teen Services, Emily, to help me keep on track. 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…)

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

During our last session when I shared our upcoming books, M.A. made the connection between Jacqueline Woodson’s memoir Brown Girl Dreaming and her newest picture book, The Day We Begin, illustrated by Rafael López, so I knew I had to start with it.

I had just listened to the latest kidlitwomen* podcast where Linda Sue Park talked with Grace Lin about booktalking, as well as many other things. (I highly recommend listening to all of the episodes of this incredible podcast!) I began our discussion about The Day You Begin by trying to, as Linda Sue Park discussed, center the story in the children’s experiences, asking them if they have ever felt alone or different and then diving into the world of the story. The group immediately noticed the ruler as the door.  

F. thought about the ruler as measuring the girl. As we turned our attention to the next spread about Rigoberto from Venezuela, D. remarked that “Oh, they’re talking about immigrants” and observed his different emotions between the spread where he’s in nature and in the classroom. As F. said, “When the bird passed, he’s smiling but when the bird is gone, he got sad again.” This scene with Rigoberto opened up comments about names and the feeling when people get names wrong or right.

Later, our group noticed another ruler on the table when the girl is eating lunch and the others are talking about her. M.D. said “the people are ruling her and she feels judged.” I loved this literal interpretation of the symbolism. With our focus on the ruler, M.M. anticipated our discussion about the body next to a tree with the ruler design and asked our group to notice it. F. said “he looks lonely too, so he has a ruler too.” I was able to share some of the behind-the-scenes inspiration from Rafael López’s son, Santiago, thanks to the Seven Important Things Before Breakfast interview. The group noticed how the contrasting colors emphasized the boy’s isolation from the other kids playing. They were drawn into the following spread where “all that stands beside you is your own brave self.”

M.M. remarked “how the brightness of yellow is shining on him.”

As they reached the finale of the story where Angelina and Rigoberto find their community, the group compared the initial images of isolation and loneliness to the pictures of friendship and play, noticing how their body language shifted when they play together. They looked back at the beginning end papers and the final end papers, noticing the flowers blooming and creatures flying. F. remarked, “I like this book because it shows how to treat people right.”

What If… by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato

We then got to revel in the power of creative spirit by picture walking through What If… by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato. I loved sharing a bit of the backstory of their creative process, including Samantha Berger’s Dress a Day project and apartment flood and Mike’s inspiration from this project. I shared the animations from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast so the group could better understand Mike’s creative process. It was so fun sharing the fantastic easter egg of Mike taking a photo of the bowl as the top of the rocket ship.

The group really embraced the idea that everything can be art, trying to figure out which items made up the art. They loved the sugar cube igloo and marshmallow snowman. They were charmed by the sandpaper castle, saying, “we use that,” which speaks to the accessibility of using everyday items to make art – and inspire kids to make their own. The gatefold wowed everyone, especially with the dramatic build-up beforehand. They loved the unicorn, the rainbow bird, and the castle.

F. pointed out, “some things are things that exist and some don’t but all happen in your mind.” When they finally came to the protagonist’s room, they pointed out many connections to the beautiful images we had seen previously, like the solar system. They noted that the windows in the girl’s neighborhood show that people are always creating. They loved how creative this book was, so I had to end our picture walk by revealing the magical case cover. All they could say was wow.

This is the Nest that Robin Built by Denise Fleming

The small, different format of this book intrigued our group. Before the story even began, they got a feel for the natural setting of the story and the collage style of the art. They noticed the cumulative cycle and saw the pattern between each character’s contribution to help Robin build her nest. As D. said, “They all work together to make a nest like a food chain but different.” M.A. was instantly interested in the rhythm of the book and started to read it aloud to herself. The kids really wanted to know how  Denise Fleming made the fledgling’s fluff. They noticed the various textures we had encountered previously with each animal, now found together in the nest, including that subtle blue of eggshells.

Each page invited them to touch and feel it, noticing the myriad kinds of textures and designs. The gatefold of the robin building her nest made everything come together for our group. I loved observing M.D.’s lightbulb moment as she processed this spread and finally shared, “they’re not entirely finished [with the nest] until it has the birds in it.” They appreciated spotting the ladybugs in each spread, which made for a great storytime treat. They enjoyed this story, saying, “it was different since it wasn’t about humans.”

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

After the What If… case cover secret, the group asked me to reveal the case cover secrets first, so I began our picture walk of The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes by showing the case cover.

One participant said, “they [authors] know people check the case cover so they don’t want to give anything away.” F. said, “the secret case cover is all black and that’s how the story starts.” I revealed to them that the brilliant Ekua Holmes made the marble paper herself and put it together digitally. We jumped into the story by trying to spot something special on the first spread. Our group noticed the white dot on the page, using their artists’ eyes to see a red dot within it which I definitely couldn’t see before. M.D. said “maybe it’s the start of something.”

With a dramatic page turn, we were able to show the something they anticipated, the beautiful BANG that compelled our group to touch the textures and marvel at the art. They began asking questions about the origins of life and the big bang and the fireworks of stars. They even started to ruminate about hippopatumuses versus hippopotami. A good picture book makes you question and wonder and see things.  In the spread below, they shared all the things they saw from a bear, a face, butterflies, a giraffe, a lion, tiger, wolf, dog, cheetah, a snail, and an elephant. They saw all the possibilities in stardust.

They continually remarked upon the beauty of this art, recognizing how the colors shift as life forms and blues and greens gain prominence. F. made connections between a book we had read last time, We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac, and its depiction of the Cherokee family’s experiences throughout the seasons with their community and the colorful celebration of creation and individuality in The Stuff of Stars. This book asks much of its young readers, but respects them enough to understand its depth and beauty. Our group certainly appreciated it.


After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to ballot. (Actually, this time some kids needed more time to examine the book on their own, which is an important part of this process, and I wish I could embed more time for individual exploration.) 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 3 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 December 20 at 3:30-4:30. You don’t need a library card to sign up, but you do need a love of books & conversation!

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

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

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:

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

Calling Caldecott Post
Book Trailer
Illustrator Rafael López on The Day You Begin (Seven Important Things Before Breakfast blog)
The Day You Begin, Begins (Rafael López blog)

What If… by Samantha Berger, illustrated by Mike Curato
What If… Mike Curato Used Mixed-Media to Make a Book? (Seven Important Things Before Breakfast blog)
What If we Told you the Story Behind The Story (NerdyBookClub Blog)
Book Trailer

This is the Nest that Robin Built by Denise Fleming
Calling Caldecott Post
Book Trailer

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by Ekua Holmes
An Interview with Ekua Holmes
The Stuff of Stars Resources from Marion Dane Bauer
My Favorite Book by Marion Dane Bauer
Picture book of the day: life is cosmic in The Stuff of Stars (Mr. Brian’s Picture Book Picks)
mages Source: