The Caldecott Club Returns!

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. This year marks our THIRD Caldecott Club, which we began during my first year at Lincolnwood Library, inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. Every year I learn more from our young readers about the ways to structure this program to engage in thoughtful conversations about 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, as well as new friends. We designed this program to be open to kids from around 3rd grade through 8th grade because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. [I guess this is the place I should put a spoiler alert for all the books we’re discussing…]

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. S. instantly noticed The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein and shared how much she loved it. I informed her about the sad news that he had passed away recently, and she instantly declared that she’d like to write a tribute to him. I will always remember the powerful conversations we had during our first Caldecott Club series discussing The Boy and The Whale, which our group selected as an Honor book during our 2017 Caldecott Club.

The winners of our 2017 Caldecott Club!

We discussed what makes a good picture book, enabling the kids to create the language we used to evaluate the books. Ya. declared that memories make a good picture book. Others said it should be easy to understand. S. said that the pictures should speak to you. I also gave them a fantastic kid-friendly evaluation guide, thanks to Holly Jin at Skokie Public Library (who was on the 2017 Caldecott Committee) 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 adult committee members do when books arrive in the mail. Brian did this at his Caldecott Club session and the kids were filled with anticipation every time. Each group received a copy of the book, so they could look more closely at the books. R. helped me open the box and distribute our first book. 

The books we discussed in session 1 were:

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach
How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol
Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Picture Walk


Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. Our participants were especially eager to help out with reading each book aloud, so we worked out a system to take turns. 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 Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach 

Our group instantly noticed the parallel end papers with the caterpillar at the beginning and butterflies at the end. They began making predictions about what would happen to our caterpillar friend. This hilarious book is perfect for read alouds, especially if you share it in two voices. S. read the Impatient Caterpillar’s speech bubbles, while I read the other caterpillar’s speech. Our group laughed throughout our picture walk.

My favorite line is definitely, “Can I get a comic book or something?” There’s nothing like comics to help us be more patient.

They noticed many of the comic book features that convey information. Ya. pointed out the “white wind” that shows the Impatient Caterpillar is spinning, trying to make his chrysalis. Intrigued, Yu. asked how is the chrysalis formed, which stumped me. So here’s a great resource from The Kids Should See This that helps explain this magical process – and hopefully answers Yu.’s question. Our group pointed out the effective use of typography to contribute to the story, noticing how the font gets bigger as the caterpillars grow increasingly exasperated. We had a marvelous time chorally reading the dramatic line, “Shhh… we’re trying to metamorphosize!” R. had mastered how to say this tongue-twisting word and shared his knowledge with us.

When the Impatient Caterpillar went into his chrysalis surrounded by darkness, Ya. pointed out that “it looks like he’s dying.” When he comes out of the chrysalis half-finished, the group pointed out that he is not a butterfly yet and we talked about the movement on the page that shows his struggles. When he returns into his chrysalis and is screaming on a full page spread, S. pointed out that “he’s screaming a lot and everyone else is silent,” which shows the contrast in his reactions to change versus the other caterpillars. S. did an incredible job acting as the Impatient Caterpillar learning how to be patient and embrace change. We talked about how over time he becomes silent because he’s finally becoming a butterfly. We marveled at the dramatic page turn when he becomes a butterfly, complete with the purple markings that identify him as our Impatient friend. Yu. remarked that “he’s still impatient” at the end as he learns he has entirely new journey to join. We talked about dual transformation of the character who is both becoming a butterfly and learning to be patient. The group shared that it would be a good book to read to little kids. S. shared that she’d love to visit Todd Hall and read it to the little kids there. She also shared that it’s relatable “because there’s a lot of annoying people saying, “Are we there yet?” I have experience because I’m the younger sister and I do it.” I really appreciated her honestly. We’re all a lot like the impatient caterpillar and can learn a lot from his journey.

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet  

I began our picture walk through How to Read a Book by asking the group about how they read books. S. shared that it’s important “to understand a page before you move on.” Yu. predicted that this book wasn’t going to be a storybook narrative, which was spot on. I shared information from Kwame Alexander’s author’s note about how he wrote this poem for World Read Aloud Day in 2010, but it was not selected. Eventually it was published in Open a World of Possible from Scholastic. Kwame remarked that “I think writing the poem that became this book was my way of capturing our family reading experience on paper. Of painting a picture of the journey readers take each time they crack open a book, get lost in the pages, and wander through the wonder.”  M. shared her experiences reading during DEAR (Drop Everything & Read) during social studies class this week and how loud it was initially, making it difficult to focus on the words. We talked about the importance of quiet spaces needed for reading. I shared how Melissa Sweet took Kwame’s poem and used her imagination to illustrate it. S. pointed out that “it’s the poem in her mind. It’s not exactly about books, but what’s in her mind.” Ya. pointed out that it’s more creative. Inspired just by the cover, S. suggested that we all make titles and make our own books, which we’ll definitely have to pursue at a future Caldecott Club. 

We began our picture walk by exploring the bright neon pink endpapers with shelves of books. I then had our group pause to explore the powerful three-dimensional collage that Melissa Sweet states in her note, “[sets] the scene for Kwame’s lyrical text.” It was a revelation when I discovered the secrets on this gorgeous spread and I wanted our Caldecott Club to have the same experience. I projected a picture of the spread on the whiteboard and instructed the group to open the page in their books and look deeply. One said they saw the word “Caldecott.” Other saw the word “grateful,” which led others to indicate that the word was “grateful.” Gradually they worked together to decode the page, noticing the hidden line:

Poetry is motion

graceful 

as a fawn

M. pointed out that she saw Bambi on this page. I shared the information from Sweet’s illustrator’s note where she had been using a copy of Bambi to make the art when she found a poem by renowned poet and educator (and Kwame’s teacher and mentor) Nikki Giovanni that began with the above line. “That was the perfect affirmation. The serendipity of using Bambi as part of the art made me trust the imagery was heading in the right direction.” Of course, I had the share the full poem by Nikki Giovanni. (And what perfect timing that Nikki Giovanni is coming to Chicago in November for the Chicago Humanities Festival! You can get tickets here.)

We then moved on the copyright page and S. pointed out that the information is formatted as an apple, which I had never noticed before. She was astounded by the craft needed to make the art. “This probably took years. Did she handmake it and handcut the letters?” I shared images from Melissa’s process to create the art and it truly is a marvel. We then jumped into the book, sharing photographs of the black tupelo and dawn redwood trees that Kwame references. We talked about how Sweet creates a feeling of a tree in her art in abstract ways. In reference to reading on a stoop like Langston Hughes, showed them a picture of the Langston Hughes House, which is now home to the I, Too, Arts Collective thanks to the hard work of founder and author Renée Watson. This also gave me the chance to introduce them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. There are so many riches within this book! S. shared that she just bought art supplies and she now planned on drawing pictures of trees and sharing her art next week, which is just the response you hope for after encountering this beautiful book. 

We then talked about the metaphor that reading is like eating a clementine. S. shared that she’s very rough with clementines (which we eat all the time during our Books & Bites program). Our group noticed the Bambi passages throughout the book, noting the word “delicious” on the page about the clementine. S. remarked that the neon orange circle on the opposite page looks like a clementine. S. shared that like clementines, “maybe the outside [of a book] is not much but once you get inside, it’s delicious.” The butterflies spread inspired M. to share that “I keep trying to capture a butterfly and let it land on my hand,” expressing a wistful wonder that we’ve all experienced. S. blew me away with her artist eye, noticing the “book toaster” on the next page, popping out “Once upon a time” toast. On the wordless page of a girl reading while walking through the city, M. remarked that “that’s dangerous – reading and walking,” which made me think about the importance of audiobooks for safety alone! They noticed how the books are frequently neon, which make them stand out on the page. Their surprise was palpable as we opened the gatefold, revealing a magical book bus and struggled to choose our favorite window.

The kids’ response: “We have book parties, too!”

They pointed out on the next spread how the book is a tent that the reader is lying inside, actually reading Bambi. “She really likes Bambi,” M. pointed out. “You could probably read the whole book of Bambi reading this one,” S. added. We were practically speechless with wonder during the “bursts of orange” spread as the O in “Exploded” becomes the purple moon. M. pointed out that the dots surrounded the page must be hole punches. The next page made S. contemplative, expressing how much she liked the crescent moon and constellations. I recalled S.’s declaration for slow reading and how this spread encourages us to “don’t rush through” (even though I was rushing to finish our picture walk). This spread reminded me of the incredible TEDTalk by Jacqueline Woodson,  “what reading slowly taught me about writing,” which is essential viewing. 

The group noticed Bambi again in the child’s hair and face as they drift off to sleep at the end. They also wondered about the RFID tag on the end paper, which shows how they notice everything. They also noted the “Target logo” on the back cover, which was a good association for them. Yu. declared that How to Read a Book was very artistic. M. asked if it smelled like anything, which provoked me to share how Mr. Schu, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, talks about how books smell, so we had to smell this savory book. It smelled pretty great.

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol 

The moment I shared The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol, Yu. instantly declared that “I love her. She wrote Be Prepared and Anya’s Ghost.” I added that she also wrote Leave Me Alone, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2017. And I got to reminisce about our fabulous Skype visit with Vera last summer. Of course, we had to begin with the case cover secret, prompting the group to determine who the little guys are. I urged them to try to find the littlest little guy throughout the story. S. and Yu. took turns reading the pages as we went through our picture walk. Yu. stated, “they’re strong like ants working together.” M. commented on how they are a community.

Can you find the littlest little guy?

Ya. pointed out that they’re always together, with the light on them even when it’s dark. Yu. shared how they team up. Things shifted for our group from seeing the little guys as an adorable collective as they began using their power in hurtful ways. When they oust the owl from its desk, Yu. declared, “that’s mean.” Turning the page to see how they treat the fox and its den of food, she added, “Look at what they did. They took the fox’s food; they’re stealing food and everyone is scared of them.” M. was visibly moved by the following spread of the little guys beating up the bear. “I’m surprised,” she said. “The bears aren’t doing anything to them and they’re [taking the fish] for no reason,” Yu. added.

“They’re kind of selfish,” S. remarked. Yu argued, “Because they’re the little guys, they can do anything. They took it way too far.” The drama escalated when the orientation of the book shifted. Ya. explained that “it demonstrates how tall [their stash of food] is and shows how much they are and it’s more than you can believe.” We talked about how this wealth of food shows their greed and gluttony.

We talked about how Vera used comics panels to show the process of taking the berry from the bird – and we all yelled “Ahhh!” together as it all comes crashing down. Yu. talked about the impact of their greed: “They have a lot of things and they just want to take a small berry from the bird.” Ya. pointed how how the other animals help save the little guys, even the fish. Yu. pointed out how this experience changed the little guys: “They saw how the other animals have empathy for them. They saved the little guys and they felt happy and grateful. They decided to give back and not be selfish.” I’d say the little guys had a big impact on our Caldecott Club.

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

We began our exploration of Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman with the case cover secret and predicting what this book would be about. I shared that Deborah Freedman used pencil, colored pencils, watercolor and assembled the art in Photoshop. They were excited that common art supplies that they use could result in such a beautiful book. We had a good conversation about the biology of earthworms, which made M. think about composting. We talked about how the text mirrors Carl’s movements, which contributes to the effectiveness of the picture book. They were curious about how the rabbit noticed a small earthworm, which led us into a discussion about the great distance between Carl and the rabbit, crossing the gutter between them, with the different lived experiences manifested in the art.

Yu. noticed the fox in the corner, saying “the fox might attack,” foreshadowing the next interaction Carl has. The next spread shows the rabbit leaping off the page as the fox dominates the scene. M. particularly liked the next spread with the green watercolor over the branches of the squirrel’s tree. Yu. began to ruminate about the themes of the book: “The meaning of life is people finding out what they want to do in life.. I heard it’s to do something you love and do something great and change the world. I think [Carl] changes the world by making the soil good.” To this, M. remarked, “there’s no meaning to life. You just do what you gotta do.” Picture books can spark some pretty heavy conversations. As we progressed through the story, they noticed how the environment had changed around Carl. S. pointed out, “He hasn’t been making fluffy soil. He’s been too busy asking people.” When Carl finally figures out his purpose to change the soil, we noticed how the colors and light change. Our group particularly loved the purples on the page with the mouse returning.

We made sure to read Deborah Freedman’s author’s note and think critically about the ways we are all connected.

S. reflected that “he was too busy thinking about stuff that others want for him,” connecting this narrative to the story of Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman. “It’s very inspirational because he helped every animal he talked to.” 

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. M. helped with the math to make sure it was accurate. The top 2 books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 9.

And the Session 1 Winners Are…

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol 

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

Join Us Next Time!

Please join us for our next Caldecott Club session on Thursday, October 17 from 3:30-5:00pm! And don’t forget to bring your fancy lanyards! (And if you didn’t get one, make sure to join us so you can rock our Caldecott Club merch!) 

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


Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham 

A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel 

Another by Christian Robinson

Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead 

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

 – Eti

Resources

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

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach

Booktalk Video

The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach | Scholastic Spring 2019 Online Preview

Mr. Schu Reads Cover Reveal

Publisher’s page

Princess Abigail the STORY Teller’s Read Aloud
Storytime with Ryan and Craig Read Aloud

PW KidsCast: A Conversation with Ross Burach

How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

Publisher’s Weekly Cover Reveal: ‘How to Read a Book’

Publisher’s page
Melissa Sweet Shows How to Read a Book

How to Read a Book (7 Impossible Things)

Book Page Book Review (Julie Danielson)

Open a World of Possible Book (Scholastic)

The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol

The Little Guys (7 Impossible Things)

Sharing 101 (Julie Danielson)

Little Guys Storytime Kit
How the Sausage Gets Made

Interview with Vera Brosgol (Austin Public Library)

The Romper Review

Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman

An Interview with Deborah Freedman

Illustration Inspiration: Deborah Freedman, Author-Illustrator of Carl and the Meaning of Life

Mr. Schu Reads Interview with Deborah Freedman

Carl Maze Activity