Count Down to Caldecott 2014

A review of Ten Orange Pumpkins by Stephen Savage

The American Library Association will announce the winner and runners up for the prestigious Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished picture book of the year on Monday, January 27th.

In the meantime, here’s a list of 10 strong candidates plus 1. Which of these do you feel is most distinguished? Do you know of another book published in 2013 that looks like an award-winner?

1. Ten Orange Pumpkins; a counting book by Stephen Savage.
    Wonderfully illustrated with a strong use of shape and contrast, Savage gives us a countdown rhyme which is simple, yet highly creative and engaging.

2. How to Be A Cat by Nikki McClure.
     McClure uses a simple three-color pallet, black, white and periwinkle, to create the many moods, activities and exchanges that take place over a day for a kitten and the adult cat it emulates. The strong lines and shapes provide loads of visual information for the reader. The illustrations are deceptively simple, yet convey so much.

3. Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle.
     The art and design of this wordless picture book are notable. I don’t know why I feel that the flamingo is male, it just seems to have a paternal attitude toward young dancer, Flora, but the fact that it is so easy to identify with these characters makes this one an easy book to recommend. 

4.  That Is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems.
     Two-time Caldecott Honor medalist Mo Willems has created a picture book in the style of an old silent film, except in color rather than in black and white. On one page a cartoon-style illustration, and on the next page the dialogue. Both picture books and film are sequential art forms, so this works very well. Another deceptively simple picture book with suspense and humor and a chorus of chicks chirping, “That is NOT a good idea!” while a chicken and a fox go for a stroll deeper and deeper into the woods. And, as often is the case, you can find Pigeon in this book, and Knuffle Bunny, too, if you look closely.

5.  Lucky Ducklings by Eva Moore, ill. By Nancy Carpenter.
     With a retro feel to the illustrations, this book about the rescue of five ducklings trapped beneath a storm grate stands up independently of the text. Reminiscent of Robert McCloskey’s work, the shifting perspectives work perfectly to convey the story, with plenty of emotional context along the way. Invite your pre-reader to look at the pictures and “read” the story to you. Then read the book aloud and enjoy the beauty of the text.

6. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown.
     Okay, my personal opinion is that this is one of the strongest contenders for Caldecott Gold. Brown uses a muted pallet dominated by shades of brown to show the civilized, self-contained animals in the town. Meanwhile, Mr. Tiger is a striking orange with black stripes and green eyes, stuffed into his own brown suit – until Mr. Tiger Goes Wild! Keep your eyes on this one.

7. The Tortoise & The Hare by Jerry Pinkney.
    This nearly wordless picture book shows Pinkney’s penchant for establishing setting and character through his illustrations. The book is set in the American Southwest and the animal characters are true to the setting. Pinkney’s illustrations invite the reader to look on slowly at all of the marvelous details.

8. Journey by Aaron Becker.
     Step aside, Harold, the girl in this book finds her own red crayon and uses it to take her on a journey of the imagination. I love the way that the color red is used to convey the significance of particular objects in the story, and the realism in the illustrations that are conveying a fantasy story. Check out the red end pages with the muted illustrations of various things that go – plane, hot air balloon, train, etc. The illustrations are dreamlike and beautiful. And of course our heroine returns home again. 

9. Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner.
     David Weisner is considered to be a master of watercolor. A three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal in the past, Wiesner brings his skills to the subject of a cat with a seemingly inexplicable fascination for the radiator – beneath which is hiding a tiny alien space ship and its crew. Another of the wordless contenders for this year’s Medal, Mr. Wuffles impresses with a visual language all its own, and plenty of visual detail to keep advanced picture book readers fascinated. The depictions of the cat’s movements is incredibly effective.

10. Hello, My Name Is Ruby by Philip C. Stead.
     With colorful, childlike illustrations Stead introduces Ruby, a sweet, innocent and lonely bird looking for a friend. Stead’s use of color and line are stand-out elements in this charming picture book. Ruby examines life from the varying perspectives of many different animals and finds many friends along the way.

+1. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.
      I’m adding this book because I just don’t want you to miss it. This is the type of creativity that can sometimes be overlooked. The crayons are on strike and each crayon expresses its own dissatisfaction with the status quo. Brilliant.


This is a great list, Karen, and I agree with you exactly about the flamingo being male in Flora and the Flamingo.  That was one of my favorite picture books of the year.  The pinks and cherry blossoms=love, love, love.  I'm kind of obsessed with Molly Idle.  Her books Zombelina and Tea Rex were also outstanding.  Lucky Ducklings was one of the more popular books at my house for re-reading - such a timeless, sweet, story.  But my prediction for winner goes to Journey.  Truly spectacular in every way.  Spectacular illustrations, spectacular story, so much to discuss even for the very young child.  I wonder if The Day the Crayons Quit is more popular with adults?  I thought it was hilarious, but the humor was completely lost on my preschooler.

So far, the Mock Caldecott results from libraries around the country have chosen either Journey or Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It can't be easy serving on the real committee and choosing among such strong contenders.