The American Library Association announced the winners of their major 2013 book awards on Monday, and the award that always catches my attention is the Caldecott Medal, named in honor of nineteenth-century illustrator Randolph Caldecott. The award is presented to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children” from the past year, and former winners include such Building a Library favorites as A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin and Philip Stead, Flotsam by David Wiesner, and many, many more. This year, the 2013 Caldecott Medal was awarded to This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

That fish totally stole that hat and now he’s being rewarded?

I couldn’t be happier about this selection. I wrote a glowing review of Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back last year, and This Is Not My Hat continues the hat-swapping fun. It’s a hysterical read and absolutely gorgeous to look at. The ALA also named five Caldecott Honor Books for 2013Creepy Carrots!, illustrated by Peter Brown (artist of the great The Purple Kangaroo and Children Make Terrible Pets), written by Aaron Reynolds; Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen (winning a Medal and an Honor Citation.. nice), written by Mac Barnett (author of the hilarious Chloe and the Lion); Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; One Cool Friend, illustrated by David Small (creator of one of our favorite books ever, Imogene’s Antlers), written by Toni Buzzeo; and Sleep Like a Tiger, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue.

We’ve read This Is Not My Hat, Creepy Carrots!, and Extra Yarn so far and definitely recommend them. We’re hoping to snag the rest soon, but I’m sure that, following the award announcements, their library hold lists exploded. BUT, if you’d like to sample this year’s Caldecott books before you get in line at the library, I put together this collection of book trailers and videos for all of the 2013 Caldecott honorees. First up, let’s take a look at the book trailer for the 2013 Caldecott Medal winner This Is Not My Hat.

Next, Peter Brown talks about how The Twilight Zone inspired his artwork for Creepy Carrots.

This fan-produced book trailer for Extra Yarn gives you a very cool, very thorough look at Jon Klassen’s fantastic artwork. [read the rest of the post…]


100 Greatest Books for Kids

It is pretty funny watching something called "The 100 Greatest Books for Kids" making adults so very, very angry...

Earlier this week, USA Today and Scholastic’s Parent & Child Magazine released their picks for the 100 Greatest Books for Kids – a list that they’ve been counting down to since last December and that, in a few short days, has already inspired some pretty heated feedback on the internet. The “100 Greatest” list found its ways onto my radar after Roger Sutton, Editor in Chief of the Horn Book, posted a link to the list on Twitter accompanied by the comment “this is a very strange list.” Sutton followed up with a question on his blog – “Does anyone know how this list was put together?” – which, frankly, is what I think ANYONE would immediately ask after reading the list.

You can check out the list for yourself HERE.

I dug around Parent & Child‘s press materials and got a better idea of the “how” and the “why” the list was created. First, let’s look at the “why.” The list was ostensibly created to mark the various BIG reading events that will be taking place during March this year, including the 15th anniversary of the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day (March 2nd, which also happens to be Dr. Seuss’ birthday) AND March just happens to be National Reading Month. (We just received our March calendar from my daughter’s kindergarten class and they’ve got multiple “National Reading Month” events planned for every week.)

In terms of the “how,” here’s how Parent & Child explains what went into the creation of their “100 Greatest Books for Kids” list:

To create our list, we asked several highly respected literacy experts, educators, and parents for suggestions. They came through in a big way — nearly 500 books were in the running. We used a variety of criteria to narrow down to 100 and then rank our titles, including diversity of genre, topic, format, ages and stages, authorship, and cultural representation. Factors such as literary and/or illustration excellence, popularity, and longevity or innovative freshness were all qualities of books in the final round.

100 Greatest Books for Kids

Their #1 pick is "Charlotte's Web", which is a good book, but is it the best of all time? (And is that what the list is saying? I'm confused.)

So, on the surface, I can generally understand how and why they decided to take on this project. I can. But here’s the thing – Sutton is right. Dead right. It is a strange list. All of these kinds of lists are STRANGE lists.

Whenever someone takes it upon themselves to assemble a list of “The 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century” or “The 10 Books That Will Change Your Life” or any of those huge, declarative “I am OBJECTIVELY ranking things that are inherently SUBJECTIVE and you will shut up and like it” lists, I don’t think it is ever, EVER a good idea.

Granted, the lists’ authors might disagree. Chances are, one of their main aims with this list was to stir controversy, get some publicity, and sell some newspapers and magazines – and, in that sense, by writing about the list on my blog, I’m giving them EXACTLY what they want. (Dammit.) BUT, beyond naked attention grabbing, I don’t think anyone can prove that lists like this one provide much positive value to the general public.

That’s one of my biggest issues with reading lists like this one – they are designed to be confrontational and inspire arguments, even though those arguments provide NO benefit to their target audience. When Parent & Child declares “these are the 100 GREATEST kids’ books“, they are blatantly implying that these titles are superior to EVERY other title that didn’t make this list. So, if Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is my favorite kids’ book and it didn’t make this list (it didn’t), by saying these books are the “100 Greatest”, it is, in effect, telling me that, “Your favorite book isn’t even good enough to crack our top 100. You are WRONG.” [read the rest of the post…]


A Ball for Daisy

A Ball for Daisy: Winner of this year's Caldecott Medal

Earlier this week, Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy won the 2012 Caldecott Medal, the very prestigious annual award for the most distinguished American picture book for children.

Earlier this evening, I was flipping through Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy as my daughter brushed her teeth and worrying that she wasn’t going to like it.

Why was I worried? Because, recently, my daughter, who turned five in November, has started to gravitate towards older and older skewing reading material. She still loves picture books and even has a few board books that she refuses to pack away with the rest of her toddler toys, but, lately, she’s shown increasing interest in early readers and chapter books. We’d just spent the past two days reading her the 128-page Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst and Lane Smith, and she’d loved it. It was a huge hit. (It’s both a beautiful and a hysterically funny chapter book. I definitely recommend it.) My wife and I began thinking, “OK, this is where we’re headed. More Mercy Watson, less Eric Carle.”

So, as I flipped through A Ball for Daisy, a wordless picture book with big, expressive illustrations that even the youngest of readers could appreciate, all I could think was “She might be too old for this.”

BUT, as frequent readers of this blog will recognize, there is one seemingly constant and unchangeable rule of parenting that I never seem to be able to escape. What’s that rule? The fact that – when I make a parental decision or even when I speak a particularly declarative sentence – I am almost always, always WRONG.

A Ball for Daisy

They're so cute together. I hope nothing ever happens to that ball...

My five year old didn’t just LIKE A Ball of Daisy. She adored it. This little 32-page book, with no words at all, brought out so many emotions from her in a short bedtime reading that I could barely believe it. And, once I finished reading, she was more animated and chatty about what she’d just read than I’d seen her be in a long time. It was one of the best bedtime reads we’d had in weeks and it all came from a book that five minutes earlier that I assumed she wouldn’t like. (My great apologies, Caldecott committee. I shouldn’t have doubted you.)

I think the reason that A Ball for Daisy worked so well for my daughter – and why it probably works so well for other children too – is that it very skillfully takes its reader on an emotional journey. The simple, yet achingly deep story is all about a cute dog named Daisy who LOVES her big red ball. How do we know she loves it? Because, in Raschka’s expressive drawings, you can see Daisy’s face light up and almost hear her tail wag whenever she’s near the ball. The kicker is the beautiful moment when Daisy, while trying to fall asleep, decides to cuddle up to her red ball on the couch. (Trust me. Cuddles go over HUGE with kids. My daughter let out an audible “Aww” at that part.)

Daisy’s owner takes Daisy and her ball on a walk to the park, and Daisy meets a new brown dog, who excitedly jumps in to play with Daisy’s ball. And then the unthinkable happens – the ball pops. It explodes in a little red burst and, suddenly, it’s gone. All that’s left is some red plastic, deflated and broken on the ground. [read the rest of the post…]

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I Broke My Trunk

Hooray for I Broke My Trunk!

I may have mentioned in the past that my family is a wee bit fond of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie books… OK, fine, we’re borderline-obsessed.

So, it should be no surprise – with our psychosis so clearly stated for everyone to judge – that we were excited to hear that I Broke My Trunk, a hysterical E&P book from last year, was named as a Geisel Honor Book at the 2012 ALA Youth Media Awards. (The Elephant & Piggie series previously won the 2009 Geisel Award for Are You Ready to Play Outside?)

And Mo Willems, being the mad genius that he is, decided to make this video to thank the Geisel Award committee. Enjoy.


Caldecott and Newbery Medals

You know those silver and gold medal stickers that you occasionally see on kids' books? THIS is where they come from...

This past Monday was one of the biggest days of the year for children’s and young adult publishing. It was AWARDS DAY – the day when the various award committees of the American Library Association (ALA) get together at their Midwinter Meeting and announce the recipients of the ALA Youth Media Awards, which rank among the most prestigious children and young adult literary awards in the world. It’s pretty much the Oscars for awesome kids’ books.

The prizes include the Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature; the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children; the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults; the Coretta Scott King Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults; the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book; along with many, many other insanely renowned honors.

You can read a full breakdown of the various award categories and winners here. And you can find some wonderful coverage of the awards and award winners here or here.

I didn’t do a big breaking news announcement of “who won what” on Monday because a). this isn’t a breaking news site and b). unlike the Oscar nominations, where I mostly just complain about the quality of the nominees – How did “Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets get snubbed for best song? How? HOW?? – I take a much more reactionary approach to the ALA Youth Media Awards. [read the rest of the post…]