100 Scope Notes
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The Caldecott Challenge (Part I)

Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V

The Plan: Read every Caldecott-winning book in one day. Just the medal winners – honors need not apply (because your application will be denied). The idea popped into my head over a year ago, and seems like a good way to fill in the gaps in my Caldecott reading and/or drive me insane. An enticing mix.

The Place:

This is my public library. I quite like it. This is where I’ll try to do something that has never been accomplished before (you may want to fact-check that statement).

The Books:

I mad-dogged the Caldecott section as I arrived. No messing around. The is the first of many times I would curse The Invention of Hugo Cabret – this monster of a book is the most likely title to throw a wrench into my plans.

The Chair:

I found this chair in a quiet corner of the library. I need an out-of-the-way spot, because I want to document my reading with photos (see below) and video (see above).

By my count, there are 73 books here in total. My plan is to be fairly systematic about it. Bring a big bunch of books back to my seat, take each one off the pile, photo, video, read, repeat. Let’s see how this goes.

1938: Animals of the Bible, A Picture Book , illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop; text: selected by Helen Dean Fish (Lippincott)

1939: Mei Li by Thomas Handforth (Doubleday)

1940: Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire (Doubleday)

1941: They Were Strong and Good , by Robert Lawson (Viking)

1942: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (Viking)

1943: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (Houghton)

1944: Many Moons , illustrated by Louis Slobodkin; text: James Thurber (Harcourt)

1945: Prayer for a Child , illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones; text: Rachel Field (Macmillan)

1946: The Rooster Crows by Maud & Miska Petersham (Macmillan)

1947: The Little Island , illustrated by Leonard Weisgard; text: Golden MacDonald, pseud. [Margaret Wise Brown] (Doubleday)

1948: White Snow, Bright Snow , illustrated by Roger Duvoisin; text: Alvin Tresselt (Lothrop)

1949: The Big Snow by Berta & Elmer Hader (Macmillan)

1950: Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi (Scribner)

1951: The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous (Scribner)

Reflections: It’s pretty refreshing to read some of these early winners. Nature and the changing of the seasons are the dominant subjects. Many of them hold up remarkably well.

Progress: The going is…not as quick as I’d like. A number of the early winners are far from brief (are you listening Abraham Lincoln?) Needless to say, I’m concerned.

Tune in tomorrow for The Caldecott Challenge (Part II).

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. How interesting! You’re lucky that your local public library had all the Caldecotts! When I wanted to read the early ones a few years back, I had to schlep into NYC and the NYPL. My last school library owned They were Good and Strong though, and it was in fantastic condition. Of course, it was that way b/c it was never checked out, but still…

    • It did work out well that my library has a non-circulating collection of all the Caldecott winners. I didn’t check the shelves to see if they were all available, but it would have made my project impossible to attempt if any were checked out!

  2. I have never seen or read Little Island, I confess. Thanks for posting all the pictures. And, looking at these books, has my wishing for snow. Lots of snow. Like tonight or this week!

    • I appreciate the honesty, Ed. And I’m with you – during the project there were a couple that I had not laid eyes on, which was definitely part of the fun.

  3. I’ll be watching your progress with great interest. Just finished KT Horning’s Caldecott class and I have to admitt the reading almost killed me. I couldn’t keep up. I can’t imagine doing it in one day. Although I enjoyed the d’Aulaire’s illustrations I never did read Abraham LIncoln all the way through. My two least favorite books were in this first batch, THE EGG TREE and THE LITTLE ISLAND. I found the later’s illustrations reminicent of bad Motel art.

    • Well I’m with you on not being able to imagine it – we’ll soon see if I was successful or not (just manufacturing a little suspense here). I hear you on some of the older illustrations not exactly floating boats – between Egg Tree and Little Island, I’m more a fan of the latter.

  4. Travis — I love Caldecott Week! Thanks for bringing us to your library. -John

    P.S. Is that chair comfortable?

    • Doesn’t look like it, but it was very comfortable. I could have sat in that thing all day! (Wait, I did).

  5. Christopher says:

    I set out to read all of the Caldecott winners AND honors by the end of this year. I had a similar situation like Brenda. Many trips into the Schwartzmann Building later, I’m almost through with my challenge. Too bad some of the honor books are out of print and are completely impossible to find (unless you’ve got a thousand dollars to loan me to buy ebay copies, haha).

  6. I just spent the day reading a stack of 46 picture books I have really been wanting to read. It was a super great day! I discovered ~8 books that are now on my list of very favorite books ever.

    A Little House was one of the 46 books I read. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel really sucking me in as a child.

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