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2012 Caldecott Medal Predictions

Oh, man. This is going to be tough. And here I thought last year was wide open. The 2012 Caldecott race puts it to shame. While I went 1 for 4 last time around, I did manage to include big winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Time to give it another try. These aren’t necessarily the books I think should win, but what I predict will get some shiny medals come January.

Here are my picks for 2012 Caldecott glory.

Caldecott Medal Prediction: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Expertly combining ink, print techniques, and one killer photograph, Me…Jane is as artistically ambitious as it is heartfelt. This variety of techniques (and the fact that McDonnell comes from a cartooning background) makes Me…Jane a subtly rebellious pick. And who doesn’t love to engage in a little subtle rebellion? This is the sort of book that can build a consensus.


Caldecott Honor Prediction: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

At first read, I didn’t consider this a contender for Caldecott. Too divisive, artwork to spare. But as weeks have passed and the legend of Jon Klassen’s book continues to grow, I’m prepared to eat my hat. The distinctive, starkly beautiful illustrations are up to the challenge of carrying this deadpan masterpiece. While it may not make the cut on account of its love-it-or-hate-it conclusion, here’s guessing the Caldecott committee will be hip to what Klassen is selling.


Caldecott Honor Prediction: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith

While I’m not as gung-ho about the story as some, I am absolutely floored by the artwork. Few books released in 2011 are more pleasing to look at. The unique method of visual storytelling used is also likely to earn votes. Grandpa Green uses his art (topiary) to preserve his memories. Readers learn about his life through the visuals as much (or more) than the text. A title that’s bound to gather strong supporters.


Caldecott Honor Prediction: Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee

When a book contains not one, but two of the most awe-inspiring spreads found in any picture book published in the calendar year, it becomes impossible to ignore.

Treading on familiar ground with her 2010 Caldecott honor All The World, Marla Frazee has produced another stunner.


Caldecott Honor Prediction: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

In my review of Wonderstruck, I noted that if we were to apply science, Brian Selznick’s remarkable text/illustration mashup would win the Caldecott medal hands down. Well, a science this is not. While I won’t be surprised to see Wonderstruck take the top spot, I’m predicting an honor.

Not that I look at the list, it seems to be a group of rather safe picks. Plenty of previous Caldecott honor and medal winners in the bunch. Agree? Disagree? Strongly disagree? Let’s hear your picks in the comments.

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. I am such a fan of Frazee – agree that Stars should be a contender. Her work is always filled with so much joy

    • Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and call her the Denzel Washington of children’s lit. Every time out she should get an award.

  2. I like your list! I agree with your comments about each book as well. I just had Stars in my hand for the first time the other day and leaned over to show my friend, who is an art teacher, those two spreads! They are uplifting and inspiring. I am loving the buzz around I Want My Hat Back. I think it is brilliantly executed and will find a broader audience than some believe.

    Nicely done, Travis!

    • Thanks, Jennifer. The Hat Back prospects are interesting to me. It would certainly be a Caldecott departure. But so well done.

  3. I loved ME…JANE as well but have had a hard time getting kids interested. Their favorites include BLACKOUT and BLUE CHICKEN. I am for GRANDPA GREEN all the way.

    • I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Blue Chicken or Blackout win Caldecott. To me, Blue Chicken is especially successful artistically. That’s a difficult book to pull off, melding the page and the “real” world. It is interesting too your comments about Me…Jane. I haven’t read it to a group, but I can see how reactions might not be that enthusiastic. Although that sort of thing isn’t really taken into consideration for Caldecott.

  4. I’d definitely put Blackout and Blue Chicken as possibilities. I’d also say “A Few Blocks” but I think the illustrator is Canadian, and makes it ineligible, right?

    If I were to bet money on the winner, I’d put it on Grandpa Green.

    • More support for Blackout and Blue Chicken! It will be interesting to see how they fare. From the Caldecott Terms and Criteria:
      “The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.”
      That whole residents thing throws me off. Looking at Cybele Young’s bio, it does look like she’s a Canadian resident/citizen, so she would not be eligible.

  5. I have not read Grandpa Green…must fix that!

    • It’s very nice to look at. I struggle with the overall effectiveness of the story for young readers, but I think it could work very well in the right situation.

  6. My daughter really likes “Me…Jane.” I agree that “Me…Jane” and “Grandpa Green” work best as one-on-one reads. If we’re keeping score on favorites, my son prefers “I Want My Hat Back” and pretends he is the bear. He knows all the lines by heart.

    Sadly, we haven’t seen Stars yet! We did however enjoy Pinkney’s newest, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

    Other favorites: “Where’s Walrus?,” “Perfect Square,” and “Over and Under the Snow.”

    • Twinkle, Twinkle was really well done. I know Mr. Pinkney recently received a Caldecott, but I’m surprised we haven’t heard more about that book. I also very much like Perfect Square and Where’s Walrus? I’m especially intrigued to see if Perfect Square ends up on the list – the illustrations are simple, but also wildly creative and wonderfully executed.

  7. I so want Me . . . Jane to win, but love all your other choices, too. Thanks.

  8. As I was reading my aforementioned stack of fantastic books a couple days ago, I was thinking that libraries should create adult picture books sections. There are some excellent picture books whose meaning would fly right over my kids’ heads or that my kids would understand but have little interest in. I would put Grandpa Green in the adult picture book section…along with picture books such as Fox by Margaret Wild, Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, and In the Time of the Drums illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

  9. Good picks, Travis! Out of your 5 picks, Wonderstruck is the one I would most likely get behind. Now, as the #1 member of Kadir Nelson’s unofficial fan club I’m obviously biased here, but his two 2011 titles – Heart and Soul and A Nation’s Hope – have me the most excited. I would love to see one of those two take the gold.

  10. As many of the comments mentioned, I love Blackout as well and would love to see it on the list! And I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wonderstruck on the list either. I do really enjoy Grandpa Green, so I’d be happy with an honor for that book. And I haven’t gotten my hands on Stars yet but I’m eagerly awaiting my hold to come in-it looks beautiful!

    What are you thoughts on Brother Sun, Sister Moon? The paperwork artwork in that book is stunning but I don’t see it showing up on many mock lists and it’s not getting much buzz. Maybe the paperwork isn’t a new thing so it doesn’t look as impressive?

  11. I am in love with Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku.

    I used Grandpa Green w/ my kinders. After we read the book they had to create a topiary of an important event in their lives.

  12. Good list. What about Chris Raschka’s A BALL FOR DAISY? He is a master of line and emotion.

    A question about I WANT MY HAT BACK: Aside from the wit and execution, do you think the similarity of composition on almost every page might be a drawback for the committee?

    • A Ball for Daisy was very well done – it will be interesting to see if it turns up with some hardware. Your question about Hat Back is an important one. While the art is repetitive, it matches the tone and repetition of the text perfectly. The illustrations themselves are lovely, and there are a number of subtle touches that show a lot of skill. Really, who knows where that one will end up, but I’d like to think it will pull an honor.

  13. With an hour left to go, I’m going to throw down my two cents. (I’d never be so bold as to do this in an actual blog post.) My three favorites, as far as the quality of the illustrations go, are Grandpa Green, Heart and Soul, and I Want My Hat Back. I love Me…Jane, but I don’t think the illustrations rival those of Lane Smith, Kadir Nelson, or Jon Klassen. I want Kadir Nelson to win. I think he’s long overdue. However, I kind of want to head back in time and give it to him for one of his previous books. While I love Lane Smith’s illustrations, I cannot personally give him the Caldecott b/c his book doesn’t have kid appeal. (I know that won’t stop the Caldecott committee, so perhaps Grandpa Green will be the big winner.) That said, with the best overall package of fantastic illustrations combined with a great story, I am putting my weight behind I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen. Go Jon! (And Kadir! I’ll be a happy camper if you win as well.)