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2016 Caldecott Medal Predictions

Caldecott Predictions

Let’s see, last year, I went 1 for 4. I’ll take it, I’ll take it – but I’m not puffing my chest out unless I can name two or more, so let’s see how I do this time around. Here’s hoping you see me on the afternoon of January 11 with a serious case of puffy chest.

For a second opinion, check out the Newbery/Caldecott 2016: Fall Prediction Edition at A Fuse #8 Production

Here are my picks for 2016 Caldecott glory:



Wordless books have a good track record when it comes to Caldecott. But that is far from the main reason this book is a serious contender. Miyares plays with perspective, uses color sparingly to focus reader attention, and employs creative techniques to turn “I’ve seen it a hundred times” scenes like splashing in a puddle and a rainy day downpour into gasp-worthy u spreads. He surprises and delights the reader with every page turn. It all ends with one of the most perfect conclusions of the year – a paper plane and a sunny day. These good vibes just might put it over the top in voter’s minds.



If you’ve got to bet on someone, why not a guy who is an unquestioned master of the form? Henkes has won Caldecott Medals and Honors before and he is not afraid to win again (that was my “I’m going to pretend I’m a sports commentator” comment). This book gets everything right as it explores just about every big emotion in life: boredom, sadness, loss, joy, and points in between. Nothing happens, everything happens. The whole world on a windowsill.

Last Stop

CALDECOTT HONOR PREDICTION: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Does it help or hurt an illustrator’s Caldecott chances to have two strong books out in the same year? On one hand, there could potentially be some vote splitting. One the other, it could rally support around a particular illustrator, pushing one of the books into the winner’s circle. With Christian Robinson in 2015, I’m thinking the latter. With his angular, retro style, Robinson’s bold use of color is perfect for portraying this story of love and compassion set in a vibrant community.


CALDECOTT HONOR PREDICTION: Wait by Antoinette Portis 

This book does so much with only three different words (hurry, wait, and yes for those keeping track). The minimalist text means the illustrations carry more of the storytelling load – always a plus when it comes to Caldecott. Portis shows a savvy grasp of visual storytelling, resulting in the sort of details that Caldecott committee member often drool over – the excellent use of page-turns to heighten drama, illustrations that allow for reader predictions, and a visual conclusion that satisfies.


CALDECOTT HONOR PREDICTION: Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Filled to the brim with atmosphere, Lenny & Lucy slowly reveals itself upon further readings. Here’s guessing the more the committee digs in to this book, the more impressed they become. The attention to detail is impeccable as the artwork perfectly reflects the fear and loneliness Peter grapples with as he moves to a new home next to the dark woods.


CALDECOTT HONOR PREDICTION: Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zacharia O’Hora

I’m calling this my Creepy Carrots pick. It’s the sort of book that shows up on the list and everyone says “I wasn’t really thinking about it for Caldecott, but now I see it.” Also, because they both have carrots. There’s tons of depth in these here pages (trust me, I read it to 26 separate K-4th grade classes a couple weeks back). I could have talked with students for twenty minutes alone about the pink bunny onesie that Wolfie wears to the Carrot Patch (as a disguise?) and how it results in his near-death experience with the bunny-loving bear. It would also potentially make a humorous Caldecott counterpoint to other, more serious books. Not that anyone on the committee is thinking that.

There are so many other books that I think have a great chance, but I have to cut myself off somewhere. What did I miss?

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, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. I love Sam Bloom’s suggestion (at Calling Caldecott) of Don Brown’s DROWNED CITY. I think it is amazing, but hadn’t considered it for Caldecott until his post. Perhaps not a likely call, but THIS ONE SUMMER last year and HUGO CABRET of my Newbery year (2008) did happen so who knows!

    • Travis Jonker says:

      That’s true. I love Drowned City, so I would be cheering for it.

      • Jonathan Hunt says:

        I’m on the JooHee Yoon bandwagon! I haven’t seen The Thurber book, but love BEASTLY VERSE!

    • Thanks for the shout-out, Monica! Obviously, I’m rooting for Drowned City. It’s pretty stellar.

      After our Mock Caldecott, I’m actually not loving Float as much as I once did. But I don’t have anything with which I can back that up other than saying that it feels a bit “Disney” to me. (And I don’t think ALSC has tied cynicism into the criteria yet, have they?) I remember nodding my head as I read Robin’s Calling Caldecott post; she expressed a few concerns that I agreed with, though I can’t remember exactly what they were now.

      Oh, and here’s someone else who I would be THRILLED to see get some Caldecott love: JooHee Yoon. I can’t decide whether I love Beastly Verse or the Thurber book better. She is a genius.

      • Me too re JooHee Yoon. While I’m partial to the Thurber book seeing as I had a hand in selecting it for the Times Best Illustrated list:), I do love Beastly Verse too. Is touch a Caldecott criteria? Smell? These two books are so unique and gorgeous.

      • Travis Jonker says:

        Is there an award out there for book production? There must be. The Tiger Who Would Be King should win that.

  2. I love your choices! My only concern for Last Stop on Market Street is that in one illustration there’s a man with a visual impairment that has a seeing eye dog and a cane. Not the most accurate description of a person with a disability. I’m not sure if it would hurt Christian Robinson’s chances. :(

    • Travis Jonker says:

      It would be interesting to know the things that stick in the committee’s craw. Will it be a situation where they notice this and feel the book as a whole is still strong enough? Will they notice and the book’s chances will be hurt? Will they not notice? That last one is unlikely.

  3. I’m crying because you left out BOATS FOR PAPA (and because BOATS FOR PAPA makes me weep). My Creepy Carrots pick would be ONE DAY, THE END – I know it’s a real long shot, but the combination of words and pictures is pretty ingenious. And I’d be shocked if Christian Robinson isn’t up there for LSMS or LAGS.

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Boats for Papa has the benefit of everyone loving the story. I think it’s the kind of book people really WANT to win an award, because it’s connecting with so many readers (myself and my K-4 students included). If anything, this will help ensure it gets a fair shake from the committee. It’s a “We love this book, let’s make sure we discuss it in depth” situation. Do I know this for sure? No. Just guessing here.

      One Day, The End is a wonderful book. And visually it seems to be breaking some ground. I would love to know if that book is getting a lot of attention from the committee.

  4. Jonathan Hunt says:

    We just held the San Diego County Library/San Diego County Office of Education Mock Caldecott last night, and FLOAT was our winner with IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA and BIG CHAIR, LITTLE BEAR as Honors! Also considered were WAITING, DROWNED CITY, LEO: A GHOST STORY, SUPERTRUCK, and A FINE DESSERT.

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Thanks for sharing these Mock winners, Jonathan. In a Village by the Sea is great, so it would be very cool to see it make an appearance.

  5. I thought THE ONLY CHILD by Guojing seemed medal worthy as well. There are no words besides the introduction, where the author explains how lonely she was under China’s one child policy.

    • Travis Jonker says:

      I completely agree! Unfortunately, I looked into that and the illustrator is ineligible – she isn’t a resident or citizen. Bummer – that is a beautiful book!

  6. Emily Scheinman says:

    Great list Travis, thank you!
    Some of my favorite pictures books this year: Swan by Laurel Snyder and Julie Morstad, This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad and Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi are not eligible – but still so worthy of praise!
    Adding to your stellar list: Leo, A Ghost Story, as mentioned above, by Mac Barnett and Christian Robinson, Home by Carson Ellis and My Pen by Christopher Myers.

    • Travis Jonker says:

      Thanks, Emily! Yeah it’s always a bit sad for the books that are ineligible, and you listed some wonderful ones.
      Of your additions, I particularly like My Pen – I would be very happy to see that book get a nod.

      • Eric Carpenter says:

        Yes to MY PEN getting some recognition.
        I’d also be ecstatic to see P.ZOKA LAYS AN EGG get some Caldecott love. In a great year for yellow covers (Wolfie, Finding Winnie, & P.ZOKA) I think Paschkis’ is tops.

    • Seconding LEO and SWAN, two of the most incredibly designed and illustrated picture books I’ve ever seen- not just in 2015. I would love to see both of them honored with a Caldecott and know that even if the committee choses not to recognize them, they are lasting, timeless, contributions to the cannon.

  7. Jennifer Laughran says:

    I’d love to see DROWNED CITY on the list. Also SONYA’S CHICKENS, THOUGH I don’t know if it is eligible – while Phoebe is American, technically the publisher is not… Hmmmmm….

    Also I want Two Mice to get Geisel AND Caldecott love.

    Oh heck, I want ALL my illustrators to get awards. AWARDS PLEASE! ;-) #biased

  8. Great list. Lots of favorites. Love all of these. I’d add LEO. Anyway Christian better win one soon.

  9. Oh I’m so glad someone mentioned Boats for Papa and Two Mice! Waiting, Boats, Fine Dessert or Home would each be worthy recipients of a medal! I wouldn’t mind Sidewalk Flowers winning either but I don’t think it’s eligible. What a great year for the picture book!

  10. I am hoping Drum Dream Girl makes the list. I’m also holding out hope that one of these years a book with exceptional photography, like Sweep Up the Sun, receives Caldecott recognition. If we had a Caldecott for books not eligible, The Dog that Nino Didn’t Have, The Only Child and Tea Party in the Woods would be way up there!

  11. I’m wondering why no one is talking about OSKAR AND THE EIGHT BLESSINGS for Caldecott? What the illustrator did to connect the not just the illustrations but the layout of the book to the theme is pretty stunning.

  12. Well I couldn’t contest any of those choices ALL are fabulous books. I fear your speculation on the Christian Robinson voting splitting may come to pass, as both MARKET and LEO are sublime works.

    As you have invited some other suggestions aside from your great shortlist:

    Two Mice
    The Moon is Going to Addey’s House
    Yard Sale
    In A Village by the Sea
    Special Delivery
    Mummy Cat
    A Fine Dessert
    Drum Dream Girl
    Sweep Up the Sun
    The Plan
    Water is Water
    Rude Cakes
    The Beat Ate Your Sandwich
    Boats for Papa
    Daylight Starlight Wildlife
    The Skunk
    Flutter and Hum
    The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch
    Ketsel the Cat Who Composed
    Finding Winnie
    Juneteenth for Mazie
    The Princess and the Pony
    Trombone Shorty
    Leo: A Ghost Story
    The Whisper
    Out of the Woods
    If You Plant a Seed
    How to Draw A Dragon

    There are others for sure. I am thinking this is the most wide open year in memory. Your predictions come off as quite convincing though.

  13. I accidentally left off a few essentials:

    Drowned City (I am sure this is eligible much as One Fine Summer was) -overwhelming, riveting book. It should be among the winners

    Night Owl
    Big Bear Little Chair
    Finding Spring
    Oskar and the Eight Blessings
    You Nest Here With Me
    Gingerbread For Liberty
    The Tiger Who Would Be King
    Tricky Vic
    My Bike
    Beep Beep Go to Sleep
    Funny Bones
    There Was an Old Mummy Who Swallowed a Spider
    Gordon Parks