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Our 2017 Mock Caldecott (In 3 Steps)


I work at a K-4 elementary school. Here’s how were’re running our 2017 Mock Caldecott.

Step 0: (Bonus Step, Y’all) The Prep.

Before we get into the books that might win this year, we talk about what the Caldecott Medal is and read a past winner. I keep the criteria talk pretty basic – explain how it’s an award for the best pictures in a picture book, but it’s also important how they support the story. I love reading This Is Not My Hat and then afterward asking students to give reasons why the book might have won the Caldecott Medal. Some really good discussion comes out of that, and kids start to get a sense of why a book might win.

We also watch the previous year’s Caldecott announcement video.

Step 1: The Books

My colleague Niki Barnes and I try to come up with a diverse group of books that we think might be in the discussion for winning medals. For time reasons, our list needs to be fairly small. This is hard.

Step 2: The Reading and Discussing

Once the books are chosen, we get to reading. When classes come and see me in the library, we read two books back to back each week. I like this method because it allows students to make comparisons.

After we read I have students do a quick show-of-hands vote for the book they felt had the strongest illustrations. Then I ask students to give a reason why they chose that particular book. Discussions ensue.

Step 3: The Voting

Time to decide. I show students all the books again, remind them about the (kid friendly version of) the Caldecott criteria, and students pick their favorite. I make a ballot with pictures of the books to make it easier for all grades to take part. Students circle their pick.

I add up the votes: top vote-getter wins the Medal, and the next closest win Honors.

If you haven’t tried this with your students, I think you’d have fun with it.

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. Tracey Elrod says:

    I am planning to do this next year with several grade levels. Do you have kid-friendly Caldecott criteria that you could share? Thanks!

  2. Lovely list. Maybe Something Beautiful, They All Saw a Cat and Radiant Child are also on my #MockCaldecott list. I have done Mock Caldecott with a 3/4 class, then a 2/3 and now a Grade 4 & 5 class. Rich discussions and amazing observations at every age. It’s incredible what kids can notice when we give them time, space and permission to pay close attention and share.

  3. I would also love a copy of your kid friendly Caldecott criteria if you are willing to share. This is my first year as a TL and I love this idea–and all these books!

  4. Nicole Barnes says:

    Ha! Yes, narrowing the books is the hardest part by far!! I loved how you kept adding books this year. ;) I’m hoping at least 2 of our picks make it this year. It’s always nice when we pick some that win. :)