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Creating the Caldecott Frankenstein

Creating an exceptional work of children’s literature is as far from a scientific endeavor as you can get. If you try to apply a formula, you’re doomed. But if we want to build the Caldecott Frankenstein, we’re going to have to get scientific – weird scientific. My goal is to assemble a book using the elements most commonly found in Caldecott-winning titles. So, with a number-crunching assist from word cloud website Tagxedo, let’s get started.

Step One: Title

If you’re trying to put together a Caldecott-winning book, one thing is certain – it must be about something little. The word “little” has appeared five times in Caldecott Medal-winning books – more than any other (ignoring common words like “the”, “an”, etc.). You’re also going to want to throw “story”, “snow”, “day”, and “man” in there somewhere, as those are all tied for the second most popular word. Therefore the perfect Caldecott-winning title is…

The Story of Little Snow Man Day

Step Two: Illustrator

Who will illustrate this book? David is the clear winner for the first name, appearing seven times among Caldecott-winners. The most popular female name is Marcia. The last name race is (not surprisingly) a tie between Weisner and Brown. So here are our options:

David Weisner

David Brown

Marcia Weisner

Marcia Brown

Let’s go with…

David Brown

Step Three: Artistic Medium

For this element of our Caldecott Frankenstein, the choice is clear.


Step Four: Publisher

So who’s going to put this thing out? It appears that the big winner is…


The pieces have been chosen. Now it’s time to assemble.

With the help of a Creative Commons-licensed image and the photo editing site Picnik, I present the Caldecott Frankenstein:

Someone needs to make this book a reality. A Caldecott lock if ever there was one.

(Image: “snowman dog child” http://flic.kr/p/9g4gLN)

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. Well played!

  2. This is seriously awesome. I envision a whole series of posts by award and country.

  3. So funny!

  4. Hi, I really enjoyed this. You are hilarious! I would have liked to have see you go with the woman’s name – why not go for Marcia Brown?? Was there an indication that more men than women have won? Or was there some bias sneaking in? Or was David Brown funnier than Marcia Brown? I thought Marcia Brown was funnier myself. Many thanks!

    • I think the reason I went with David Brown is just because Marcia Brown was the actual name of a Caldecott winner, and I wanted the process to generate a new name.


  1. […] Travis Jonker has distilled the elements most likely to win a book the Caldecott Medal. Check out his logic over at Scope Notes! […]