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The 2012 Newbery, Caldecott, and Geisel: Winners and Reactions

The 2012 Youth Media Awards have been bestowed. Let’s chat about the categories that are nearest and dearest to me.

Newbery Medal: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Newbery Honor: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai
Newbery Honor: Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

Who knew what was going to happen here? How about Breaking Stalin’s Nose, eh? That one was unexcpected. I haven’t read it, so I can’t say too much other than I like when the Newbery keeps me on my toes. Dead End in Norvelt certainly received a lot of positive attention over the course of the year, but it seemed like more people were championing it as an honor than taking the top slot. Great to see Gantos take the medal. Inside Out and Back Again was the most expected on the list, having won the Nation Book Award and topping just about every best of the year list.

Caldecott Medal: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
Caldecott Honor: Blackout by John Rocco
Caldecott Honor: Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
Caldecott Honor: Me … Jane by Patrick McDonnell

With Me…Jane and Grandpa Green winning honors, I went 2-5 in my predictions. It’s safe to say this category was devoid of any major surprises. Blackout was another book that was getting a good dose of attention. Winner A Ball for Daisy was the most unexpected for me, but a sound choice.

Geisel Medal: Tales for Very Picky Eaters by Josh Schneider
Geisel Honor: I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems
Geisel Honor: I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
Geisel Honor: See Me Run by Paul Meisel

Two surprises and one non-surprise:

Surprise #1: Seeing I Want My Hat Back turn up here. But it makes sense – the simple, repetitive text is a perfect fit for this beginning reader award.

Surprise #2: The winner, Tales for Picky Very Picky Eaters, caught me off guard. But is was a pleasant surprise – I liked this one quite a bit.

Non-surprise #1: Leading the non-surprises was Mo Willems picking up another (and deserved) Geisel for I Broke My Trunk.

Honoree See Me Run was not on my radar – always fun to have a book to track down.

What was your reaction?

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 really liked Breaking Stalin’s Nose, and I’m pleased (though surprised since I hadn’t seen anyone talking about it as a contender) to see it get an honor.

  2. I’m thrilled that Gantos won the Newbery. And from the moment it came out, I thought I Want My Hat Back was pitch-perfect for beginning readers. As for Tales for Very Picky Eaters, I found the committee’s selection hard to swallow.

  3. I was never on board with the “I Want My Hat Back” as a Caldecott argument, but as a Geisel… yeah, I get that. I’m good with that choice. Don’t know the winner, and of course am happy for Mo.

    You know that I loved “Blackout” and thought “Grandpa Green” was certain for something in Caldecott. I was pretty sure “Me… Jane” would get in there too, but the winner surprised me – esp over the honors books. I wonder if they kind of split the vote and with the abstract art vote all going to Daisy. Hmmm.

    Honestly, I didn’t even try on the Newbery but was surprised that most of the books that were discussed did not make the list at all.

  4. I’m just excited that I’ve already read the Newbery winner. That makes me feel like a good librarian.

  5. I am glad I Want My Hat Back got its Geisel honor — I didn’t like it for the Caldecott, but Geisel is a perfect fit.

    A Ball for Daisy was a surprise for me. There are a lot of other books I found more distinguished, but perhaps that’s just because Raschka’s art style doesn’t appeal to me.

    Haven’t read any of the Newbery books yet . . . so I can’t really say much about those.

  6. Although I normally love Jack Gantos, I couldn’t even finish Dead End in Norvelt. I found it dreadfully boring, I’m surprised it won. Very sad that Okay for now didn’t even get an honor mention.

  7. Another year where I’ve read none of the Newbery winners…yet. I love Mr. Gantos and his work, so kudos to him. And I look forward to reading the other two honor books. But I, too, and surprised by the absence of Okay For Now, which I would have voted #1…by far. Maybe #1 of the last few years.

  8. Personally, I’m *not* surprised Okay For Now didn’t get anything. A book that polarizing rarely does well with a committee, despite what the blogosphere thinks. When we discussed it in our Mock Newbery we spent by far the most time on this one, sharing equal parts love and disdain.

    I can’t begin to express my elation at the Coretta Scott King results. Underground was my favorite picture book of the year, and Kadir Nelson is seriously the man – a very deserving win for his writing and honor for his illustrations.

  9. roger widmer says

    not sure if the adults who chose de in norvelt really know what kids like to read? fun story for those of us who grew up in the 60s but not newbery class. breaking stalin’s nose was interesting but again not a worthy choice. inside out and back again the only true winner.

  10. Alas! I hadn’t read ANY of the Newbery honorees. Although I wanted OKAY FOR NOW to win, I didn’t really expect it to. At our kidlit book club meeting, some members were adamant that it only works if you call it fantasy! They said no one could put a Broadway play together that quickly, and several other complaints. I was super happy that it did win an Odyssey Honor, since that doesn’t have to take into account the plausibility of the plot, and the reader makes the experience of the book even better.

    I wasn’t surprised at all about A BALL FOR DAISY. When I first read it, I thought it might be the winner. Glad Me…Jane was in there, though a little sad for STARS.

    Other ones I was so happy turned up somewhere else were WONDERSTRUCK with the Schneider Award, and HEART AND SOUL with Coretta Scott King win and honors. Yes! Oh, and THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU had the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature..

  11. I’ve had high school students tell me how funny Dead End in Norvelt is!And one of the STUDENT mock Newbery committees in this area chose it as their winner. Your mileage may vary.