100 Scope Notes
Inside 100 Scope Notes

Mock Caldecott 2013: The Set-Up

I decided to conduct a Mock Caldecott among the nine second grade classes in my school district. Valuable learning experience for students, or elaborate sham for me to gather enough data to finally nail my annual Caldecott predictions?

You be the judge.

Step 1: Grade Level
Who takes part? I knew going in we didn’t have the resources needed to mock Caldecott with every student K-2. I decided to go with second grade for two reasons.

1. I would be fairly certain that none of the books would be “over their heads”.
2. Second graders would be able to analyze and rate the books with a bit more depth than the K-1 crowd.

Step 2: Books
Selecting the books for students to read was difficult. What if I didn’t include any books that go on to win a Caldecott medal or honor? That’s a definite possibility. After some hashing and re-hashing, I settled on 16 titles that seemed to be strong contenders.

And with that, I do the washing my hands clean motion to signify – “these are the books – there is nothing more I can do, youngsters”.

Step 3: Advertising
2nd grade teacher and Twitter user @nikiohsbarnes and I collaborated on a board to display all the books. Bonus points if you can spot the two letters I had to cut out by hand¹. Aside from building interest, this is where we will post the results of the student vote.

¹The “D” and the second “O”.

Step 4: Grouping and Scheduling
I put the books into four groups of four and made a schedule for how they would circulate from class to class. While we already had many of the books in our system, I placed an order to fill the gaps and make sure we had two copies of each book. Included in every bag is information on the Caldecott Medal and how to go about rating the books. Each classroom gets a group of books to read and rate for one week. After that, I rotate them to the next class on the schedule.

Step 5: Reviewing
Have you seen the Caldecott criteria? Not exactly kid friendly (nor are they meant to be). I wanted a rating system that was simple for students to understand and execute, yet maintained ties to the spirit of the award. So I asked teachers to have students, as a class, rate each book on a scale of 1-5 for illustrations (5 is best), and 1-5 for story. In the information packet I reminded students that the Caldecott is an award for illustrations, but that the story also plays an important role.

This is where things get high tech – if you are a time traveller from the 1800s. Teachers write the scores on Post It notes and slap them on the inside cover of the book. This seemed like the most hassle-free way to go. When all the ratings are in, I’ll tabulate them, giving more weight to the illustration scores (see also: “I’m still figuring it out”).

Step 6: Circulating
That’s what’s happening right now. It’s been great to hear feedback from students and teachers about the books. The results are back in 2 weeks – I’ll let you know how things turn out.

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 think you nailed that list and will be proclaimed the guru for predicting the Caldecotts! I loved Nighttime Ninja and Red Knit Cap Girl. I hope one of those two gets a nod! The rest of your books look great and I must track them down.

  2. So fun! I really hope one of these books wins! My students will be so excited!

  3. So fun! My second graders would love this. Would you be willing to share the letter in your photos that you shared with teachers and students?

  4. I can’t wait to share the titles with my second graders. I am familiar with a many of these contenders. I would love it if you can share the letter you gave out to the teachers as well. I will send an email seperately.

  5. Thanks for explaining the idea. I want to try a mock Caldecott with my second graders. I have a handful of books that I would like to consider, but will need to get some more from the public library. Your idea for simplifying the criteria is helpful too. Everytime I read a book with an award sticker the students always ask about it, so I thought this would be a good idea. I have 25 students in my class. Do you let them vote for more than one? I am worried with only 25 kids, the votes will be spread to thin for a clear winner. I am considering putting a ballot on our class blog too. What do you think?

    • Carol Simon Levin says

      I’ve run Mock Caldecotts for many years. Debra, my directions might be helpful.
      Carol Simon Levin Somerset County Library Bridgewater

      I set up the room with space in front of the librarian for kids to sit and place approx. 25 Caldecott Candidate books on tables around the room. (We choose the books to display by looking at Mock Caldecott lists on the web, as well as suggestions from Judy Freeman and other librarians on PUBYAC & NJYAC and then narrow the 100+ books to a more manageable 25 for the program.) In 2011, started with The Evansville Vanderburgh list (includes starred reviews) http://www.evpl.org/kids/caldecott/caldecott10.aspx and then added from these:



      Before the program, I insert bookmarks pre-printed with a column of numbers into each book. The numbered column makes figuring out how many votes a book got easier. We write the first word of the title on each bookmark, both so that if it falls out you’ll know where it came from and also to be able to do final tallies later.

      I have kids sit on floor in front of me & ask what the Caldecott Award is for; get a definition of illustrator. (5 min.)

      I show some winner(s) and honor books from past years; leaf through pictures; ask kids to help figure out what made the illustrations “exceptional/distinctive.” I share some of the comments made the ALA Caldecott Committee in their press releases justifying their choices (available on the ALA Caldecott site). Judy Freeman has a good set of Caldecott talking points for Norton Juster’s The Hello, Goodbye Window at:
      http://www.hyperionbooksforchildren.com/data/books/tgdoc/07868091401500.doc (pp. 13-14) (10min.)

      I mention that the Caldecott Committee (librarians) decide in secret – no one knows for sure which books are their finalists… the books on the tables are a best guess — favorites mentioned by librarians all over the country.(2 min.)

      Then I explain the idea of “mock” election. The kids will 10 minutes to examine the 25 candidates looking at what makes their illustrations special — keeping in mind that they may chose 5 favorites — when they have looked through all 25, have them come up to get a pencil and then go mark their initials (or first name) on the bookmarks of their 5 favorites. (10 min.)

      We collect the books, have an assistant sort them by number of votes, and read aloud those with the most votes (for longer picture books, read aloud a section and booktalk the rest.) (20-30 min.)

      Then we stand the semi-finalist books (the ones read aloud) on tables around the room and ask the kids to stand by the book that they think should be the Caldecott Winner. We then eliminate those books that only have a couple of votes and have the students move to their favorite remaining title. When there are 3-5 books remaining, count the students for each to determine winner & honor books. (5 min.)

      Thank the students for voting; announce where their results will be
      posted; and tell them to when the “Real” Caldecott Winners will be announced.

      Though I haven’t seen it, ALA offers The Newbery & Caldecott Mock Election Kit: Choosing Champions in Children’s Books on their website if you want more ideas, forms, etc.

  6. Travis,

    Thank you so much for the direction. It will be helpful for the 2014 Mock. I am a public librarian and attempted a Mock Caldecott for the first time with a class of 26 first graders, whose teacher welcomes my weekly visits and allows me to use her students as literacy guinea pigs:)). It was difficult to say the least, explaining the criteria and process in a kid-friendly manner. We have two more weeks of reviewing and voting. I’m excited and already looking forward to streamlining and possibly working with the second grade teachers, as these students move forward and adding the fourth graders for the 2014 Mock.

  7. Nice read. Your books should be awarded.


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