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Breakdown: The NYT Best Illustrated/Caldecott Overlap

The other day on twitter, Kelly Mueller (@muellerspace) asked me if I’d ever taken a look at how books on the annual New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books list (click here for the 2014 list) fare in terms of Caldecott. I looked at the last ten years of data and made a few interesting discoveries.

Above is a chart of the overall number of books, by year*, selected for the NYT Best Illustrated list that went on to win either a Caldecott Honor or Caldecott Medal. Below is a list of the titles of those books.

Honor | Medal

2004: Kitten’s First Full Moon

2005: The Hello, Goodbye Window

2006: Gone Wild, Flotsam

2007: First the Egg, The Wall

2008: A River of Words

2009: All the World, The Lion & the Mouse

2010: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

2011: Grandpa Green, Me…Jane, A Ball for Daisy

2012: None

2013: Journey, Locomotive

2014: ???

Some observations on the last ten years of data:

  • There has been only one year (2012) where none of the books on the Best Illustrated list won a Caldecott Honor or Medal. So 90% of the time at least one of the Best Illustrated books has won a Caldecott Honor or Medal.
  • On average 1.5 books on the Best Illustrated list each year go on to win a Caldecott Honor or Medal.
  • Seven times out of 10 a book on the Best Illustrated list has gone on to win the Caldecott Medal. Yes, 70% of the time a book on the Best Illustrated list has won the gold in the last decade. That’s an impressive figure.
  • The best illustrated list contains the Caldecott Medal winner almost as much as it contains Caldecott Honor winners, with a total of seven Caldecott Medal books and eight Caldecott Honor books.

It makes me wonder about this year’s Best Illustrated list. In my opinion, of the 10 titles, Draw! and The Baby Tree have the best chance to nab Caldecott as well.

What do you think?

(*Due to the fact that the Caldecott Medal is always awarded in January for the previous year’s books, it doesn’t match up with the year of the Best Illustrated list. For example, Kitten’s First Full Moon was on the 2004 Best Illustrated list, but won the 2005 Caldecott Medal.)

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 need to change the yellow font color! Some of your readers are OLD.

  2. Great write-up! I thought this was the perfect place for an analysis like that. You made a couple interesting points that I hadn’t thought of. I think when I was looking at the list for Caldecott-eligible books, 6/10 were eligible. It’s just the illustrator whose residence matters, right – not the author’s? I also think Draw! has one of the best chances.

  3. Ooooh! Great idea, Kelly — and nifty execution, Travis.

    So, now I’m wondering about the Caldecott medalists/honor books that the NYT missed over the past 10 years. Did any other best-of list do a better job of identifying those than the NYT did?

    • Travis Jonker says:

      That’s a good question, Chris. I’d be curious if anyone knows a list that tends to “predict” Caldecott better than Best Illustrated.

  4. It’s also true that the NYTimes list can include books ineligible for Caldecott, right?

  5. So happy to see Baby Tree on their list and as one of your top contenders. It is one of my favorites this year and I’ve been surprised by the lack of buzz around it.

  6. So excited to be looking at this kind of data… again… where did the year go?
    Love ALA awards season…
    Thanks Travis (and Kelly) for the great post…
    Off to curl up with some great books…