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2017 Caldecott Medal Predictions

2017 Caldecott

Maybe if I look up the official definition of the word “predict”, it will unlock something inside of me that will allow me to pick every Caldecott book this year. Let’s try it.


Hm. Observation, experience, OR science? Can’t say I’m getting an unlock-y feeling.

I’ve been trying to predict the Caldecott annually since I started this blog. I usually hit on one of my picks. But this year – THIS year, I’m going to call ’em all.

It’s more of a “here are the books I think might win” than a “here are the books I’m hoping for in my heart of hearts”. Obviously, there are a slew of utterly deserving books not included that I would be thrilled to see win medals.

Here are my picks for 2017 Caldecott glory.

Caldecott Medal Prediction:


They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

The cat from the cover is rendered in a different style on almost every page of the book. But it’s not just a show-off move – it fits with the themes of perspective and observation contained in the story. To my eyes it has some of the most memorable illustrations of the year, which helps. I feel like science could come in to play in the discussions about this book (a-ha! I knew I looked up that definition for a reason). If the committee feels the way other animals “see” the cat isn’t up to snuff scientifically, that could be an issue for some. On the flip side, if the science checks out to the committee – bonus points.

Caldecott Honor Prediction:

Du Iz Tak

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

The invented language (more on that in a sec) of the text means the illustrations end up carrying more of the storytelling load. It’s an impressive feat as Ellis weaves a web of intricate insect story lines. Interesting thing to consider: a librarian friend (who knows her Caldecott stuff) mentioned to me that the invented language could raise some questions, depending on how the committee interprets the “in English” part of the Caldecott criteria. We both decided pretty quickly that it shouldn’t be an issue in this case (it is, after all, written by an English speaker for an American audience, and yes the invented language isn’t English, but it’s also not another real language), but it would certainly make the discussion for this book that much more interesting.

Caldecott Honor Prediction:


Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

I just don’t see how you can look at this book and not be astounded by the artwork. I see it meshing well with the Caldecott criteria – we’ll see if the committee agrees.

Caldecott Honor Prediction:


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael López

From the front/back endpaper transformation to the way the murals in the book interact with the setting, there’s a whole lot of subtle skill here that I think the Caldecott committee will notice.

What’s your prediction?

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. This year was filled with so much goodness, fun and creativity, I have trouble choosing my own picks let alone predicting what 15 folks will come up with! Just yesterday, I revisited Radiant Child. I was in love with this book before I left the preview last spring. Each time I pick it up, I love it more. The art is arresting, the language is gentle and lovely. This is my favorite to win the medal. I also really love what Dan Santat did in Are We There Yet?


  2. I totally agree with “They all saw a cat”

  3. Eric Carpenter says

    Personally I am hoping to see FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE and THE AIRPORT BOOK grab some Caldecott glory next month.

  4. I’d add to the mix Before Morning by Joyce Sidman and Beth Krommes. The artwork is remarkable and the text flows so beautifully–a great example of words and illustrations working perfectly in tandem to create such a strong sense of place. I’d also give a March Book Three a pretty fair shot. And I know photography so rarely wins, but April Pulley Sayre’s Best in Snow is gorgeous.

  5. Sam Juliano says

    THEY ALL SAW THE CAT is a stupendous book of course, and all the buzz has been with it for months now in all quarters. This is what is making me think that we may have another THE FARMER AND THE CLOWN here. In any event I am thinking it will win an Honor, not the gold. Noticeably missing here in your roundup are two absolute masterpieces, THUNDER BOY JR, and FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE (the book is absolutely electrifying in every sense!) and the work that may well be my personal favorite of the entire year -Sergio Ruzzier’s THIS IS NOT A PICTURE BOOK. I haven’t yet warmed up to the Ellis book (I adored HOME) for certain intrinsic reasons connected to the art, but I am in a supreme minority. Your other two honor choices are fantastic. (RADIANT CHILD, MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL) There are plenty of other magisterial books this year that should be considered: Christian Robinson’s SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL and THE DEAD BIRD, John Hendrix’s’ MIRACLE MAN: THE STORY OF JESUS; Phillip C. Stead’s IDEAS ARE ALL AROUND, Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Matthew Cordell’s THE KNOWING BOOK, Jeff Gottesfeld and Peter McCarty’s THE TREE IN THE COURTYARD, Heather Lang and Raul Colon’s FEARLESS FLYERS, Jennifer Thermes’s CHARLES DARWIN; Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comfort’s ADA’S VIOLIN, Ed Young’s THE CAT ON HUNGER MOUNTAIN, Fiona Robinson’s ADA’S IDEAS, Vera Brosgol’s LEAVE ME ALONE!, Evan Turk’s THE STORYTELLER, Michelle Cuevas and Erin E. Stead’s THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES, Wendell Minor’s WILLA, Barbara McClintock’s LOST & FOUND Adele and Simone in China, Randy Cecil’s LUCY, Rick Lieder and Helen Frost’s AMONG A THOUSAND FIREFLIES, Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo’s THE SOUND OF SILENCE, Duncan Tonatiuh’s THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR, Anne Hunter’s CRICKET SONG, Patrick Downes and Boris Kulikov’s COME, HOME ANGUS, Dan Richards and Jeff Newman’s CAN ONE BALLOON MAKE AN ELEPHANT FLY?, Jabari Asim and E.B. Lewis’s PREACHING TO THE CHICKENS, Salina Yoon’s BE A FRIEND, Beth Krommes and Joyce Sidman’s BEFORE MORNING, Melissa Sweet’s SOME WRITER, Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo’s TWENTY YAWNS, Elizabeth Rose Stanton’s PEDDLES, Lynn Rae Perkins’s FRANK AND LUCKY GET SCHOOLED, Deborah Freedman’s SHY, Lisa Brown’s THE AIRPORT BOOK, and of course that fabulous art in JAZZ DAY (Francis Vellejo) And some others, but really I have overstayed my welcome already.

    I do understand completely that this post is a PREDICTION round-up, it is NOT your personal favorite list. In any case, such a rich, diverse and incredible year in picture books.

    CAT seems like a sure thing for ONE of the awards, RADIANT CHILD would appear to have an excellent shot, but I will myself replace Ellis’s book and put FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE as as very likely to finish in the winner’s circle. And I am thinking THUNDER BOY JR. is in for one of them. BEAUTIFUL is an excellent prediction. As to what else, I have my fingers crossed for Mr. Ruzzier and a few others from my own round-up.

    Thank you for the great post!

  6. Sam Juliano says

    Actually I can say I think SCHOOL’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL will be one of the winners especially if they go with 4 or 5 honor books.

  7. Michele Rees says

    I am predicting Maybe Something Beautiful for the medal with honors to Thunder Boy Jr and School’s First Day of School.

  8. Alyson Whatcott says

    The first two, They All Saw a Cat and Duz iz Tak? are big hits in my second grade classroom. I haven’t added up the totals, but they have probably won the mock Caldecott awards in our room. I wasn’t getting Duz iz Tak? at first, but my students pointed out some finer details of the pictures of it, and now I am sold.

  9. Patricia Toht says

    My favorite of the year is SOME WRITER!: THE STORY OF E.B. WHITE by Melissa Sweet.

  10. Sam Juliano says

    Funny how time with particular books can drastically alter your assessment. As a postscript to my comments above I can say unequivocally I have fallen head over heals for DU IZ TAK?, which I earlier was contesting on your prediction scroll. This exquisite, ingenious book DOES indeed deserve to win one of the medals, and I applaud you for feeling that way from the outset.

  11. Allison Grover Khoury says

    Interesting predictions. I don’t have predictions – too daunting for me. But the ones I love and hope for beyond the ones predicted above are:
    Giant Squid
    Freedom in Congo Square
    Before Morning
    The Airport Book
    Jazz Day
    A lot of my classes voted The Night Gardener, Faraway Fox, Excellent Ed in our mock Caldecotts by class.
    Looking forward to Monday.