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2018 Caldecott Medal Predictions

Caldecott 2018

Without a doubt, last year was my best Caldecott predicting year ever. I will likely never repeat my 3 for 4 performance. But maybe I should keep trying just to see if I can?

Here are my picks for 2018 Caldecott glory.

Caldecott Medal Prediction


After the Fall by Dan Santat

Here’s the thing I love most about this book. The Humpty Dumpty story has been around a long time. There have been countless picture book retellings. It felt like the story had been explored and expanded and spun in every possible way. Then After the Fall comes along and gives the Humpty Dumpty story a final chapter that is so breathtaking and pure, you’d have thought it had always existed. Every step of the way, the illustrations set the mood, build drama, expand the text, and reveal surprises. Details (like the similarity between Humpty’s paper plane and his final form) reveal themselves on repeat readings. It has it all, folks.

Caldecott Honor Prediction

All the Way to Havana

All the Way to Havana illustrated by Mike Curato, written by Margarita Engle

Maragrita Engle’s poem about a family trip leaves ample space for Mike Curato to work, and boy does he make the most of it. The lush illustrations provide a window into the people, places, and vehicles of Cuba. When the text zooms, Cara-Cara (the family car) zooms. When the text taps the brakes to linger on the crumbling balconies of Havana, the art pauses to take it all in. The care Curato put into these illustrations is apparent, and I think the committee will notice.

Caldecott Honor Prediction

Big Cat

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

If books like Kitten’s First Full Moon or Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus have taught us anything, it’s that sometimes the perceived technical “skill” of the artwork is secondary to the overall storytelling success of a book when it comes to Caldecott. Sometimes a book is so simple and perfect it can’t be denied. And I don’t think any book this year tells its story as simply and perfectly as Big Cat, Little Cat. It’s one of those “Don’t change anything” books, where every line of text and illustration fit together.

Caldecott Honor Prediction

A Different Pond

A Different Pond illustrated by Thi Bui, written by Bao Phi 

What do you think of when you think of a pre-dawn fishing trip? Darkness. Quiet. The world slowly coming alive with color. Thi Bui captures all of this in her illustrations for A Different Pond. Bold brushstrokes echo the weight of this family story, as color builds to toward the conclusion.

Caldecott Honor Prediction

Wolf in the Snow

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

I’ve been talking about this book for a while, and it’s had a big year already. It keeps rising to the top of best books lists, mock Caldecotts, and I’m guessing it’s been lingering in the minds of the Caldecott committee as well. Cordell goes wordless to tell a story of kindness and survival. The lack of text puts Cordell’s picture book savvy on display, as the images carry the story, revealing the danger and beauty of nature.

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. Travis, I do well remember you had nabbed three-out-of-four last year and I didn’t get a chance to congratulate you until now. I don’t think anyone on the inside or on the outskirks matched that!

    Of course all of us have “other” titles we have among our absolute favorites, but that isn’t the point of this post, which is an attempt to gauge the sentiments among the 15 voting members of the committee. What I am sensing is a horserace between Matthew Cordell’s magnificent WOLF IN THE SNOW and the very Dan Santat title you are calling as the final winner. I understand committee members are supposed to set aside matters of past wins as impacting their votes in any way (you would certainly know this far better than me as a previous committee person) but I still wonder how that factor will play out, with the general cognizance. I too am seeing HAVANA in the winner’s circle. Your other two choices are bold and daring, though I do myself adore BOTH.

    I am sensing (again based on posts, reviews and general vibes and not anything else I have privy to) that there is some SERIOUS love out there for CROWN, A PERFECT DAY, THE ANTLERED SHIP and Patrick McDonnell’s humorous ABC book.

    Anyway, AFTER THE FALL could well be the gold winner, and it is absolutely a staggering picture book masterpiece, but I am going to myself predict WOLF IN THE SNOW. Still sorting out my final honor predictions, though AFTER THE FALL and ALL THE WAY TO HAVANA will be two. Now to figure out the other two as I am going with 5 total as well. I am leaning to CROWN for another spot.

  2. Wow, that “wordless” review of a wordless picture book (WOLF) is buffo!!!!! :)

  3. I have sorted things out, and thought I’d return for yet another comment to make my final prediction. Though I do adore each and every book in this last bit of speculation, there are at least a half-dozen other books I feel should be winning one of the medals as well. But that alas isn’t what you are after here, so here we go:

    Caldecott Medal: Wolf in the Snow
    Caldecott Honor: Crown
    Caldecott Honor: After the Fall
    Caldecott Honor: Robinson
    Caldecott Honor: All the Way to Havana
    Caldecott Honor: The Boy and the Whale
    Caldecott Honor: The Perfect Day

    alternates: The Antlered Ship, Patrick McDonnell’s ABC book, Big Cat, Little Cat, Out of Wonder

    • DaNita Bell says:

      Thank you for the diversity found in your list. It’s refreshing to see some books that look like ALL of us.

  4. I have reason to think now, exactly ONE MONTH before the announcement that Stephanie Graegin’s utterly magnificent LITTLE FOX IN THE FOREST is a sleeper that may end up in the Winner’s Circle in either anointment. i personally adore the book, as do my students, and I sense some real love behind the scenes. I have said way too much on this thread, and please accept my apology, but with all the time left perceptions do shift. Mine has in the case of this book, though all I stated previously still stands.