On Monday, March 4, we will be celebrating 75 years of the Caldecott Medal. This medal is awarded each year to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” We will have special activities for children throughout the day (a scavenger hunt, storytime, crafts, and a movie). Children and adults will also have a chance to write down a memory of their favorite Caldecott book to add to our display in Children’s Services. Here are some of the favorite Caldecott books of the Children’s Services staff:
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, 1943 Caldecott Medal winner
Since I was a little girl, I found population growth and urban development fascinating. Being raised on an acre of land in the middle of farm country in the late 1960’s, I watched this happen to my own little house before my very eyes. Although my desire was to live in “town” in order to have neighbors to play with and things to do, I appreciated the simple nature of a happy life in the country. Now that I am grown, I am drawn even closer to simple nature of the seasons of life passing so quickly. Much like the little house in the book, my little house has been boarded up and is empty, although it is not very likely that any great-great-grandchildren will rescue it. I know, though, if its walls could speak, it would talk of happy days in the winter, spring, summer and fall of children playing happily in the yard, teens picking apples from one of the many apple trees for fresh apple pies and ice cream socials on Sunday afternoons. –Kathy
The Egg Tree
by Katherine Milhous, 1951 Caldecott Medal winner
In the Red Hills of Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania Dutch family are having an Easter egg hunt outside and inside Grandmom’s house. Katy, her brother Carl, and their cousins Susy, Luke, Johnny, and Appolonia search for the eggs that the Easter Rabbit has left. Carl and the others find many eggs, but Katy can’t locate any! Then she thinks of the attic. Inside a hat box are some colorful, pictorial, hollow eggs that have long been forgotten. Back downstairs, Carl wins for finding the most eggs, but Katy takes the prize for the most beautiful ones. Grandmom painted them when she was young. Each child is allowed to choose one of the painted eggs to keep. Now Grandmom has an idea. She brings in a tree from outside and stands it on a table. She threads the eggs and puts them on the tree. The day after Easter, she teaches the children how to paint more eggs, ones that she has dyed that morning. They paint so many that they need a big tree! When they bring one in and decorate it with all the eggs, it’s so beautiful that they decide to have a party for it. They invite all the children from the surrounding farms. The children tell their relatives about it and soon people are coming in droves to see the wonderful Egg Tree. The next year the family makes an even bigger Egg Tree, and other families make them as well.
This book was one of my favorites as a child. My mother and I often shared it. The story is so heartwarming, and the illustrations are beautiful. –Nancy S.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1963 Caldecott Medal winner
It was easy to second guess my favorite Caldecott book because there are so many good ones. When we each shared a book at our staff meeting, I saw Chris had picked Where the Wild Things Are and thought “I should have picked that!” A little while later I remembered Tuesday, another favorite. But I think this one holds a special place both because of the memories it calls up and because it helped to spark my curiosity about illustrating children’s books.
When I was little enough to wear snow pants, I spent lots of time playing in the snow. I would do all of the things Peter did in the book (plus try to break a giant icicle off the house to make a sword, and make dishes out of snow like in The Winter Picnic). I was tickled to read in the 50th anniversary edition of the book that the author’s grown-up friends “would enthusiastically discuss the things they did as children in the snow” as he was writing it.
One day as a somewhat older child, I saw a video of a children’s book illustrator at work. I think it was Ezra Jack Keats. It showed him painting paper before cutting it out for a collage. I had never understood before how he made the paper look like that. This edition of the book has eight extra pages of behind-the-scenes information about how he made the book and how people responded to it. –Sarah
As a child I had a very vivid imagination, brought about no doubt by the wonderful array of books that I read and my mother read to me. I can’t say for sure which book was the first to spark my imagination, but I can say for certain my favorite to this day is Where The Wild Things Are,
by Maurice Sendak. It is one book that I never tire of reading or sharing.I waited each night for a forest to grow in my room. I longed for a boat I could sail off through night and day and in and out of weeks to where the wild things were. I dreamed of a place where I too could become King (or Queen) of the wild things by taming them with a magic trick. I imagined many wild rumpuses and even had a few with my sister as we tried to escape the inevitable lights out. When my adventures were through I knew that I too could return to where someone loved me best of all, and my dinner would be waiting, still warm. -Chris
Alexander and the Wind-up Mouse by Leo Lionni–1970 Honor Book
This is a charming story about a friendship between a lonely and detested mouse and a child’s beloved toy mouse. In the beginning the real mouse would like to be like his friend, a pampered mouse. Shortly after they meet, things turn around not well for his friend. Alexander realizes it is important to value who he is and reaches out to help his friend.
Lionni does a beautiful job with the illustrations by placing large life-sized objects in the background which suggests how tiny the mice are. Using the language of colors the author suggests the characters feelings: red is for love and excitement, gray and brown for sadness and purple for mysterious magic. The happy ending of the story will bring a smile to children and they will ask for the story again and again. –Andreea
Mirandy and Brother Wind by Patricia McKissack, 1989 Honor Book
Mirandy will be attending her first cakewalk and wants to win fist prize.
She wants Brother Wind to be her partner, but how do you catch the wind? After several failures, Mirandy finnaly catches Brother Wind (he is to grant a wish).
When she attends the cakewalk that evening, she asks her friends who will partner with Ezel. After her friends call Ezel clumsy, Mirandy requests her wish
to be granted from Brother Wind. –Cathy
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, 2008 Caldecott Medal Winner
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick came out in 2007. I had read this book when it first came out and was just fascinated on how the pictures could tell the story so vividly. No color all black and white. I felt then Selznick was a great illustrator and knew he had to win the Caldecott. –Nancy L.