I am so pleased with the new discoveries I made and I am excited to share them. For this post, I am featuring fifteen books that won the Caldecott Medal or the Caldecott Honor award. I chose a variety of older and newer titles.
A wonderful tale of how Mei Li, a young girl in China, manages to sneak out of her village to see the New Year festival. She must be back by midnight before the big gate closes so that she can see the Kitchen God. This story is very rich in Chinese culture and has a moral to tell. The wonderfully detailed black and white drawings are magnificent. This would make a great addition to a lesson in cultural diversity. (1939 Caldecott Medal)
This is a fun story about Mr. Penny and his farm animals. They are preparing to go the fair. Mr. Penny promises them that if they win enough prize money at the fair, they will get to ride the Ferris wheel. Everyone is so excited. Despite good intentions, the animals cause all sorts of trouble and get Mr. Penny kicked out of the fair. They feel just awful about it, but the damage is done. I love the character of Mr. Penny. He is very humble and compassionate, and even though he is very disappointed in ‘his family’, he still loves them and treats them with respect. The animals feel the same way toward him and they end up doing something unbelievable to save the day in the end. It’s riot. This story teaches us important lessons about mutual respect and owning up to your mistakes. (1957 Caldecott Honor)
This story was adapted from the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. Barbara Cooney’s research into her subjects adds credibility to her drawings and helps the reader identify with the era in which the story is told. She used live chickens for models and studied rare manuscripts depicting medieval life. The classics don’t seem to get as much attention from children these days, but I think it is worth revisiting. (1959 Caldecott Medal)
This is an original fun yarn set in Tennessee of how Thundering Tarnation, the bear, and Angel, a giant girl, both meet their match. The wood grain on each page gives a rustic woodsy feel and the rich vivid pictures are a delight. The illustrations are wildly imaginative and fun to read. (1995 Caldecott Honor)
Train lovers who have outgrown the Thomas The Tank Engine series of books are going to love this one. A tale is told of a train making its way from Omaha, NE to Sacramento, CA for the very first time in American history. The year is 1869. As the train travels across the country, every aspect of the trip is detailed in stanzas. It is really fun to read. From describing technical aspects of the engine itself to the personal point of view of the passengers, the reader gets to feel what it was like to travel at the end of the 19th century. The rich and detailed illustrations add so much to the story. (2014 Caldecott Medal winner)
This is a story of a family of migrant farm workers picking cotton for a living… from dawn till dusk. Not just mom and dad, but the whole family. The narrator, a young girl, isn’t big enough to do a lot of things but she still has her jobs to do. I am always moved by stories of the struggle of everyday life. (1993 Caldecott Honor)
Although I am not a huge fan of graphic novels, I am very impressed with the clever and imaginative story telling of this one. A spoiled cat who is bored with his toys discovers a new toy that immediately catches his attention. This new toy just so happens to be a spaceship filled with alien beings who desperately want to repair their ship and return home. With the help of the mice, a common enemy to the cat, the aliens repair their ship and fly away. The first time I read the story I found it very confusing and had to read it again. But once I figured out what it was saying, I really enjoyed it. (2014 Caldecott Honor)
This story proves that one is never too young to be a drama queen. And the drama is all caused by her love for Knuffle Bunny. I was very entertained by the father’s role in all this drama. He is so patient and tries to be so understanding. By the end of the story two unlikely classmates become best friends because of a little mishap involving, you guessed it, Knuffle Bunny. This is the first story I have ever read in which drawings were combined with actual black & white photos. Very cool. (2008 Caldecott Honor)
This is such a cute book! Simple drawings, primarily blue, rely on animated expressions of one pigeon. This particular pigeon is as persistent and moody as most toddlers… and as fickle. At the get go, the reader is given a simple instruction by the bus driver, “Don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!” And at the end of the story the bus driver returns and says to the reader “I’m back! You didn’t let the pigeon drive the bus, did you? You could easily interact with this book if reading to a young audience. (2004 Caldecott Honor)
From the rich depth of color, you can almost hear the swamp; feel the coolness of the air. Frogs come alive and fly on their lily pads to wreak a little havoc on the town. Illustrations have so much detail and so much color. The shocked look on the man’s face when he sees the frogs go by is priceless… The smiles on the frog’s faces are wonderfully whimsical. (1992 Caldecott Medal)
This story reminds me of my experiences with my own children. They were imaginative and eager to learn and explore… and a little hyper. Olivia is a tirelessly active child. She imagines. She explores. She sometimes causes mischief. In the illustrations she is readily identified with touches of bold red on a background of shades of black and gray. Her mother is always so accepting of her. Olivia wears her out but she never stops loving her. (2001 Caldecott Honor)
Unforgettable drawings give life to this not so typical alphabet book. Unique scenarios are created in each picture. This is the most fun alphabet book I have ever read. Each letter tells a story of its own. It is so imaginative. If you were reading this to a young audience, you could easily make up a story for each page just by your own interpretations of the pictures. (1953 Caldecott Honor).
I am a great fan of Madeline. I personally relate well to her ability to just be herself and be so content and thoughtful. The story is told in rhyming stanzas which made it very fun for me to read. There is wonderful detail in fairly simple drawings. I admire Miss Clavel, the orphan girls’ caregiver. She takes charge and disciplines when needed but always finds time to show love and compassion to her wards as well. This can be quite a feat because Madeline can be quite mischievous (without even trying!) 1954 Caldecott Medal)
Seven blind mice discover an elephant each in a different way. Only one mouse is able to truly identify the elephant by using each unique perspective collectively. Each mouse is depicted by a blob of paint and each in a different color. The black background makes them vividly stand out. The elephant has significantly more detail but is represented by what appears to be separate pieces of variously textured paper which visually allows us to understand each blind mouse’s perception. I love that there is a moral to the story: “Knowing in part may make a fine tale, but wisdom comes from seeing the whole.” This is such a great lesson to be told because we all make snap judgments at one time or another. (1993 Caldecott Honor)
Al is a janitor who lives and works with his dog, Eddie in a really tiny apartment under very meager conditions. Just when they have about given up all hope of a better life, they are visited by a beautiful talking bird who invites them to come live in paradise. At first their life is paradise. But it doesn’t stay that way and after some time they decide to return home. At first Al thinks it may have all been a dream. But the pictures give us a clue that this is not the case – there is a stack of old newspapers piled up outside his front door. There is a lesson to be learned: “Paradise lost is sometimes Heaven found.” And with that, Al and Eddie paint their walls yellow, thus making the best of a less than ideal situation. This is a great book to help children understand appreciating what you have. (1987 Caldecott Medal)