2020 Mock Caldecott

Happy Picture Book Month! I am participating in a 2020 Mock Caldecott unit with Mr. Colby Sharp's fifth graders. We will read, evaluate, and discuss twenty picture books.




In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider: 

Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;


Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;

Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;

Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;

Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.

The only limitation to graphic form is that the form must be one which may be used in a picture book. 

The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound, film or computer program) for its enjoyment.

Each book is to be considered as a picture book. 

The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustration, but other components of a book are to be considered especially when they make a book less effective as a children’s picture book. Such other components might include the written text, the overall design of the book, etc.

 (Please click here to view the full manual.)

Nominee 1: Another by Christian Robinson 


Nominee 2: Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman 

I interviewed Deborah Freedman on March 18, 2019

What planted the seed for Carl and the Meaning of Life?

Deborah Freedman: “What am I doing?” and “why?” were questions I was asking myself more often than usual during 2016. Was doing what I love, making picture books, too small and self-indulgent? Should I be doing something larger, more “important”? I was paralyzed for a long time, until Carl appeared one day. He arrived, a tiny character tunneling to light, and sweetly he told me, get back to work. 

Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 3: The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander; illustrated by Kadir Nelson 


Nominee 4: Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard; illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal 

I interviewed Kevin and Juana on March 11, 2019. 

Kevin, I think Fry Bread is a perfect read-aloud. Did you read it aloud over and over and over again while working on the manuscript?

Kevin: Oh yes! I am a big word dork. I love to play with how they sound, and how they will make people feel. In picture books, where every placement of word and art is so crucial, I wanted the letters on the page to have multiple meanings for interpretation, just like a poem. My partner and I had very long parental leaves after our second child was born, and we were in Lake Como, Italy when I started work on the book. I would sit in the kitchen late at night with the window open, listening to the crickets and the sound of the lake while I experimented aloud with word sounds, rhythm and flow, and initially, rhyming. I had pictures of my family in Oklahoma--those living and those who were gone--all around me, so it was a communal effort. Since the book is about family and food, I wanted them to be “there” with me during the process.I sent the first draft to my editor, Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook, who suggested that I take the rhyming out and just work on the beauty of the words. That gave me a lot more freedom to include my target words, like “nation,” “landscape,” and “elder,” and build the manuscript around them.

Juana, I think Fry Bread’s endpapers are the most powerful endpapers I’ve ever seen.

Juana: Oh, this means so much! You have no idea. I normally figure out the endpapers for the book while I’m deep in the middle of sketching the interior spreads. But this book was different. While I was working on ideas and thumbnails for Fry Bread, the idea for what the endpapers should show came to mind. It was a feeling. I could see the children and parents following the names with their fingers looking for the name of their Nation or Tribe. On a call with my editors, I shared my crazy idea of making the endpapers a list of the names of all the US Nations and Tribes. I’m glad they felt it was a good idea because I was ready to talk to them until they said it was okay. To me, finding the name in those endpapers means feeling seen. 

Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 5: A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel 


Nominee 6: Saturday by Oge Mora

I interviewed Oge Mora on February 1, 2019. 


What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Oge Mora: Like most children’s book illustrators it has always been my dream to get Caldecott recognition one day. I simply cannot believe this has happened so early in my career but I am incredibly grateful. The award and previous winners have always inspired me to give my readers everything I can give them. The best I have to write. The best I have to paint. Children’s book illustrators don’t hold back when it comes to their work.

I listen to Matthew C. Winner’s lovely podcast regularly and he had Tomie dePaola on who mentioned that he makes books because children deserve the very best. I think a lot of us would agree with that. There are so many publishers, editors, designers, agents, artists, writers, teachers, and librarians who work incredibly hard to put the very best book in a child’s hand and the Caldecott and YMA Awards are a celebration of that hard work and passion.

Please click here to read the full interview.


Nominee 7: My Heart by Corinna Luyken 

interviewed Corinna on January 7, 2020. 

What planted the seed for My Heart?

Corinna: My Heart started as a poem that I wrote a number of years ago. Around that time, I also lived near the ocean and began collecting heart rocks from my walks on the beach. Once I started looking, they were everywhere, and with almost every walk I would find one. It became a game for my daughter, husband and I, and by the end of a year we had a large wooden bowl full of heart rocks. This realization that hearts are all around us, in the ordinary (and even the darkest) moments and details of our lives, was the seed that grew into the visual world of this book. From there, thinking about all the different ways that I could tuck a heart into an image was pure joy.

Please click here to read the full interview. 




Nominee 8: A Big Bed for Little Snow by Grace Lin 

Grace Lin finished my sentences on January 31, 2019.

Please finish these sentence starters:

Picture books are magical tools that can make the ordinary extraordinary and the foreign familiar.

School libraries are the places that readers are made.

Please click here to read the full interview.



Nominee 9: River by Elisha Cooper

I interviewed Elisha Cooper on January 18, 2019. 

Hello, Elisha Cooper! It was wonderful spending time with you on Facebook Live during ALA Annual 2018 in New Orleans. During our conversation, you mentioned River. I’m thrilled you’re here to share River’s cover with the world. What do you love most about the Hudson River?


Elisha Cooper: So many things! I love that the Hudson River starts in the mountain wilderness of the Adirondacks and ends in the bustling harbor of New York City. What else besides a river has moose and tugboats? Nothing. I love that diversity. The Hudson also has been hugely important in our country’s history, which is true of all great rivers (when we spoke in New Orleans we were on the banks of the Mississippi). And rivers are good narrative devices. They start, they finish. This book is about the adventures of a brave young woman as she canoes down the Hudson, and the obstacles she must face as she paddles her way home.

Please click here to read the full interview.






Nominee 10: Vroom! by Barbara McClintock 

Barbara finished my sentences in 2014. 

Reading is as important as food & water & sleep. Reading feeds imagination. 

School libraries... can't say enough good things about them! Standard school curriculum gives children a basic education, but free access to a library allows them to find themselves. And librarians are heroes standing on the shore holding beacons of light, acting as guides and mentors. 

Please click here to read the full interview. 




Nominee 11: Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris; illustrated by LeUyen Pham 


Nominee 12: My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero; illustrated by Zeke Peña

"But I think that with Isabel and I, it's nice because a lot of our backgrounds as people who identify as Latinx or Chicanx or Chicanos, there's this really narrow definition of what that is. But the nice thing with my collaboration with Isabel is that we span like a spectrum of that, right?" -Zeke Peña | Please click here to read the full interview. 




Nominee 13: Truman by Jean Reidy; illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins 

"When I read Jean’s draft for Truman, I could picture every beat. I just had to see it drawn—and I had to be the one to draw it! It was love at first read. And then it seemed like from Jean’s reaction to my sketches that I’d correctly connected her story dots, and that’s so satisfying." -Lucy Ruth Cummins | Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 14: Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis 

Antoinette finished my sentences in 2015. 

Reading is my life’s blood. And my main hobby. Can’t imagine life without it!

Picture books are my inspiration, addiction, current favorite art form. My job, my joy.

Please click here to read the full interview.


Nominee 15: Elvis Is King by Jonah Winter; illustrated by Red Nose Studio


Nominee 16: The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome 

"Rendered in acrylics the eloquent paintings of James E. Ransome summon understanding in readers. From the ringing of the bell by the overseer on the initial title page to wood being chopped near a cabin with an extensive landscape in the background on the formal title page to the first intimate portrait of the family sitting in front of the fire eating their breakfast, we are taken back in time to another place. The flow of the brush strokes, the use of light and reflected light, the gaze of the girl, the gentle touch of a brother's hand or the details in their dwelling all contribute to a near sensory experience for readers." -Margie Myers-Culver | Please click here to read Margie's full review. 


Nominee 17: ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market by Raúl the Third

"Characters began to introduce themselves as I drew, and their actions would force me to follow them throughout the book. This was the case with the old lady feeding pigeons and other background characters. Important story elements, such as El Toro hiding in plain sight underneath a paper bag, also emerged. These complex scenes were also a fun way to introduce Spanish words and cultural elements to readers through signage on buildings or items in a shop." -Raúl the Third | Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 18: Going Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons; illustrated by Daniel Minter 

"The story was inspired by my husband’s heritage and my own. As a little girl, my grandma would take me to the land in Gibsonia, PA where she grew up. Family would come together at Woods Grove, named for her dad, for reunions and fun. My mom shared stories of drinking water from the spring, picking blackberries, being captivated by stories and dancing into the night." -Kelly Starling Lyons | Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 19: Daniel's Good Day by Micha Archer 

"Through her use of repetition and short, deliberate sentences Micha Archer gives a rhythm to her narrative and creates the heartbeat of Daniel's world. The use of dialogue allows us to walk as Daniel's shadow, hearing what he hears and seeing what he sees." -Margie Myers-Culver | Please click here to read Margie's full review.


Nominee 20: Why? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger 

"WHY is about curiosity, patience, and understanding. The little rabbit is having a bit of an existential crisis, and at one point in the book, the apparently all-knowing bear is faced with a similar crisis as he realizes that he can’t explain everything after all. Ultimately, their loving and enduring friendship is more important than anything, even when there are unanswerable questions. (I’ve always been fascinated with unanswered questions…)" -Laura Vaccaro Seeger | Please click here to read the full interview. 

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Principal Brian Sammons created a 2020 Mock Caldecott Unit packet. Please click here to download it. Thank you, Brian! 


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