2014 Mock Caldecott

 As part of our Picture Book Month celebration, my students and I will participate in a 2014 Mock Caldecott unit with Mr. Colby Sharp's third graders. We will read, evaluate  and discuss twenty illustrated books. 

  1. In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
    1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
    2. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
    3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
    4. Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
    5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
  2. 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.
  3. 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: Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle 

Mr. Schu: Thank you for creating one of the most innovative wordless picture books. What planted the seed for Flora and the Flamingo?

Molly Idle: It was actually a little row of seeds... One small idea after another that cross pollinated and blossomed into what became Flora and the Flamingo.

The first seed was the title- which was originally,  Flamingo Dancing. At the time, my sons were learning to talk, often with charming and giggle-inducing results. I started thinking about words or phrases that baffled me as a kid. One such was "flamenco dancing"- which I long believed was pronounced "flamingo dancing." I recall being puzzled that there were no flamingos involved. 

So I drew a dancing flamingo, but he needed a partner...

That was the next seed... A flower seed as it turns out... A little girl, drawn as an homage to my darling nieces (whom my sister made wear matching suits and swim-caps every summer when they were little).
My amazing art director Amy Achaibou-  inspired by the little flowers featured on the swim cap- dubbed her Flora.

So, I had my characters and I knew that I wanted to tell a story through dance...But what was the story?

Then sprang up the third seed. My oldest son was just starting kindergarten, and trying to figure out the whole process of making friends. It's a tough business to figure out when you're five... Heck, it can be tough to figure out when you're 35! And it occurred to me how much the back and forth nature of give and take in a friendship is like a dance.

That's when all of the seeds started to grow together.

Mr. Schu: Did you always know Flora and the Flamingo was going to have interactive flaps and gatefolds?

Molly Idle: Yes! But my original dummy was for a 16 page book with flaps on every page.  I had it laid out so that you could read the story without flipping any flaps, or by just flipping Flora's flaps, or just the Flamingo's flaps, or by flipping each of their flaps in turn... You, the reader, determined entirely how the story and their friendship progressed.

When I sat down with Amy (Achaibou), and my editor Julie Romeis,  to work out the final layout, we agreed that this interaction was key to the story. But we also agreed that it might be more powerful if we chose to limit the flaps to key moments in the story.

We began by spreading out all of the flaps into individual pages- so it was a straightforward wordless picture book. Then, we started going back in and playing with the placement and pacing of the flaps.

Mr. Schu: Please complete these sentence starters:

Picture books are windows that open up to reveal a larger world.

Reading is the key to everything else.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me...
Who is my favorite (non-pink) dancing duo!
Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, in Singing In The Rain! If you haven't seen them before, and even if you have- watch this:

These two are awesome- their feet are positively flying! But what's more, if you watch their faces closely, there are some looks they exchange with one another that couldn’t have been scripted. Looks that say more eloquently than words ever could, the joy and camaraderie they feel dancing together.
That feeling... the absolute joy that comes from loving what you do... Whether it's dancing or drawing... there's nothing like it.

Please click here to read the full interview. 


Nominee 2: Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

"With every viewing more details can be noticed; details adding to the life-affirming nature of the venture, a dream fulfilled through determination and love." -Margie


Nominee 3: Journey by Aaron Becker

The Sharp-Schu Book Club celebrated Journey on September 26. Colby Sharp and I shared the following resources during the meeting.

Journey's book trailer is one of the best I've ever watched.

Aaron Becker answered Holly Mueller's questions.

Aaron Becker created this dot for International Dot Day.

Explore Aaron Becker's website.

"...Becker's book has a beauty distinctly its own." - Sarah Harrison Smith 


Nominee 4: Mr. Wuffles by David Wiesner

Three-time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner visited my school library on October 10. 


Nominee 5Bluebird by Bob Staake 

I interviewed Bob on April 1. 

Mr. Schu: Imagine you’re standing in front of thirty enthusiastic first-grade readers. A boy in the front row raises his hand and asks, “What is Bluebird about?”

Bob Staake: BLUEBIRD is a story about friendship, loneliness, compassion, loss -- and how we as children (and adults) deal with those very deep issues. I think the most unusual thing about the book is that the story is told using only pictures -- and no words. Creating the book like this really opens the door for each individual child to interpret the story in their own individual, unique and personal way.

Mr. Schu: I read that you came up with the idea for Bluebird while walking through Central Park. What did you see/hear/feel that planted the seed for this powerful wordless tale?

Bob Staake: While walking through Central Park I began noticing how everyone seemed to be happy and had a friend to share their time with. I then saw one little boy who seemed to be a loner in his own little world. I wondered if he needed a friend, and then noticed all the birds chirping, flying and playing in the park -- and I could't help but wonder if they noticed the boy like I did. As I watched all of this, I felt there might be a way to tell a very emotionally rich story about a lonely boy and a bluebird who connect with one another. Before I left Central Park I basically had the entire story written out in my head and couldn't wait to get back to my studio to sketch it all out.


Mr. Schu: What do you hope young readers will want to discuss after reading Bluebird?

Bob Staake: Many of them will be shocked when they come to the end of the book, but maybe what they THINK happened really didn't. Among a classroom of children there can be many different ways to interpret the final scenes of BLUEBIRD -- and I hope those scene will spark among children a discussion about friendship, loyalty, loss, compassion, and so much more.


Mr. Schu: If you invited us inside your studio, what would we see?

Bob Staake: Lots of drawing pens, brushes and pencils, but probably even more antique toys, trinkets and BOOKS. If there were any more books in my studio I'd run out of room and would have to draw while sitting on the roof!

"Let the sketching begin." -Sketch courtesy of Random House
Please complete the following sentence starters: 
*Picture books are like peanut butter and jelly. The pictures are the peanut butter, the words are the jelly. They're both great alone, but together they taste even BETTER!
*Reading is more fun than a barrel of vowels, consonants and monkeys!
*Mr. Schu, you should have asked me…
You have asked me some very good questions today! Do you think you can come to my studio tomorrow and help me finish my next picture book? If you're good, I will pay you with five peanut butter sandwiches (but only one glass of milk).
Thanks Mr. Schu!!!!

Nominee 6: Locomotive by Brian Floca 

"In this oversized volume, Brian’s illustrations depict the people working on the railroad and the people who ride on it. Readers learn fascinating details about steam power, how the engines were kept running, and services provided by the train." - Anita Silvey


Nominee 7: Train by Elisha Cooper

"When the watercolor and pencil artwork used in the illustrations is paired with the text, Elisha Cooper's book,Train elevates to masterful.  The open jacket, two pages including the flaps, features all of the trains on tracks near or next to one another with glimpses of the countryside and cityscapes along the right and left edges." -Margie

Nominee 8: Warning: Do Not Open This Book by Adam Lehrhaupt; illustrated by Matthew Forsythe
Adam finished my sentences on August 23.
There are MONKEYS in this book. You should be careful with it. Do you know what happens when it's opened? It will be mayhem. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Matthew Forsythe’s illustrations are absolutely brilliant. He gave life and character to the Monkeys. Seeing the art for the first time was such a cool experience. It allowed me to connect with my story in a whole new way.
I think book trailers are a great tool to introduce kids to books. Kids receive so stimulation these days. They are bombarded with music, videos, statuses, texts, TV, movies and all kinds of other things every day. If this amount of input has become the norm, it can be difficult to slow down and enter the world of a book. Book trailers provide an easy transition into the world of a story. 
Reading is an adventure. Every time you open a new book, you get to travel to a new and exciting place. And, you don't even need to get off the couch. It's so cool. 
Picture books are the building blocks of creativity. It's been amazing to see this in my kids, from the first story they created for an illustration, to reading the words themselves. Connecting thoughts or words to something visual is at the core nature of what art is. Picture books are a perfect example of this synergy.

Nominee 9: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

"I hope that by sharing Mr. Tiger Goes Wild with my students we can talk about small things we can all do to step out of our comfort zones once in awhile. " -Katherine


Nominee 10: Hello, My Name is Ruby by Philip C. Stead

"Using a mixture of media, chalk pastels, colored pencils and colored inks, Philip C. Stead, has formed luminous, textured illustrations." -Margie


Nominee 11: The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

Deborah finished my sentences on June 6. 

The Story of Fish and Snail is about the joy of sharing books with a friend.

I hope The Story of Fish and Snail leaves children eager to jump into new books, or even to write their own — perhaps new adventures for Fish and Snail!

Emma and Lucie are the names of the two sister characters who love to draw in my first book, SCRIBBLE. They are also my daughters. The “real” Emma and Lucie are much kinder than the fictional Emma and Lucie, but their story would have been boring (sorry, girls)!

I found the idea for Blue Chicken between the lines of William Carlos Williams’s poem “Red Wheelbarrow."  I wrote a story about those white chickens and then neglected it for a year, until one day I thought, “wouldn’t  it be nice if this book just finished itself?” So that’s what happened — the littlest chicken did it.

My studio is basically anywhere I am, since I always have pencil and paper on my person. The small, dormered space where my books’ final drawings and paintings happen is pretty piggy right now (I’ve made a huge mess working on the next book), but here’s the the cleaned up version.

My “Idea to Book” presentation is constantly evolving, but always includes pictures, props, and officially classified stories about my childhood self. For the youngest children, I bring my chicken assistant, who loves to draw and to read books about herself.  

Picture books connect the written word to the world. 

Reading is sweet.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me how many books do you have on hold at the library?  The answer: hard to say. Only my librarian knows for sure, since she sometimes adds her own suggestions to my stack. I wish for everyone a librarian like her!

Nominee 12: Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley 

"One of the things that makes Rebecca's story so powerful to me is that Hank goes above and beyond for a stranger while nobody is watching. It is much easier to be kind when a teacher, a parent, a principal is watching. When our students learn that being kind is not something you do, it is something you are, we have done our jobs." -Colby Sharp 

Nominee 13: The Dark by Lemony Snicket; illustrated by Jon Klassen 

"The Dark by Lemony Snicket and Illustrated by Jon Klassen is a book that goes well with chocolate. You may need some sweets to face your fear of the dark. I know I usually do." -Niki 


Nominee 14: Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea

"The shapes of Bob Shea's characters in a variety of bright hues, with his black lines added to distinguish personalities and individual traits, are expressive and downright endearing." -Margie


Nominee 15: The Boy and the Airplane by Mark Pett

The Sharp-Schu Book Club celebrated The Boy and the Airplane on June 19

Margie celebrated The Boy and the Airplane a few days ago.

You must read about Mark Pett's Annual Zip Code Trip. It is brilliant. 

Jules Danielson interviewed Mark Pett (includes a scene from The Girl and the Bicycle). 

Mark Pett appeared at the 2011 National Book Festival. 

Mark Pett and Sara Zarr talk about "about perfectionism, learning to let go, and self-management, among other things." 

Katherine's summer reading camp read The Boy and the Airplane. 

Nominee 16: Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco

"The book is alive with activity; alternative illustration size, switching between smaller ones surrounded by white space to the large double-page spreads. The use of all the dots makes you feel like you are stepping into the pages of your favorite comic book." -Margie

Nominee 17: The Beginner's Guide to Running Away From Home by Jennifer Larue Huget and Red Nose Studio 

Colby Sharp: I am completely in awe by the images in The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home. Do I even call them images? Illustrations? Pictures? I have no idea. I also have no idea how they are created. I tried to do a little research on your process, but I don’t think I completely understand how this awesomeness is created. Could you give me a “beginner’s guide” to the type of art that appears in The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home?

Chris Sickels/Red Nose Studio: Thanks for your interest in the image making process behind The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home. 

In answer to your question, I call them illustrations. My process is essentially like any other illustrator. Everything starts with thumbnails and sketches that are based on the written content/story. The sketches are submitted in a dummy book form to the editor and book designer and the sketches get revised and edited to best tell the story.

Once the sketches are all approved, the building begins. The scenes are constructed in 3D form using the sketches as blueprints and everything is built specifically for each scene. Similar to how a TV, theater or movie set would be built, everything is built to only be seen by the audience and in my case the audience is the camera lens. The figures and costumes are constructed of polymer clay, wire, foam, and fabric. The costumes are all hand sewn specifically for each character which is generally 6-7 inches tall. Sets are constructed with cardboard, wood, paper, fabric, and any material that works for the specific scene being shot. The sets are dressed with handmade props, and the occasional bits of doll house furniture, but mostly everything is built from scratch so that it can live in the ‘Red Nose’ world, which is a bit skewed and not quite ‘right’. Once a scene is fully constructed, photography and lighting begin. The lighting is where emotion and atmosphere can be reinforced and the scene starts to come to life. Typically it takes 150-200 shots to get the image and lighting adjusted for the final photograph. Typically most of the effects are created on set and in camera, with minor corrections and adjustments with Photoshop. The photograph is the final artwork, it is what is submitted for printing.

I hope that helps clear it up a bit, and even though I go by the name Red Nose Studio, it is just me working in my garage.

Please click here to read the full interview. 

Nominee 18: Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

"A humorous take on the Tale of Little Red Riding Hood where a Little Red Pencil learns a thing or two about descriptive adjectives and plot while fighting a pencil sharpener (Wolf 3000)." -Alyson


Nominee 19: Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Merkel; illustrated by Melissa Sweet

"Melissa Sweet, one of our most accomplished illustrators for nonfiction picture books today, brings Clara and her fellow workers to life. As they decide to go on strike, the illustration shows them raising one arm in solidarity as Clara addresses her fellow workers in Yiddish." - Anita Silvey


Nominee 20: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet 

"I love Melissa Sweet's illustrations. Melissa Sweet has captured time and place and the people who inhabit those realms again and again." -Jennifer



  1. Great nominees this year, Mr. Schu! I've got a good number of these on my list, too! Looking forward to how the students weigh in on their selections.

  2. I love these choices! My pick is for JOURNEY to win the Caldecott, but all these others are awesome, too!

  3. Fantastic selection and what a collection! Can't wait til January's news- not only for answers to who are the winners but also to see what novels you enjoy in 2014... :)

  4. Gorgeous choices. Now I have to get my hands on the one that I haven't seen yet!

  5. A lot of great choices--and many on my list! Of those listed, I'm personally cheering for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild which is such a mixture of fun and artistry. The students will have fun with these masterfully created selections!

  6. Wow, this just knocked my socks off!

    Thank you, young scholars. As Little Red would say: Write on!

  7. Phenomenal collection with so many I love. This summer, when I had an opportunity to catch up and take a look at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, I saw Chris Sickels' work for the first time and it was if my jaw hit the floor (and stayed there for quite some time). Stunning. I still want to frame a 2-page spread from "Journey." What a great selection for the students to evaluate.

  8. Thanks for the great list and all the awesome videos and interviews! We're doing Mock Cadecott in my 2nd grade classroom this week in time for the big day. Still trying to put the criteria into 8-year-old language!


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