Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall

Typing "Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall" in the subject line felt greatno, it felt magnificent. I will never tire of saying "Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall," but it may take me a few more weeks before I can say those words without choking up. I've shed a lot of happy tears for books and authors since last week.

Click here to watch the ALA Youth Media Awards Webcast 
I asked Sophie Blackall (Finding Winnie), Bryan Collier (Trombone Shorty), Kevin Henkes (Waiting), Ekua Holmes (Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement), and Christian Robinson (Last Stop on Market Street) to answer two questions and finish one sentence starter. 

First up is the extraordinary Sophie Blackall. 

Mr. Schu: Congratulations, Sophie! Everyone loves hearing about THE CALL. What ran through your head when the phone rang? What were you thinking about when the Caldecott committee was clapping for you? 

Sophie Blackall: It still feels like a dream. Tidal waves of joy and disbelief. Disbelief and relief. Relief and joy. Joy and disbelief… It was still dark outside. The kitchen was warm and bright. Ed was holding me. The kids were still asleep. The world felt new. 

When Susan Rich first sent me the manuscript for Finding Winnie, I knew there was something special about this book. I knew without a doubt I wanted to illustrate it. And I knew I couldn’t start work on it for at least a year. So I put it carefully away. I wanted to keep that first response fresh – the images and sounds and colors and emotions – until I was ready to draw. In the same way I have put this moment away in a box. I don’t want to wear it out. In years to come I’ll be able to lift the lid and hear the intoxicating sound of cheering, laughing, life-changing librarians. 

Mr. Schu: What does the Caldecott mean to you?

Sophie Blackall: Before I went to sleep the night after the announcements, after a day of happy-weepy phone calls, of happy-garbled interviews, of flowers and hugs and unnecessarily forceful back slaps (Brian Floca), I looked up the archive of previous Caldecott winners. I scrolled down the list of books I loved as a child, and love still; a list of artists I have admired and studied and tried to emulate. With a jolt, I got to the bottom of that list and saw my name. I hadn’t expected to see it there. For the first time it suddenly felt real. FINDING WINNIE won a Caldecott medal, which means it will sit on a shelf with THE LITTLE HOUSE and THE SNOWY DAY and WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. It means that a committee of fifteen people who are practiced at looking at picture books – really looking at them – people who are patient and observant and thoughtful, who understand a child’s perspective as well as an adult’s, who are willing to listen to each other and possibly change their minds, this extraordinary committee believes this book belongs on that shelf. It means that this book will now reach more readers. Lots more. And that is all I ever really wanted. I am beyond grateful.

Please finish this sentence starter: 

Reading is what I do when I’m going to give myself a treat. Or when I’m homesick, or bored, or in bed with the flu. Or when I really ought to be doing chores, but more chapter. I read when I’ve run out of ideas, or when I want to learn about what people looked like before there were photographs. I read to feel what it’s like to be someone other than me. And sometimes, even though there are a gazillion books I haven’t read yet, I reread old favorites, because it’s like visiting a dear friend.

Borrow Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


  1. I am so happy this book won. My own daughters (4 and 6 years old) love this story and this book. This interview is beautiful as well.


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