2021 Mock Caldecott

Happy Picture Book Month! Colby Sharp and I teamed up to create a 2021 Mock Caldecott list. 

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: I Am Every Good Thing illustrated by Gordon C. James and written by Derrick Barnes

Nominee 2: All Because You Matter illustrated by Bryan Collier and written by Tami Charles 

I wrote the words in purple, Tami wrote the words in black, and Bryan wrote the words in green. Thank you, Tami and Bryan! 

Bryan Collier’s illustrations are everything I dreamed they would be...and more. Typically, authors and illustrators work apart from each other, and rightfully so. We each need our own mental space to carry out the vision. So imagine my surprise when Bryan invited my son and I to a photo shoot to help inspire his illustrations! Bryan captured Christopher beautifully. His art for the book accomplishes exactly what I hoped to do as a mother: hold my child in the space of first steps, first words, first books. What a gift it is to see Christopher in the way I will remember him most—even when he’s grown taller than me and pretends he doesn’t need his mama any longer! I can’t thank you enough, Bryan. Truly. 

I hope All Because You Matter transcends age, race, religion, and any imaginable barrier that threatens our unity as citizens of the world. This is the type of book I’d love for parents to read to their babies at night, teachers and librarians to read at story time, loved ones to gift parents-to-be and graduates starting their life’s journey. I hope that readers equally feel the joy and the call to action. 

Christopher Sebastian is my entire universe. (He’s probably so tired of hearing me say this, but it’s true.) Parents and caregivers know exactly what I mean. Our children are our world, a reason to keep going. This is the gift my son has given me. I write for him and for so many children like him, so they can know their worth and carry that knowledge as they navigate life’s ups and downs. 

Picture books are everything that Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop has discussed in her many talks: a mirror, reflecting the familiar; a window, showing a different view of the world; and a glass door, allowing us to step into those worlds. I hope that All Because You Matter is welcomed by all with open arms and lives up to Dr. Bishop’s wise words.

Tami Charles’ manuscript will take you on a glorious journey of self-discovery and self-worth. In a way it's an awakening to a gentle and intimate whisper of promise and hope to a child not yet born. It’s also bearing witness to all the wonder of a child’s first steps, first words, and first obstacles. Tami's manuscript is alarm bell that vibrates a message with urgency through the universe, through our ancestors, to all of us: "ALL BECAUSE YOU MATTER." 

All Because You Matter’s endpapers begin with a star shooting through a star-filled night sky, and ending with that same star-filled night sky and a crescent moon. The background in the endpapers, as well as all the backgrounds throughout the book, start with a flower petal shape which builds into a full bloom tapestry of ideas, voices, ancestry, hope and dreams. I was partly raised my grandmother who was a quilt maker, so when you see my art, you can see the influence of a quilt maker, as I join parts and petal shapes together to make a whole idea or image. 

Tami and her son, Christopher, are the models for this book. In general, I love when family members pose for a books. I know that family will be relaxed and comfortable around each other which will be reflected in sometimes sudden and wonderfully unexpected body gestures. I call them, "magic moments".

I hope that at the end of the day, we realize that we are all each other’s hope and promise. And that is my message to the whole planet.

Nominee 3: My Best Friend illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Julie Fogliano 

Nominee 4: We Are Water Protectors illustrated by Michaela Goade and written by Carole Lindstrom 

I interviewed Michaela and Carole on April 15, 2020.

Michaela, what do you want everyone to know about We Are Water Protectors

Michaela Goade: So many things! We Are Water Protectors honors Water Protectors around the world who are courageously fighting for Indigneous rights and environmental justice in the face of greed, corruption and oppression. They are fighting for all of us. This book is an invitation to join and a call to action because we are all connected. As Carole says, “water affects and connects us all.” We Are Water Protectors is about kinship to our families, friends, communities, ancestors, future generations, people you’ve never met on the other side of the world – to Mother Earth herself. She loves and provides in so many ways, and she needs our help. We hope We Are Water Protectors inspires you to protect our sacred planet and give back to Mother Earth, to support and join Water Protectors/Land Defenders around the world. No action is too small. Together we are strong. Mni Wiconi! Water is life!

Click here to read the full interview. 

Nominee 5: Above the Rim: How Elgin Baylor Changed Basketball illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Jen Bryant

Nominee 6: Nothing in Common illustrated by Corinna Luyken and written by Kate Hoefler

I interviewed Corinna and Kate on November 21, 2019. 

Hello, Kate Hoefler! Hello, Corinna Luyken! Thank you for visiting Watch. Connect. Read. to celebrate Nothing in Common. I’ve read it aloud to myself and Lou Grant, my cat, multiple times. It is so soothing. It is so calming. It is so marvelous. I spot something new in the gorgeous illustrations each time I experience it. I want to pore over the illustrations for days. I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about this line, “Things they felt under the floors of their hearts.”

Corinna Luyken: Thank you for having us, John! It is wonderful to be here. It’s a beautiful fall day here in Washington, the first sunny day after about a week of rain. Which means it is COLD and frosty this morning. Which also means I have spent my morning opening and closing my studio door: to let one cat in and one cat out, then to let the first cat back out while the other cat comes back in (repeat times ten!) This feels, at the moment, like it is the story of my life.

Which is to say that small furry animals hold a special place in my heart. As I know they do for Kate as well. So it has been a particular delight to work with Kate on my first book that has a small furry creature (in this case, a dog) as a starring character. And it fills me with even more delight to think of you reading this, our story, to Lou Grant. 

Click here to read the full interview. 

Nominee 7: Your Place in the Universe by Jason Chin

Nominee 8: Swashby and the Sea illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal and written by Beth Ferry

Nominee 9: Lift illustrated by Dan Santat and written by Minh Lê

I interviewed Minh and Dan on April 15, 2020. I wrote the words in purple, and Dan wrote the words in green. 

Minh Lê's manuscripts are always delightful treasures. The brilliance of his work is his ability to maintain a simplicity in his storytelling while appearing minimal in his effort all while injecting a tremendous amount of emotion in the narrative. He makes the process look simple when it is anything but that and I am especially lucky to get to work with him on treasures like this.

The illustrations for Lift are much more narrative than other picture books I've worked on in my career. Most of the original manuscript were visual instructions sprinkled with dialogue to fill in the emotional beats to the story placed in areas where we knew it would have the greatest impact. There were scenes where I wanted to draw the moments out longer and build up to the page turn but when all the pages added up at the end it far exceeded the 40 page count limit that I typically adhere to for picture books. Luckily, the publisher liked what they were seeing and allowed me to go past that and granted me 54 pages instead. Minh gave me the freedom to describe what was on the other side of the closet door and I honestly have to tell you that the possibilities were so vast that it stressed me out for a few weeks.

Click here to read the full interview.

Nominee 10: The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read illustrated by Oge Mora and written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

Nominee 11: If You Come to Earth by Sophie Blackall

Nominee 12: You Matter by Christian Robinson

Nominee 13: A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis 

Nominee 14: The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey

Nominee 15: Outside In illustrated by Cindy Derby and written by Deborah Underwood 

Nominee 16: Hike by Pete Oswald

"The lush digital artwork is full of details for careful observers. The use of white space and absence of any sort of panel lines gives the whole undertaking a clean quality, like breathing in fresh mountain air." -Travis Jonker

Nominee 17: Black Is a Rainbow Color illustrated by Ekua Holmes and written by Angela Joy

Nominee 18: Swish!: The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters illustrated by Don Tate and written by Suzanne Slade

Nominee 19: Nana Akua Goes to School illustrated by April Harrison and written by Tricia Elam Walker

Nominee 20: Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera illustrated by Eric Rohmann and written by Candace Fleming

Principal Brian Sammons created a 2021 Mock Caldecott Unit packet. Please click here to download it. Thank you, Brian!


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