Caldecott Honor Artist Cindy Derby

Click here to watch the 2021 ALA Youth Media Awards press conference.

I asked Michaela Goade, Noa Denmon, Yuko Shimizu, Cozbi A. Cabrera, and Cindy Derby to answer two questions and finish two sentence starters. 

Hello, Cindy Derby! Congratulations on winning a 2021 Caldecott Honor for Outside In. I love learning about the CALL. What was running through your heart when the Caldecott committee was clapping and cheering for you?

Cindy Derby: Thank you, John.

On Sunday night before the announcements I was with my dad celebrating his 75th birthday. When I left, I noticed a text on my phone that said, "This is not spam. Call me back." And I thought, “Ha! that is definitely spam.” And I ignored it. On the way home, I heard the chime for a voicemail. I asked my husband, who was in the passenger seat, to read me the transcript of the message. And he smiled cheekily and said… "it says something about "Cald..e…caldeee…." At that moment I screamed “CALDECOTT?!?!” I pulled over immediately into a gas station and parked. We played the voice message on speaker. Annisha Jeffries said "Cindy!"And she paused, and in the pause…I thought…this could be a spam call. But then she continued, "This is Annisha, the chair of the Caldecott Committee…." And then told me the news. The entire commit tee cheered, and by that time I had my seatbelt off somehow, I was opening and closing the car door numerous times and blubbering in joy and tears. I called Annisha back and in my cloud of emotions I told her I was going to run into the gas station and buy a thousand chocolate bars. She told to me play the song Celebrate Good Times when I got home. I definitely did that. I also kept thinking, I gotta call my parents before they go to bed at 8pm—what a great birthday present for my dad.

What does receiving a Caldecott Honor for Outside In mean to you?

Cindy Derby: It’s definitely still sinking in. It feels like a fairy came to visit and sprinkled a car load of magical dust on top of me and I don’t know what to do.

I am deeply honored to share this excitement with Deborah Underwood. One of my favorite moments after the award announcements was calling Deborah over the phone to cry and laugh together. Her words in the story helped me reconnect with my memories of being a child outside in the woods behind my house with my two cats Fluffy and Termy- short for Terminator.

Along with the excitement, I am moving into my shell and taking some quiet time to ponder. I have been remembering all the joyous moments of making the art for Outside In, and how I was experimenting with leaves and sticks that turned into the tools I used to paint with. Or not tools, because moss was too mossy? I remember how many times I redid something over and over and over to achieve just the right feeling for the story, as well as all those moments of doubt when I went down an unknown path. I am endlessly grateful for Whitney and Kate, our art director and editor, who gave me ample space for creating this art. This allowed me to to roam free and be as wild with my illustrations as my passion is for nature.

Receiving the Caldecott Honor feels like the universe is giving me a beautiful nod to a process that is messy, yet still so very human.

Please finish the following sentence starters:

Picture books are portals to other worlds that help deepen our understanding of what it is to be human. 

School libraries are an exciting maze of opportunity for every child.

Congratulations, Cindy!

Photo Credit: Dennis Arp

Cindy Derby is the author-illustrator of Two Many Birds and How to Walk Like an Ant and the illustrator of The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azúa Kramer, Outside In by Deborah Underwood, and other acclaimed picture books. She lives in San Francisco.

Borrow Outside In from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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