2015 Caldecott Winners… According to ML and Calvin

BeekleNoisy Paint Box

Last year, ML and Calvin chose winners for their 2014 Mock Caldecott in record speed.  This year, they delved a little deeper.  However, once again they couldn’t reach a consensus.

Today, I gave them a stack of books for their 2015 Mock Caldecott.  I asked both of them to individually chose five favorites.  Then, I encouraged them to reach a consensus on five books to go to the next round.  They did it.  Friends since the age of two, I love watching them grow and mature together.  After whittling the list to five, they had a thoughtful and respectful discussion on which book should win.  They weren’t in agreement.  If I pushed it, they might have reached a consensus.  I decided to save it for next year.

Calvin’s Winner
The Adventures of Beekle: The UnImaginary Friend  by Dan Santat

Mary Louise’s Winner
The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpre

Honor Books
The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
Where’s Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio and Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

The TroublemakerWhere'sMommyThreeBearsInBoat

A True Honor – LeUyen Pham Asked for My Help


A few weeks ago I received an email from LeUyen Pham with the subject line “book suggestions from some of my favorite book people.”  Before I even opened the email, I was honored.  She’s presenting a lecture in Chicago this winter and  wanted ideas of newer books to include on a reading list.  The lecture is titled “Wandering Wonderland: An Immigrant’s Story Told Through Books.”  A week later, LeUyen asked if I would write about why I liked three of the books I recommended.  I’ve always wanted to visit Chicago.  Wish I could make it there on March 5th to attend the Butler Lecture at Dominican University.


Elephant and Piggy Series by Mo Willems – Most easy reader books are boring.  It’s difficult to write a fun book with a limited vocabulary using words which are pronounced utilizing conventional phonics .  (It’s one reason Dr. Seuss and Amelia Bedelia books are still popular today.)  In 2007, the first of twenty-one Elephant & Piggie books was published.  Each one is as funny as the one before.  These easy readers build confidence and vocabulary in even the most reluctant of readers.  Each book is a conversation between Elephant and Piggie.  A perfect parent/child read-aloud where one can read Piggie’s lines. . . the other Elephant’s dialogue.


Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water:  Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park – This book should be required reading for fifth and sixth graders.  Told from two perspectives. . . a Sudanese boy in 1985 and an eleven-year-old girl during 2008.  Use this book as a springboard for important conversations about war, poverty, lack of clean water and other issues eleven-year-old children in other countries experience daily.

Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai  – A novel in verse based on the author’s personal experience fleeing Vietnam and eventually landing in Alabama.   The short free verse poems perfectly evoke the struggles acclimating to a new language, food, clothing and customs.

Away We Go! by Migy

Away We Go

Away We Go! by Migy (AKA Miguel Ornia-Blanco) – “Mr. Fox is going to the moon! Away he goes in his hot air balloon. . . . But wait! Can Elephant come too? Sure! Let’s bring along some pizza. What about Giraffe? And Squirrel? Everyone is welcome in Mr. Fox’s balloon, but look out—will everyone fit?” (From Macmillan Publisher’s website)

Why should you read this book?
While vacationing at Great Wolf Lodge, I read this book to ML, my niece and my nephew.  They insisted I read it again.  My nephew enjoyed it as much as the indoor water slides.  He loved them, especially the River Canyon Run.

The illustrations in this book are unique and engrossing.  If the author was eligible for the Caldecott Award, this book would be on our Mock Caldecott list.  Unfortunately, you must live in the United States to win.  He’s one of England’s extremely talented picture book artists.

Outside the Box: A Book of Poems

Outside the Box

I haven’t featured a collection of poems in a long time.  My favorite collection from 2014 was Outside the Box:  A Book of Poems by Karma Wilson and drawings by Diane Goode.

ML and my favorite poem from the book is “My Friend . . . Imaginary.”

Other favorites include:

Citizen of the Month
Inside Joke
Ick . . . Gross . . . Ew . . .
Monkey Business
You’re No Lady!
Bear Bare Feet
Alan Had a Little Frog
Captain Cluck

This year, I’m in charge of the Poetry Celebration at ML’s school.  Students submit poems.  Then, standouts are chosen to be read at the Spring Assembly.  To market the Poetry Celebration, I would love for the fifth graders to read poems from Outside the Box on the school’s morning news show.

Wintry Weather

OutsideSnowmans StoryFirst SnowBlizzardThe Reader

Last year we were inundated with 2 hour delays, 2 hour early releases, and school cancelled due to weather.  Today, was our first brush with winter weather for 2015.  (No snow.  Icy roads and trees.)  This delay wasn’t anxiety producing like it usually is for me.  We learned of the delay early last evening.  I don’t work until noon on Wednesdays.  So ML and I slept late, ate a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed each other’s company.

Below are picture books about wintry weather published in the past year.  Except, The Reader, published in 2012.  I discovered it this summer and have been waiting for the first wintry mix to share it with you.

Outside by Deirdre Gill – “In this gentle picture book fantasy, a child’s world transforms through his hard work, imagination, and persistence when he opens the door and steps outside, into to the brave new world of his imagination.”

Snowman’s Story by Will Hillenbrand – “One wintry day, a hat lands on the head of a newly made snowman and brings him to life. Hiding inside the hat is a rabbit, who listens to the snowman read a story to some animal friends. When the snowman falls asleep, the rabbit hops away with the book. But the snowman isn’t about to let his story—or the mischievous rabbit—get away. The chase is on!”

First Snow by Peter McCarty – “It’s a day of firsts for Pedro . . . First snowfall. First snow angel. First taste of a snowflake. First sled run. First snowball fight!”

Blizzard by John Rocco – “Blizzard is based on John Rocco’s childhood experience during the now infamous Blizzard of 1978, which brought 53 inches of snow to his town in Rhode Island.”

The Reader by Amy Hest and illustrated by Lauren Castillo – In this timeless picture book, a new reader trudges through deep snow with a mysterious suitcase in tow. He has something important to share with his faithful companion, who bolts ahead to wait at the top of a tall hill. Our small hero climbs higher and higher, until finally, he is there, too. Then he opens his suitcase—click, click—and soon the only sound in the world is the sound of the reader reading their very favorite book to the very last page…the very last word.”

Two Books, One Illustrator

Smallest GirlLast Stop on Market Street

Recently, I brought home two books illustrated by the same author.  I didn’t even realize it until we finished the second book.  ML is becoming an expert in determining the mediums used for picture books.   She nailed it for both these books.  The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade uses color pencils.   Last Stop on Market Street uses a combination of acrylic paint and collage.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts and illustrated by Christian Robinson – “Hardly anyone noticed young Sally McCabe.  She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade.  But Sally notices everything—from the twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring to the bullying happening on the playground. One day, Sally has had enough and decides to make herself heard. And when she takes a chance and stands up to the bullies, she finds that one small girl can make a big difference.”  (From Penguin’s website)

Last Stop on Market Street words by Matt De La Pena and pictures by Christian Robinson – “Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.” (From Penguin’s website)

Why should you read these books?
Both stories are sweet; but not sappy.  They show even the littlest people can make a huge difference.

I’m embarrassed to admit, ML thought the Grandma and boy’s last stop was for a cookout.  The concept of a soup kitchen is foreign to her.  Luckily, there is a local Food Bank which has special days for children to volunteer packing food for families.  I’m calling today to find out more details.

My Bus


My Bus by Byron Barton“A lively celebration of vehicles and transportation, occupations, pets, and basic math concepts. The busy bus driver in Byron Barton’s preschool tour-de-force has a job to do. He drives his bus along his route, picks up the cat and dog passengers waiting at the bus stops, and delivers them to their destinations—which in this case include the airport, the harbor, and the train station. Along the way, children are introduced to the concepts of addition, subtraction, and sets. A surprise ending of sorts—what will happen to the very last passenger? (from Harper Collins website)

Why should you read this book?
It’s a simple, interactive math related book for preschoolers.  Byron Barton knows his audience.  A book with dogs, cats, a variety of transportation and bold illustrations is always a hit.

Supertruck by Stephen Savage


Supertruck by Stephen Savage – “When the city is hit by a colossal snowstorm, only one superhero can save the day. But who is this mysterious hero, and why does he disappear once his job is done? Find out in this snowy tale about a little truck with a very big job.” (Synopsis from MacMillan Publishers website)

Why should you read this book?
Today, I’m sharing my expert opinion.  ML has yet to read this book.  However, I know during her preschool years she would have insisted we read it over and over.  Then, again and again.  At that age, she was fascinated by garbage trucks.  Anytime we saw one, she insisted we follow it.

A book about trucks and snow… a dream combination for the preschool set.  Any guesses on what the garbage truck transforms into?

Mock Caldecott 2015

Recently, I asked ML if she wanted to have a group of friends come over for a Mock Caldecott. She said, “No, I just want it to be Calvin.”  The Caldecott Medal “is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.”  Last year, I provided a collection of picture books for ML and Calvin to peruse and decide which book deserved the medal.

You can read about their 2014 Mock Caldecott… And the Winners Are.  Last year, they couldn’t agree on which book should win.  I’m curious to see if they will agree this year.  The winners are usually announced in January at the ALA Midwinter Conference.  This year, ML and Calvin have until February 1st to have their Second Annual Mock Caldecott.  Below are the books I’m bringing home for consideration by ML and Calvin for the most prestigious award for illustration in children’s literature.


Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman


The Farmer and The Clown by Marla Frazee


Firebird by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Christopher Myers

Viva Frida

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales


The Adventures of Beekle:  The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Noisy Paint Box

The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary Grandpre


Draw! by Raul Colon


Where’s Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock


Telephone by Mac Barnett and illustrate Jen Corace

The Troublemaker

The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo


Blizzard by John Rocco

Little Elliot

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato


Gravity by Jason Chin


Flashlight by Lizi Boyd


Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson


Grandfather Ghandi by Arun Ghandi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk





The Mitten String

Mitten String

The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner and illustrated by Kristina Swarner – “When her family invites a deaf woman and her baby to stay, Ruthie, a talented knitter of mittens, wonders how the mother will know if her child wakes in the night. The surprising answer inspires Ruthie to knit a special gift that offers great comfort to mother and baby—and to Ruthie herself.
With language and imagery reminiscent of stories told long ago, this modern Jewish folktale will resonate with those who love crafts, anyone who’s encountered someone with physical differences—and with everyone who has ever lost a mitten in the depths of winter.”

Why should you read this book?
Last night, I saw ML for the first time in 2015.  This sweet book was the perfect way to return to our snuggle in the bed and read picture books nighttime routine.  ML does kind things for others just like Ruthie the main character.  Her most recent kindness was giving the book she won at book club to her friend who missed the meeting because she was sick.  When ML heard Miriam cried she said “I think we should give Miriam the book.”  (Each book club meeting I do a drawing for a copy of the next book.)  ML’s been eager to win.  I appreciate her thoughtfulness.  She received a copy of this next book club title for Christmas this year.  Last night we added the chapter book, Fortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman to our reading time.

Backhoe Joe

Backhoe Joe

Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander and illustrated by Craig Cameron – “A young boy tries to adopt a backhoe. When Nolan finds a stray backhoe in the street, he can’t wait to adopt it. But this backhoe is not very well behaved. As Nolan tries to train his new pet, he learns that maybe this backhoe already has a home.

Why should you read this book?
All children ages two to five are mesmerized by heavy machinery.  One morning before my preschool story time, a crane was being used next to the library parking lot.  I knew I couldn’t compete.  To my relief, it left the premises five minutes before people arrived.  In a few months, our library will be renovated.  I plan to read books about construction at the last story time.  This book is first on the list.  It’s not your typical heavy machinery book.  There’s a well developed plot; and the illustrations are amusing.

An important note to parents.
Yesterday, I wrote about it being important to read princess books to boys.  It’s just as important to read backhoe books to girls.  In the picture book world, there should be no such thing as a boy book or girl book.

The Princess in Black: A Beginning Chapter Book

Princess in Black

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham – “Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret?”

Why should you read this book?
ML immediately gravitated to this book because black is currently her favorite color.  Plus, you can tell from the cover this isn’t your typical princess.  ML informed me recently she doesn’t like princesses anymore… except Elsa and Anna.  I’m pretty certain her tune will change in March.  Her dad is surprising her with a daddy/daughter trip to Disney.  When he approached me about taking her, I had one request, “Please take her on It’s a Small Word.”  It was my favorite ride when I visited Disney forty plus years ago.

An important note to parents of boys.
This book should be read with boys too.  The author explains why better than I could on her blog post “Boys and the Princess in Black.”

The Blog – A Few Changes in 2015

ML doesn’t know about the blog.  She’s reaching the age if she finds out I consistently write about the funny things she does and says, she’s likely to be mad.  Therefore,  I’m changing the blog a bit for 2015.

Picture Books –  They were my first love and still are.  It makes me happy ML still enjoys them.  In most of my posts, I’ve tried to tell a story about ML’s life which relates to the book.  I’ll continue to do it from time to time.  However, the format I’ve used this December will be used for a majority of the posts.  I’ll quote a synopsis from the publishers page.  Then, provide commentary on “Why Should You Read This Book?”

Chapter Books –  My job responsibilities are changing January, 2016.  My main focus will be elementary-aged children.  In preparation, I need to read more chapter books.  I hope to write about at least one chapter book a month.

Nonfiction Books – When one arrives which is excellent, I will write a post in similar structure to the picture books.

Young Adult Books – I plan to read two.  The one which wins the 2015 Printz award and one that grabs my eye when it arrives.

Guest Posts – I am going to recruit my coworkers, their children and ML’s bookclub to write about their favorite books.  I’ll provide a form similar to the book review ML’s teacher sends home.  Then, I will type the featured reader’s response.  Grammar and spelling will not be changed.

Happy New Year!