Caldecott Medal Books for 2015

This post took forever…

Sorry about that, one of the books (The Right Word) decided to be awesome and not be published in anywhere near the number that was expected of it. So it took months to finally get a copy that I could read and review here.

These are all great books, if you are looking for a good read for a little one, any of these would be a great choice.

Sam & Dave Dig A Hole

Written by Mac Barnett

Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Picture book, Caldecott Honor 2015, adventure

ISBN: 9780763662295

Sam & Dave set out to dig a hole, and they’re not going to stop until they find something “spectacular”. Accompanied by their dog, they dig down, only stopping for chocolate milk and cookies. They go this way and that, and still don’t find anything up until the surprise ending. The reader is in on the joke that they are missing some pretty spectacular gems that Sam & Dave just barely miss. Their dog is eager to help them out, but is largely ignored until the end when he is going for a bone.
The art of the book is unmistakably Klassen’s, with simple but detailed characters and over sized and expressive eyes. As the two boys dig further and further, they get dirtier and dirtier, until they are both indecipherable from one another.
This is the book that I was really looking forward to, I’m a big fan of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s other books (This is Not My Hat, I Want My Hat Back, and More Yarn), but was kind of underwhelmed with this book.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Children’s non-fiction, biography, lexicography, Caldecott Honor 2015

ISBN: 9780802853851

This is an adorable fictionalized biography about Peter Mark Roget of Roget’s Thesaurus. It’s the story of his life, and the story of lists.

Little Peter Mark Roget loved books. Growing up his family moved often, so he had few friends. But his books moved with him. When he was eight he started his own book Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. In it, he started creating lists; events in his life (starting with the death of his father), Latin words, English translations, and so on. Every year he continued to add lists to his book. Eventually as he studied to become a doctor and teacher he would add more and more to his book. Sometimes the lists that he added weren’t just a list of things, but a list of words. He liked to find the right word for any given situation, so he continued to make lists of words and things. After being a doctor for many years and raising a family, he reorganized his book in to his first thesaurus (treasure house in Greek). It was organized thematically and was extremely popular. He would continue his lists for the rest of his life, revising and updating his thesaurus.

This is my favorite of the Caldecott books this year, and the artwork is one of the main reasons. It’s a mix of watercolors, collage and mixed media. There is printed text that tells the story, but then there are hand written/drawn interjections from the artist. Each page has many layers, mixing the story with relevant lists and synonyms, filled with text, or visually filled with related objects. It’s a wonderful mix that adds to the story.

I am glad that this book came across my desk, it’s a great children’s book.

Nana in the City

Written and Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Picture book, Caldecott Honor 2015

ISBN: 9780544104433

This is a really cute book. It is about a child who visits his grandmother who lives in the city. The city is a strange and frightening place, filled with scary things and noises. He asks his grandma, “Nana, aren’t you afraid in the city?” She tells him that the city is “bustling, booming, and extraordinary.” The next day she presents him with a new cape (that she knit overnight), and they set off to see what she sees in the city.
I really like the emotion that the child shows, first when he arrives in the city, but also in the joy in learning about how the city may not be so scary. What can be frightening for one person, might be exhilarating for someone else.
The illustrations are bright and filled with expressive people and really do show how a city (like NYC) could be frightening, but also filled with excitement.

Viva Frida

Written by Yuyi Morales

Photography by Tim O’Meara

Children’s non-fiction, biography, picture book, art, Caldecott Honor 2015

ISBN: 9781596436039

This is a beautiful book, an artistic look at how Frida Kahlo created. It really is amazing, the sparse words are more a statement of Frida’s creative process and life rather then a biography. The art of the book is quite amazing, Morales uses photography with hand made puppets and miniatures mixed with beautifully painted dreams to convey a fantastic world filled with love, imagination, and creativity. The work that must have gone into the puppet is astounding, the eyes are lifelike and convey emotion, the clothing looks handwoven, and Frida Kahlo’s distinct style is really felt.

I like how the text in the book (both in English as well as more ethereally in Spanish)  is concise and at the same time profound as it describes her inspiration. At the end of the book is a brief biography of Frida, her life, and her work.

This is a great book for fans of the artist, and little artists themselves.

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

Written by Barb Rosenstock

Illustrated by Mary Grandpré

Children’s non-fiction, biography, picture book, art, Caldecott Honor 2015

ISBN: 9780307978486

This book is beautiful. Like Viva Frida, it is a children’s biography of an artist, this one of Vasily Kandinsky, founder of the Abstract Art movement, as well as the Blue Rider art group. It is a fictionalized look at his life, from growing up in Odessa, and his introduction to art when an aunt gave him a box of paints. The events of the book come from his own writings where Vasily described hearing hissing sounds coming from the paints.

It is theorized that Vasily Kandinsky had a form of synesthesia, where senses are connected in different ways. The way that he describes colors evoking sounds is on form of synesthesia, so he hears colors. Other people with synesthesia see music, taste words, or feel numbers.

The art of the book is wonderful. It helps tell the story through color. As it starts out with very flat, muted blues and grays. The first bright colors come from the box of paints. The story becomes brighter and more colorful as Vasily learns more about art and  music, and for him, how they are connected. As he learns more and more about art, and as he moves more towards painting how things feel, and make him feel, the art of the book becomes more and more abstract as well.

I really like this book, it’s a good history of an artist that may be less well known, and comes with a brief bio of Kandinsky’s life at the end.

 Image from THE ADVENTURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIEND by Dan Santat. Published in 2014.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

Written and Illustrated by Dan Santat

Picture book, Caldecott Medal Winner 2015, friendship, imagination

ISBN: 9780316199988

This is another really cute book, and given the strong field of books for the Caldecott Medal, I’m not sad that this is the winner.

It starts out in the land where imaginary friends are created. They wait there for a real child to imagine them and give them a name. The titular character waits and waits, but is never chosen. Envious of all the other imaginary friends that have been chosen, he sets off for the real world. Once he gets here he starts looking, but has little luck. He stumbles across a fellow imaginary friend and follows it back to a play ground where there are many unimaginary friends as well as other imaginary friends playing.  He still can’t find his real friend, so he climbs a tree to wait until his friend comes along. Then he is named Beekle (she’s Alice) and they become great friends.

The art in this book is great. The land of imaginary friends is bright and gorgeous, with lush colors and friends of all kinds. Then Beekle goes to the “real” world where it is grey, like monolithicly grey. The playground reverts back to feeling like the land of imagination (I can guess what Santat is saying there).  I like how the art was done in pencil, crayon, watercolor, ink and Photoshop, the different mediums make the art really pop off the page.

Overall, a fantastic book.

This One Summer

Written by Mariko Tamaki

Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Graphic Novel, Caldecott Honor 2015, Young Adult, coming of age

ISBN: 9781596437746

This is a young adult graphic novel, it takes place over Rose’s summer vacation. Her family has been going to the same Awago Beach cabin for years during the summer to getaway. She has a friend Windy who lives down the street with her mom and grandmother. They are friends and almost sisters. They walk along the beach, collect rocks, swim and go to barbecues. They like to walk down to the store and rent scary movies. They get bored together when their parents take them to the same museum town that they go to every year. They are both curious about what’s going on with the cute boy who works the counter at the store who is embroiled in the local scandal/tragedy. Rose’s parents are fighting and aren’t there for her and things feel awkward and different from other years.

It’s a beautifully illustrated book, in blues and whites. Jillian Tamaki creates an excellent world of Awago Beach. The ocean waves envelope you as you follow Rose and Windy on their swims, the trees and forest break away to clear night skies. The characters all convey great emotion, from Windy’s hyperactivity, Rose’s confusion and her mother’s depression.

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki do a great job of showing the confusion of growing up. Rose’s emotions feel real as she struggles to figure out what is happening with the cute boy (a.k.a. the Dud), her parents, and growing up. The book is quiet, and subtle, but filled with emotion. A really good read.


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