Inspired by Lorna at Not For Lunch, I’ve decided to add a Caldecott Challenge to the reading that I do with my kids. My older son, who struggles with reading, gets excited when he sees a shiny gold sticker on a book, and like me, he’s a completist. There is something about this type of challenge that appeals to him. So I am going to try to fan the flames of reading commitment by bringing home lots of shiny gold stickers and keeping another list that he can watch grow longer and longer.
I definitely like the idea of doing Medal winners and Honor books, though I think I’m going to have a very hard time finding some of the books. I also like the idea of rereading all of the Caldecotts we’ve already read, because hey, why not? My older son isn’t that keen on rereading, but he’ll do it for a challenge. A little more motivation!
We began our challenge tonight with three older Caldecotts:
1954: Madeline’s Rescue, written and illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans
We read Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline a few days ago to prepare us for the sequel. I thought the writing in the first book was rather poor–forced and pointless rhyme. Not at all what I remembered loving as a child! But Madeline’s Rescue was much finer in terms of writing and story development, and Bemelmans’s art really is special: the very simple, almost undersketched yellow, black and white pages contrasting with the richly detailed full-color spreads of Paris scenes.
1957: A Tree Is Nice, written by Janice Urdy and illustrated by Marc Simont
I found the writing in A Tree Is Nice rather inane, but the art was lovely.
1964 Honor: All In the Morning Early, written Sorche Nic Leodhas and illustrated by Evaline Ness
I nearly didn’t make it through the reading of All in the Morning Early because it’s a cumulative story with lines like “Six hares hirpling through heather” and “ten bonny lassies with ribbons gay” that you have to repeat dozens of times. Ok, not really, but it FELT like dozens of times. And can I just say hirpling? Really? (It means limping gait. I had to look it up.)
I found myself rather curious about Sorche Nic Leodhas because with that kind of name, how could you not be curious? My delight doubled when I discovered it was a pseudonym! The author’s real name was Leclaire Gowans Alger, which is already fairly awesome, so I’m not sure she really needed to change it. But apparently she loved to spin Scottish tales (hence the hirpling and the lassies?), and Sorche Nic Leodhas means “Claire, daughter of Louis” in Scots Gaelic. I found a brief biography at the website for The Pennsylvania Center for the Book that also contained this gem: “It was only after Alger’s retirement from the library that she began to write and publish Scottish tales for children at an incredible rate.” I suppose that’s a fairly neutral statement, but my mind substituted “alarming” for “incredible,” and I enjoyed the sentence much more. She won a Newbery Honor for a collection of Scottish tales that I will NOT be reading, and also Caldecott gold for a different picture book, which was illustrated by someone named Nonny Hogrogian. I kid you not.