This week in my Children’s Literature class, we did a Mock Caldecott unit. First, we read and discussed A Sick Day for Amos McGee, one of my very favorite Caldecott winners, and viewed a short video of Erin Stead describing her process.
Then, students worked in small groups to read and discuss 8 former Caldecott winners and honor books. They selected one book to analyze more closely and learned some basic terminology to discuss art. Next, we examined and unpacked the Caldecott criteria and learned about Robin Smith’s process for reading a picture book (read it first without the text!).
Then the work of reading 30 picture books published in 2014 began. This part was too rushed: 30 books was really too many to read, think about, keep straight, especially in our short time frame. Next time, I will narrow it to no more than 20 titles. I will also make sure we have more time to discuss the books. Given time constraints, students were reading and making notes as fast as they could to get through all of the books–not a good way to read a picture book.
Students voted on their top 7, and I assigned points to their votes. Their top choice received 7 points, their second choice 6, etc. I tallied the votes to create a short list of 7 titles to read, analyze, discuss, and pitch.
The Short List:
I thought this was a really interesting list–and probably not a list I could have predicted.
In small groups, students selected one book to examine much more closely. They removed jackets, examined end pages, checked out every gutter, and figured out what story the page turns tell. They researched the illustrator and the artistic medium they used and formulated arguments to persuade their classmates that their book deserves Caldecott Gold. They made their presentations. I oohed and aahed over the book jacket reveals (Beekle is really pretty under that book jacket!). And then they voted again.
And the winner of our Mock Caldecott is….
But only by one vote! In a second place so close it’s virtually a tie….
I loved Beekle–it’s one of my top 5 favorites of 2014–but I don’t really see it as a Caldecott contender. Still, my students found some interesting things in the art that I hadn’t noticed and persuaded me that I should take another look.
I feel confident that at least one of the books we read last week will be honored by the Caldecott committee, which will hopefully give my students that little thrill of being in on the secret, at Jayden puts it in a comment on a post I wrote earlier this week about the ALA awards.