We also chose two Caldecott Club Honor Books: Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by 2013 Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen (This Is Not My Hat) , and Blizzard, written and illustrated by John Rocco, who won a 2012 Caldecott Honor for Blackout.
Now, the thing to remember about our monthly Caldecott Club is that it attracts a mix of kids and adults. In fact, we've taken to calling it our "family book club." The kids range in age from 3 through 12, and the adults are generally their parents. Every once in a while we get an adult who isn't a parent but just enjoys children's literature.
Because we have such a mix of ages and stages, our Caldecott Club doesn't operate formally like a Mock Caldecott. Instead, it's a rather free-form program where we read together four or five picture books -- using our ELMO overhead projector and screen so everyone can see them -- and then discuss their merits. We use a set of "kid-friendly" Caldecott criteria developed by my colleague Dave Burbank, who also is a master of running the ELMO while reading aloud the books. It's not an easy thing to master -- it's a bit like walking and chewing gum at the same time -- but Dave makes it look easy.
While I try to remind everyone that we really are focusing on illustrations, not the text, it's often hard for Caldecott Club participants -- both kids and adults -- to keep that in mind. That's especially true when Dave, an acting major in college, does such a great job of narrating a wordless book like Quest, or hamming it up with a comic text such as the one in Froodle. Because the Caldecott Club is just meant to be fun and an opportunity to share great new illustrated books, however, we don't strictly enforce the idea of sticking with the criteria. We frequently mention the criteria and point out ways that a book's illustrations do, or don't, meet the criteria, but then let the discussion go where it will.
What really interesting is how kids really LOOK at the illustrations, while many adults focus much more on the text. So it's an opportunity for kids to learn more about how illustrations work to create a story, and for adults to sharpen their visual learning skills. And frankly, it's just a blast to have a roomful of folks of all ages talking together about some of the best new kids' books!
We'll soon see how the club's selection match up to the actual 2015 Caldecott Medal winner, which will be announced on the morning of Feb. 2 at the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting in Chicago. In the two years of our Caldecott Club's existence, we've never voted for the actual winner, but the actual winner has always been on our list of finalists. So, we'll see...
Before the Feb. 2 announcement, however, my library is holding an adults-only Mock Caldecott, at which we will formally follow the Caldecott criteria as we choose a winner. If you're in the DC area, please join us for this Mock Caldecott, which will take place on Jan. 24 from 1-4 p.m. at the Takoma Park Maryland Library. Our list of 15 finalists can be found on my previous blog post, and it's also posted on the library's Children's Room blog.
Meanwhile, even after the 2015 Caldecott Medal winner is announced, our Caldecott Club will continue to meet each month. Next month, on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., we'll gather to read and discuss the actual winner and any 2015 Caldecott Honor books. On March 9, we'll look at some of the great 2014 books that couldn't be considered for the Caldecott Medal because the illustrator isn't American or doesn't live here -- folks like Frenchman Herve Tullet of Press Here fame. Then in April, we'll start delving into the crop of 2015 books that are contenders for the 2016 Caldecott Medal. As always, it promises to be a lot of fun!