It's the most wonderful time of the year for children's literature fans, the time when we eagerly await the announcements of the winners of the prestigious Caldecott Medal and Newbery Medal. Those winners (and the winners of a host of other children's and teen book awards) will be announced on Monday, Jan. 23 at an early morning press event at the American Library Association's Midwinter conference in Atlanta. The event will be attended in-person by hundreds of librarians but it also will be live-streamed so folks everywhere can enjoy the excitement.
While the discussions of the "real" 2017 Caldecott and Newbery committees will remain forever secret, children's book fans around the country have been discussing and voting on their own choices for these top awards. These gatherings, called "mocks," are a wonderful way to connect with other children's book lovers who share a great enthusiasm for trying to predict the Caldecott and Newbery winners. Young readers themselves, of course, also have been participating in mocks in their classrooms and at local libraries, trying to see how close they can come to the "real" winners.
At my library, we held two mock events. In December, we hosted our third annual Mock Caldecott for Adults. In three hours, we read together our 20 finalists (which I had chosen with my co-host, Alison Morris) and discussed them according to the Caldecott criteria. Our mock Caldecott winner was They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. We had two mock Honor books: Du Iz Tak?, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis, and Daniel Finds a Poem, written and illustrated by Micha Archer.
Our second event was the culmination of a year of monthly Caldecott Club programs for kids and adults. At each program, we read four books, discuss them according to our "kid-friendly" Caldecott criteria, and then vote on our favorite of the evening. That book then becomes one of our finalists. Earlier this month, at our January Caldecott Club we re-read all of our nine finalists as well as a ringer that I tossed in -- They All Saw a Cat. I was interested to see if our Caldecott Club members, who range in age from 3 up, would like the book as much as those who attended our Mock Caldecott for Adults. It turns out they did: They All Saw a Cat easily won our Caldecott Cub mock election. We also chose one mock Honor book, School's First Day of School, written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Looking at the results of mock Caldecott programs held around the country, it's clear that They All Saw a Cat is a favorite. But that doesn't necessarily mean it will win the 2017 Caldecott Medal. Having served on the 2016 Caldecott Medal committee, I can tell you that we read both more widely and more deeply than others would be able to do. Even more importantly, we spent two days in intense discussion of our nominated books. Predicting a winner beforehand would have been truly impossible.
Still, it's fun for those not serving on the awards committees to try to predict the winners! This year, for the second time, the Association for Library Service to Children has dedicated a space on its blog for reports of the mock winners across the country. While the most popular mocks focus on the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal, some libraries also hold mocks focused on the Geisel Award (given to the best book for beginning readers), the Sibert Medal (given to the best non-fiction book for kids), the Printz Award (given to the best book for teens), and more.
And, for those who can't get enough of trying to predict the winners, there are discussion blogs focused on various awards. These include Heavy Medal (focused on the Newbery Medal), Calling Caldecott, Someday My Printz Come, and the newest blog, Guessing Geisel. But there's nothing like hearing the awards announced in real time. So mark your calendars for January 23 at 8 a.m. and join the excitement via the live webcast!