Three Caldecott Hopefuls Written and Illustrated by Women

There's been a lot of discussion about the disproportionate number of picture books illustrated by men on "Best of" lists this year (not to mention in the history of the Caldecott) and why that might be. I'd already noticed that both of the Caldecott Hopefuls I've posted about this fall (all three if you count Journey) are written and illustrated by men: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and Building Our House. So in the interest of drawing attention to books written and illustrated by women, I put together an equivalent list of Caldecott Hopefuls--not because each book doesn't deserve its own post (I worried that someone might think I thought that), but because there is strength in numbers, and people like lists. 

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook). Yuyi Morales is a force to be reckoned with. I'm not entirely sure she's still eligible for the Caldecott--she may have moved to Mexico--but I think she should win it anyway: Niño is the real deal. Do not miss KT Horning's detailed argument for its greatness on Calling Caldecott ("Niño wrestles the Caldecott Committee", 10/23/2013). That, ladies and gentlemen, is how it's done. 

Little Red Writing by Joan Holub; illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Chronicle). Melissa Sweet has not one but three Caldecott contenders this year (the other two are Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant), but this one is my favorite, on account of the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener. 

This Is Our House by Hyewon Yum (Frances Foster Books/FSG). This is a sentimental favorite: I live with my family on the same street where I grew up, just like the mom in this book. Even the house number is almost the same! (We were at 855.) I still think Yum's The Twins' Blanket (FSG) was one of the best books of 2011, and the same is true of last year's Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten! (also FSG): she's an author and illustrator to look out for.

There are more, of course. My daughter would add The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman (Viking) to this list, for example (I'm not convinced). Any others?

Caldecott Hopefuls: Building Our House

With a publication date of January 8, Building Our House by Jonathan Bean (FSG) might have been the very first Caldecott-eligible picture book I read in 2013. I had it in the house when my Mini Mock Caldecott Committee met later that month, and it was all I could do to resist sharing it with them. My fondness for Building Our House has only grown stronger with time, and this morning I had the pleasure of reading it again with my daughter, after she had a chance to discuss it at Caldecott Club (this one is run by her elementary school librarian).

Here's what we think: Part of what makes Building Our House such a satisfying book is the way it's made. As it should be, since the book itself is about building something to last. Everything from the trim size (taller than average) to the creamy, matte paper it's printed on speaks to this point. And the Author's Note includes vintage 1970s photographs of the Bean family at work on building their house, rounding out the reader's experience, too.

Of course, the illustrations themselves are full of satisfying details and subplots, continuity and change. There's also plenty to learn about construction, from setting the corners of the foundation by the North Star to machines and tools and good old-fashioned hard work. Check out Mom on the cover with a circular saw.

One thing we were curious about was the evergreen branch visible at the peak of the house on framing day (and for a few months after, until the cold rains fall). We did a little research: apparently, when the last beam is placed at the top of a building there is a ceremony called topping out--on skyscrapers, even!

I could go on and on (I sort of already have). Building Our House. It's our favorite.

[See Laying the Foundation for a Great Picture Book at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for so.much.MORE. Thank you, Jules and Jonathan!]

Caldecott Hopefuls: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Something about the cover of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (Little, Brown; 2013) reminded me of Henri Rousseau: maybe it was the top-hatted Mr. Tiger himself, or the oversized leaf shapes that make up the jungle surrounding him. Rousseau aside, Brown won a 2013 Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots (by Aaron Reynolds; Simon and Schuster, 2012) and seems like a really nice guy (I know this because he signed a poster for my daughter at BEA a couple of years ago), so I requested a review copy of Mr. Tiger Goes Wild--thank you, folks at Little, Brown!

Here's the story: Mr. Tiger is bored of being a prim and proper anthropomorphized animal. He wants to be...wild (he's a tiger, after all). It's the perfect premise for a picture book, and Brown delivers, depicting Mr. Tiger's transformation in two gorgeous, graphic (ahem) spreads. I don't want to give away the page turns--they make the book as far as I'm concerned--but someone in the publicity department at Little, Brown might want to mock up a poster. 

Odds and endpapers: The illustrations for Mr. Tiger Goes Wild were "made with India ink, watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, then digitally composited and colored" (from About This Book); they remind me a little of Jon Klassen's work in the 2013 Caldecott Medal winner This is Not My Hat (Candlewick, 2012), actually. Bonus points for the illustrated endpapers and textured tiger-striped cover underneath the dust jacket, though. And for Mr. Tiger--roar! Available tomorrow.

Caldecott Hopefuls: Rabbit's Snow Dance

A traditional Iroquois story retold by James and Joseph Bruchac and illustrated by Jeff Newman, Rabbit's Snow Dance (Dial, 2012) has a spot on the cover that seems ready-made for a Caldecott award sticker (one hopes): right there on Rabbit's drum. Newman's illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and ink, also have a sort of mid-century modern style that's maybe a little unexpected here (the PW review calls it "a welcome departure from the stodgier artwork that can often accompany myths and folk tales"): that's what I love about this one.

That and the Bruchacs' text [not among the Caldecott criteria, of course], which will have you and any little readers among you chanting "I will make it snow, AZIKANAPO!" right along with Rabbit: it's really a great read-aloud.

[For more on the story's sources, see this letter from Joe Bruchac at Debbie Reese's blog American Indians in Children's Literature; it will appear in subsequent printings. For more on Newman's illustrations, including storyboards, sketches, and finished art, see this post at 7-Imp (where else?). For more from me, I do think there is some inconsistency in the way Rabbit is depicted: sometimes more stylized, sometimes cartoonish, sometimes (as seen on the title page, and at right, falling from the tree) adorable. "AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHEEEEEE!"]