Update: On Feb. 2, the American Library Association awarded the Caldecott Medal to The Adventures of Beekle: An Imaginary Friend by Dan Santat. Six Caldecott Honor books were also named, including Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo; The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPré; Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen; Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales; The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet; and This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki.
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Here at NPR Books, we may be grown-ups, but every now and then we still enjoy channeling our inner 7-year-old. And this week, we have the perfect excuse: Monday's Randolph Caldecott Medal announcement for picture book artistry. We've tried (and failed) to predict winners in the past, but right or wrong, we still like looking at pretty picture books and wildly speculating about what could win.
So! Here are some 2014 picture books we loved. You may recognize a few from the Kids' Books tag on the Book Concierge; others were more recent discoveries. Suffice it to say, we found them all delightful.
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth
From winter icicles' "dripping fingers" to a summer firefly "garden full of blinking stars," Jon J. Muth takes readers through a year in the life of a panda and his friends via haiku — or almost haiku. As he writes in his author's note, like many poets, he's decided not to stick to the form's five-seven-five structure. And seeing as how the adorable cover shows a panda with a bird on its butt, we aren't holding that against him. (For ages 4 to 8)
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk
Mohandas Gandhi's grandson, Arun, shares this story from his time living in an ashram with his grandfather: At 12, Arun, who constantly worries over living up to the Gandhi name, is tested when he trips during a soccer game. He reacts in anger, then realizes his mistake and runs to his grandfather for guidance. "Do not be ashamed," his grandfather says, "we all feel anger. ... Anger can strike, like lightning, and split a living tree in two. ... Or it can be channeled. ... Then anger can illuminate. It can turn the darkness into light." (For ages 4 to 8)
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee
A solemn, hardworking farmer comes to the rescue of a young, surprisingly cheerful clown who's just fallen off his circus train. After an uncomfortable first encounter, the farmer takes the clown home, where they eat and wash up; but without his jolly makeup, the clown becomes a sad little boy, and the farmer sets about cheering him up. (For ages 4 to 8)
Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith
Drywater Gulch's criminal element has Mayor McMuffin "beside his self" until hope rides in on a tortoise and declares himself the town's new lawman. Sheriff Ryan's main qualification: "I know a really lot about dinosaurs." But Drywater Gulch's gold-stealing, cattle-kissing outlaws don't take kindly to "dineysaurs" getting all the credit for their hard work. (For ages 5 to 8)
A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
In 1950s Harlem, a young African-American girl who dreams of being a ballerina goes to see (real) prima ballerina Janet Collins become the first black artist to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. "It's like Miss Collins is dancing for me," the girl says, "only for me; / showing me who I can be." (For ages 5 to 8)
Quest by Aaron Becker
Aaron Becker continues the story he started in last year's Journey, but this time his lonely girl protagonist has made a friend — one who shares her hobby of drawing things into existence with a magical crayon. Together, they use their wits — and, obviously, their crayons — to rescue Journey's beautiful canal city from invaders. (For ages 4 to 8)
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Paul Janeczko and Melissa Sweet have made a children's book out of 36 short poems (mostly) from the North American canon. Sweet's mixed-media collages illustrate what the poems, organized by seasons, describe: the view from Carl Sandburg's "railroad car window," Emily Dickinson's moon turning "Her perfect Face / Upon the World below" and Liz Rosenberg's fluttering "first September breeze," among many others. (For ages 6 to 9)
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jonathan Bean
For this little boy, moving day is a "bad day," the mover is a "bad guy" and a friend's farewell is a "bad bye." When he and his family get to their new home, frustration turns to wonder at the "new town," the "new house," the "good tree" on his block and, finally, his new "good friend" next door. (For ages 4 to 8)