Caldecott, Newbery, and Batchelder Hopefuls

First, my Caldecott hopefuls:

This year, two of my favorite books might win either the Caldecott or the Newbery--or both! They are El Deafo by Cece Bell (Harry N. Abrams) and Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel). We discussed El Deafo briefly at yesterday's Mock Caldecott, but not everyone had a chance to read the whole thing, and they were mostly unconvinced that it met the Caldecott criteria. We all agreed that there needs to be an award for graphic novels, but until then, I hope the award committees find a way to recognize this one.

I'm not sure why no one is talking about Once Upon an Alphabet, though. Oliver Jeffers lives and works in Brooklyn (of course), so he should be eligible, and it's a terrific book. I don't have a lot of favorites for the Newbery this year--I might have read more Printz books, actually!--but I did like The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte) lots and haven't heard many people mention it. Maybe it will be this year's The Year of Billy Miller.

Finally, the Batchelder award for children's books in translation. Following my Batchelder year, I've continued to seek out translated books, although I'm sure there are many I've missed! My favorite? Mikis and the Donkey by Bibi Dumon Tak, illustrated by Philip Hopman and translated by Laura Watkinson (Eerdmans).

Good luck to all the books!

Last-minute Mock Caldecott

We came in just under the wire with yesterday's mock Caldecott party at my house--I had scheduled it for Saturday, January 31 from one to four. It's nice to know that the "real" committee is meeting at the same time we are, and once it's over, we're all so excited about what will win that it would be hard to wait more than a day or two for the announcements of all the ALA Youth Media Awards .

This was my second mock Caldecott (the first was in 2013; last year, I was in committee meetings of my own at ALA Midwinter), and many of the same kids (and parents) were in attendance--a little older now, and with more Caldecott committee experience at school. We considered a dozen or so books and voted for our first, second, and third choices. It was close (according to the official rules, we would have had to reballot), but we had a winner: Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth (Clarion). The kids thought it was unique ("individually distinct" according to the criteria) and noted the attention to detail in the illustrations and design of the book.

We also named two Honor books: Draw! by Raúl Colón (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books) and The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).

I'm proud of our mock committee's hard work and stand by their choices, although you'll have to check back later tonight for my own 2015 Caldecott Hopefuls!

To read (or not): The Brothers Lionheart

I came across a reference to The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren (1973, but OOP in the US) in Lucy Knisely's An Age of License: A Travelogue (Fantagraphics Books, 2014) and like Lucy, I'm a bit skeptical! In Knisely's book, Lucy and her Swedish sort-of boyfriend Henrik are comparing their favorite books from their youth. Lucy's is Harry Potter; Henrik's is The Brothers Lionheart. It's about (he tells her) two young boys who die tragically and then go to Nangijala, where they join a war over slaves and land. Lucy is all, "Wait, what?" Apparently, The Brothers Lionheart is beloved in Sweden, but I might have to stick to Pippi and Ronia, the Robber's Daughter, my favorite of Lindgren's characters, unless someone out there can convince me otherwise.

I can, however, recommend An Age of License, especially to young adults and recent college graduates! It's a travelogue, in comics, of Lucy Knisely's 2011 Scandinavian and European book tour (a sequel of sorts to Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which won a 2014 Alex Award), so it touches on her career (and a creepy con experience), as well as traveling alone, with family and friends, and with the aforementioned Henrik. I like Knisely's clean, uncluttered drawing, the variety of layouts (there's lots of white space, not really any panels), and the occasional splash of watercolor. A companion book, Displacement, is forthcoming from Fantagraphics in January 2015, although that one promises to be a bit more serious and sad (it's about her relationship with her aging grandparents).

Top Ten Arts Books of 2014 from Booklist Online

The November issue of Booklist features books about the arts for children and adults. On their top ten list of arts books for youth are a handful of biographies (about the Wyeth family, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, potter George Ohr, and painter Vasily Kandinsky), three books about dance, and two YA novels (The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone and The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, both of which I promptly added to my to-read list). Also Draw! by Raúl Colón (Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman), a wordless book inspired by the artist's own childhood, and long hours spent drawing in his family's New York City apartment.

Now I'm wondering (in the tradition of the What makes a good...? series at Horn Book): What makes a good arts book? Is it information, inspiration, or some combination of the two? How do the novels on the list fit the criteria? What about instructional arts books, like Susie Brooks's Get Into Art series from Kingfisher? And where, oh where is Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly (illustrations by Lisa Brown; Neal Porter/Roaring Brook)? Or The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia Maclachlan (pictures by Hadley Hooper; also Roaring Brook)? They would be on my list (I'm working on it), but first I need to sort out my criteria--not to mention my definitions. What is an arts book anyway? Something to think about.