The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton, is a Caldecott winner from 1943. This cute book tells the story of a little house as she watches the world around her change, grow, and become urbanized. The little house thinks she is forgotten in the midst of the city that has grown around her, but the great-grandchildren of the man who built the house have her moved out to the countryside, spruce her up, and make the house happy again..
I really enjoyed this story because it was set from the house’s point of view. The illustrations were colorful, and I related to the house’s emotions. This book would appeal to young children, especially those who are interested in growing cities. I was surprised that a book from 1943 would appeal to me in 2015!
Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, by Charles Perrault, and Translated and Illustrated by Maria Brown, is the Caldecott winner from 1955. Brown crafts an amazing translation and illustrated version of Perrault’s classic tale. Cinderella tells a version of the story that is similar to the Disney film.
I enjoyed Cinderella because of the beautiful illustrations that faded a bit at the edges. Brown adds enough details to keep an older reader interested, and her word choice paints an even more vivid picture. I noted that I made comparisons to the many different versions of the fairy tale Cinderella that I have encountered.
Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, is the Caldecott winner from 1964, and is a classic from my childhood. Max is sent to his room without dinner because he was acting like a “wild thing”. He journeys to the land of the Wild Things and becomes their king. Yet, as Max gets homesick and hungry he heads back home.
This is one of the few books I re-read this week. I am partial to it because of my childhood experiences with it, as well as because Sendak is the favorite author of my favorite author, Gregory Maguire. Children of all ages will love this story of adventure, imagination, and playfulness. I’ve never seen the film based on the book that came out a few years ago. Has anyone seen it?
Another re-read was The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg. The 1986 Caldecott winner tells the story of a child who journeys to the North Pole on the Polar Express. He is chosen by Santa to receive the first gift of the year. Santa grants his wish and gives him a bell from one of the reindeer. He returns home, saddened because he has lost the bell, and goes to sleep. The next morning, a mysterious package under the tree contains his special gift.
I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed this re-read. I was reminded of being the only kid who still believed in Santa, and the sense of whimsy that accompanies Christmas! All children and all Christmas lovers will enjoy this story. The beautiful illustrations leave the reader with a sense of awe and a spirit of Christmas.
Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, is the Caldecott winner from 1986. A child and her father go owling one winter night. She follows him through the woods on a snowy night, as they try to spot an owl. Part memory, part coming of age story, the child and her father enjoy time together on a snowy night.
This book will appeal to readers who enjoy the quietness of a winter night. The quietness of the book, the whiteness of the snow, and the blurred edges of the illustrations made this book memorable. I was surprised how much the tale of this father-daughter trip brought back memories of my childhood – even though I’ve never been owling!
Tuesday, by David Wiesner, is another wordless picture book. The 1992 Caldecott winner tells stories through pictures of what happens on a Tuesday. There is a beautiful note at the beginning that reminds the reader that these things occurred one Tuesday, but the reader shouldn’t worry because another Tuesday will always come.
Wiesner’s illustrations are filled with details and clarity inside of a colorful and playful world. This book will appeal to anyone who loves beautiful artwork. Children will especially like the antics that happen when frogs on lilly pads fly through the air. I was again surprised at how much of a story can be told through illustrations alone.
The 1993 Caldecott winner, Mirette on the High Wire, was a surprising favorite! This Emily Arnold McCully book tells the story of a retired tight rope walker and a boarding house owner’s daughter. The two become unexpected friends as Bellini teaches the young girl to walk on a tight rope. Yet, when he attempts to face his fears, the student becomes the one that helps the master.
I was very surprised that I enjoyed this book. The “cover appeal” was not there for me. However, in reading 30 different Caldecott books, I came across this one. The story will appeal to young children, especially girls who have big dreams. This a great book to strike up a conversation about dreams, facing fears and never giving up. I still feel really good about this book.
Rapunzel, by Paul O. Zelinsky, is another of the fairy tale re-tellings that I read. In this version, the pregnant wife demands her husband sneak into a sorceress’s garden and steal the herb Rapunzel for her to eat. He successfully does this once, but his wife has an even larger craving afterwards. The husband is caught in the act of stealing by the sorceress. After the baby is born, the sorceress comes and takes her for her own. Rapunzel grows up and, at age 12, is taken to live in a tower with no doors. Rapunzel meets a young man, marries, becomes pregnant, and the sorceress discovers this deception. She attempts to exact revenge, but in a fairy tale, the good always win!
I really like how in the fairy tale re-tellings I read, the author includes a note about the original stories, their origins, and why he made the choices that he did. I particularly enjoyed the beautiful illustrations that set the story in Renaissance Italy. Lovers of fairy tales, and art aficionados will love this beautiful book.
The 1998 Caldecott honor book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback, is an amazingly cute and wonderful story of the children’s song. The old lady swallows a fly. No one knows why she swallows a fly. Perhaps she will die. She then continues to swallow more things in order to catch the fly, etc.
The familiar song is gorgeously illustrated by Taback using a cut out method. I especially enjoyed how the cut out that showed what was in the old lady’s stomach continued to expand and enlarge as more animals were swallowed. I also really enjoyed the asides that Taback’s animals make. This book will be loved by kids, adults, lovers of funny songs and people who love to laugh.
Simms Taback has a double header on my list! Joseph Had a Little Overcoat was the Caldecott winner in 2000. Joseph has a coat that he loves. However, as the coat becomes tattered, he must remake it into something else. He makes a jacket that he wears out. Then a vest. And so on. His favorite article of clothing continues to emerge as something else new and useful for Joseph.
I was drawn to this cut out book as well. In this book, Taback uses the cutouts to show the decreasing size of Joseph’s coat. I notice that this is the opposite effect than is used in The Little Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. I certainly relate to Joseph, wearing my favorite clothes until they have to be made into something smaller and smaller. People who enjoyed the kooky illustrations of his previous work will love Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. The details in the illustrations could be looked at for hours.
I’ve come to another of my favorites. Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, by Doreen Cronin, was a Caldecott honor book in 2001. The book tells the story of cows who demand electric blankets from their farmer. The farmer, of course, tells the cows no. The cows then stage a protest, withholding milk, involving the chickens (who also withhold their eggs for blankets themselves), and communicating with the farmer through their typed notes.
I was first read this book when I was a sophomore in college. Our flute professor read this as an example of how music and rhythm could be used in all aspects of elementary education. The premise is sort of ridiculous, but this is a book filled with humor on many levels. People of all ages, especially those (like myself) with a dry sense of humor, will love this book.
In recent months I have seen many Lit Blog posts about Click, Clack, Moo. My favorite is this humorous critique by Rachel Cordasco on the Book Riot blog. (*Warning: post contains some PG language.)
So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George, was the Cadecott winner in 2001. This book uses caricatures and Presidential trivia to bring American history to life. The facts presented are both funny and insightful. When you are done reading this book, you will know more about the men who have led our country.
This is another book that I need to buy. The illustrations put the Presidents into humorous situations related to the facts presented on the page. There are some portions of more recent history that are not included…but that is due to the fact that the book was published before 2000. However, any history buff, lover of biography, or nearly any adult will love this book. The only thing I regret is that I never read this book before now!
David Wiesner, author of Tuesday, is back with The Three Pigs. The 2002 Caldecott winner is a take on the classic story of the three little pigs. However, the pigs do not follow the story line. Rather, they begin to escape the story by coming through the book, moving and destroying the pages, and generally being sarcastic.
This is another that I am so thankful to have read. The pigs leave the story and talk to one another and are very funny. I really liked the blending of images and styles of illustration that Wiesner used in this tale. Anyone who is a fan of fractured fairy tales, or re-tellings of older stories will love this book. The humor will make even the most reluctant, older reader want to read and re-read the book.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Willems, is the story of a bus, a bus driver, and a pigeon. The 2004 Caldecott honor book finds a bus driver asking the reader to not let the pigeon drive the bus no matter what. The pigeon then begs, pleads, asks, rationalizes, and begs some more to have the reader allow him to drive the bus.
I was surprised that so many of my favorites, including Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, involved the characters interacting with the reader. I think that is an impressive technique that will engage readers. The book has simple illustrations, and simpler text, which would make a newer reader the perfect audience for the book.
The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat is the 2015 Caldecott winner. In a land where imaginary friends are waiting to be imagined, Beekle is an imaginary friend without a child imagined for him. Beekle decides to take matters into his own hands though, and he embarks on a journey to find his child.
This is one of the Caldecott books I was very excited to read. The illustrations have a quality reminiscent of a dream or imagination. The colors and the perspectives are amazing. The story, an unimaginary friend who has imagined his child, really appealed to me as an adult. It is another book in the tales from another point of view genre that I have really enjoyed. Beekle is sure to be an instant favorite with anyone who ever has had an imaginary friend.
Well folks, that’s it! You made it through my reviews of 15 Caldecott honor or winning books. This list is only half of what I have read. If you are looking for more books, or my thoughts on them, check out my Goodreads feed to the right. I’ll see you next Monday!