Jonathan Swift once called books “the children of the brain.” But books for children are so much more; they are portal, guide, and inspiration all wrapped up in brightly colored illustrations.
Awards for these gems are traditionally divided into two categories. The American Library Association explains that “each year the Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children’s books published the previous year. However…Frederic G. Melcher suggested in 1937 the establishment of a second annual medal. This medal is to be given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year and named in honor of the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott.”
Locally, children’s librarians from across the Timberland Regional Library’s 27 branches meet to select their own favorites as part of a yearly Mock Caldecott celebration. Library Public Relations Specialist R.J. Burt describes the event as “a most photogenic workshop. Sometimes a few library staff members come in costume. Youth Services Coordinator Ellen Duffy creates a beautiful setting, adorned with gorgeous books, huge reference tomes and enlivening garnishes on every table and wall. It’s festive and fun.”
Held annually for almost 15 years, the TRL Mock Caldecott event uses books suggested by library staff or recommended through professional review journals. Attendees then spend the day pitching their favorites, arguing for or against titles, even waving brightly colored opinion signs reading yes, no, meh, right on, comment, or forizzle (goofball slang meaning definitely!).
Duffy laughs, “No matter how old we become, we can all conjure up a childhood favorite, or an experience we fondly remember around a children’s picture book, or cuddling with someone we loved reading one of these books. The Mock Caldecott brings all of this to the surface—it is an emotional experience, and by the end, we are all bonded in a very special way. Can you tell how much I love this day?”
At this year’s event, approximately 50 contender titles were displayed with finalists passed around tables of TRL staff. Everyone provided a one-word comment about these titles which was then read before 15-minute small group discussion panels. Each table also contained folders of information on official Caldecott criteria and the remnants of a delicious potluck lunch.
The more than 25 staff in attendance enjoyed this year’s variety of offerings. Works ranged from simple black and white illustrations to 3-D folding pages full of day-glow – and glow in the dark – artistry.
After in-depth discussions, TRL staff decided on one Mock Caldecott winner and three honor books. This year’s winner is Float by Daniel Miyares, and the honor titles are Home by Carson Ellis, The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein, and Beastly Verse by Joohee Yoon.
Event founder Duffy explains that this year’s “workshop was astounding! The level of discussion and passion about the finalists was unprecedented. Though I am retiring at the end of January, the staff invited me to return every year for the Mock Caldecott workshop.”
For a list of national Caldecott Medal finalists and winners since 1937, visit the Association for Library Service to Children’s website or Timberland’s Caldecott page. The Timberland system currently has 13 copies of this year’s winner The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat available for check out.
The system has many thriving Western Washington locations. They advertise that “since 1968, TRL has provided information, reading and lifelong learning services at 27 libraries and 5 library service partner locations by offering nearly 1.2 million items to more than 475,000 people.” Look to them for homework help, free computer use, and resources galore.
Former first lady Laura Bush, herself a librarian, said “Libraries allow children to ask questions about the world and find the answers. And the wonderful thing is that once a child learns to use a library, the doors to learning are always open.” Help your children experience books as visual treasures as well as exciting tales with popular Caldecott winners.
Find the Timberland library catalog online or call them at 360-704-INFO (360-704-4636) with questions or for branch-specific information.