McElligot’s Pool – 1948 Caldecott Honor Book

As I have said before, I am not a huge fan of Dr. Seuss.  While I recognize the value of rhyming for early literacy, the excessive silliness is lost on me.  That being said, I enjoyed Seuss’ McElligot’s Pool, a 1948 Caldecott Honor book.  The story starts when a boy starts fishing in a small pond, but is soon informed by a farmer that no fish live there, but that he might catch some trash.  The boy then wonders if the pond might be connected to an underground brook, and the story becomes fantastical as he imagines where this waterway might lead and what creatures might be living there.  Yes, the made up fish are silly, but the illustrations of all of this implausible sea life certainly made me laugh.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – These pictures are typical for Dr. Seuss.  I do not consider them technically excellent, but they are detailed and spark the imagination.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – YES!  I am not sure if the Eskimo Fish swimming in parkas or the comparison of a Sea Horse to a cow fish made me laugh more.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”- For this story’s intent of helping children think about the real meaning of words in a comical way, its style of illustration is effective.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot is easy to follow and each character is very clear.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – While more colorful pages would possibly help to visually attract children, we all enjoyed this book.

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Chanticleer and the Fox – 1959 Caldecott Medal Book

Chanticleer-and-the-fox“Chanticleer and the Fox”, an adaptation from The Canterbury Tales, and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, received the 1959 Caldecott Medal.  This charming book reminded my children of some of the many Aesop’s Fables that they have heard.  I particularly enjoyed that the wit and wisdom of the story’s rooster triumphed over the sly fox.

Caldecott Criteria:

  1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Pictures in primarily black and white with occasional accents in red, green, blue, yellow, and brown allow for eye-catching illustrations.  Extensive details are evident, my favorite of which are the thatching on the roof and the bee hives in one scene.
  1. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story can be followed easily through the pictures.
  1. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”– The illustrative style used in this book elicits the “Old World” setting of  Chaucer and the prototypical Aesop-like fable.
  1. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, characters, setting, and information are very clear throughout the book.
  1. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.”– My children enjoyed this book, but I believe it was more for the charm of the story than for the pictures.  Details in the illustrations, however, could be used to discuss many aspects of farm life.

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The Boats on the River – 1947 Caldecott Honor book

The Boats on the RiverThe Boats on the River won not only a 1947 Caldecott Honor award, but also my appreciation.  I found this book, written by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Jay Hyde Barnum, to be one of my very favorite Caldecott books thus far in our reading.  Probably due to having been raised seeing large bodies of water nearly every day and being familiar with all of the boats introduced in this book, I enjoyed using this non-fiction book to explain many different types of boats and their various uses to my land-locked children.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Beautiful illustrations depicting a variety of waterside scenes.  I especially appreciated that the artist allowed his young readers a close-up view of the vessel being discussed, back-to-back with another picture that put the size of the boat into perspective with its usual surroundings.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – Each boat type was pictured clearly in its characteristic surroundings.  “geographic setting” (?)
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”– The blues and greens, accented with various other colors, seem very appropriate for the watery scenes in this book.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The theme, setting, and information were thoroughly presented through the pictures.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – I am not sure if my children enjoyed the book as much as I did, but I know we all had fun talking about the types of boats I remembered from my childhood.

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Flossie and the Fox by Patricia C. McKissack

flossie and the foxFlossie and the Fox by Patricia C. McKissack relates the story of a little girl who tricks a sly fox so that she can safely deliver eggs across a forest.  After being sent away with the load of eggs by her grandmother who warns her about the fox, Flossie encounters the wily creature.  In order to avoid his tricks, the girl says she refuses to believe that he is a fox.  As she makes her way through the woods, she insists instead that the fox must be a rabbit, a cat, and a squirrel based on the characteristics that the fox points out.  Just as he points out that he has sharp teeth and can run fast and THAT must mean he is a fox, Flossie reaches the end of her journey, and dogs chase off the befuddled animal.  On the last page, the reader learns that Flossie knows the true identity of the fox all along, but her game has allowed her to outsmart the animal and safely deliver her grandmother’s farm goods.

Pros: A fun book to teach using reasoning and sequential thinking.


Cons:  While I liked the use of African American language typical of the Southern United States, it did bother me that 
its use was not consistent.

Age Range: 3-8


4 of 5

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White Snow Bright Snow 1948 Caldecott Medal Book

White Snow Bright SnowWhite Snow Bright Snow, written by Alvin Tesselt and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, received the 1948 Caldecott Medal Book.  Before the snow begins to fall, the reader meets the postman, the farmer, the policemen, and the wife of the policemen.  We watch how they prepare for the inclement weather, survive through the storm, and finally enjoy the outdoors as Spring begins to arrive.
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – These simple illustrations utilize grey tones with accents in reds and yellows to accentuate the white of the snowy scenes.  While not detailed, these pictures help the reader feel at home in the town.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – Each picture captures the words in the story well.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  Roger Duvoiosin’s folk art style helps this story set in a small town seem real.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The plot, theme, characters, setting, and information are very clear.  The mood changes throughout could have been more obvious.
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children and I all enjoyed reading this book during one of our own blustery snow days.

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Song of Robin Hood – 1948 Caldecott Honor Award

Song of Robin Hood, selected and edited by Anne Malcolmson, with music arranged by Grace Castagnetta, and designed and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton, received a Caldecott Honor award in 1948.  The fifteen original ballads of Robin Hood are presented in this book with modern musical notation and detailed drawings. 
 
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – These black ink drawings are amazingly detailed.  Each 4-lined stanza has its own small descriptive picture.  If you look down through each of these illustrations it is almost like a slow-moving cartoon.
 
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story is easily understood with the tiny pictures to the side of each stanza, but readers should come armed with a magnifying glass.
 
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.”-  The drawings do have a very medieval look.
 
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – The illustrations closely adhere to the plot and information given in the story.    The overall theme,however, seems to get lost.  The characters, though present, lack a sense of personhood and, thus, are not easy to identify with. 
 
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – Although the stories are good and the illustrations are incredible, I found this book difficult to read to my children.  Such tiny pictures made reading this book to a group of children, even just my two big girls, nearly impossible.

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Blueberries for Sal – 1949 Caldecott Honor Book

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, a 1949 Caldecott Honor Book, sweetly tells the story of a little girl and her mother who take a trip to pick blueberries.  As they are busy picking and lost in their own thoughts, they meet a mother bear and her cub grazing on the same hill’s delicious berries.
Caldecott Criteria:
1. “Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed.” – Amazing, single-tone­ drawings with so many details that the reader could spend a long time looking at each picture, but simple enough that a very young child could enjoy each scene.  (This is not a complete sentence – do you want to have all complete sentences for consistency?  How about:  The amazing, single-tone­ drawings abound with so many details that the reader could spend a long time looking at each picture, yet the illustrations are simple enough for even a very young child’s being able enjoy each scene.)
2. “Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.” – The story is easy to understand through the pictures.  I find it fun that the line drawings are all in a dark blue exactly the color of ripe, juicy blueberries.
3. “Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept.” – The post-World War II car, 1940’s clothing, and the discussion of canning blueberries lend an old-fashioned feel to the story.  On top of this, the characters’ facial expressions clearly depict the love and concern of a mother for her child, as well as the curiosity of a young child.
4. “Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures.” – Each of these aspects of the story are obvious in the pictures, but the mood and characters are my favorite parts of this book.
5. “Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.” – My children have enjoyed this book over and over via audio book, as well as in the written format.

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