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My Favorite Caldecott Books

I’m starting to think, just a tiny bit, about Christmas. And now is the time to start figuring out what Christmas books I want to include in my Christmas Book a Day thing, while they aren’t all checked out from the library.

But I’m not quite there yet. I’m busy maxing out my library card on Cybils books (I’m a panelist for Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books this year, which is a really fun project), and also, putting together holiday book lists is a really time consuming task for me, since I’ve discovered I am ultra super picky about holiday books.

(Why can’t I ever get right to the point? It’s like I require a long long running start to write any post. I’m so sorry).

Anyway, updated Christmas book list is on the horizon (also book gift guides. Get excited).

In the meantime, these are my twelve favorite Caldecott winners (if I’d included Caldecott Honor books, this list would have been two hundred books long). Ella and I have been steadily working our way through them as part of preschool, and I think every day, “I really love Caldecott books.”

If you’re looking for great books to give as gifts, any one of these are a sure-fire winner. Or, just a very nice book to check out from the library (although, one of my dreams is to someday own every Caldecott book).

  • 2011: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Erin E. Stead and Philip C. Stead. This book has that classic Caldecott all over it. Amos McGee works at the zoo and has a sweet relationship with several of the animals, playing chess with the elephant, etc. And when he stays home sick one day, the animals come to take care of him. Sometime you just want to tell the Caldecott committee, “Well done.” 
  • 2010: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney. I was in Boston at the ALA convention when they announced this as the Caldecott winner and, whoa, that’s a rush. It was the big favorite to win, and rightly so. Jerry Pinkney makes this well-loved tale fresh again, and he does it without words. This has long been one of Ella’s favorite books. 
  • 2008: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This doesn’t look like a Caldecott book because it’s 500+ pages long. This was one of my favorite books to hand off to reluctant readers because they could actually get through (and enjoy!) a big fat book and feel super pleased with themselves. 
  • 2007: Flotsam by David Wiesner. This book. It’s just about perfect. David Wiesner can do no wrong in my mind. Even as an adult, I’m totally entranced by the idea of a camera washing up from the ocean with photos of all sorts of cool things taking place below the surface. 
  • 2004: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. I really did have to go look up on Wikipedia (you know, the most reliable of all sources. My library and history professors would be appalled) to see if this was a true story. I kind of feel nauseous every time I imagine walking a tight rope between the Twin Towers. This book is magic. 
  • 1992: Tuesday by David Wiesner. If you forced me to pick a favorite Caldecott book, I’m pretty sure this is the one I’d choose. I have a really awesome video of Ella reading it aloud to me (it’s wordless, so. . .not really reading), that I’ll have to share sometime. Especially the part where she points to a frog with a big smiley mouth and says, “This one looks like Ani.” 
  • 1981: Fables by Arnold Lobel. I don’t usually enjoy odd-ball books, but this one is so ridiculously funny, I can’t help myself. All the fables are ones you’ve definitely never heard from Aesop. 
  • 1964: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. I never read this book as a child (my mom is not a fan), but it’s one of Bart’s favorites and I’ve come to really love this book. So many cool things about it (have you noticed that when Max is in the real world, the pictures are small and contained in white, but as he ventures into the world of the wild things the pictures get bigger and bigger until they take up the entire page, then start to shrink back as he returns to his room at home (obviously, I NEVER noticed this on my own. A professor pointed it out in a children’s lit class I took)). 
  • 1963: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. Is there anything not to love about this book? I always want to hug Peter when he puts a snowball in his pocket to save for later and then, after his bath, is sad to discover it’s disappeared. 

I just  was reading about the Caldecott award a few weeks ago and this article (book? Can’t even remember where this was) mentioned that when Robert McCLoskey was informed he’d won the Caldecott award, it was so new, he didn’t even know what it was. He went on to win the gold medal once more and get four additional Honor medals. Store that away for the next time you need some trivia.

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  • Reply Elaine November 8, 2013 at 12:48 pm

    There are quite a few of these that I have never read (yet) since I haven't had a little one to read to for quite a while but there are also some favorites. Make Way for Ducklings was a gift to me as a child and, having been brought up in Boston and loving the swan boats, I always felt it was written especially for me. I just bought The Man Who Walked Between the Towers for my daughter to use with her fourth grade students on 9/11 and found an online version of it here:
    I can't read Sylvester without crying.
    My favorite part of Snowy Day is the endpapers. I just love the colors.
    I babysat for a boy named Max who just loved Where the Wild Things Are. Build Your Wild Self goes really nicely with it, I think.

  • Reply Elaine November 8, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    Oh and because my other post wasn't long enough, I have a few Christmas book suggestions. The first is Santa's Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki and Ivan Gantschev. Peter Spier's wordless Christmas book would be a great one for Ella to read. I bought the popup of Tomie DePaola's First Christmas for my daughter's first Christmas. One not to just borrow, but to own. I also love his Friendly Beasts (a song I learned as a child. I can't believe (but am delighted) that all of them are still available on Amazon.

  • Reply Kimberly November 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Hi Janssen,

    Have you read "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCann? I haven't read "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers," but McCann's book is it's grown-up sibling. It is a beautiful, inspiring read, and I bet you would like it (if you haven't read it yet)! Thanks for the list – some of these will go on the holiday short list for our niece this year!

  • Reply april November 8, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    My son has decided he's mostly interested in non-fiction right now, so he picked up a book about volcanoes and a book about sharks yesterday and the book fair. Maybe I'll look into some of these from the ebook library for him to enjoy too.

  • Reply Meg November 8, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I have kind of an off topic question for you. I have tried to find certain children's books in my library before and the online catalog says they are available, but they are not on the physical shelves. I know kids pull them off and they get moved around a bit. I even asked for help once and she couldn't find it either. My question is: If I put a hold on a book in my own library, is that ok? It feels like I am just having them do all the leg work for me when I am perfectly capable of walking around and picking out by own books. Do librarians find that annoying? Of course when it is coming from another library, you don't have a choice, but what about when it comes from the library you use? I am just thinking that the employees might have better luck finding books than me?

  • Reply heidikins November 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

    I've given, at your recommendation, Huge Cabret to three 10 and 11-year olds, and they have all LOVED it. So, thank you!!

    (And looking at the comment just above about "Let the Great World Spin"…I'm not sure you'd actually love it. There is quite a bit of really gritty bits in there–prostitutes and drug dealers and such–and McCann makes no real point to sugar coat any of it. Just my two cents.)

  • Reply Melissa Bookmark Dragon November 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Love this list! What a great idea to tackle all the Caldecott books. I bet your daughter loves that tradition. I'll have to start it with my own daughter once she gets a little bigger. I'm in the middle of doing a series of book recommendations for kids of different age groups on my website ( if you're interested. You seem to already have a good grip on what books are out there, but feel free to stop by in case you want to check and see if there's something listed you haven't yet read.

    Thanks again for the post! I loved reading it.

  • Reply Elaine November 10, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Yet another Christmas book suggestion…Silent Night illustrated by Susan Jeffers, my favorite illustrator. Also, Kristina Rodanas, who is a personal friend, has a beautiful Little Drummer Boy. These are both still listed on Amazon too, although the prices of some of the books are pretty steep. There is a Kindle edition of Little Drummer Boy.

  • Reply Bethany November 12, 2013 at 3:50 am

    Your book posts… I love them.

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