Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Caldecott 2018 - Mock Voting

This morning (11/08/17) our picture book group -- seasoned writers and book reviewers considered several dozen 2017 books that we felt would be contenders for the 2018 Caldecott.  The following results of our discussion and voting result in a winner, and two honor titles.

The award vote went to Mike Curato, the illustrator of Margarita Engle's All the Way to Havana (Henry Holt and Company, 2017).  Engle is a native of Cuba.  Curato went to Cuba and stayed in a bed and breakfast operated by two of Margarita's cousins in Havana.  During his stay he research and photographed many cars and scenes in Cuba.  Car enthusiasts will notice that the cars are often modified with parts from a variety of sources, parts that substitute for the original parts but do not necessarily duplicate the original. The car that is the main focus in the book is a real car, a 1954 Chevy 201 Series - sometimes know as a Chevy Delray.  The real car was owned by Rey a driver who took Curato and a fellow illustrator, Curator's interpreter in Cuba, around Havana.  The car has been in Rey's wife, Marbelis's family for more than three decades.  Curato's illustrations were created with pencil and paint and emulated the textures from the photographs Curator had taken in Cuba.  The perspectives of the buildings and the variety of cars are a feast for the eyes.  Readers will glimpse a bit of the culture and history of Cuba - as seen through the eyes of an observer in the country.  A book trailer for this book is available online at:

These following two illustrators were strong contenders and are listed here in alphabetical order by the illustrator's last name.
Illustrator Keith Mallett - 
First time author Andrea J. Loney tells the story of an innovative photographer in Take a Picture of Me, James Vanderzee! (Lee and Low, 2017).  Loney tells the inspirational story of Vanderzee who as a young boy saved his coins to buy his first camera to his rise as a sought after photographer in Harlem where he took photos of legendary figures that were part of the Harlem Renaissance.  As a photographer Vanderzee created photographs that showcased the beauty of those he photographed.  The illustrator, Keith Mallett, does the same for Vanderzee as he illuminates the subjects of Vanderzee's subjects.
Keith Mallett is an artist and designer, residing in San Diego.  He has been creating art for as long as he can remember.  For more than three decades he has created posters and art prints.  He was able to attend the original James VanDerZee exhibit "Harlem on my Mind" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The illustrations were created with acrylic paint and were meticulously researched for accuracy true to the late 19th century.  Read VanDerZee's comments about how he created the illustrations in a blog post on Lee and Low's blog about art and design.
"Illustrator Keith Mallett Takes Us Behind the art of Take a Picture of Me, James Vanderzee.  (27 Jul 2017).  Lee and Low. (Online)  

This book joins other recent books about photographers that will make a great collaborative reading package for young readers.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Illustrated by Jarney Christoph. (Albert Whitman, 2015)
Weatherford, Carole Boston. Dorothea Lange: The Photographer Who Found the Faces of Depression.  Illustrated by Sarah Green.  (Albert Whitman, 2017)

Illustrator: John Rocco
Fans of the forever popular writer Virginia Lee Burton will love this look at Burton's life and artistry, Big Machines The Story of Virginia Lee Burton, by Sherri Dusky Rinker, with illustrations by John Rocco (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017).  The biography text is a tribute to both Burton and her artistic style, while Rocco emulates Burton's visual style and includes images of Jinnee and her two boys, Aristides Burton Demetrios and Michael Burton Demetrios, in many scenes.  (Note: Learn about Aris and Mike on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Internet site at But the focus of the book and the illustrations are the big machines that Jinnee created to delight her sons: Mary Anne, Katy, and Marybelle.
John Rocco is no stranger to illustration or to the Caldecott. He has illustrated dozens of children's books, one of which was named a Caldecott honor, Blackout, in 2012.  His art for Blackout was created with graphite pencil on Strathmore Bristol paper with digital coloration.  For this book, the talented and versatile illustrator created the illustrations with watercolors, colored pencil, and digital media. Rocco's art can also be seen on the covers of many books by Rick Riordan - specifically the Percy Jackson series.  He also has worked in animation and in leading industry venues.  Rocco's illustrations for Big Machines have been described as being "... alive, bursting with color and action" and indeed they are.
Visit Christopher John Rocco's professional site at
Access a complete list of books illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton at the FemBio site at

Now to wait until the actual awards are announced during the American Library Association's midwinter convention February 9 - 13, 2018 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, CO.  The announcements are typically made on the Monday morning of the conference - which would be February 12, 2018.  Good luck to all the illustrators of 2017 books.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Creekfinding: A True Story

March 2017 saw the release of Creekfinding: A True Story.  This tale based on the true story of Michael Osterholm and his efforts to bring back a lost stream that once flowed through a field on his farm.  With heavy equipment, thoughtful plans and plenty of ingenuity Osterholm created an environment that allowed the spring fed stream to come back and when the water came so did the birds, and reptiles, and hundreds of insects.  This is the story of the finding of that creek and the efforts to restore the creek as a habitat for the trout that once inhabited the stream.

In March, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Claudia McGehee, and Michael Osterholm were at Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa to share the back story of the book, and to introduce the work to the many bibliophiles that came to hear the reading and learn about the stream and the story.  On April 1, Claudia and Jackie shared their book at the CSPS hall in Cedar Rapids as part of a program arranged and sponsored by Next Page Books in the New Bo District.  And on April 15th there is a celebration at the Perfect Blend in Mount Vernon, IA.  But the celebration does not stop there, on April 23rd, the Red Balloon Bookshop celebrates the book with another reading and appearance by Martin, McGehee, and Osterholm.

Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Claudia McGehee, Michael Osterholm
at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, Iowa.

Watch for this blackbird who seems to show up
throughout the illustrations for the story.

Max is a real dog that was by Michael's side throughout
the Creekfinding activities.  Ask the book creators about
his story.

Michael Osterholm began his adventure with the creek
through his efforts to create a prairie area on his newly purchased
farm fields. Now cone flowers and other native wild flowers have a
home along the banks of the creek that runs through the field.

 Gtotaku - making a fish print

The first step in creating a fish print (Gyotaku) is to cover
the fish with the black ink which will create the print

Those who attended the reading at the CSPS hall in Cedar
Rapids were given an opportunity to make a fish print in the
manner that has been used in Japan for centuries.  Here the
fish which has been covered with a printer's ink is being rubbed
with the paper which will yield a print of the fish.

This is the finished print, framed, and ready for his mother's day gift.

Earlier at the CSPS hall Jacqueline Briggs Martin reads
from Creekfinding: A True Story.

Children attending the reading helped put the animals in
the prairie.

Be sure to ask the creators about the role the fox played in
the book - or at least the backstory about the origination
of the story and its role in finding the collaborators.

  From the publisher - The University of Minnesota Press

"In the words of award-winning author Jacqueline Briggs Martin and the enchanting illustrations of Claudia McGehee, this is the heartwarming tale of an ecosystem restored in the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa. The story will charm and inform young readers who are drawn to a good mystery, the wonders of nature—and, of course, big earth-moving machines." ~ University of Minnesota Press
"The main narrative reads smoothly aloud, and the pictures, though detailed, should show well to a small group. Author's and illustrator's notes and a comment from the actual creek rescuer complete the package. A heartening story of environmental restoration." ~ Kirkus Reviews

Jacqueline Briggs Martin - author of Creekfinding: A True Story (and many other picture book titles) is available for author appearances -- find out more at McBookwords.
McBookwords has a dozen or more authors that speak with young readers.  If you would like to investigate having an author visit your school or library -- for an author appearance please contact us at McBookwords.  Each of these authors often speak  in schools with young readers, and at all types of groups that are interested in literacy and  books.