There’s something magical about children’s literature. Many of us who grew up in the Reading Rainbow generation know that. It was from picture books that I learned about the world outside of my house, and my city, and learned how to appreciate art. Illustrations are an integral part of children’s picture books that make the words come alive, invoke feeling, and help us understand a little more of this complicated world we live in. They have the power to give a visual to a place we wouldn’t be able to imagine. Think back on the feeling you had when you first read The Polar Express with its larger-than-life train, or the adventure you took when you read Where the Wild Things Are.
The American Library Association also recognizes how important illustrators are to children’s books by awarding the Caldecott Medal. Named after 19th century picture book author and illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott, the medal is awarded each year to the “most distinguished illustrator” of a children’s picture book. We know and recognize a lot of the titles that have been listed over the years—they’ve become staples of our childhoods, and will continue to with our children.
The illustrators who’ve won in the past continue to do amazing work in the Children’s Book community. Here are 16 new titles to look for this year from past Caldecott Award Winners.
The Alphabet’s Alphabet by Dan Santat (Illustrator) and Chris Harris (Writer) (September 20, 2020)
When an “A is an H that won’t stand up right, and B is really a D with a belt that’s too tight” children learn that while each is unique, they’re also connected—like a family. This is a fun, silly, alphabet book that will make kids giggle with the silly illustrations and twisty rhymes.
Lift by Dan Santat (Illustrator) and Minh Le (Writer)
Iris loves to push the buttons in the elevator at her apartment. She does not love having to do it with her little brother. When a mysterious button shows up and brings her to new places and a world of exploration, she has to decide to let her little brother in on the secret or go it alone. It’s a cute book about the meaning of family and togetherness.
I Got It by David Wiesner
Every outfielder loves to imagine making the game winning catch. However, our outfielder imagines all the ways that he gets it wrong. Some are funny, some are heartbreaking, but there’s only one that matters, the one you reach for. Summoning his strength and his courage, he overcomes his imaginary obstacles and uses them to succeed instead.
Robobaby by David Wiesner (September 1, 2020)
A new baby has been delivered to this robots house. Mom and Dad quickly short circuit when the baby becomes fritzy and out of control. Calm and cool big sister steps in to save the day with her extensive knowledge of robotics and IT. While helping the baby she bonds with her baby brother, showing us that we all take care of each other.
A Place to Land by Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator) and Barry Wittenstein (Writer)
When asked what the hardest part of making a sermon is, Martin Luther King Jr. said that it’s not the start, but then end—it’s hard circling around “with no place to land.” This is the story of how King and his writers worked out the place to land in his famous “I Have A Dream” speech the night before his March on Washington.
The Little Mermaid by Jerry Pinkney (November 3, 2020)
Melody is the littlest sea princess, but she is also an explorer. Following the classic tale of “The Little Mermaid,” Melody sells her voice for legs to explore the land. Soon, when things get rough below the water’s surface, she is going to have to make a choice. Reveal her identity and help her family, or stay on land with her friend. This book beautifully asks the question: Who would you give your voice up for? And the answer: nobody.
The Weather’s Bet by Ed Young (March 31, 2020)
There are three powers in the sky: Wind, Sun and Rain. One day they come down on a young shepherdess asleep on a hill. Each claiming to be mightier than the other, they each bet which one could make her take her hat off. This is a classic fable that shows how gentle kindness can move more than might.
Voices of the Heart by Ed Young
Young explores here 26 Chinese characters, each describing an emotion, and each containing the symbol for the heart. With characters and symbols that uncover layers of emotionality, this book invites children to sit with their own hearts and feelings. Each drawing is an exploration of the heart.
Almond by Allen Say
When a new girl who can play magnificently on her violin comes to school, everything changes for Almond Briggs. Fading in the light of the new girl’s accomplishments, Almond feels like she has no talents or special gifts. What Almond has to learn is that happiness needs to come from the inside, and that we can appreciate ourselves for our own wondrous abilities.
Explorers by Matthew Cordell
An ordinary trip to the museum turns into an adventure when a little boy loses his origami bird, thanks to his sister…of course. Soon, they’re looking for it, walking through the exhibits—family and friends working together to see if it’s really lost forever. Will they find it?
Hello Neighbor: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell (May 5, 2020)
This is an accessible biography of Fred Rogers for any kid who’s asked themselves, Where did it all start? In our world of uncertainty, Mr. Rogers has helped generations of children sort through their big feelings. Here, they can get to know him as a person, where he grew up, how he started his Neighborhood, and exactly what his legacy was.
Before Morning by Beth Krommes (Illustrator) and Joyce Sidman (Writer)
When life seems to be going at full speed, we can all wish for a simple snow day. What starts as a wish turns into a storm, letting a busy family slowly and easily get ready in the morning. This book reminds us that it’s okay to take a break and relish in the fact that we have each other.
Honeybee:The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Eric Rohmann (Illustrator) and Candace Fleming (Writer)
Take a journey in the lifecycle of a honeybee. From her hatching, to protecting the hive, cleaning combs, to adventuring outside, to the end of her life. Beautifully illustrated, we see the beauty in one of our most important life sustaining species.
Circle by Jon Klassen (Illustrator) and Mac Barnett (Writer)
The third of the clever shapes trilogy, Circle must save Triangle from a rule that had been broken. With illustrations that are simple, yet complex, kids will love reading about friendship and camaraderie. If they like this, they can also try: Triangle and Square.
The Magic Flute by Chris Rashka
Rashka brings his interpretation of one of Mozart’s famous operas to kids. It’s a mystical, mysterious, and downright bonkers story that everyone will absorb and appreciate. This book invites young readers to learn about another art form, Opera.
In the City by Chris Rashka (September 29, 2020)
This is a story about friendship. We follow two city pigeon friends as they seek a new friend. But how do you make new friends? This book is a love letter to the city, to friendship, and the ordinary things we see everyday and take for granted.