Culture

Children's Books

Culture | The Caldecott Medal winner, awarded for the best American picture book for children

Issue: "China: Caesar’s seminary," Jan. 27, 2001
The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children that was published in 2000.
Since 1937 the American Library Association has awarded Caldecott Medals and Honor book status to picture book artists. It guarantees increased sales and a prime place on library shelves and reading lists. The award doesn't guarantee that kids will like the book. The 1995 winner, Smoky Night, was about the Los Angeles riots, an unlikely topic for a favorite read-aloud.
1
So You Want to Be President?
illustrated by David Small, written by Judith St. George First Place
GIST
A collection of presidential facts, some serious and some funny, breezily written and energetically illustrated in political cartoon style.

MESSAGE
David Small's witty, detailed illustrations complement this funny and informative text with its serious message: Anyone can be president. The text shows the variety of men who have held the office, most (though not all) with honor. "If you want to be president-pattern yourself after the best," the author concludes.

2
Casey at the Bat
illustrated by Christopher Bing, written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer Honor Books
GIST
A newly discovered scrapbook supposedly contains the original account of Casey's famous strikeout and lots of other memorabilia from that era.

MESSAGE
Readers of The Wall Street Journal are familiar with the engraving-style portraits that accompany many profiles. This beautiful, sepia-toned book is illustrated in that same style. Real and faux memorabilia are "glued" on around the poem, creating a book that is wonderful to look at.

4
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type
illustrated by Betsy Lewin, written by Doreen Cronin Honor Book
GIST
The cows are cold. They demand electric blankets. They type their demands on an old manual typewriter. Farmer Brown says no, and they go on strike.

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MESSAGE
A mediocre story with cartoonish watercolor illustrations. Children who think it's funny to imagine cows using a typewriter will like it. So will children who plan to be labor union organizers when they grow up. Parents wanting to teach lessons about collective bargaining may find this a good first book on the topic.

3
Olivia
written and illustrated by Ian Falconer Honor Book
GIST
Olivia is a high-energy young pig who wears her parents out, but they love her anyway.

MESSAGE
Olivia is a bundle of energy with a talent for building sand castles and a love for the art museum. She's depicted in soft charcoal drawings, contrasted with a tiny detail of red-a dress, lipstick, a pink sunburn, spaghetti sauce-on each page. When she sees a Jackson Pollock painting, she thinks she could do it in five minutes-an idea she tries with obvious consequences.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT
David Small's Caldecott-award winning illustrations in So You Want to Be President? bring to life the presidents from Washington to Clinton. He presents Nixon in the familiar arms-raised-for-victory pose, and Thomas Jefferson wielding a hammer atop Monticello. A passel of exotic pets surround Teddy Roosevelt, and a crane lowers the 300 lb. William Howard Taft into his custom-made presidential bathtub. Author Judith St. George shows how varied the 42 presidents have been. She compares frequency of presidential first names, numbers of siblings, pets, favorite sports, looks, ages, and personalities. She includes funny anecdotes that kids will love: When someone throws a cabbage at William Howard Taft, he quips: "It appears that one of my adversaries has lost his head." Illustrations and text work together in showing that some presidents were honest, and "Other presidents weren't so honest. Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath." Richard Nixon also receives criticism, and both rogues are shown walking in disgrace down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Their heads are bowed and their backs are turned to the majestic and sober statue of Lincoln, who seems to regard them with disappointment.

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