Confession time: I still have not read all the picture books that have come out in 2016. But, according to Calling Caldecott, each RealCommittee member gets to nominate seven books for consideration. The following seven titles, then, are my “nominations.” I hope that the RealCommittee (and anyone who might be reading this) will show me all the books I’m missing out on—like Radiant Child and Freedom Over Me, both of which are still “in-process” at our main library and, sadly, not in my hands.
1. They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
As you may have read in my last post, I am kind of obsessed with this book. It is just so brilliant. Wenzel’s care with using different styles to show how each animal sees proves not only his artistic excellence but also serves to add personality, tone, and small bits of science (!) to each of the double page spreads. This book is practically a visual dissertation on perspective-taking. How can it not get a medal?
2. Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illus. by Yuyi Morales
Part of me wants to award this book based solely on its cover because it’s just so exquisite. You have Thunder Boy Jr. hoisted on his dad’s shoulders and reaching just past the name that looms above him. The art style reminds me of cel shaded computer graphics (I played more video games than I read comics as a kid), making the characters pop off the page in comparison to the flat, almost symbolic backgrounds. This book is all about placement, and Morales orchestrates it all perfectly.
3. Real Cowboys by Kate Hoefler, illus. by Jonathan Bean
I love this book and it seems like it’s been flying under the radar, despite the fact that Bean has received a few accolades in the past. This book is his best, hands down. It expertly combats the hypermasculinity usually associated with cowboys and provides a counternarrative in the form of a visual feast. My favorite spread: the lone cowboy dwarfed by the ghosts of dead cattle while the text reads “Real cowboys cry.”
4. Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, illus. by Eric Rohmann
This book is so cool! It uses the picture book format and conventional trim size to its advantage, as we never fully see the entire squid. This, in turn, makes the squid feel even more, well, giant. The text alone is well-paced, almost cinematic, but the visuals really carry the weight of this nonfiction masterpiece. The crowning moment of the book: when the squid squirts out its ink to hide itself and you have to fold out the double-page spread into a quadruple-page spread to see it unobscured.
5. Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle
Oh, I see you Molly Idle. You take your form and you break it brilliantly. Building off of the other two, this beautiful installment questions what it’s like to be a third wheel. That last fold out page is magnificent–in size, yes, but also in the way it punctuates the story. It really is a beautiful wordless book, and I’d love it to be honored for the marvel that it is.
6. The Storyteller by Evan Turk
The Moroccan oral storytelling tradition manifests itself in these glorious, deftly illustrated pages. In so many ways, the design hearkens back to old school picture books with intricate borders and textured storytelling. The angles, the composition, the technique… this book deserves some recognition. I was so sad Grandfather Gandhi got snubbed in 2015 but this is Turk’s best yet.
7. Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski
From the textures to the color palette to the little crowns hanging over heads, I’m just in awe of these illustrations. It’s like Knuffle Bunny only better because the stuffed lion comes to life for its own adventure and might just be real. I love, love, love that Leo’s part of the story is wordless because it gives the reader so much power to decide what’s happening. This is a quiet book that doesn’t command attention but will reward those who give it the time it deserves.
…So there you have it. It was hard to pick just seven and I’m probably going to change my mind once I’ve actually read all of 2016’s offerings. But, for now, I’m sticking to my gut. I doubt we’ll get as many honors as 2015 but, who knows, we could get even more.