Caldecott Honor Books

caldecott medal

“The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” From the Website



Caldecott Honor Books

Becker, Aaron. Journey. Candlewick Press, 2013. 40 pages. $15.99 ISBN-13: 978-0763660536

A young girl journeys through magical lands with the help of her red crayon.

Age Range 4-10

Fantasy, wordless picture book

5 out of 5 for quality, 5 out of 5 for popularity.

Caldecott Honor, 2014

Imagination takes us outside ourselves and into beautiful worlds, as it does for a girl, bored of life in an urban city and ready for adventure. Drawing a door for herself on her bedroom wall she enters an enchanting forest filled with lights and a river that takes her to a city full of domed cathedrals and a system of aqueducts. All along the way she travels through the power of her red crayon, making boats, hot air balloons, and a flying carpet. She helps to save a beautiful purple bird who eventually leads her back to her home, but also to a new friend with an imagination to match her own. Without words and full of incredibly detailed and magical drawings, this book tells an adventure story that reminds one of a detailed Harold and the Purple Crayon (which is emphasized even more when the boy she meets in the end has a crayon that is purple). Although the illustrations range from simple to detailed, the geometry and use of color infuse the whole work with emotional content. Any page this book is opened to tells a story and makes it an irresistible book.


Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Free Fall by David Wiesner

Rainstorm by Barbara Lehman

Book Discussion

  1. Is this book about an imaginary journey or is the girl in a fantasy land that is real to her?
  2. How does the author use color to tell the story?


Great book for pre-readers as it has no words and allows for a lot of interaction. Adventure, Friendship, magic, imagination.


Author website

Author interview


dave the potter

Hill, Laban Carrick. Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Little Brown and Company, 2010. 40 pages. $18.00 ISBN-13: 978-0316107310

A poem about a slave who made pots and inscribed them with lines of poetry.

Biography picture book, poetry

Age Range: 5-12

4 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator, 2011

Caldecott Honor, 2011

“To us, it is just dirt…” begins a picture book that imparts the brief things we know about the life of Dave the Potter. Born a slave, almost all the information about him comes from the simple lines of poetry he inscribed on the huge ceramic pots he made. This story is told in poem as well, to further illustrate the power poetry has to describe a life, whether it is telling it autobiographically on pots or historically in a picture book. It is also the story of how pottery is made, clay thrown on a wheel, shape curved with hands and arms. The illustrations are done by Bryan Collier, whose normal collage style is toned down, focusing more on the detail illustrations and using some collage to give the images extra dimension. Especially beautiful are the illustrations of Dave’s hands as they work the clay into a pot. The color palette for the whole work is earth tones, the tans and browns of clay and pottery. This is a unique, beautiful biography of a man who has an unusual place in American history.


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom By Carole Boston Weatherford

Carver: A life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson

Ellington was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange

Book Discussion

  1. Why is it important that we learn about Dave?
  2. What made Dave different from other slaves?


Author Website

A video showing a pottery vase being made.


william blake

Willard, Nancy. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. Illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen. Harcourt, 1982. 45 pages. $16.60 ISBN-13: 978-0812404661

A series of poems in the style of William Blake describe a fantastical inn full or marvelous creatures.

Poetry Picture Book

Age Range: 5 and up

Rating: 5 out of 5 for quality, 3 out of 5 for popularity.

Newbery Medal, 1982

Caldecott Honor, 1982

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Picture Book, 1982

The introduction tells the story of the author hearing a poem by William Blake as a child and becoming enchanted. In this book, beautifully illustrated with muted earth tones of an old-fashioned style, is Willard’s tribute to her beloved Poet. Clearly written with imagination and fancy, each poem has a different rhythm, but all work to describe some aspect of the amazing inn run by William Blake with the help of tigers, dragons, angels, and the King of Cats. The reader is continually confronted with amazing journeys to the stars, fantastic flying carriages, and dragons making bread juxtaposed against cozy images of Blake at his writing desk or in a study with a warm fire in the fireplace. The city, too, makes appearances, regularly in surreal images of rooftops and rooms clustered among geometric buildings and architecture. The poems are refreshing and feel beautiful and silly and charming, and give nod to Blake’s imagination and need for breaking away from rationality.

“He gave silver shoes to the rabbit

And golden gloves to the cat

And emerald boots to the tiger and me

And boots of iron to the rat.”

The magic and imagination infused in this book make it perfect for reading to children and enjoying alone.


In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Omnibeasts: animal poems and paintings by Douglas Florian

Red Sings from the Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman

Book Discussion

  1. What do you think this book tells us about the poetry of the real William Blake?
  2. None of the humans seemed surprised by what is happening in the pictures, whoudl you be surprised?

Book Talking

Would you like to visit a place where angels make the beds and dragons bake the bread? Where a nature walk is through the stars? How about if you had to cuddle a bear for a bed?


Author Biography from the Poetry Foundation

A brief movie about the real William Blake



Worlds of Imagination

J is a fury of imaginative storytelling. He is equipped with an impressive vocabulary that includes words like ginormous, a well-developed sense of song, and an imaginary friend named Lucy. Lucy can do everything and does frequently, bending time and space to her and J’s will to combat dinosaurs, walk with wolves, and fly to mars.  Watching this imagination develop has been a joy, we encourage it as much as possible, asking follow-up questions about his travels with Lucy. We help him as best we can as he turns a box into a house, a cave, and a turtle shell through the course of a single hour. He can spend half a day in a dragon costume and the rest of the day in regular clothes pretending to be an entire menagerie of animals. I love books where children are encouraged to build a world out of their imaginations, and so does J, so here are the top three I have found so far.

Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes was one of the very first children’s books I bought brand new. I was probably 20 and the story of a boy who creates an entire culture from a plant that grows in his backyard was beautiful and exciting. Stories of invention and creativity are stories of hope. It is about a lonely boy, Wesley who, through his own creativity and spunk triumphs over the adversity of bullies and oblivious parents. The illustrations by Kevin Hawkes are rich and luscious, full of the vibrant reds  and greens of the ‘swist’ plant. What I love best about this book is that while Wesley creates his own culture and is true to his own interests and desires, he converts the other mean children over to his imaginative backyard paradise. I love a book about overcoming one’s enemies by finding respect and forgivness.

Next is a book written in 1967 by Doris Burn, Andrew Henry’s Meadow.  I found this on a shelf at my Dad’s house and we read it every time we visit. It is about a boy inventor, Andrew Henry, whose inventions get him in trouble with his family. Needing some place to build, he heads out to the nearby meadow to build his own home. Other children of the town follow, bringing with them the things that make them unique and strange and that their parents have told them to get rid of. Rather than giving up their passions, they build a community in the field with a unique house built for each child, one for bird-watching, another insulated for playing instruments.  Eventually the families come to find the children, embrace them and bring them home, along with their quirky hobbies. It is illustrated in simple pen drawings, but the detail makes it very magical, especially with the complex inventions Andrew Henry builds.

Finally a recommendation from my sister, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. This book tells the story of a group of neighborhood kids in Arizona in the early half of the 1900’s who build an imaginary city and playground on a hill covered with rocks, cactus and trash. Children love trash, especially the kind that can be made into treasures. These children use rocks and boxes to build homes and shops, cars and horses. This book is told like a memory, and although the oil paintings are muted and the writing quiet as well, J and I love it. We got it from the library and it is one of the top requests this week from the library stack that sits on the floor next to the couch. I think he is fascinated by the way children play and the rules they create between each other to build their imaginary games. It’s a hard thing to learn and takes a lot of trial and error to get other small children to agree on a game. Roxaboxen gives him a model of what play should be, can be, once he figures out how to communicate it.  In Roxaboxen there is even a boy’s against girl’s war described, with forts and bandits whooping. Despite J being a very sweet, loving, kind, imaginative little boy, he loves more these days than a pretend fight with swords, “gunnins” and perhaps even a dramatic death scene.

Burn, D. (1967) Andrew Henry’s Meadow. San Juan Publishing

Fleishman, P. (1999) Weslandia. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press.

McLerran, A. (1991) Roxaboxen. New York: Lothorop, Lee & Shepard Books