Mock Caldecotts: A How-To Guide

So hard to believe that our SECOND annual Mock Caldecott award season is over, but it’s time to reflect and think about what we can do next year to make it even better. Today, I’m going to walk you through what we did in our class.

You probably know that any book published in 2012 by a US illustrator is eligible for the 2013 Caldecott. That means you can start reading potential Caldecott books RIGHT NOW! Yay! One of our bulletin boards is dedicated to recording all the Caldecott-eligible books we enjoy as a class. By the end of the year, the list looks something like this:

Between January and June, I usually include a few new books in our daily CAFE strategy read alouds. I record the books we read, and I keep them on the list after students leave and come back in the fall. This can get a bit tricky if you don’t loop with your students. This year, I only kept three of my students, so at the beginning of the school year, I created a bucket of books with all the eligible books we’d read last school year so everyone could be caught up.

In September and October, we continue this pattern of reading a few potential books in class. Whenever I check out new books from the Seattle Public Library, I point out during our morning class meeting which ones are eligible.

November is National Picture Book Month, so I read eligible books every morning during class meeting. Then in December, I continue that morning routine under the title of “Mock Caldecott Preparation.” :) I haven’t had any complaints from students or admins yet.

By the time January rolls around, we’ve read about two dozen books. The first full week in January, I check out any books that I’ve overlooked (using other Mock Caldecott lists and best-of lists as a guide). At the end of the second week in January, we create our short list. Here’s the video I put together to refresh students’ memories on all the books we’d read. Everything’s listed alphabetically.

Students pick their top five books, and I rank order their choices. This year, I also allowed write-in candidates, as the only titles I put on the ballot are ones we’ve read as a whole class. That’s how Sidekicks made it onto the list this year.

The Friday before the ALA Midwinter Conference, we use our short list to vote for students’ top three titles. We release our list the Friday before the official decisions, so our votes aren’t swayed by the “real” votes. This schedule got a bit botched this year due to SnOMG, so we weren’t able to watch the live webcast of the awards on Monday. Normally, students come in early for snacks and beverages (because we’re on the West Coast, we almost always have to arrive at school early).

This poster was a huge help in explaining the other book awards — this year we also read the Geisel honor, the Schneider Family award winner, and the Sibert award winner.

Can’t wait for next year!

Mock Caldecott Winners!

Neither snow nor conferences could prevent our class from picking this year’s Mock Caldecott winners! Despite not having school all last week, and despite Ms. Houghton’s two-day absence this week at the National Title I Conference, our class has arrived at a decision.

Two books received honors, two very different books, in my mind. The first honor book selected was:

Queen of the Falls by Chris VanAllsburg. I actually didn’t read this book to the class until the day before our first round of voting, but it just barely made it onto our 11-book short list. Students say they voted for this book because we were amazed by the story of a woman going down Niagara Falls in a barrel. The book pointed out she was an old lady and a woman, and we thought it was strange that people were disappointed that she was so old.

The second Caldecott honor book we selected was a write-in candidate that made it onto our short list:

Sidekicks by Dan Santat. Sidekicks made it as a write-in candidate because it was funny. Specifically, we liked when they fought the hippo that was eating fish and he sat on the pile of fish (one critter was talking). It was also funny at the end of the book because at the the end Vapor Man goes out to his car and sees that it exploded.

OVERWHELMINGLY, the winner of this year’s Mock Caldecott award is:

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Despite the fact that Wonderstruck got no Caldecott or Newbery love, this book was by far the tops in our class. SPOILER ALERT: We liked that Ben never knew that Rose was his grandma. A lot of times books try to trick us but we figure it out before the end, but not this one. We enjoyed the part of the book where Rose escapes from her house and sends a note saying “HELP ME” across the water as a boat. We discovered that William was the brother of Rose — that helped us put together what the “Wonderstruck” book meant.

Congratulations to our talented winners!

Snow in Seattle

Perhaps you’ve heard, we’ve had a bit of snow in the Pacific Northwest. Federal Way hasn’t had school all week (an absolutely safe choice, as the side roads are insane even if the main roads are fine. Thanks, Superintendent Neu!).

What’ve I been up to? Oh, a few things.

National Board entries. Lots of writing, lots of editing. I really don’t know how authors can stand to look at their writing by the time they get to the revising and editing stages. My goal is to get Entries 2, 3, and 4 done by the end of January.

I’ve been holed up creating Caldecott-related LOLs with the assistance/support of illustrators Julian Hector and Paul O. Zelinsky.

I HAVEN’T been fulfilling my duties as host of the Sibert Challenge, which is embarrassing, but I’m working to correct this.

Speaking of awards, TRAGEDY IS UPON US. Because we didn’t have school today, we didn’t have a chance to narrow our Mock Caldecott short list of 11 books down to OUR TOP THREE. PLUS, I will be at the National Title I Conference next week and won’t be back in class until WEDNESDAY. YARRRRR. I am formulating a plot.

Enjoy the rest of the day!

Mock Caldecott: First Round of Voting TOMORROW!

We’ll have our first round of Mock Caldecott voting tomorrow! It’s going to be so fantastic! We’ve read so many books so far this year!

Here’s an alphabetical list of the books we’ll be voting on. In this first round, students can rank their top five books. The field will be narrowed to ten books, and then we’ll have final voting next week!

  • The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
  • The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man
  • A Ball for Daisy
  • Bone Dog
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon
  • Bumble-Ardy
  • Charlie the Ranch Dog
  • Dinosaur vs. the Library
  • Except If…
  • Heart and Soul
  • I’m Not
  • I Want My Hat Back
  • Ice
  • Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat
  • Me… Jane
  • Melvin and the Boy
  • Mine!
  • Monkey: A Trickster’s Tale
  • Moving House
  • Never Forgotten
  • Neville
  • Over and Under the Snow
  • Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter
  • Perfect Square
  • Queen of the Falls
  • Sea Monster’s First Day
  • Where’s Walrus
  • Wonderstruck
  • You Will Be My Friend!

Jumping Fox!

This morning, in our quest to read books that are eligible for the 2012 Caldecotts, we enjoyed Kate Messner‘s Over and Under the Snow.

We were inspired to watch the BBC video of a fox hunting its prey in the snow. Here’s the link:

You can click through the video to see the clip of the fox jumping on a trampoline that we weren’t able to watch in class.

Nerdbery, Nerdcott, and an appeal for Nerdibert

So 2012 is nigh! I’ve come to the end of my 101 in 1001 challenge, so I suppose it’s time to reevaluate my reading life.

About a year or so into my 1001 days, I added “Read All Newbery and Caldecott Winners” to my list. Little did I realize how lonnnnnng and ollllllld and dulllllll some of the old winners would be. I succeeded in reading all the Caldecott winners and a good chunk of Newbery winners, but not what I had hoped for.

So it’s time to regroup. I’m trying to remain aware of the fact that I’ll be finishing my National Boards this year and I already have some responsibilities at the district level, but I think I can commit to a few things.

1. I will read or reread any Newbery medal winners I haven’t read in the past five years. I set my limit at five years because as I mentioned, I trudged all the way through The Story of Mankind, Smoky the Cowhorse, and Roller Skates recently, so I don’t know that I’d get much from rereading them so quickly.

2. I’m currently working on writing lesson plans for picture books in our school’s bookroom. A bunch of the books are Caldecott honor books I haven’t read yet, so I’ll read and post lesson plans for as many of these as I can track down.

3. What about the nonfiction books? I can’t find any information about a #nerdibert (#nerdbert?) challenge, so… anyone want to put one together with me?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

I Want My Hat Back!

We read I Want My Hat Back today, and here were our initial thoughts:


  •  “Bear! Cause I like being tall and strong!” ~Ivy
  • “Bear because I would be mad too. And if I were a bear, I would eat him.” ~Anthea
  • “I vote for the bear because he got mad because the rabbit took his hat.” ~Alejandra
  • “Team bear because bear wants his hat back and maybe the rabbit knew about the hat but he didn’t want to give it back to the bear.” ~Juan
  • “Team bear because they’re awesome!!! And they’re stronger and faster.” ~Vy
  • “I pick team bear because I would be mad if someone took my hat too and I would want it back.” ~Kyle
  • “I go for team bear. Why? Because they all swim to catch fish.” ~Carlos
  • “I pick team bear because the bear just wanted his hat back and because bears have claws.” ~Frankie
  • “I pick team bear because bears are funny and I like bears so much. But in the book it was funny and the rabbit was too.” ~Vashti
  • I vote for bear because he remembered about his red hat that he knew it was his, he said to the rabbit. That’s why I go for bear because he is smart.” ~Kevin
  • “I want to be on team bunny because it was so funny ’cause bunny had a cool hat. He was just standing there.” ~Jeffrey
  • “Team bear because bears are bigger and better.” ~Antonio (here he included a picture of a bear with his toothy mouth open, saying “BEARS ARE BIGGER AND BETTER”)
  • “I vote for rabbit since he could get revenge in his stomach. Also maybe since rabbits have fur, maybe bear is going to get a hairball. Or rabbit could jump out of bear’s mouth when he put him in his mouth to eat him. Also, rabbit could jump out of bear’s claws or paws. I think bear is a big old jerk because he ate the rabbit just because the rabbit took his hat. If I was bear, I would just say, ‘Can I get my hat back?’ So I’m just saying bear is a big jerk.” ~Eduard
  • Team bear because after the bear ate the rabbit the rabbit was not seen on the book.” ~Vincent


  • “I am team rabbit because he can get revenge in the bear’s stomach. Also he is like me in a way because he is sarcastic like me and funny. He was like, ‘What hat, I haven’t seen a hat, what are you talking about’ and bear is not that bright because he just noticed that the rabbit has his hat.” ~Thessalonia
  • Team rabbit because if the bear ate him he would go to heaven with God.” ~Xochitl
  • Team rabbit because he had the hat but he didn’t know it was bear’s — probably he found it in the floor. I don’t know why bear ate him.” ~Leonel
  • “I vote for team rabbit because he probably did not know whose hat it was and also he was trying not to let the bear know. It was like he was hiding it. I really liked the way he did that.” ~Arianna
  • I pick team rabbit because he did not even know that he was wearing the hat. Well, he did, but he tried to get away with it!” ~Savanah

You can watch the book trailer here:

I’m Bringing Hats Back.

So talk to me, Colby Sharp. And the rest of the Internet.

I read I Want My Hat Back last night in Barnes and Noble while we were en route to see Hugo.


Mr. Sharp is frankly the driving force behind my eagerness to read #hatback, and he has long been a Team Bear proponent. Although I feel similarly to the person on Twitter (help me, I can’t find her tweet) who said both Bear and Rabbit were poorly behaved, I don’t think I should sit on the fence on this issue.

So I began a list of pros and cons for each team. Spoiler alert and such regarding the content below.

ALSO, before I go any further, has anyone yet pointed out how much THIS VIDEO IS #HATBACK? (Learn the history of this meme here.)


I’ve chosen to use genderless pronouns in this debate. I checked to see if my style guide of choice (the AP Stylebook) had weighed in on genderless pronouns, but it seems they haven’t really. So I’ve gone with my personal favorite gender-neutral pronoun, “per,” which I first learned about in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time.


  • Bear’s gotta eat. (Thanks, Donalyn Miller)
  • Eye for an Eye.
  • I HATE it when people mess with me. I feel Bear’s pain to a certain extent.
  • Bear went through the appropriate channels to find per hat before resorting to what were PERHAPS unsavory measures — per searched high and low through the forest.
  • My initial impression of Bear is that per is rather simple. Is Rabbit taking advantage of a cognitively compromised character?
  • We don’t know what happened right before the end. Perhaps Bear contacted the authorities, who safely removed Rabbit from the forest and returned the hat to its rightful owner.
  • Similarly, maybe Bear is just sitting on Rabbit. Or maybe per tried one of Kelso’s Choices and made a deal.
  • If that’s the case, maybe Bear is mimicking Rabbit’s protests ironically at the end. Like, SEE, I could have been a jerk like Rabbit was, but I did the right thing AND got my hat back.


  • Rabbit must know that its odds aren’t too good in the forest food chain. So maybe per decided to BUCK THE SYSTEM and mess with bear, sacrificing per existence to mess with The Man.
  • Eye for an Eye. Maybe Bear munched on Rabbit’s friend/lover/cousin in the past. WE DON”T KNOW the backstory.
  • How did bear misplace per hat in the first place?
  • If Rabbit innocently happened upon the hat, per might not have realized that it was Bear’s. Maybe Rabbit’s frantic, verbose, seemingly guilty response is due to being TOTALLY FREAKED OUT that a bear is questioning per.
  • Dare I suggest that joining Team Bear be a little bit of victim-blaming?
  • I’m not completely convinced that the fox wasn’t somehow a part of this whole mess.

I’m currently leaning toward Team Rabbit. Which is where I seek your counsel, MISter Sharp et al.

Also, ouch, GoodReads. I thought we had an understanding.


The Invention of Hugo Cabret SANS PICTURES?

I’m beyond excited and apprehensive about seeing Hugo. I’m not ready to talk about the movie yet, because it makes my brain hurt (THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST MOVIE EVER, UNLESS IT’S NOT), but there was an ad that popped up on GoodReads that I felt ready to comment on.

You probably can guess I’m all about encouraging people to read the book before they see the movie (I made a pretty impassioned speech at the Thanksgiving dinner table yesterday), but I don’t get it. How would this even work?

I mean, how?



A movie, I get. Especially on a meta level — take a look at this FABULOUS blog post Roger Ebert put together. But an audiobook? Thoughts?

(ALSO: One final movie concern. The bit with Hugo hanging onto the arms of the clock all Safety Last style had BETTER be in a dream sequence.)