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This year’s Caldecott Medal was awarded yesterday at the Midwinter Meeting of the American Library Association to Jon Klassen for This Is Not My Hat.

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

The Caldecott Medal is one of the two major children’s book awards in the U.S.; the other is the Newbery Medal. [Think: Oscars for children’s books. And like film awards, there are lots of other awards and medals, even within the U.S., even from the American Library Association.]

The shorthand distinction between the two awards (and certainly the way it generally plays out in practice) is that the Caldecott Medal is for picture books and the Newbery Medal is for “chapter books.”

The actual distinction between the two awards is that

The Newbery Medal is awarded primarily on the basis of the text of a children’s book: “Contribution to American literature” indicates the text of a book. It also implies that the committee shall consider all forms of writing—fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Reprints, compilations and abridgements are not eligible.” 

The Caldecott Medal is awarded on the basis of the illustrations of a picture book for children:

“The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustration, but other components of a book are to be considered especially when they make a book less effective as a children’s picture book. Such other components might include the written text, the overall design of the book, etc. 

“Note: The committee should keep in mind that the award is for distinguished illustrations in a picture book and for excellence of pictorial presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity.”

So, particularly bad writing might eliminate a book from Caldecott consideration, but otherwise, if you’re an aspiring children’s book author day-dreaming about your Caldecott acceptance speech, you might want to rethink your aspirations.

Unless, that is, you can also draw (/paint/collage/etc.). Plenty of author/illustrators have won the Caldecott for their books (including this year’s winner).

Robert Lawson is the only person to date to have received both the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal:

They Were Strong and Good, written and illustrated by Robert Lawson

Winner of the 1941 Caldecott Medal

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson

Winner of the 1945 Newbery Medal

The only other person to have come close is Tomie dePaola, who has had one book named a Caldecott Honor book (Strega Nona) and another book named a Newbery Honor book (26 Fairmount Avenue).

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, created in 1938. Looking over the entire list of Caldecott Medal and Honor Books is an interesting exercise – there are undisputed classics, like Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Arebut there are also plenty of books that you’ve probably never heard of, and more than a handful of older books that are – despite their honors – out of print. And the very illustrations that got many books their recognition now make the same books look not so much “classic” as “dated.” Book awards – in any genre – are not immune to trends, or even to the downright trendy.

The Caldecott Honor Books for 2013

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown

Extra Yarn by Marc Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn by Marc Barnett, illustrated by (2013 Medal Winner) Jon Klassen

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David SmallOne Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, illustrated by David Small

Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela ZagarenskiSleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

*A final note – the image at the top of the post, John Gilpin Riding to Edmonton, by Randolph Caldecott, is the image featured as a relief on the Caldecott Medal. From the Caldecott Medal page:

The illustration on the Caldecott Medal, which is taken from Caldecott’s illustrations for “The Diverting Story of John Gilpin,” is a perfect example of the humor, vitality, and sense of movement found in Caldecott’s work. The illustration shows John Gilpin astride a runaway horse, accompanied by squawking geese, braying dogs, and startled onlookers.