recess radio program

01/14/05
My Caldecott Year
    by Rita Smith

It took a while for the books to begin arriving at my doorstep, but once they did, there was hardly a day that I didn't come home from work to find a couple of padded mail envelopes, cardboard boxes or mail priority bags hiding the welcome mat on my front porch. The dedicated men and women of the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and Fed Ex beat a constant path to my door. As a member of the 2005 Caldecott Award Selection Committee, I have reviewed over 550 picture books illustrated by American artists and published in the United States between January 1 and December 31, 2004, and will help choose the 2005 wining title and artist.

Last January, I cleared two large bookcases in my study of all books. I bought eight tall metal bookends and six packets of 4 x 6 lined note cards. I read books about picture books which discussed picture codes and the meaning and dynamics of artistic form, color and design. I took notes and wrote down useful words and phrases which describe pictures like "nostalgic" and "lively flow from left to right" and "dramatic change of pace." I committed these words to memory. The picture books began to arrive in late February. I was given Thursday afternoons off from work to go home and read and evaluate the books I'd gotten during the week, a number which varied from 6 or 7 to more than 30. At first, I read each book carefully and took detailed notes. This worked as long as I was getting several books a week, but when I started to get more than 10 or 15, I realized that I needed a process that would immediately eliminate the run-of-the-mill books from those which, in my opinion, were more worthy of my time and serious consideration. I began to give each book a quick first read and then put it on one of three piles: the "no" pile for books not worth spending any more time on; the "maybe" pile to look at more carefully later if I have time, and the "yes" pile, to read more carefully and evaluate that day. As I read more and became familiar with various art media and the pattern and rhythm of picture books and as I defined and refined my own personal preferences, this became easier to do.

uring this upcoming weekend in Boston, the committee will meet and through discussion, persuasion and voting we will choose the winner of the 2005 Caldecott Award. On the following Monday morning, the winner is announced to the media and on the American Library Association website at http://www.ala.org. Then I return home to Thursday afternoons back at the library and the delivery people will be beating a path to someone else's front porch.

For more information, visit the Caldecott Award website

Copyright 2005 Rita Smith

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