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Monday, November 10, 2008

Children's Classics - Caldecott Awards

Once again it is time for another Children's Classics carnival over at 5 Minutes for Books. I scrolled through the list of Caldecott winners of days gone by and while several looked familiar to me, and I thought of reviewing one or two, it's been so long since I've read them that I decided against it. However, I thought I would take this opportunity to learn about the Caldecott Awards themselves.

I confess that I am not one that pays attention to book awards. Sometimes I would rather not know if a book has won any type of recognition. I realize that perhaps this is somewhat odd, but I do like choosing books for myself and deciding whether or not I think they are noteworthy. Frequently, once I have discovered that a book has gained some sort of distinction or attention, I'll take even longer to get around to it. My tastes never seem to match up with the notoriety received. Oprah's Book Club? I'll take a pass. New York Times Best Seller? What, are you kidding me? Or, as in this case, Caldecott? Why should I care? (I really can't say why it is I feel this way. I realize awards matter to some and I do not have any moral objection to them. It just has not yet phased me. That's all.)

Instead of maintaining this attitude towards children's book awards I decided to find out just what the Caldecott award is and why it matters.

For starters, the award was named after Randolph Caldecott (1946 - 1886) who was a British illustrator. He was one of thirteen children born to his father through two separate marriages. (Randolph was the third child born during the first marriage.) As is the case with the most charming of illustrators, Caldecott enjoying nature. He enjoyed long walks and especially enjoying riding (horses). I think that the best illustrators are ones that observe creation. The ones who appreciate the details of the world God created are the best suited for communicating beauty and truth to the rest of us. Hence, I think that there is a great purpose in giving the Caldecott award and a great honor in receiving it. (I have convinced myself! Ha!)

Caldecott's work is classic and timeless. Every piece that I have looked at reminds me of England, which makes this American award rather ironic in some ways. In order to receive this award, you must be a resident or citizen of the United States. While the United States might not have birthed Caldecott, it saw the value of his work. In fact, in seeking a warmer climate and better conditions for his health needs, Caldecott died while traveling in Florida. It is a fitting tribute for my home country to pay in honoring this English born illustrator.

Although Caldecott himself was married, he and his wife never had children. Instead his illustrations must be enjoyed by other children (and adults!). One notable adult who seemed to very much enjoy the works of Caldecott was G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton penned the following inscription in "a book of Caldecott pictures to a little friend of mine -- " (You can also note Chesterton's appreciation for artwork in this poem.)

This is the sort of book we like
(For you and I are very small),
With pictures stuck in anyhow,
And hardly any words at all.
. . .
You will not understand a word
Of all the words, including mine;
Never you trouble; you can see,
And all directness is divine—
Stand up and keep your childishness:
Read all the pedants’ screeds and strictures;
But don’t believe in anything
That can’t be told in coloured pictures.


The importance of any illustration's effect on the imagination should not be underestimated. A person's painting or drawing is frequently integral to how we view an entire work in our head. The artwork on the cover of a book can effect whether or not we pick it up in the first place. It's not just about marketing (although there is that to consider) but imagination. What appeals to the better part of our brains to transport us to magical worlds? What helps to broaden our perspective? What illustrations can cause us to hate a movie for not portraying characters the way that have always viewed them in our minds, or perhaps causes us to love it? Illustrations are important. A drawing or painting or photograph holds a great deal of power and should be used in the right way. An illustration that compliments a word should be viewed with a little bit of reverence.

Jesus painted pictures in our heads by sharing parables that would humanize and communicate God's truth. Likewise, artwork also communicates truth by painting pictures in our heads. Images speak volumes and good images should be approved and applauded. Hence, I am firmly behind the idea of the Caldecott Award and am very glad to know more about it so that I can adequately (or not so adequately) appreciate its worth. It is a beautiful thing and I look forward to exploring various books that I have received the distinction of having received it.

If you would like to view more information on Randolph Caldecott or this award, I would encourage you to visit the following websites. Per usual, some are better than others. There is a ton of information out there and, quite honestly, Wikipedia's information on Caldecott the man is the most straightforward.

For a clear and straightforward listing of Caldecott Books, visit this site. The title I found most interesting was the first winner of the Caldecott Award, Animals of the Bible, illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop (1938). (I'd like to think such a title would win even today.)

You can also read up on the award on the American Library Association website.

I hope you will take a little time to read up on it because I do think it's a worthwhile study to appreciation. It effected the way I viewed book awards. At any rate, I hope you are enjoying the Children's Classic carnival. If you participated, let me know. I'll be visiting around!

8 comments:

Z-Kids said...

I enjoyed this post!

In addition to painting pictures for us via parables, Jesus Himself WAS a Picture: "the image of the invisible God," Col 1:15. Also, John 1 tells us He was "the Word made flesh" - a perfect description of illustration if I ever heard one....

Enjoyed your info on Caldecott too...

All best,
Z-Dad

Shanna said...

Nice post. Thank you for the history lesson I didn't take.

Bluestocking said...

Nice post. I chose Madeline. I didn't go into history though I really should have.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Great post! Very informative and I liked hearing your take on it.

Jen E @ mommablogsalot said...

Great post, I loved learning a little bit more about the award - I hadn't known until today that the Caldecott was for illustrations but it makes sense now looking at the list! :)

Alyce said...

Great information about Caldecott! I really didn't know anything about him or the award before this. I chose to review the 2006 award winner.

Krista said...

What a fun history of the award, thanks! I'm glad you like Powell's too!!! I think that actually may have been the last time I was there... :(
Although now I find pretty decent children's books at the OSU bookstore without the overwhelmingness of it all! (did we have this conversation before? :)

Kipi said...

Really enjoyed your post! Knowing the history of the award makes it more meaningful.

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