A School Tradition: Mock Caldecott and Mock Newbery 2022

Every year, the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), announces which literary works of the previous year have earned one of their many awards. Two of those awards, the Randolph Caldecott Medal and the John Newbery Medal, are the oldest of all of the awards granted by ALSC. This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary for the Newbery Medal, and the Caldecott Medal is right behind it with eighty-four years and counting.

Each fall, our school library invites the first- through fourth-grade students to hear and see picture books that have the potential to win the Caldecott Medal. Meanwhile, our middle school students are invited to join grade-level book clubs to read and discuss works that could win the Newbery Medal. In preparation for the upcoming awards, we read some of the best children’s literature published in the current year and vote on our own winners. 

We call these our Mock Caldecott and Mock Newbery awards. This is nothing new. Countless libraries, schools, and classrooms create their own lists and run programs in ways that work for them. If you haven’t tried it, you might want to consider making an attempt. 

When we start the Mock Caldecott program in the fall, I am careful to let the students know that “mock” as an adjective means that we know it’s not real, but it’s a lot like the original (like mock apple pie). We are not using the word “mock” as a verb, because we would never make fun of these books or the Caldecott and Newbery medals.

The following books are highlights of our 2022 mock events.

Mock Caldecott Titles for Read Aloud and Art Lessons

I do not consider myself knowledgeable when it comes to art, so it has always been difficult to discuss the artwork of our Mock Caldecott titles with the students. This year, I was able to find a variety of online videos in which the artists talk about their work and demonstrate their craft. This has been a game changer for the students, as they see how the book’s illustrations are created and why certain choices are made regarding line, shape, form, value, space, color, and texture. Two of our 2021 videos could easily lead into art lessons. Using the descriptions, you should be able to easily find them through a Google search. Let’s start with those.

Wonder Walkers, written and illustrated by Micha Archer (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2021)

“I wonder” is the theme of this romp through nature. In a video interview with the Fort Worth Public Library, author and illustrator Micha Archer does an incredible job demonstrating her technique of creating paper collage art. Before she can illustrate a book, she has to generate patterned papers, which she then tears, cuts, glues, and draws on to create the illustrations. We read the book after watching the video and were astonished to find over one hundred individually cut blades of grass on one page alone. Knowing that she had painted the paper that was then cut only added to our awe and amazement. Whether or not students make their own paper as part of the process, paper collage is something you may already do in your classroom. If not, you will be eager to try it after watching this video. It is over forty-three minutes long, so you will want to choose specific clips to share. 

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? written and illustrated by Shawn Harris (Chronicle Books, 2021)

This is another book that is contemplative at a young child’s level. Washington, DC–based bookstore Politics and Prose hosts this interview with author and illustrator Shawn Harris. After reading the book, Harris gives a lesson on how to make a stencil and ways to fill it using a variety of colored pencils. It’s overwhelming to read the book after watching the video. We tried to imagine all of the stencil techniques that Harris used and how it led to the power of the negative white space. The students were so intrigued by this that many of them tried it at home and brought me samples of their work. 

More Mock Caldecott Illustrator Videos

The following videos demonstrate the illustrator’s craft but may not be easy to replicate in the classroom. [This is only part of the article. Want to read more? Subscribe to the website by choosing "Register" from the menu above. It's free!]

Lois Boerman is the librarian at Ada Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She enjoys collaborating with and learning from her book-loving coworkers and fellow librarians. She can be reached at lboerman@adachristian.org.