Caldecott & Newbery Predictions

It’s that time of year when librarians are all abuzz about Youth Media Awards! Who’s going to win??? Some years I feel like I have a good handle on the books that will probably win or be honored. Other years I don’t have any sense at all on what will be selected. This is one of those years. A coworker and I were discussing this recently and she felt the same way. So, really, these aren’t predictions as much as they are what I’d put on the list if I were in charge!


Simply gorgeous and everyone should read it.

Because Kadir Nelson has never won. He’s been robbed. Robbed! If there is any justice in the children’s literary world, Kadir Nelson will win a Caldecott. He puts out gorgeous picture book after gorgeous picture book. What else does he have to do? Come on, Caldecott committee!


Really funny ABC read that adults might like too!

I have always been a fan of McDonnell’s adorably illustrated picture books. This is one of his best.


Whose Moon Is That? Children's book

No one is talking about this one. I get it – there’s no ‘message’, no diversity to speak of. Still, it’s one of the most beautiful book I’ve read in the last year.


Thoughtful, simple explanation of life. Beautiful illustrations. Would be perfect for gifting.

Jeffers’ books feel big and important while, at the same time, being simple enough for young readers. This one is beautiful with a touch of whimsy.


Inspiring, beautiful and worth sharing

Collier has received a Caldecott Honor four times, but I don’t think he’s ever won. He should’ve won for Dave the Potter but this one is Caldecott-worthy.



Full disclosure–I didn’t read a lot of medal-worthy middle grade fiction this last year. I read titles that were popular with patrons but those won’t be winning awards, regardless of how good they may be. Of the titles I read that are getting buzz, here are my favorites.












~~Edit~~ I just finished this one and loved it. Jackson gets it just right in this book from the setting-which is so well-developed it’s practically a character itself- to the tone to characterization. I appreciate when authors write truthfully and authentically for kids and Jackson does. There are many difficult and tense scenes in the book but the reader is led through those moments by the strength of main character Rose Lee Carter who is one of the strongest female leads in middle grade fiction I’ve come across. One of the best middle grade fiction titles I’ve ever read. Amazing job by Jackson that deserves to be recognized.


A realistic portrayal of the lives of three children whose families are refugees and whose stories are connected. As refugee crises continue in the world, this book brings a needed perspective to the issue. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

Loved the characters and the way their stories overlapped and connected. Gripping, page turning and well done.


Such a thought-provoking coming-of-age story about family, mental health and dealing with the curveballs life throws your way. The writing is smart, tight and the book has strong character appeal. Really liked the way Cheng handles the tough subjects and reveals each of the characters. One of the better mg novels I've read this year.

It’s a slice-of-life story. It’s quiet. It would be a hard sell to your average kid. It’s got Newbery written all over it.

I’d love to know what’s on your list!


Now Reading….

I’m doing the audio book of The Serpent King and after the first couple of CDs I was ready to drop it, but the friend who recommended it convinced me to stick it out. I’m glad I did. It’s great storytelling. It’s also sad. Dang it, Zentner, why’d you do it?!? If you’ve already read it, you know which part I’m talking about. Still, it’s too good not to finish despite its bittersweetness. Continue reading

Circus Mirandus, a Review


If you keep up with the children’s book world then you already know that everyone’s talking about this book. It’s received glowing reviews from all the major players (read a few here, here and here), readers and it’s getting lots of award buzz. There’s even talk of making it into a movie. So of course I had to read it. Actually, I listened to it as I usually do with middle grade novels. Let’s face it, sometimes it can be a real chore to slog through a book meant for 10-year-olds. It’s narrated by Bronson Pinchot. For the most part I enjoyed his voice but there were a couple of characters whose voicing really grated on me, i.e. Chintzy.

Balki from Perfect Strangers, remember him?

Nothing ever lives up to the hype; I know this, and yet I still go in with high expectations only to be disappointed after. Here’s the premise:

Micah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle. With his friend Jenny Mendoza in tow, Micah sets out to find the Circus and the man he believes will save his grandfather.

This is an interesting premise which sounds promising. It’s supposed to be a book which “celebrates seeing magic in the world”. The writing is solid, a vivid description here, a nice turn of phrase there. However, for a book about powerful magicians and a magical circus I expected more fantasy, whimsy but instead it felt pedestrian to me, clunky. I was underwhelmed. That might have to do with the complete lack of character development. We’re given very little about the main characters and the character with the most backstory, Micah’s mother, is only talked about in bits of flashback and the climax of her story ends abruptly. All the other characters seem flat. Or it might be a result of the jumps between Circus Mirandus and the real world which happen suddenly and at odd times. Maybe I was underwhelmed because the magic doesn’t seem all that….well, magical. Grandpa’s talent for knot tying plays all through the book and is touted as being magical, but I didn’t get it. I see kids being confused by the ending. What really happened–a grim reality or magic? That’s for other readers to decide. Maybe they’ll enjoy this circus more than I did.