This year for the Mock Caldecott project, educator Katherine Sokolowski who blogs at Read. Write. Reflect and maintains an account on Twitter, started a conversation about our collaboration. This is the eighth year we've worked together and we've refined our efforts. It's always been fun for our students and us.
Katherine: Margie, according to my blog we began to host a Mock Caldecott together in 2013. Does it seem that long ago to you? It feels like we just begun, but when I see that my class’s 2014 winner was Journey by Aaron Becker, I realize that it has been awhile.
Margie: I agree, Katherine. Hosting the Mock Caldecott with you seems like we just started it but also like we’ve been doing it longer. All during the year, I keep titles in mind to use in this activity. It’s a time to share what we’ve enjoyed with each other and now, your students. I love looking closely at books and their illustrators.
Guess what? I just did an email search and our first Google document for the Mock Caldecott was on December 5, 2012! It was an initial list with 40 titles. I have been reading through our email exchanges and laughing out loud. We had a really hard time scheduling Skypes with the fifth grade classes here that year because we kept having snow days and the time difference was a factor, too. And we had not even met in real life yet.
Katherine: Holy moly, I remember the snow days! You guys had so many that year. I also looked through my posts and notes on the Mock Caldecott over the years. A lot has changed. We began when I was in my third year of teaching fifth grade, my seventeenth in teaching. It’s interesting to me that this year is the fourth year of doing this activity with my seventh graders, which equals the amount of years we held the Mock Caldecott with my fifth graders. You’ve switched jobs and locations throughout this journey as well.
Margie: Yes, we did have a bunch of snow days that year and the next year, too. (I believe the district had thirteen last year which, since I’ve been in northern Michigan, is a record.) I don’t know why, but I feel as though we started this collaboration before I took early retirement but, probably not. I do know we collaborated on this when my two principals (elementary and middle) and I wrote a grant to have me continue teaming with teachers on reading and literacy in my last district for two years after my retirement. I was the last certified librarian in the district.
Switching jobs and locations is an understatement. In the search for a job, a promised job and an actual job, I moved 4 times in three years. Between houses three and four, I moved three times. Mulan and I even lived in a hotel for nine days. I’ve volunteered in two different elementary schools and worked in two different public libraries. BUT, and this is an important but . . .we’ve always done the Mock Caldecott, either with other students or with me alone. And that’s saying something about our dedication to students and picture books.
Katherine: Yep. Our jobs and lives are so different than when we started this, but you are correct, we’ve always come together to celebrate books and kids. So cool!! I know there have been many years where we’ve struggled to narrow it to a list of twenty, and sometimes we just gave up and had more than twenty. What are you looking for when you pick a book to add to our list? It’s hard, there are always so many good ones to choose from, we are blessed.
Margie: I know this isn’t the first thing upon which I should base my selections but after an initial reading, I must have some kind of emotional attachment to the book. I need a connection. I also think a lot about how children will feel when they read a particular book. And any book for me, no matter the type, has to have a sliver of hope. I then go to the American Library Association Caldecott Medal Home Page. I refresh my memory of the qualifications and narrow my choices. I love to reread books, studying the artwork and looking at added details placed there by the illustrators. This year someone on social media mentioned this website at the University of Minnesota which focuses on artwork in children’s literature.
Katherine: I’m the same way. While I know the ALA’s qualifications, I also have my students in mind when I look at what books I’m selecting for our Mock Caldecott. For example, this year I knew I thought Quintero’s My Papi Rides a Motorcycle would be a book that would fit the Caldecott criteria, but the reason I wanted it on the list originally was I knew my students would love it. I shared that one with them earlier in the year, but we revisited it this past Friday to look at it for this project and were all mesmerized by the page where she’s on the motorcycle with her dad and you’re looking at them from above. It’s breathtaking.
Margie: I love that bird’s eye view, too. The colors are explosive. I actually bought this book in English and Spanish. One of several books which had me gasping aloud is Bear Came Along. Several double-page wordless images and a vertical illustration are stunning. The other detail I enjoy in this book, in addition to the layout, perspective and color palette in those pictures, is the humor visible in the facial expressions. I love to laugh with children.
Katherine: Me too. One of the things I love about teaching middle school kids is sharing picture books with them and laughing together. At the beginning of the year they’re surprised that we will read picture books everyday. Then they begin expecting it and they find a joy in us reading the books together
Which brings me to our list. I’m so excited about these books we’ve chosen for this year’s Mock Caldecott! (Our list can be found below.) I’ve already started sharing these titles with my students. We’re ready to read them over the next few weeks and then Skype with you right before the ALA Youth Media Awards on January 27th. Thanks for joining me for another year!
Margie: I’m with you. Whether we’ve included a winner or honor recipient always elevates the excitement. And I completely enjoy chatting with your students about our choices. Thank YOU for continuing this project with me.