G is for Gaggles and Garlands in Children's Books

Speaking of cats...

(And a group of cats is called a clowder.)

Wanda Gag's book Millions of Cats, a Newbery Honor winner (that's correct: Newbery, not Caldecott), is unique. It fits quite nicely with previous Caldecott winners, however, as well as Gladwell's comments about "stickiness." That is, it has a rough, almost off-the-cuff feel, simple black and white pictures with hardly any color, and what appears to be handwritten text. The book has a folkloric, verbal quality.

Awesome image! Daunting text.
It's a great book, but it makes me wonder what happened between Millions of Cats (1962) and Keats' A Snowy Day (1963, possibly my favorite Caldecott winner of all time) and St. George and the Dragon (1985). Don't get me wrong: there have been good winners since the 1960s plus I am a huge fan of Trina Schart Hyman (and will discuss her next for "H"), but the last book should never have won a picture book awards thingamajiggy. No child would ever voluntarily read it. I won't read it, and I'm an adult (too much exposition--I look at the amazing illustrations instead).

When did slick productions with lots of words take the place of illustration/word combinations? 


Ann Moore said...

I thought I knew a lot about the Newbery and Caldecott books since I am a librarian, but this post prompted me to do a little more research. I must admit that since I stopped doing children's library work around 11 years ago, I have not kept up as much with what's going on.

The Caldecott Medal, first awarded in 1938, annually recognizes the preceding year's "most distinguished American picture book for children" (even though Caldecott himself was British). It is awarded to the illustrator (who must be a US citizen or resident). There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Picture books for any audience up to age 14 may be considered! In 2008 “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” was the first novel to win the Caldecott. In 2015 “This One Summer” became the first (and so far, only) graphic novel to win the Caldecott—that same year it also won a Printz award for “excellence in YA literature.” It also made “Top Ten Most Challenged Books” list in 2016 and 2018 for the use of its sexual scenes and mature topics. In 2016 “Last Stop on Market Street” won the Newbery for its author and was a Caldecott honor book for its illustrator.

The Newbery Medal, first awarded in 1922 and also named after a Brit, is given to the author(s) of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" the preceding year. As with the Caldecott, authors must be US citizens or residents. There have been a number of criticisms that Newbery selections tend to be “too difficult” for children and turn kids off reading, to which others have countered that the prize is not about popularity but quality (like the Pulitzer Prizes).

Many states give their own children's book awards, sometimes limited to books by residents of that state or about (in some way) that state but othertimes open to anything. A lot of these awards are done by voting and, not surprisingly, tend to be popular titles.

Ann Moore said...

P.S. Millions of Cats won the Newbery in 1929, before the Caldecott was created.

Katherine Woodbury said...

That makes a lot more sense! I actually initially wrote this post stating that Millions of Cats won the Caldecott (little medallion on the front caught my eye) before I looked more closely.

Since the Medal and Honor winners for that year (1929) were The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly, Pigtail of Ah Lee Ben Loo by John Bennett, The Boy Who Was by Grace Hallock, Clearing Weather by Cornelia Meigs, Runaway Papoose by Grace Moon, and Tod of the Fens by Elinor Whitney--all collections or novels--

--and perhaps Millions of Cats would have won the Caldecott medal rather than an honor (I went ahead and clarified the medal versus honor distinction in my post)--

I can see why the Powers-That-Be came up with a separate award!