Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chalk vs A Sick Day for Amos McGee

If you ask anyone at Chinook Trail Elementary, chances are they will be able to tell you which book Mrs. Archer felt should have won the Caldecott over the one that did. However, in my defense, I did not share my choice with the students until after I had given them an opportunity to look at the illustrations in three books: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead, Art & Max by David Wiesner, and Chalk by Bill Thomson. Once they had a chance to take a good look I asked each class to vote for their favorite book.  Chalk, won by a landslide.

I didn't do this to pick on A Sick Day for Amos McGee. I like this story. The illustrations are pleasant, but I just didn't feel that the pulled the reader into the magic of the story. As an adult that reads an incredible amount of books written for children, I am aware of the fact that I'm not always going to like books that the children just love (Junie B. Jones and Captain Underpants to name just two.)  However, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what constitutes a magical illustration. My polling my students about which of the three books had the best illustrations was just my way checking to see if  I was off base. I was pleased to find that even though I'm new at Chinook Trail, my students and I were in sync on this.  Now, there were hundreds of picture books published in 2010 and in the interest of fairness, there is no way my students saw even a fraction of the books that the committee reviewed.  Yet, I'm pretty sure the committee was aware of Chalk and Max & Art.  Some of the committee members are librarians and book sellers. These two books were a hot topic among some members of those communities. Yet neither even made it to Honor status.  I can't help but wonder if this not another case of lets pick a book that we as adults think children should just love and read. I'm a firm believer that just because a book has children in it or is supposedly written for children does not automatically mean it is a children's book.  I understand that the quality of writing is important, but if a book doesn't appeal to children, the intended audience, is really a children's book, especially an award winning children's book? (I find this to be more of a problem with Newbery and Battle of the Books titles than I do Caldecott titles.)

That's why I am big fan of book awards that are voted on by children.  Prior to winter break I spent some time sharing with the Chinook students some of the books nominated for the Colorado Children's Book Award.  Check back in February when I will post the titles selected by Chinook students.  And who knows, maybe Chalk and Art & Max will be nominated for the 2012 Colorado Children's Book Awards. I hope so, especially Chalk.

And just in case you were going to suggest I serve on the Caldecott Committee some time in the future, that is already on my Wish List of things to do.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting - to see children evaluating illustrations. They would look at them, not for technical expertise, but for appeal, wouldn't they? Which is the way children should evaluate books, so adults should look at children's books that way. I can't wait to someday get those 3 books side-by-side in front of me!