The Caldecott Medal is an
annual award given by The American Library Association to the “most distinguished” American picture book. In the introduction, Leonard Marcus says “Winning the Caldecott ensures that
a book will remain available at libraries and stores for years to come, and that it will be read by vast numbers of children.” In A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION, Marcus chose one book from each decade since the award
has been given, six in all, “to offer an informal cross section through time of the American picture book.” He interviewed each artist, all of them also writers, and learned many of the intricacies
of how each book evolved into the finished product.
The artists and their winning
books which Marcus chose are Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1942),
Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper by Marcia Brown (1955), Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1964), Sylvester and the Magic
Pebble by William Steig (1970), Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg (1982), and Tuesday by David Wiesner (1992). None
of these books was created without great thought and effort. Marcus describes
the process in this way, “Books bearing medals have the look of things that have been with us forever. But the truth, of course, is that someone, sometime, had to draw (and probably redraw) the pictures and
write (and revise) the words. Certainly none of the six Caldecott books described
in the pages that follow just happened. None started out polished and complete. You are about to meet the people who made them.
And you are about to see six works of art as ideas in the making: sketches and scribbles on the way to becoming books
that readers prize.”
There are several unusual
aspects in the development of these books. Robert McClosky wanted to draw realistic
ducks for Make Way for Ducklings. After
studying mallards for two years at the American Museum
of Natural History, he decided he needed live ducks from which to draw; so he shared his apartment with 16 of them for several
weeks. Chris Van Allburg began his artistic career as a sculptor before trying
pencil drawings. David Wiesner got the idea for Tuesday, a wordless picture book, when he drew a lily pad onto a sketch of a frog, which made it look like the
frog was flying on a magic-carpet lily pad. Where
the Wild Things Are started out as a book ¾” x 7” called Where the
Wild Horses Are.
of the artists and their works, and the stories of how the books came about are fascinating.
The winning books stand alone as treasured literature, but A Caldecott Celebration
adds much to the reader’s enjoyment. School Library Journal gave a glowing
review to this book:
large, attractive pages invite readers to savor the multitude of illustrations. Some
of them show the various drafts leading up to the finished art so that readers can easily see the evolution of the artists’
ideas. Anecdotes about the relationship between the illustrators and their editors
are also included, reinforcing the idea that this collaboration is very important in the creation
of excellent books.