Friday, January 11, 2013

A Caldecott Celebration by Leonard Marcus

I picked up some tidbits in this short book on Caldecott winners that were interesting and entertaining. I had never heard about the three art museums devoted to picture books such as the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts; the National Center for Children's Illustrated Art in Abilene, Texas; and the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio. oh-la-dee-dah... new additions to my bucket list.

Leonard Marcus covers seven Caldecott winners that span more than 60 years. Robert McCloskey spent 2 years studying ducks and even lived with 16 of them while writing "Make Way for Ducklings." Not only was he able to study them in great detail, he changed the original duck names to reflect the real bird's squawking. McCloskey wanted to use watercolor but the printing costs made it too expensive. The historical context of this book mirrored how the public felt about World War II. The book's theme of security and returning home safely was what people wanted for the troops fighting overseas. The symbol of ducks finding safety echoes the universal theme of safety for children that continues to resonate with each generation making this a popular book to this day.

Marcia Brown who won the Caldecott for "Cinderella" also had unique challenges with printing. She had to work with only four colors to capture the right tone and costumes for her story set in the 1700's. She went by Perrault's French version of Cinderella and not Grimm's. I didn't know that in Grimm's story the stepsisters cut off their toes to get them into the glass slipper. Argh.

Maurice Sendak created tiny books while coming up with the idea of "Where the Wild Things Are." This is a fascinating look at the creative process and Sendak explains how the pictures in the story grow as Max's emotions push out the words, then shrink when he is calm and back in his bedroom. William Steig didn't start making picture books until he was close to 60 years old and when he won the Caldecott for "Sylvester and the Magic Pebble," he was encouraged to make more.

Chris Van Allsburg, David Weisner, and Mordecai Gerstain give their reactions to winning the Caldecott medal as well. While I enjoyed this book, I wanted more details on their craft. This is more of personal taste. I'm more fascinating with the making of a book versus how the authors felt about winning the medal. Obviously they would be thrilled. Anyone interested in picture books will enjoy this quick read.

4 out of 5 Smileys
Reading Level 6.2

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