|Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux (BYR), 2013|
Using non-fiction text with readers has always been essential, and I've advocated frequently for the use of picture books to do that effectively, especially biographies. This is the perfect time of year to share RANDOLPH CALDECOTT: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing, by the incomparable Leonard S. Marcus. The opening spread of this fascinating and authoritative book is Caldecott's undated self-portrait, the pre-digital approach to a selfie. I find it ironic that the Oxford English Dictionary has declared "selfie" to be the word of the year. Caldecott was every bit as cutting edge and open to visual engagement as today's digitally-crazed generation.
Reading Marcus's account of Caldecott's obsession with art and visual story enhancement offers abundant evidence of the pivotal role he played in changing the world of children's literature. Younger readers will be enthralled by the power of his images, even though they are clearly of a time long past and tame in comparison to modern visuals. Despite that, his illustrations engage with emotion, action, detail, and humor.
Even the youngest will enjoy hearing a condensed summary of how this man single-handedly set the stage for the world of picture books, apps, and book trailers they know and love today. Older readers will find rigorous content, richly detailed back matter, and revealing specifics about the time and place in which Caldecott lived. The potential for close reading and discussion are unlimited.
Kids love taking part in Mock Caldecott Award activities in these months leading up to the actual award. Any search using "Mock Caldecott" will lead you to examples, guides, and suggested titles from among the very impressive 2013 releases being considered. A good place to start is the post on ONE BOOK, TWO BOOKS, OLD BOOKS, NEW BOOKS. Take a look and consider participating, in your classrooms or among your family members.
Whether you do so or not, I urge anyone who loves picture books to read all about Randolph Caldecott in this book that is destined to be a classic.