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Originally published Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Divining the winners of the 2012 Newbery, Caldecott medals

Kids' Books: A look at the contenders for the best-illustrated children's book and the best-written children's book.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Librarians and other children's-literature lovers across the country are making friendly bets about which books will be chosen for the 2012 Newbery and Caldecott medals.

The winners will be announced on Monday at the American Library Association's midwinter conference. The Newbery Medal, established in 1921, is given to the best-written children's book published the previous year, while the Caldecott Medal, created in 1937, spotlights the best-illustrated children's book.

Called the "Academy Awards" of children's literature, the medals bring lasting fame and fortune to the creators of the winning books, as medal winners rarely go out of print.

The Newbery and Caldecott hold immense monetary power. For example, just after ALA officials announced "Moon Over Manifest" as the 2011 Newbery Medal winner last January, the book was ranked at 49,676 in sales on By the end of the day, it was number 17.

An increasing number of libraries hold "mock" elections for the Newbery and Caldecott awards, often using a "toolkit" developed by the Association for Library Service to Children. The association, which is the children's-libraries division of the American Library Association, officially sponsors the Caldecott and Newbery medals.

In addition, there are blogs that specifically focus on possible award winners. The "Heavy Medal" blog (, written by librarians Nina Lindsay and Jonathan Hunt, is the oldest and most respected blog and focuses on possible Newbery winners.

A new blog, "Calling Caldecott" (, was started this year by Lolly Robinson, a staffer at The Horn Book (a highly regarded children's review journal), and second-grade teacher and children's-book reviewer Robin Smith.

Each year, I talk about the Newbery and Caldecott possibilities with two children's-literature experts: Amy Kellman, a veteran librarian and children's-literature consultant; and Anita Silvey, a children's-literature expert and author of the Children's Book-A-Day Almanac ( Both are usually spot-on about the possibilities; last year, for example, Kellman was the only person I know who suggested that "Moon Over Manifest," a real dark horse, could win the Newbery Medal, as it did.

After talking with Kellman and Silvey, checking the "Heavy Medal" and "Calling Caldecott" blogs, and scouring the Internet for "mock" results, here's the list of possibilities I developed for the 2012 Newbery and Caldecott awards. The winners may — or may not — be on this list. It's certainly not a sure bet, as the actual decisions are made in absolute secrecy. But what is sure is that all of these books are among the cream of the 2011 crop and definitely worth reading:


• Two books are regarded as the top possibilities: "A Ball for Daisy" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $16.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Chris Raschka, who won the 2006 Caldecott Medal for "The Hello, Goodbye Window"; and "Grandpa Green" (Roaring Brook, $16.99, ages 4-8), written and illustrated by Lane Smith.

Other Caldecott Medal possibilities include (in alphabetical order by author or author/illustrator):

"The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse" (Philomel, $17.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Eric Carle;

"A Nation's Hope" (Dial, $17.99, ages 5-10), written by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Kadir Nelson;

"I Want My Hat Back" (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Jon Klassen;

"All the Water in the World" (Atheneum, $15.99, ages 4-8), written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Katherine Tillotson;

"Me ... Jane" (Little, Brown, $15.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell;

"Stars" (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, $16.99, ages 3-6), written by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Marla Frazee;

"Where's Walrus?" (Scholastic, $16.99, ages 3-6), written and illustrated by Stephen Savage;

"Wonderstruck" (Scholastic, $29.99, ages 8 up), written and illustrated by Brian Selznick;

"Swirl by Swirl" (Houghton Mifflin, $16.99, ages 4-8), written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes.


• The front-runner is generally considered "Okay For Now" (Clarion, $16, ages 10-14), by Gary Schmidt, who has won two Newbery Honors (or runner-up awards). Another top contender is "Inside Out & Back Again" (Harper, $15.99, ages 9-12), by Thanhha Lai. This book won the National Book Award for Young People's Literature in November.

Other Newbery possibilities include (in alphabetical order by author):

"Amelia Lost" (Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $18.99, ages 9-14), by Candace Fleming;

• "Dead End in Norvelt" (FSG, $15.99, ages 10-14), by Newbery Honor author Jack Gantos;

"Junonia" (Greenwillow, $15.99, ages 7-10), by Caldecott Medalist and Newbery Honor author Kevin Henkes;

"The Trouble With May Amelia" (Atheneum, $15.99, ages 8-12), by three-time Newbery Honor author Jennifer Holm;

"Small As an Elephant" (Candlewick Press, $15.99, ages 9-12), by Jennifer Jacobson;

"A Monster Calls" (Candlewick Press, $16.99, ages 12 up), by Patrick Ness;

"Wonderstruck" (Scholastic, $29.99, ages 8 up), written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Brian Selznick;

"Bigger Than a Bread Box" (Random House, $16.99, ages 8-12), by Laurel Snyder.

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at

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