Let’s Learn About Caldecott Medals

I used to derive such pleasure from running my little finger over that foil stamp on the cover of books, knowing it meant they were special.

But what makes them special? And who decides they are special? And why don’t I have a foil stamp on my forehead?

caldecott medals


The Caldecott Award came to be after the Newbery award had been around since 1922. People realized American illustrators might be worthy of a medal, too! The medal is given by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to the American artist who has created the most distinguished picture book of the year.

Distinguished is defined on the ALSC site as:

  • Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
  • Marked by excellence in quality.
  • Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
  • Individually distinct

That cracks me up. I feel conspicuously excellent today, and individually distinct.

So who chooses and how? There are 15 members on the committee, and they receive hundreds of books each year from publishers. They can formally nominate just 7 books in the Fall, but they are all comparing possible contenders each month leading up to the nominations.

There are also annual “honor books”, deemed worthy of attention – sort of runner ups to the award winner.


The illustration on the seal is taken from “The Diverting Story of John Gilpin,” a story illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, a 19th century English illustrator. The medal itself was designed by René Paul Chambellan in 1937 (My dad was 1, in case you were interested.)

diverting history



The last 5 Caldecott winners are:

  • 2012: A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.)


  • ball for daisy


  • 2011: A Sick Day for Amos McGee illustrated by Erin E. Stead, written by Philip C. Stead (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)



  • 2010: The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown and Company)



  • 2009:  The House in the Night illustrated by Beth Krommes, written by Susan Marie Swanson (Houghton Mifflin Company)



  • 2008: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic)


The complete list of winners is viewable on the Association for Library Service to Children site.

And incidentally, what exactly is the ALSC? Glad you asked! Besides just being awesome, they are “…changing the way that libraries serve children around the country, from creative programming and best practices to continuing education and professional connections.  ALSC’s network includes more than 4,000 non-profit organizations, libraries, children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty committed to creating a better future for all children by creating better opportunities.” (From the ALSC site). The link will also take you to the membership page, because why wouldn’t you want to support them?

Poke around the site- it’s a great resource! By the way, do you have a favorite Caldecott book? Or a favorite that was looked over?

What do you think?

Written by Joanne Gonzales

Joanne Gonzales has a passion for getting creative. Whether she is making personalized DIY gifts or taking part in larger arts and crafts projects, she puts her all into making new and beautiful things.

She lives with a group of close friends and believes in the natural way of life. Joanne has built an outdoor arts and crafts gallery that overlooks the countryside in her hometown, which is where all of her creations come to life.

Art started off as a hobby, but over time Joanne has mastered her skills and sold some of her favorite pieces. She works full time as a florist and has done for many years. It helps keep her creative juices flowing and she hopes to one day open her own florist shop with a twist.


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  1. As the wife of a children’s librarian and someone who desperately wants to write her own picture book..I love looking at the Caldecott winners list. I also love how nondescript the distinguished definition is..they might as well say “we’ll know it when we see it…good luck”. lol!

  2. I have had two submitted, one a friend wrote and I illustrated, the other I did bites. Alas! But I’m going to rework my story a little, I think the storyline needed beefed out more. I was trying to conform to regulated page counts instead of just going with the story and letting it be. It’s good to be turned down, makes you think beyond what feels right the first time.

    • That’s a great way to think about it- I like that you are going back to what feels right for the story. I feel like sometimes if you know too much about something (regulated page count), that can just work against you. Keep me updated! I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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