In 1937, the American Library Association created the Caldecott Medal for outstanding work in children’s picture books. While many people are familiar with the award, few know anything about the man for whom it was named. Randolph Caldecott, distinguished for his illustrations in the second half of the nineteenth century, actually began drawing for weekly and monthly publications. He often embellished personal letters with sketches as well, to the delight of his family and friends. He eventually was employed to illustrate children’s books and published two each Christmas from 1878 until his death in 1886. Although not quite 40 years of age at his demise, Caldecott’s work influenced the likes of Beatrix Potter.
This particular compilation, produced from copies of rare books in the Huntington Library collection, presents nine nursery rhymes: The House that Jack Built, The Diverting History of John Gilpin, Sing a Song of Sixpence, The Three Jovial Huntsmen, The Farmer’s Boy, The Queen of Hearts, The Milkmaid, Hey Diddle Diddle and Baby Bunting. Caldecott’s black and white and color sketches depict these traditional tales with humor. Facial expressions bring characters to life and backgrounds provide a variety of cultural references, such as the image of Robinson Crusoe and Friday hanging on the wall behind the “King in his counting-house, counting out his money”. Each picture can serve as a tool to explain the more difficult passages of the rhymes. Young children will enjoy examining the pictures and discovering where the artist hid his initials. This volume would make a perfect gift for any child’s library.
Jennifer Minicus is a wife and mother living in Ridgewood, NJ.