The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat, Little Brown Books, Caldecott Winner
Many children have imaginary friends, but few people wonder where they live. Beekle is just such a friend, waiting to be imagined and befriended by someone. Most of the other imaginary friends leave their island home, but no child awaits Beekle. Thus, he sets out to find a friend of his own in a gray world full of people too busy to imagine anything.
Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, Clarion Books, Caldecott Honor
I love books that highlight relationships, especially that treasured one that exists between grandparent and grandchild. Lauren Castillo’s lively, colorful illustrations depict life in Manhattan, seen from a young boy’s perspective as he visits his “Nana”. At first he is overwhelmed and convinced that such a noisy, action-packed city is not an appropriate place for his grandmother to live. She uses that sixth sense that grandmothers seem to have and dispels his fears. Together they enjoy a walk through Central Park, pretzels from a street vendor and the bustling crowds of the metropolis.
Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, Candlewick, Caldecott Honor
Sam and Dave are determined to do something “spectacular”. They start digging in the hopes of finding an object of value, but they manage to dig around several worthwhile items and come up empty. Some children may see the irony in the story’s ending, but many will probably find the book frustrating.
The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpré, Knopf Books, Caldecott Honor
Of all the Caldecott winners this year, The Noisy Paint Box has the most bang for the buck. A fictionalized biography of the childhood of Vasily Kandinsky, the book attempts to explain the potential meaning behind modern art. It is believed that Kandinsky suffered from synesthesia, a condition by which one sense stimulates another. Kandinsky experienced a connection between colors and sounds that inspired his abstract art. The illustrations in the book, like Kandinsky’s paintings, are strikingly vivid. While the publisher recommends the book for children ages 4-8, it would serve better as part of a school collection for students ages 9-12.
Jennifer Minicus is a wife and mother currently living in Ridgewood,NJ.