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Caldecott Medals are named for a 19th century artist and illustrator, Randolph Caldecott. They are awarded each year by the Association for Library Service to Children to an artist of an outstanding American picture book for children. The winners of Caldecott Medals make up a collection of some of the most beautifully illustrated books in the world, and are well worth finding for a child’s bookshelf.
The first of the Caldecott Medals was awarded in 1938, to Dorothy Lathrop for her work in Animals in the Bible, A Picture Book. This detailed book remains in print even 70 years after its original publication, and is a wonderful pen-and-ink illustrated guide to biblical stories. This is an excellent book to teach children about the Bible, and contains many Biblical quotations.
Caldecott Medals have long honored books that celebrate different ethnic art styles and illustrations. In 1950, the award was given to author and illustrator Leo Politi, for Song of the Swallows. This lovely book tells the story of the annual return of swallows to San Juan Capistrano and features beautifully rendered drawings of the local architecture and Mexican-influenced culture of the area surrounding the California Mission at San Juan Capistrano.
One of literature’s most beloved characters for children is Madeline, the brave Parisian school girl in the books of Ludwig Bemelmans. In 1954, Madeline’s Rescue was chosen as the Caldecott Medal winner, for its colorful pictures of Paris locales. The story, in which Madeline must save a lonely dog named Genevieve, is sure to keep young readers engaged as much as the soothing pastel hues of the color palette used in the illustrations.
In Arrow to the Sun, Native American artwork was displayed by illustrator Gerald McDermott. Using bright, almost neon colors on mostly black backgrounds, the iconographic Native American images from Pueblo culture used in the story are arresting and unusual. A second Native American story, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by author and illustrator Paul Gobel celebrated the artistic modes of the Plains tribes. Both Arrow to the Sun and The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses were honored with Caldecott Medals, in 1975 and 1979, respectively.
In Flotsam the 2007 winner, a young boy discovers a camera filled with pictures of the ocean floor. The illustrations show incredibly detailed pictures of fish, sea-life and marine landscapes. The 2008 winner, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a 550 page novel featuring hundreds of pencil drawings of high detail. This story of an orphan and robot may be one of the most unique of the Caldecott Medal winners, and is likely to become a children’s classic in time.
The winners of Caldecott Medals often have the ability to transform the reader to another time or world with the skill of the artist. For many, they may bring sense of nostalgia as we stumble across favorite tales long forgotten. The popularity of many Caldecott-winning books keep most of them widely available, so older favorites may be collected and shared with an eager, new generation.
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