Children’s Book News: March-April 2024

Caldecott Award Winner – 2024

Awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children

Big, by Vashti Harrison

Suggested ages: 4 – 7 years

Sensing that one is not accepted by all is not always readily perceived by a young child. When one does, it can be devastating. The young girl in Big is a happy child – growing, learning, dreaming. But with the advent of school, she comes to realize that she does not fit in due to her size. Unsupportive adults, along with the mocking and teasing of classmates, illustrate the “body shaming” the girl endures.

Harrison skillfully employs a limited text along with expressive illustrations to convey the girl’s puzzlements and reactions to her abandonment by others. Double spread pictures in tones of gray and brown dramatize the immensity of her emotions. They convey her isolation and despair. Big is a powerful portrayal of a child’s rejection by others which in the end culminates in her tender belief in herself.

Newbery Medal Winner – 2024

Given to the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature

The Eyes and the Impossible, by Dave Eggers

Suggested ages: 8-12 years

Literature enables us to see life through others’ eyes. In the Eyes and the Impossible, we find ourselves observing life’s surroundings and phenomenon through the eyes of Johannes, a dog/coyote, whose exhilarating voice is marked by wry humor and fanciful thoughts. He lives his life in a park where humans come to enjoy its forests, its open spaces, and its beaches. The park is populated by other animals besides Johannes – the bison, the park’s Keepers of the Equilibrium, along with squirrels, ducks, raccoons, gulls, and pelicans. Because of Johannes’s speed, the three bison solicit him to be the Eyes of the park, for they are fenced-in and cannot be aware of all that happens in their kingdom. When the “Equilibrium” is disturbed, generally by the humans, the animals work together to set things aright.

The Impossible comes in to play, when Johannes finds himself in situations that endanger not only his role but the daily lives of his animal companions. The Assistant Eyes – Bertrand, a humble gull and Johannes’s closest friend, Sonja, a shy squirrel, Angus, a busy raccoon, and Yolanda, a clumsy gull who has the valuable talent of being able to read human print – along with the bison, sense that the Equilibrium is threatened. Plans are made, difficult realities are perceived, and new perspectives are realized. The Eyes and the Impossible is a beautifully unique celebration of life: friendships, hopes, and dreams: “To be alive, is to go forth.”

A final note: The beautiful artwork throughout the book is a collection of classical landscapes created by artists of the past, all credited at the book’s end. Shawn Harris, a frequent collaborator of Eggers, added Johannes to each painting.

Geisel Award Winner – 2024

Recognizes the author and illustrator of the most distinguished book for beginning readers

Fox Has a Problem, by Corey R. Tabor

Suggested ages: 3 – 6 years

Children will be immediately engaged as fox attempts to figure out how to retrieve his kite stuck in a tree – a problem that is not new as the page is turned and a myriad of kites are shown dangling from nearby trees. Each solution leads to a new and hilarious problem as fox’s friends pitch in to come up with clever ideas. This book is labeled as “My First – Shared Reading” in the “I Can Read!” series with minimum text using word repetition along with supportive illustrations. It is catalogued as a Reader 1 within our Children’s Collection.

Fox has a Problem

Children’s Book Reviews are by Nancy Guist.