I’ve been furiously trying to read the 2009 Newbery books I hadn’t gotten to so I could about them. I haven’t had time to do it yet this year, but I just finished The Graveyard Book and have just one more to go. Last year I never posted about the Newberys because I read everything but Elijah of Buxton and didn’t want to post without full completion of the list.

So anyway, I realized that I never actually posted about the Caldecotts this year, either. And I’ve read all of those. So here goes, my very belated 2009 Caldecott review:

housenightThe House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes. I loved this book the second I read it last summer, and I wanted it to win the Caldecott. So I was thrilled when it actually took the top honor. It is a beautiful lullably of a book, and the illustrations just give endless details for kids to look at. I’ve read it with my first graders, and they couldn’t stop just seeing things in the pictures. I love Beth Krommes’s work in other books, but I thought the white on black here was excellent. And Susan Marie Swanson’s writing is spare and quiet (and she’s fun to follow on Twitter). Just a great book.

coupleofboyshavethebestweekeverA Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and it reminded me of old comic strips and postcards (“GREETINGS FROM PENNSYLVANIA” in sweeping letters of ascending size). I suspect adults get more of the nuance than the kids, but I know kids think it’s fantastic, too. The pictures are bright and full of life, it feels like the best camping trip you ever had growing up. When I trade childhood vacation stories with my friends and family, in my head they look like this. I love it, and the kids at school love it, too. 

howilearnedHow I Learned Geography by Uri Shulevitz. The watercolors in this are just breathtaking, and it’s a wonderful story. I’ll admit that at first I was on the mom’s side when the boy’s father comes home with a map instead of food for dinner. But as the story unfolds and the boy’s imagination soars, I fell in love with the map and the escape it provided. And to find that the story is based on Shulevitz’s real life experiences makes it even more poignant. It’s lovely.

riverwordsA River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Willliams by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I love the way this book feels. The pulp paper cover, the pages inside. The collage and watercolors are a perfect mix for an artist who led such distinctive lives as a doctor and a poet. The color palette was incredibly appealing to me, and the text layout was satisfying. This is exactly the kind of nonfiction I like reading to kids to get them engaged, inspired, and thinking outside the box.