Finding Winnie – 2016 Caldecott Award Winner

9780316324908_p0_v3_s192x300When you think of Winnie the Pooh, you may imagine the Disney character or the rumbling voice of Sterling Holloway, but Lindsay Mattick tells the real story of the bear in her 2016 Caldecott winning book – Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear.

Illustrated by Sophie Blackwell, the story evolves into two tales: first, the saving of Winnie the bear cub from a trapper and his stint as the mascot of Captain Harry’s World War I regiment; next, as the bear in the London Zoo who played with Christopher Robin Milne “right inside her enclosure,” inspiring the little boy to rename his stuffed bear after her. Christopher Robin’s father, Alan Milne made Winnie famous by writing about the adventures of Winnie the Pooh.

Mattock adds an “Album” at the back of the book, sharing family photos and the excerpt in the 1914 diary, identifying the day when Harry met Winnie – August 24th.  A picture of Christopher Robin and the real Winnie at the London Zoo in 1925 is included.

Canadians from Winnipeg are reminded of the bear’s roots and his savior, a local veterinarian World War I soldier, Captain Harry Colebourn, with a statue in Assiniboine Park.  Mattick, a descendant of Harry tells his story to her young son, his namesake, as a bedtime tale.                                   

“Sometimes the best stories are {true}.”



The Adventures of Beekle – 2015 Caldecott Winner

9780316199988_p0_v4_s260x420His baby son’s mispronunciation of “bicycle” was the inspiration for the title of Dan Santat’s 2015 Caldecott winning picture book – The Adventures of Beekle.  Beekle is an imaginary friend who has yet to be imagined by a real child.

Rather than wait on his island for his special someone to appear, Beekle sets off to find her.  Santat floats him through a series of adventurous illustrations, with Beekle travelling through dark starry nights, reminiscent of Chris van Allsburg’s designs, to encounters with colorful dragons and double-page drawings of whales and harbors that mirror Maurice Sendak’s wild ones, until he finally reaches the real world.  Searching for his friend takes him through busy streets and subways, to fantastic playgrounds, and finally to the top of an amazing tree.

When Beekle does find his friend, Alice, the relationship slowly blossoms from shyness to perfection, and the story ends with a frame of Alice and Beekle connecting with a real boy and his imaginary friend,  happily proclaiming – “The world began to feel a little less strange.”  Friends can give you the courage to face the world – both the real and the imagined.

A lovely book to share and read aloud, as the pictures evolve in color and excitement to the final happy ending.




When was the last time you turned off all the electronics and spent some quality time with family or friends? Without a natural catastrophe – snowstorms, floods, or high winds that knock over electric lines; solar sun spots that mess with cell phone coverage – we maintain our network – without really being connected to those around us. In John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor Book, Blackout, a New York City power outage provides the opportunity for time out.

On a hot summer night the youngest in the family wants to play a board game (remember those?) – but everyone else in the family is much too busy, talking on the phone, working on the computer, watching television – until “the lights went out – all of them.” The family climbs up to the roof where they see stars for the first time in the dark sky. The neighborhood awakens with everyone coming out to the street, playing guitar, dancing in the street, giving away free ice cream – a block party. This is a friendly blackout (no looting). Of course, the lights come back on; the family goes back inside. Then, someone flips the light switch off, mother lights a candle, and they all gather round to play the board game.

Getting off the grid restored a sense of community and family time for a while. A good lesson for children and adults – we all need some time off from our electronic toys to spend time with real people.

Blackout is one of three Caldecott Honor Books this year. Read the reviews of the other two honor winners:

This Year’s Caldecott Winner – A Ball for Daisy

Wordless stories are winning awards this year – from best picture Oscar for “The Artist” to Chris Raschka’s Caldecott picture book – A Ball For Daisy. In Raschka’s story a lively little white dog (who reminds me of one in my life) chases a big red ball, his favorite toy. He even takes a nap with it (his substitute blankie).

When a playful larger dog sinks his teeth into the ball and pops it at the dog park, our dog hero is soulfully bereft – he can’t even sleep anymore. Eventually, the bully dog’s owner produces another ball for our hero – this one blue – and all is well again. The last frame has him peacefully napping, snuggled up to his new blue ball.

The expressions Raschka draws on the hero will be familiar to anyone who owns a dog; when the red ball pops, he morphs from wonder, to shaking the deflated rubber, to howling, to finally bereavement – in 8 frames with no words.

Whether you read the book as a statement on loss and recovery, or just enjoy Raschka’s emotion-laden drawings, Daisy will become a new favorite character.

The 2011 Caldecott Winner – A Sick Day for Amos McGee

When was the last time you called in sick? In this short picture book written by Philip Stead and illustrated by his wife Erin Stead –  Amos McGee, the zookeeper who takes care of the animals and really cares for them, has some surprise visitors when he takes a sick day.

My favorite page has all the animals on the number five bus on the way to Amos’s house.

My favorite Caldecott – Frederick – an Honor book from 1968 – all the mice scurry around storing food for the winter, but Frederick stores words and colors and vision…

“But Frederick”, they said, “you are a poet!”

For more Caldecott winners:  List of Caldecott Winners Since 1938