Local experts judge children’s books in mock competition

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    Local experts in children’s literature got a taste of the Caldecott judging process Saturday at the Manhattan Public Library.
    The American Library Association will award the Caldecott Medal, a top honor, to the best children’s picture book of the year next January.
        The library, in conjunction with the K-State Children’s & Adolescent Literature Community, held its own Mock Caldecott competition.
    “This is a dream event for librarians and people that are into picture books,” said Jennifer Adams, children’s services manager at the library.
    Named after 19th-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott, the medal was created in 1938 to honor the most distinguished American picture book for children, said Rachel Parkin, graduate student in children’s literature and head of K-State’s Children’s and Adolescent Literature Community.
    The medal is given out by a special committee of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, Parkin said.
    Prior to the mock event, ChALC officials singled out 30 books considered likely to be in the running for the real Caldecott Medal.
    Participants took an hour to browse and examine the books, then convened to discuss the relative merits of each. Parkin moderated the discussion, during which the 40-member panel voted to eliminate books they didn’t like.
    Afterward, they voted on the best illustrated book of the year.
    The winner was “Bear’s Picture,” originally written in 1972 by Daniel Pinkwater but recently reillustrated by D.B. Johnson. In the book, a bear perseveres in painting a picture despite criticism from two gentlemen.
    “The book is easy to connect with,” said Philip Nel, director of K-State’s program in children’s literature. “There’s a dynamic relationship between the text and pictures. In other books, the pictures drowned out the text, or the text made pictures unnecessary.”
    Another favorite among the afternoon committee was “We Are The Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball,” by Kadir Nelson.
    The book featured full-page portraits of baseball players, accompanied by a page of text.
    “I liked the largeness of the characters. They were really drawn as heroes,” Adams said. “They’re almost more than realistic, bigger than life.”
    “We Are The Ship” took the second-highest tally of votes, earning a Mock Caldecott Honor medal.
    Steven T. Johnson, a former Caldecott Honor winner for “Alphabet City” in 1996, was present to participate and sign copies of his latest book, “A is for Art.”
    The book features a series of large photos, each photo representing a letter of the alphabet and accompanied by a textual caption. In the captions, Johnson describes the photos using words that begin with or suggest the letter of that page.
    “The alphabet is like Shakespeare. You can reinterpret it in a variety of ways,” Johnson said.
    His book also received a Mock Caldecott Honor Saturday.

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