The 2023 Mock Caldecott List is here! This is my second year pulling together this list and I love having you participate in reading and picking your own winners from the Caldecott nominees (there are no official nominees – this list is full of books getting a lot of buzz and who I think would be nominated). Then we get to compare them to the official Caldecott winners chosen by the American Library Association on January 30th.
I’m sharing all of these books on video as well! Check out The 2023 Mock Caldecott List video on my Youtube channel.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here.
Caldecott Award Criteria
Before diving into the books, below is a list of criteria that librarians across the country use in determining the winner of the Caldecott award. And, remember, this isn’t the most popular book. The winner of this award is solely based on illustrations.
- How well the art is executed. Basically, is it good art?
- How does the art match the story? Are the illustrations a good fit for the tone of the book?
- Is the art important to the story, and do you get insight from the art? Does the art give the reader details and information that the text doesn’t?
- And, most importantly, do the illustrations appeal to kids?
The 2023 Mock Caldecott List
Witch Hazel by Molly Idle
Something magical happens when Hazel and Hilda are together. As the seasons pass, Hazel’s broom whisks the dust off many years of joyful memories, and young Hilda watches them come to life. But is it magic making memories…or are memories making magic?
This poignant tale and artistic tour de force from Caldecott Honoree Molly Idle gently explores the passage of time and the transcendent power of sharing our stories.
Hot Dog by Doug Salati
It’s summer in the city, and this hot dog has had enough! Enough of sizzling sidewalks, enough of wailing sirens, enough of people’s feet right in his face. When he plops down in the middle of a crosswalk, his owner endeavors to get him the breath of fresh air he needs. She hails a taxi, hops a train, and ferries out to the beach.
With fluid art and lyrical text that have the soothing effect of waves on sand, Doug Salati shows us how to find calm and carry it back with us so we can appreciate the small joys in a day.
I think Hot Dog is my top pick for the 2023 Mock Caldecott!
The Sun is Late and So is the Farmer by Philip C. Stead
Fans of Erin and Philip C. Stead’s books will instantly love this quirky barnyard trio’s magical quest to bring the sunrise, in the style of their previous animal books A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Bear Has a Story to Tell.
As this trio rests in their comfortable barn, a realization slowly dawns on them. . . the sun is late to rise.
After consulting barn owl (who always knows what to do), they take Rooster and set off on an epic journey further than they’ve ever gone before; through the acre of tall corn, past the sleeping giant, all the way to the edge of the world.
Carrimebac, the Town that Walked by David Barclay Moore
In a boldly transportive original tale, David Barclay Moore infuses history with wry folk wisdom, metaphorical power, and a splash of magic. The Civil War may be over, but times are not substantially improved for the freed Black citizens of Walkerton, Georgia, who are shunned by the white folks of the surrounding towns.
One day, though, ol’ Rootilla Redgums and her grandson, Julius Jefferson, arrive. Rootilla teaches the citizens of Walkerton how to make all sorts of beautiful things, and the white people can’t get enough. But some aren’t so happy. When a hooded mob threatens to burn down the town, Julius and Rootilla must work wonders to protect Walkerton and its people—even if it means moving heaven and earth itself.
With exquisite cinematic illustrations by John Holyfield and a generous trim size, this portrait of Black endurance draws on the rhythms and traditions of African American storytelling to open a powerful window into the past.
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson
On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom.
Then, on a day full of quarrels, it’s time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art celebrate the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world.
Lizzy and the Cloud by Terry Fan
From the critically acclaimed, award-winning creators of Ocean Meets Sky and The Night Gardener comes a whimsical and sweet tale of a young girl who cares for her pet cloud as it grows.
It’s a little out of fashion to buy a pet cloud, but Lizzy doesn’t mind. She’s not looking for a big one or a fancy one, just one that’s right for her. And she finds it in Milo.
Soon, she’s taking Milo out on walks with her family, watering Milo right on schedule, and seeing Milo grow and grow. But what happens when her pet cloud gets too big for Lizzy to handle?
Snow Angel, Sand Angel by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Claire has been surrounded by the deep blue waves of Hapuna Beach and the magnificent mountains of Hawai’i all her life, but has never, ever seen snow. When her father drives her and her family to the top of the Mauna Kea, she can’t help but to be disappointed…it’s not the winter wonderland she’s always dreamed of. And that’s what she wants, more than anything.
But as Claire edges ever closer to the new year, she wonders if maybe– just maybe–she can delight in the special joys of winter in her own way–right there, on her Big Island of Hawaii.
Includes back-matter that captures the environmental culture of Hawaii, and will teach children not only about the local flora and fauna, but also the value of being environmentally friendly.
Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond
For centuries, blue powders and dyes were some of the most sought-after materials in the world. Ancient Afghan painters ground mass quantities of sapphire rocks to use for their paints, while snails were harvested in Eurasia for the tiny amounts of blue that their bodies would release.
And then there was indigo, which was so valuable that American plantations grew it as a cash crop on the backs of African slaves. It wasn’t until 1905, when Adolf von Baeyer created a chemical blue dye, that blue could be used for anything and everything–most notably that uniform of workers everywhere, blue jeans.
With stunning illustrations by Caldecott Honor Artist Daniel Minter, this vibrant and fascinating picture book follows one color’s journey through time and across the world, as it becomes the blue we know today.
Over and Under the Waves by Kate Messner
Follow a family kayaking in the ocean as they paddle and notice what’s in the sky and the ocean’s surface like the whales breaching. Below them, the ocean teams with life — both plants and animals. As always, the evocative writing shares memorable details and vivid verbs. “Under the waves, leopard sharks prowl,” and “Barnacles pull in their feather feet, while treefish and prawns tuck away in the rocks.”
Once again, Messner shares the wonders of the world’s biggest ecosystem with the unique over/under pattern.
Berry Song by Michaela Goade
On an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea, a girl and her grandmother gather gifts from the earth. Salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and in the forest, a world of berries.
Through the seasons, they sing to the land as the land sings to them. Brimming with joy and gratitude, in every step of their journey, they forge a deeper kinship with both the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all.
Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
Step inside the dollhouse-like interior of Farmhouse and relish in the daily life of the family that lives there, rendered in impeccable, thrilling detail. Based on a real family and an actual farmhouse where Sophie salvaged facts and artifacts for the making of this spectacular work, page after page bursts with luminous detail and joy.
Join the award-winning, best-selling Sophie Blackall as she takes readers on an enchanting visit to a farmhouse across time, to a place that echoes with stories.
Love in the Library by Maggie Takuda-Hall
Love in the Library is a love story that unfolds in the library of a Japanese interment camp on the West coast of the United States during World War II. Based on true events, the author shows readers that love can bloom in the most unlikely of places, even in the dark shadows of racist America. A history lesson and a love story that is not to be missed.
Gibberish by Young Vo
Gibberish tells the story of a young boy named Dat, who is new to the English language. It is his first day of school in a new country. To Dat, everything that everybody says – from the school bus driver to his new classmates – sounds like gibberish. How is he going to make new friends if they can’t understand each other? Luckily there’s a friendly girl in Dat’s girl who knows that there are other ways to communicate besides just talking.
The imagery in Gibberish is brilliant! Vo reveals Dat’s experience by showing the speakers of gibberish as black and white cartoon characters, while he is show more realistically in color. As he starts to understand the language, more color is added to all the page.
Powwow Day by Traci Sorrell
In this uplifting, contemporary Native American story, River is recovering from illness and can’t dance at the powwow this year. Will she ever dance again?
River wants so badly to dance at powwow day as she does every year. In this uplifting and contemporary picture book perfect for beginning readers, follow River’s journey from feeling isolated after an illness to learning the healing power of community.
Additional information explains the history and functions of powwows, which are commonplace across the United States and Canada and are open to both Native Americans and non-Native visitors. Author Traci Sorell is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and illustrator Madelyn Goodnight is a member of the Chickasaw Nation.
The World Belonged to Us by Jaqueline Woodson
The World Belonged to Us is a beautiful depiction of the joy and freedom that summer in the city offers. From chasing the ice cream truck to being called home for dinner. This story uses rhythmic text and incredibly capturing art to bring us to a place to experience summer in the city. A nostalgic book for many!
Nigel and the Moon by Antwan Eady
When Nigel looks up at the moon, his future is bright. He imagines himself as…an astronaut, a dancer, a superhero, too!
Among the stars, he twirls. With pride, his chest swells. And his eyes, they glow. Nigel is the most brilliant body in the sky.
But it’s Career Week at school, and Nigel can’t find the courage to share his dreams. It’s easy to whisper them to the moon, but not to his classmates—especially when he already feels out of place.
Knight Owl by Christopher Denise
A pizza saves a brave Knight Owl from being eaten by a hungry dragon. Christopher Denise has created a feathered, fluffy hero who shows readers sometimes your wits can be your best weapon of defense. And sometimes you can even make a friend of a foe if only you’ll look for common ground.
Out of a Jar by Deborah Marcero
Llewellyn does not like to feel afraid or sad, angry, lonely, or embarrassed. And so he comes up with a brilliant plan: he tucks each of his feelings into jars and hides them away where they won’t bother him anymore. But when he gets in trouble in class, Llewellyn finds he needs to put away excitement too. And when joy is quickly followed by disappointment, he decides to get rid of joy as well. After a while, Llewellyn walks around not feeling much of anything at all. And what happens when his emotions refuse to be bottled up any longer?
In this richly illustrated and universally relatable picture book, Llewellyn soon discovers that life is more colorful when he sets his emotions free. And only then, by facing and embracing each of his feelings, is he finally able to let them go.
We Wait for the Sun by Katie McCabe
In the hour before dawn, Dovey Mae and Grandma Rachel step into the cool, damp night on a secret mission: to find the sweetest, ripest blackberries that grow deep in the woods. With the fierce and fearless Grandma Rachel at her side, the woods turn magical, and berry picking becomes an enchanting adventure that ends with the beauty and power of the sunrise.
With Grandma Rachel’s lessons as her guiding light, Dovey Mae would go on to become a trailblazer of the civil rights movement—fighting for justice and equality in the military, the courtroom, and the church.
Host your own 2023 Mock Caldecott Awards!
Have your own 2023 Mock Caldecott ceremony with your students by grabbing this FREE 2023 Mock Caldecott List resource. Students will look at each book, using the criteria mentioned above, and decided which illustrations are good enough to win!
I’d love to hear which book your students chose as the 2023 Mock Caldecott award winner. Share your photos on Instagram and tag me (@thecolorfulapple) so I can see!
Save this 2023 Mock Caldecott List
Be sure to save this pin to your favorite read alouds board on Pinterest! You’ll be able to come back to this book list when you are ready to read them aloud with your students.