The 2024 Mock Caldecott List is here! This is my third 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 22nd.
I’m sharing all of these books on video as well! Check out The 2024 Mock Caldecott List video on my Youtube channel.
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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 2024 Mock Caldecott List
Big by Vashti Harrison
Big is a semi-autobiographical narrative of a young Black girl’s early messaging around body image. When she’s young, the word “big” is encouragement and approval – it’s to be desired, until she gets “too big”. She begins to internalize the message that big is bad, she is mocked and insulted; her sense of self is threatened by the careless words of others.
With very few words, this story is told primarily through the digital and chalk pastel illustrations. The soft, warm color palette contrasts with the hardness of the subject. It uses size and perspective to get the reader’s attention. Soft, palette turns to gray and transforms back to the soft-pink of self-love. The young girl pushes at the margins of the actual page, until the the page actually gets better to accommodate her size – literally and figuratively taking up space.
An American Story by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Dare Coulter
The book’s artwork, which features paintings, photographs of sculptures, and drawings, which heightens the impact of the historical narrative. Dare brings 3D work to the pages. She truly amplifies the book’s message about the importance of the past in the present.
The art has a powerful impact on the reader – dark shows pain and suffering; while the brighter colors symbolize hope, perseverance and the spirit of the enslaved people. Dare’s artwork takes the reader on a journey from despair to determination for a future.
Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan
This beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book explores the tiny, secret world of backyard jumping spiders. Each of the images include a range of colors and details. They show the garden from both a distance and zoomed in. These illustrations help the readers understand the vastness of Jumper’s world when they might only ever see a small piece of it themselves. The use of shadow and light brings spider’s world to life. Readers will leave with a greater respect for this tiny garden dweller.
The Tree and the River by Aaron Becker
The Tree and the River is a wordless picture book that follows the life of a tree as it grows in a valley next to a small river. The tree watches the development of human civilizations until a flood destroys the valley. The tree, barely alive, drops an acorn that restarts the cycle of life again.
Pencil and digital paint provide detailed images in this story. Readers are able to compare and contrast the illustrations throughout the book. Becker uses color and light, especially in the dramatic scenes set at night. The Tree and the River tells a complex and meaningful story only through images.
Once Upon a Book by Grace Lin
In Once Upon a Book, a young girl steps into the pages of her books and goes on a magical adventure, until she finds her most favorite place of all. Throughout the story, Alice’s dress changes, to blend in with her surroundings. And look closely…on the title page, you’ll see objects that will appear later on (bunny slippers, camel, moon-shaped lamp). The illustrations start out with bright colors, but then things change to dark and stormy as she misses her home.
I’m From by Gary Gray, illustrated by Oge Mora
We follow a young Black boy throughout his day on a journey through Black language and culture, creating a sense of identity, community and connectedness. Mora uses mixed-media to create powerful and inviting illustrations. They are vibrant, with pops of bright, detailed collages of painted and patterned paper. Make sure to open the book flat to see the front and back jacket as one entire spread!
In the Night Garden by Carin Berger
In the Night Garden is a lyrical good-night book. At first glance, it appears to be digitally created collage illustrations, but the book’s front matter shares that every star and flower is hand-assembled cut-paper collage. The cool, dark color palette conveys a gentle mood that matches the bedtime text. Readers might even notice that a black cat serves as a guide on every page of the book.
Nell Plants a Tree by Anne Wynter, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Nell Plants a Tree weaves two timelines about a family and a pecan tree. A multi-generational Black family loves to play around the tree and use pecans for pie. The illustrator guides us through the timelines – the characters wear similar colors in different time periods. For example, young Nell wears a mustard-colored dress and older Nell’s dress is the same color, while her friend wears brown pants, a white shirt and suspenders and so does her husband. This beautiful story rewards observant readers with so many rich details to notice!
Evergreen by Matthew Cordell
The images in Evergreen are similar to those of Arnold Lobel and William Steig. It is a picture book with “longer-than-usual-text”. Evergreen is afraid of many things in the forest and her mom wants her to deliver soup. Along the way she meets many forest dwellers, some who want to help and some who just want soup! Through the pen and watercolor illustrations, we get to know Evergreen’s personality and her emotions.
There Was a Party for Langston by Jason Reynolds, illustrated by Jerome & Jarrett Pumphrey
This book is a nonfiction tribute to Langston Hughes and all the people he inspired. The illustrations are created with handmade stamps and then edited digitally. Pumphreys’ art is utterly unique. They work words and letters into spaces and shapes in innovative, enjoyable ways.
Host your own 2023 Mock Caldecott Awards!
Have your own 2023 Mock Caldecott ceremony with your students by grabbing this FREE 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!
Listen on the Podcast
Save this 2024 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.