Friday, August 23, 2013

Will The Matchbox Diary Win the Caldecott?

Well my pitter patter towards the Caldecott continues this week, with the next book I think is in contention for this prestigous honor.  Of course, a room full of carefully selected and highly intelligent librarians actually select the book to receive the shiny bronze sticker  (and a few honor books - if said librarians are feeling generous.)  But I always thought it was interesting to know what criteria they use to determine a winner.

First the award is given annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book (if the author and artist are not one in the same, the poor guy/gal who wrote the words get bupkiss!)   Key here is that the artist must be a US citizen.  So if you ever wondered why some of those fabulous European books never get the sticker, wonder no more, they have their own awards!

Now what does distinguished mean exactly?  Well this is of course dependant on the make up of the judges and their sensibilities, which changes annually, but in general you can count on a few things.  In laymens terms (sort of):

Unique Illustrations that move the story forward without detracting from the main message.

Illustrations that represent the story's "plot, theme, characters setting, mood."

Illustrations that are well suited for the book's intended readers.  And it is worth noting that readers can go up the age of fourteen.

What I always found surprising in the criteria is what you won't find.  The book does not have to be popular with kids or even engage a broader audience.

The Caldecott is about finding the best of the best it terms of pictures that completely and creatively tell a story.  It is not meant to get your kids exctited about picture books, but if that happens in unison, well then bravo.  I do believe that it happened last year with Jon Klassen's win for This Is Not My Hat.

Just something to think about as you select books for your kids.  While it is wonderful to expose them to distinguished books, remember that the award criteria is not a book your child is guaranteed to like, it is simply a book that was done well.

So on to my next book in the running!  To see the other Caldecott contender I have profiled click here: Building Our House.

Title:       The Matchbox Diary

Author:   Paul Fleischman

Target:    Kindergarten - Grade 3

What this book is about:
This book tells the story of a kindergarten girl who has gone to visit her grandfather.  He is an immigrant from Italy and when she finds a cigar box full of little matchboxes in his store, he shares with her the story of the treasures that reside in each of the boxes.  One box has an olive pit that he used to suck on when he was hungry and the family didn’t have enough food.  Another box has sunflower seeds which he used to count the days he was on the ship taking him to America.  Each box has a something to signify his long journey from poor Italian farmer to a shop owner in the U.S.

Why I love this book:
The construction of this book is just delightful.  The idea of a story behind each treasure which is revealed in the matchbox is quite enchanting and poignant.  But what makes this book extra special is how it brings history into the mix for kids.  In a very easy to understand way, Fleischman has presented the story of American immigrants.  Kids will be captivated by each item and the one paragraph story behind it which conveys so much.

I also want to commend the illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline.  His sepia toned drawings revealing the memory of each object are quite captivating and bring the story alive.  I think that kids will be truly surprised at how different life was for these immigrants than their own lives are now.

Who this book is for:
I have targeted the book beginning at Kindergarten because I think kids need to be a little older to truly appreciate some of the history.  My third grade daughter was captivated by the book.

Final thoughts:
I really wish the cover was a better reflection of the beauty of this story

To purchase this book, click on the following link to connect to Amazon: The Matchbox Diary  A portion of each purchase goes back to support this blog at no cost to you.

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