Picture Books - 4 Caldecott award-winning book recommendations

We all like a great picture book - colours, shapes, and graphics are all expressive elements in conveying stories and emotions. Picture books make excellent storytellers, for children or adults alike. The vivid stimulation and beautiful illustrations are a great starting point to establish a love of reading for life.

The Association of Library Services for Children (ALS) annually awards the Caldecott Medal to outstanding American picture books, and credits their contribution to Children’s Literature. This year, the Caldecott Medal celebrates its 75th anniversary. The long history of the medal marks the change and continuity of Children’s Literature. 


The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, written and illustrated by Dan Santat

We all had an imaginary friend when we were young - imagine a land full of imaginary creatures, waiting to finally be “imagined” and brought to life by an inquisitive child? The Adventure of Beekle narrates the story of a chubby, imaginary friend, born in the imagine-land, in which all creatures passively await the day they are finally imagined and brought to life. Beekle, being frustrated with his passive existence, decides to set off an adventure to the hustle and bustle of a city in the real world. This leads to Beekle’s encounter with his perfect friend, and he finally gets to reap the fruits of friendship thanks to his courage to find his own place in the world. 

It is not difficult to see that all children have their own imaginary land where quirky creatures are created. Not only will this book tug at the heartstrings, but Beekle’s story of taking a leap of faith to proactively fight for what he has longed for is also a lesson children and parents will find valuable.


Nana in the City, written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Not everything in the city is pleasant the first time we experience it - the noises from construction work, the graffiti,  vandalism,  crowded areas  or traffic congestion. This book is about a young boy being surprised to find out that his Grandma lives in a city filled with “noisy and scary” things.  Nana decides to help the little boy overcome his fear of the city, and knits a superman cape for him to give him courage. They then embark on an adventure with a walk through the city, where Nana attempts  to guide her grandson by helping him to reinterpret his negative observations and allay his fears. The city then becomes a  lively and energetic scene - with some thoughtful guidance, the perspective is entirely different. 


The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art, written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Mary GrandPré

We seldom introduce abstract art to children, but The Noisy Paint Box is a picture book that details the life of one of the most pioneering abstract painters in the world - Vasily Kandinsky.  In the story, Kandinsky is given a paint box. When he starts mixing the paints, he begins to hear sounds. From then on, for Kandinsky the colors come to life with a physical presence that he is able to hear and see. His experience of traversing the auditory and visual senses poetically depicts the beauty of abstract art and is a great way to introduce children to this subject.

Vasily Kandinsky was  discouraged by his family to pursue his passion, and was instead urged to pursue more “important” subject like reading or mathematics. However, Kandinsky kept his commitment to his art alive, and discovered his exceptional talent in the field. This story  teaches children to stay true to what makes them happy. Following our instinct, we can often find our biggest talent and dedication to pursuing dreams can produce spectacular results.


The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by  Melissa Sweet

Did you know the word thesaurus is a Greek word that means “Treasure House”? The Right Word is a biographical book about Peter Mark Roget, the first publisher of a thesaurus. The shy Peter Mark Roget had long been a devoted reader, and his love for words compelled him to start making lists of words that are of similar meanings. These later became also his references for finding the right word to succinctly express what he wants to convey. The list grew continuously, and  became one of the most important and most frequently used reference books of all time - the thesaurus.

Peter Mark Roget’s love for words will certainly resonate with children who love reading, whilst introducing them to the delicate nature and subtlety of language - many words convey similar meanings, but each is distinct in its  own entity in a meaningful manner. We must nurture the habit of selecting the right word to convey our thoughts. Time to get a thesaurus, maybe?


These recommended books are available at the book retailers listed below. Books are a great gift for the children of today - in the technology-saturated environment we often occupy, sometimes the simple things are forgotten. Instill your children with a love of reading for life. Please remember to  review the bookshops on Whizpa!

The Adventures of Beekle: Swindon, Hong Kong Book City, Kelly & Walsh
Nana in the City: Commercial Press
The Noisy Paint Box: Swindon, Kelly & Walsh
The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus: Commercial Press