I love this book for its words and its structure and its illustrations and its history, and I love that I got to stick a golden Caldecott Medal on its cover.
From the Caldecott criteria:
The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
Let’s look at this book’s distinguished pages. And a note: these are my opinions. It’s clear that the Calde-committee found many reasons to love this book, but there’s no way to know what the overlap is. That’s ok! But here’s what I find remarkable:
A simple, striking case cover, reminiscent of Pooh-and-friends’ silhouettes in the A.A. Milne stories.
An invitation to the (hundred acre?) wood on the endpapers. And see if you can spot the real-life owl and rabbit on the title page, a maybe-nod to the wise and spirited friends to Pooh himself.
The way safe and tucked-in stories at night blur the line between awake and in dreams.
The passage of time. (And an intriguing and evocative line of text by the author here does not hurt an ounce!)
The way the real-life storytelling lives in black and white spot illustrations, juxtaposed with the full-bleed illustrations of the past.
The emotion and pacing of decision-making, the kind that happens when your heart makes up your mind.
This whole spread, which I loved for the daunting, fierce red of war, and then even more for the details of maritime flags which Sophie talks about here.
Shifts in perspective that slip you into battle and hang on the edge of your seat.
A second story, flawlessly entered. I love how this Bear and his boy are on the right-hand side of the spread too, and how it echoes a bear-to-boy lovelock from a few pages earlier.
The return home, not as bustling as the crew that left for the war. An understated, powerful picture.
This album, that’s been on the modern boy’s bedside table the whole time.
The back cover, a mirror of the front. Bookends to the beginnings of a beloved story.
It is an exquisite book.