EPL’s Brian Wilson on Helping Choose Caldecott Award Winners

This year, EPL Children’s Librarian Brian Wilson served on the Caldecott Award Selection Committee. The committee was made up of 15 members, most of whom are children’s librarians. Eight members, including Wilson, were elected through a vote by members of the Association of Library Service to Children. The other seven are appointed by the ASLC president.

photo by Lynn Trautmann, LTPhoto Evanston

So what was it like to be a member of the Caldecott selection committee?

Wilson appreciated getting to know the other committee members and discovering new books. “The publishers would send us boxes of books,” Wilson described. “But we would also try to seek out ones that weren’t sent to us.”

The Caldecott Medal is “awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children,” according to the Caldecott terms and criteria. Wilson said the committee tried to “cast a wide net” when looking for books.

“Everyone looked for something different,” he said. “But I wanted to see that a book respected children and how perceptive they can be. Kids often see things in books that adults don’t. I also wanted to see an illustrator who was doing something different and very new. I wanted to look at the book and say, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that medium used that way before.’”

The committee ultimately selected “Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat” written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe as the 2016 Caldecott winner. “It’s a very moving book,” Wilson said. “It’s based on the life of an underground painter who hit the mainstream. The illustrator of this book went to various places where Basquiat lived and found discarded pieces of wood. Then he painted the wood to create scenes of Basquiat’s life in a style that looks like a mix between a collage and a jigsaw puzzle.” “Radiant Child” also was awarded a Coretta Scott King Illustrator award.

In addition to “Radiant Child,” the Caldecott committee selected four honor books: “Leave Me Alone!” written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol, “Freedom in Congo Square” illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and written by Carole Boston Weatherford, “Du Iz Tak?” illustrated and written by Carson Ellis, and “They All Saw a Cat,” illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel.

On Thursday, March 2, at 7PM, Wilson will host a Caldecott Award Storytime featuring the winning title and four honorary mentions. He is also planning another round of the Caldecott Club, a book club for young readers that was successful in the fall. He also plans to bring attention to the winners of the Coretta Scott King and Newbery Awards.

“I am so appreciative that I had the community’s support, and I hope I was able to do Evanston proud,” he said.

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