Skip to content
SA Together Again: We’re back in classrooms and taking learning to new levels!

Mission Possible

Stories and insights on excellent education.

The “Academy Awards” of Picture Books

While the rest of the country was placing bets on the New England Patriots vs. the Seattle Seahawks or looking ahead to Boyhood vs. Birdman for Best Picture, my thoughts were consumed with debating The Right Word (a lushly illustrated biography of Peter Mark Roget) vs. The Farmer and the Clown (a sparse and moving wordless picture book).

On Feb. 2, the American Library Association awarded the Randolph Caldecott Medal to “the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” On a practical level, that gold sticker on the cover of a book influences librarians’, teachers’, parents’, and gift buyers’ decisions to buy, read, and teach the book for years to come.

This year, the Caldecott Medal went to Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. Caldecott Honors (essentially runners up) went to six books, including The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

Prior to the awards, the Success Academy network staff met to discuss some of the notable picture books from 2014, choosing our favorites and attempting to predict which one would win the Caldecott Medal. Of course, our principals, teachers, and curriculum team members talk about children’s books all the time, but these Caldecott conversations also brought together members of our Tech, Operations, and Advancements departments, among others — a powerful testament to the importance of books to our entire organization. These staff members took time out of their incredibly busy days to study the books our scholars will read and discuss in their classrooms.

When evaluating picture books for use in the classroom, we look at a huge range of characteristics, from strong writing and well-developed plots, to genre and subject matter, to diversity of characters and setting, to name just a few.

But I think our Caldecott conversations remind us to focus on the illustrations—the artist’s medium, palette, use of perspective—and to pay attention to the details. It’s also important to appreciate book design, layout, and font (even if they aren’t technically part of Caldecott criteria). I’d like to share just a few of the things we found notable about the picture books we discussed. We may not have correctly predicted the Caldecott Medal winner, but we identified many exemplary picture books that our scholar will be reading for years to come. Take a look at the pictures below to see just a few of things we look at when we’re looking at picture books.

Looking at the Whole Book Page 1

Looking at the Whole Book Page 2

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

The Farmer and the Clown The Right Word

Written by Sara Yu February 6, 2015


Related posts

“Happy Children Learn Better” – An SA parent reflects on the return to campus

October 7, 2021 Success Academy

Success Academy reopened its doors to scholars across the city in August, safely ushering students back into the classroom after an unprecedented 2020-21 school year. To keep our scholars safe — and learning — it’s more important than ever that we work together with families and guardians to ensure everyone in our community is on... Read more

Back to Basics: 3 Ways Parents Can Help Scholars Adjust to In-Person Learning

October 4, 2021 Success Academy

The school year is well underway, and it is so exciting to be together again in our classrooms. We love seeing scholars connect face-to-face and participate in hands-on science labs, team sports, and theatre productions alike. Nevertheless, we know returning to a new or unfamiliar learning space can be a challenging transition, and scholars might... Read more

Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

September 29, 2021 Success Academy

The deadly pandemic that forced children to isolate and learn remotely has only deepened painful issues of inequity. All around us, there is profound learning loss and lack of access to equitable resources. At Success Academy, we have a special obligation to get back on track and ensure that our students realize their full potential,... Read more

Enroll your child

We’re now accepting K-4 applications for the 2021-2022 school year.

Work with us

Build your career while making an impact at Success Academy.