One of my favorite new traditions is our Mock Caldecott Party. About a week before the award announcement, a bunch of friends (booksellers, editors, librarians, and storytellers) get together for a little party. It’s organized and hosted by my friend Nathan Spofford, who has the most amazing personal children’s book library on the planet. We bring treats and books. We talk about our favorites, look at the art, and argue what should win. Each person has two votes: which book we think will win and which book we think should win.
This year, I was right about the “will win” vote. Locomotive, by Brian Floca, tells the story of the American railroads. The art is lovely and it’s a great book. But my “should win” vote didn’t even get an honorable mention. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is the very appealing story of a tiger feeling confined by his uptight society. There’s a strict dress code and everyone is polite, but no one seems in touch with their animal nature or to connect in a meaningful way with each other. Finally Mr. Tiger has had enough! He takes off his top hat and waistcoat and runs wild in the jungle. He loves it!
Eventually, though, Mr. Tiger misses his family and friends, and he has to find a way to both be part of a community and be independent and free. It’s a charming story with a lot of depth and the art is just so fun. Grays and taupes convey the structured town life, and bright oranges and greens evoke the jungle. Besides, who can resist a goat on a unicycle or a rhino in a bow tie?