NOLS: Picturing the best of 2012

Off the Shelf column

Like many of my colleagues, I’m eager to hear which books will be announced at the Youth Media Awards (think Oscars for youth services librarians) on Jan. 28. In particular, I’m following the Caldecott race, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary. The Caldecott is given annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. Receiving the award typically has a positive impact on sales.


A committee of librarians from around the country reviews picture books published in the award year to make the decision. (This is a lot of books!)

To get in the spirit, here are some of my 2012 favorites:


“House Held Up by Trees” by Ted Kooser and illustrated by Jon Klassen

The amazingly versatile illustrator Jon Klassen takes on the challenge of turning former poet laureate Ted Kooser’s story of the life of a house into a seamless, powerful story which lingers long after the initial reading.

Fans of Virginia Burton’s 1942 classic (and Caldecott Winner) “The Little House,” should rush to the library to relish what Kooser and Klassen have done with essentially the same concept. Remarkable.



“Extra Yarn” by Jon Klassen

2012 was the year of Jon Klassen. If you haven’t picked up anything by Klassen, his work is inspired, full of droll touches and visual storytelling. “Extra Yarn” is the story of a girl who likes to knit and knit and knit, and what she does when her ability to knit is taken away. A knitter’s delight!



“More” by I.C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies, is about a magpie who collects things and realizes that more is (at a certain point) too much.

Told primarily through pictures, it is one of the clearest books about consumerism and the simplicity movement I’ve seen.

Lies, the author and illustrator of the beloved bat books (“Bats at the Library,” “Bats at the Beach”), brings the story to life with a detailed poignancy and meaning. This is a book that stands up well to multiple reads.



“Otter and Odder” by James Howe and illustrated by Chris Raschka

Everyone knows that otters and fish are destined to be enemies — as is the natural order of things — but when an otter falls in love with a fish, hilarity ensues. Raschka takes chances in his crayon on watercolor drawings, making the illustrations unique.



“I, Too, Am America” by Langston Hughes and illustrated by Bryan Collier

The talented Collier employs collage and painting to give Langston Hughes’ poem a new interpretation through the eyes of African-American Pullman porters. Collier’s mixed media approach breathes fresh air into the poem, giving it new meaning and depth.



“Jangles” by David Shannon

Everyone loves a good fishing story … and David Shannon’s tale is a whopper, told, in good part, through amazing oil paintings. The fish in the story leaps out the pages in detail and Shannon’s use of the picture book frame resonates like a taut line on the water.