Caldecott Transformed Children's Literature

Article excerpt

Byline: Katherine Hamilton-Smith

Every year the Association for Library Service for Children, a division of the American Library Association, awards the Caldecott Medal to the artist of that year's most distinguished picture book for children. The Caldecott is the artistic counterpart to the ALA's Newbery Award, given for distinguished writing in children's literature.

Many familiar and beloved children's stories have won the Caldecott Medal, first given in 1938, including "Make Way for Ducklings," "The Polar Express," and "Where the Wild Things Are." The 2002 winner is "The Three Pigs" by David Weisner.

After the year's winner is announced and for ever after, the image of the gold-colored Caldecott Medal is placed predominantly on the cover of the book, giving parents and other buyers an indication of the quality of the work. The medal is familiar to buyers of children's books, but less familiar is the story of its namesake.

The Caldecott Medal is named for 19th-century artist Randolph Caldecott. Born in Chester, England in 1846, Caldecott revolutionized children's book illustrations. His lively pictures carried the idea of the action from page to page, actually helping to tell the story.

Before this, children's illustrations were more decorative and not so filled with action. …