1987 Caldecott Medal: Hey, Al

Hey, Al

Hey, Al, written by Arthur Yorinks and illustrated by Richard Egielski, is the somewhat odd tale of a janitor (Al) and his dog (Eddie) who are taken by a large tropical bird to a lush island in the sky. At first this seems like a wonderful escape from their hum-drum life, but over time Al and Eddie begin to turn into birds and decide that they must escape.

Egielski’s illustrations are realistic and detailed. The drab browns of Al’s everyday life give way to the bright, tropical colors of the island. The visuals really make the story.

Richard Egielski has illustrated over 50 books, 8 of which he also wrote. He collaborated with Arthur Yorinks on 9 different children’s books, starting in 1976, but Hey, Al is his only Caldecott Medal (or Honor) book.

This book is probably most appropriate for elementary-aged readers, although the illustrations might be enough to capture slightly younger kids. Overall I find the tone of the book to be just plain weird, rather than charmingly quirky. Not my favorite of the Caldecotts I’ve read so far.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fifth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1987 Caldecott Medal: Hey, Al

1957 Caldecott Medal: A Tree is Nice


A Tree is Nice was written by Janice May Udry and illustrated by Marc Simont. This is a pretty simple book – if you’ve read the title, you know what this book is about: trees and all their good qualities (Who can argue with that?). The book definitely grew on me though. It has a quiet charm. It was Udry’s first children’s book, quite the impressive debut!

The illustrations alternate between full-color and black and white. There are great details, but the drawings aren’t crowded. Simply lovely. The book is narrow and tall, which helps it stand out. There is a good mix of boys AND girls in and around those very nice trees.

Marc Simont’s illustration career spanned 6 decades. In addition to winning the medal in 1957, he had Caldecott Honor books in 1950 (The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss) and 2002 (The Stray Dog, which Simont both wrote and illustrated)! He illustrated over 100 children’s books, collaborating with many well-known authors. Simont just died in 2013. He had an interesting and illustrious life (he and the illustrator Robert McCloskey were once roommates!) His obituary in the New York Times is well worth a read.

This book is probably most appealing to early elementary school readers, but Frances enjoyed it too. It would be a perfect read-aloud for Arbor Day.

pirate ship

One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my fourth post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

1957 Caldecott Medal: A Tree is Nice

2011 Caldecott Medal: A Sick Day for Amos McGee


A Sick Day for Amos McGee is the product of another husband and wife team. Philip C. Stead wrote the sweet tale of Amos McGee, an employee of the City Zoo who always has time for his friends (running races with the tortoise, reading bedtime stories to the owl, who is afraid of the dark.) One day Amos is too sick to make it to work – so his friends come to him!

Erin E. Stead is responsible for the charming illustrations, which were made by drawing on top of woodblock prints (You can read about her process here). The colors are muted (with some pops of red) and the images are delightful. The page showing Amos’ animal friends waiting of the bus is a particular favorite of mine.

Impressively, this is the first book Stead ever illustrated. Talk about starting on a high note! She has since illustrated 3 other books, each of which I love. Definitely worth checking out all of her work.

This is the first of the Caldecott books that Frances whole-heartedly embraced. It was a regular part of our bedtime story rotation while we had it out of the library.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is my third post about a Caldecott book. You can read the other Caldecott posts here.

2011 Caldecott Medal: A Sick Day for Amos McGee

1965 Caldecott Medal: May I Bring a Friend?

may i bring a friend.pdf

May I Bring a Friend? was written by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers and illustrated by Beni Montresor. The book tells the story of a young boy who is invited to tea by the King and Queen. He asks “May I Bring a Friend?”. In rhyming text, the boy calls at the castle for a series of visits with an succession of wild friends (giraffes, lions, and elephants to name a few), all graciously welcomed by the King and Queen.

It’s interesting to see how books reflect their time – and how much styles of illustration go in and out of vogue. The pictures in this book scream 1960s to me. The look is bright, but in a limited color palette: pink, red, yellow and orange, representational, but not overly realistic.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded to the “artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year”. So while, de Regniers wrote the book (and over 50 others), the Medal was won by Beni Montresor. (No glory for the writers of pictures books who aren’t also illustrators!). Montresor was an Italian illustrator and set and costume designer. Although he illustrated a number of children’s books, his life’s work was the theater, and he moved to the United States in 1960 to design sets and costumes for various opera companies. He was nominated for a Tony Award 4 times for his designs.

As a side note, one of the “also rans” for the 1965 Caldecott was a totally trippy book called Rain Makes Applesauce, that made me believe as a child that everyone in the 60s really WAS on drugs.

May I Bring a Friend? would probably appeal most to preschool-aged kids. Frances let me read it to her once, but hasn’t ever asked for it since.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the second post about a Caldecott book. You can read about the 1949 winner here.

1965 Caldecott Medal: May I Bring a Friend?

1949 Caldecott Medal: The Big Snow


The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader is a quiet book. It tells the story of the preparations of wild animals preparing for Winter (likely in New York State, where the Haders lived). The book talks about the birds that stay North and those that migrate, the animals that store food and those that continue to forage, the animals that hibernate and those that stay awake. The book culminates with the arrival of the Big Snow, and the subsequent hunt for food by those animals still around and awake.

This book definitely feels like it is from an earlier time. The illustrations are realistic, and only some are in color. The story is simple. The animals don’t talk or have human characteristics, they are, quite simply, animals. It’s lovely, in a very muted way.

Berta and Elmer Hader were a married, illustration team. They began their careers illustrating magazines, but switched to children’s books in the late-1920s. They wrote and illustrated dozens of books together, and illustrated books for other authors as well. They were nominated for the Caldecott Medal twice (in 1940 for Cock-a-Doodle-Doo and in 1944 for The Mighty Hunter), before winning in 1949 with this book.

Interestingly to me, the Haders beat out Robert McCloskey’s Blueberries for Sal in 1949, which is definitely a better known book today. I had never heard of the Haders before starting my Caldecott quest, but they were definitely well-known and prolific illustrators (and writers) in their day.

This is not a book for toddlers. Frances listened to a few pages, before losing interest and wandering off. I imagine it is a best fit for early Elementary School students – those who have begun learning about things like hibernation and migration. I could see a young nature-lover really poring over the illustrations.


One of my Life List goals is to read all of the Caldecott winners. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of post talking about each book.

1949 Caldecott Medal: The Big Snow