Jan 152008

2008 Caldecott Medal Winner

Hugo Cabret book cover image

The 2008 Caldecott Medal winner is The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)

From an opening shot of the full moon setting over an awakening Paris in 1931, this tale casts a new light on the picture book form. Hugo is a young orphan secretly living in the walls of a train station where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father. In a work of more than 500 pages, the suspenseful text and wordless double-page spreads narrate the tale in turns. Neither words nor pictures alone tell this story, which is filled with cinematic intrigue. Black & white pencil illustrations evoke the flickering images of the silent films to which the book pays homage.

Hugo Cabret winning the Caldecott is very surprising – we thought it might win the Newbery, never even considered a 500 page book winning, in light of the Caldecott’s key qualifying criteria:

"The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in English in the United States during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work."

It takes the loosest interpretation of ‘picture book’ for Hugo Cabret to qualify.

From Brian Selznick:

"My new book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, is a 550 page novel in words and pictures. But unlike most novels, the images in my new book don’t just illustrate the story; they help tell it. I’ve used the lessons I learned from Remy Charlip and other masters of the picture book to create something that is not a exactly a novel, not quite a picture book, not really a graphic novel, or a flip book or a movie, but a combination of all these things."

Selznick even calls it a "novel in words and pictures".

From Publisher’s Weekly:

Booksellers React to Top Children’s Prizes
By Diane Roback — Publishers Weekly, 1/14/2008 4:30:00 PM

"Several booksellers praised the Caldecott committee for “pushing the envelope” by awarding the medal for the year’s most distinguished picture book to The Invention of Hugo Cabret, an 533-page illustrated novel—it’s the first time that the Caldecott has ever been given to a novel.

Elizabeth Bluemle, co-owner of Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vt., predicted “There will be a lot of discussion as to whether it’s a true Caldecott winner. It’s not a picture book in the way that we like to think of a picture book, but the argument can be made that it works as a picture book, in that the words and art work together. It does break new ground in how a book is made, and I think it’s great that it was recognized.”

“We all love Hugo Cabret,” said Laura Moline, manager of Adventures for Kids in Ventura, Calif. “We’ve sold lots of copies for all different ages. I was wondering if a book could win the Caldecott and the Newbery in the same year—that’s what we thought might happen. It’s so much an illustrated book and it’s also so much a novel. It’s something different; it’s something new.”

Several librarians phoned Valerie Koehler, owner of Houston’s Blue Willow Bookshop, on Monday, asking her, “Can you believe they picked a novel for the Caldecott? Can you do that?” Her response? “As long as it fits their parameters, as an illustrated book, that’s fine. It’s thrilling when [the winner] is something we can get behind."

2008 Caldecott Honor Books

Henry's Freedom Box

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railrod by illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Ellen Levine (Scholastic)

Inspired by an antique lithograph, Kadir Nelson has created dramatically luminous illustrations that portray Henry “Box” Brown’s ingenious design to ship himself in a box from slavery to freedom.

First the Egg

First the Egg, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter)

Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s innovative concept book on transformations, First the Egg uses strategically placed die-cuts to provide an astonishing visual explication of the word “then.” Her richly textured brushstrokes creatively reveal the process of metamorphosis for young readers.

The Wall

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sís (Farrar/Frances Foster)

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, a graphic memoir of Sís’s youth in Prague, brilliantly weds artistic and design choices to content: tight little panels with officious lines and red punctuation; full-bleed line-and-watercolor spreads of nightmares and dreams; color and absence of color.

Knuffle Bunny Too

Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity, written and illustrated Mo Willems (Hyperion)

Willems sets the stage for one of the most dramatic double-paged spreads in picture-book history in Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. Masterful photo collages take Trixie and her daddy through their now-familiar Brooklyn neighborhood to the Pre-K class where Trixie discovers that her beloved Knuffle Bunny is not “so one-of-a-kind anymore.”

The Newbery and Caldecott Medals and Honor Book seals are property of the America
n Library Association and cannot be used in any form or reproduced without permission of the ALA Office of Rights and Permissions.