Gene Nelson, librarian and former Caldecott committee member
Yuyi Morales has long been one of my favorite picture-book illustrators. She often incorporates a mixed-media approach and does so again in her stunning Viva Frida. "Viva" is a vibrant exploration of Frida Kahlo's artistic inspiration and style. Morales' homage is not a traditional biography, yet "Viva" captures the essence of Kahlo's colorful vision of life. Photographs of Morales' exquisite puppets are coupled with acrylic masterpieces that visually represent Kahlo's life as well as the artist's impact on Morales herself. I'll be tremendously disappointed if "Viva Frida" doesn't take home a gold or silver Caldecott Medal.
Michelle Costello Sargent, bookseller
My choice, hands down, would be At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin. First, the illustrations represent the best in children's picture books — they are works of art in their own right. And the subject matter — the passage of time simultaneously in different parts of the world — is something that I have thought and wondered about since I was a child. Time and its passing connects us all, and this beautiful book helps reinforce that very notion.
Bobbie Pyron, author and librarian
The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee. Frazee's stunning illustrations need no words to convey this beautiful story.
Cindy Mitchell, librarian and book blogger
Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif. Sif's exuberant illustrations dance across the page, just as Frances Dean loves to dance. I found myself wanting to try out some of her moves!
Catherine Weller, bookseller
The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Hadley Hooper. The text of this book is affecting but brief. It sets the stage for a magnificent set of illustrative spreads expanding upon Matisse's childhood. At first the illustrations are beautiful and simple. As the boy Matisse grows older, the illustrations become more complex and elaborate, using colors and developing themes found in Matisse's actual work. This lovely book about the nurturing and growth of creativity is stunning. It works as a read-aloud, a book for classroom instruction or a book to simply flip through while oohing and ahhing at the pictures.
Kate Coombs, author
Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Illustrating a poetry collection is especially tricky because a poem paints a strong word picture, so how do you complement rather than compete with that? Sweet pulls it off beautifully in spreads that only seem ordinary at first glance. Her mixed-media lines and images move across the page with a lot of verve, punctuated by surprising colors, textures and even words. I especially like her image for Charles Reznikoff's "House-wreckers" poem, with its stairs leading to a map of the night.
Vivian Evans, bookseller
I like to consider the whole package. Words, pictures, how the words flow with the turn of the page, the message and whether it is entertaining to both children and adults. Some of my favorites this year are Blue on Blue by Dianne White and illustrated by Beth Krommes, Firefly July selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman and Draw! by Raúl Colón.
Carla Morris, author and librarian
All Different Now by Angela Johnson is the up-close-and-personal story of a young slave girl and her family on the day of June 19, 1865, when they learn unexpectedly of their freedom. Master watercolorist E.B. Lewis captures facial details and showcases his talent with light and reflection of the joyful news. A wonderful double-page spread of work in the cotton field is stunning. Each page is Caldecott worthy.