The medals are coming!

In a matter of days the American Library Association (ALA) will announce Caldecott and Newbery medal winners. (The announcements will take place on Monday, January 23 at 8 a.m. EST and are being live-streamed on the I Love Libraries Facebook page, so anyone can watch!)

My inner book nerd is all a-flurry as I page through contenders, make predictions and cross all my digits for my favorites to win. However, the fact that worthy new titles will have shiny new medals doesn’t mean the 2016 winners are old news. Last year’s awards recognized some beautiful books that I think deserve a place on any classroom shelf (or better yet, in the hands of a reader!).

The 2016 Caldecott and Newbery Medal Winners and Honorees

Meeting Pooh and Finding Winnie

2016 Caldecott and Newbury medal winners: Finding Winnie

A few years ago I ducked into the New York Public Library to escape some nasty weather, and for the first time met the real Winnie-the-Pooh. He and his Hundred Acre Wood pals – the actual toys in the flesh (or should that be stuffing?) – are there for anyone to visit. I had no idea! Pooh was an important part of my childhood, so encountering him as an adult one rainy afternoon was something special and rekindled my love for that Silly Old Bear.

Needless to say I was delighted when Lindsay Mattick’s Finding Winnie: The True Story of Winnie-The Pooh came out last year. It’s the story of the bear that inspired A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and is a lovely read, especially for history buffs and my fellow Pooh enthusiasts.  As it won the Caldecott, I’d be remiss if I didn’t sing praises of Sophie Blackall’s illustrations. Her rosy-cheeked folks and charming animals are surrounded by lush color and landscapes. And can I just say, she’s a total pro at patterns. The polka dots, the stripes, the checks, the dapples, the tweed! It’s all subtle, but adds texture and depth that can’t go unappreciated. Blackall’s rich artwork pairs perfectly with Mattick’s text and together they tell an extraordinary tale.

Winnie in the Classroom

Finding Winnie is warm, whimsical, and a perfect read-aloud. Consider using it to explore literary connections and lead in to reading some classic Milne stories. It could also complement a unit on animals, or serve as a gentle introduction to stories taking place in wartime.  In that vein, though it’s a picture book, this could even add a bit of levity to a WWI unit for older students.

Let’s not forget the 2016 Caldecott Honorees:


2016 Caldecott and Newbury Medal Winners: Honoree Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty

A gorgeous book written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews himself, and illustrated by Bryan Collier. Trombone Shorty received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and rightly. If you’re on the lookout for biographies, books about music/jazz, or texts that explore the theme of perseverance, this is a wonderful read-aloud pick. 




2016 Caldecott and Newbury Medal Winners: Honoree WaitingWaiting 

A sweet, soothing story of some very patient toys on a windowsill. Henkes’ illustrations are characteristically lovely and carry the story forward. Students will be able to connect their own experiences of waiting for things they wanted to happen, and times they’ve had to practice patience. Also consider Waiting as a companion to units on weather and the seasons.





2016 Caldecott and Newbury Medal Winners: Honoree Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou HamerVoice Of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, The Spirit Of The Civil Rights Movement

This garnered a Caldecott Honor, a Sibert Honor, and Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, so it goes without saying that it’s a well done book. Bold, beautiful collage illustrations accompany heartrending first-person poetry in a celebration of activist Fannie Lou Hamer. This is a great pick for a unit on the Civil Rights Movement.



Last Stop on Market Street

Not only was this a Caldecott honoree, it won the Newbery! More below.

Next stop: Newberys


Market StreetIt’s not every day a picture book nabs the Newbery, so right off it’s clear there’s something special about this one. Perhaps it’s Matt de la Pena’s poetic text, or Christian Robinson’s bright, expressive illustrations, or the genuineness and heart on each page. Perhaps it’s because the book reflects ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, an urban setting and intergenerational perspectives, all while telling a lovely story.

At any rate, reading Last Stop on Market Street is a singular treat—and I must say it’s the first literary bus ride that made me want to be a better person. Once, not long before the day I met Pooh, I fell sound asleep on the subway and ended up a good hour from where I’d meant to get off. I swapped trains and fumed the whole hour back. I so wish I’d had CJ’s nana with me that day—because she’s clearly a public transit goddess—reminding me of all the wonderful things I was encountering and helping me see the joy (and not just the malodourous inconvenience) of the N Train.

Last Stop on Market Street in the Classroom

It may be a year since its medals and honors were awarded, but that doesn’t mean the end of the line for Last Stop on Market Street. (Sorry, that was shameless.) It’s worthy of reading again and again and is a wonderful classroom addition. Use it to spark conversations on finding beauty in the mundane and viewing circumstances from different perspectives. Students can find connections in their own experiences helping others, or discuss how it feels when someone else has something they wish they had.

Let’s not forget the 2016 Newbery Honorees:


warThe War That Saved My Life

A beautiful wartime story by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley with lots of heart and adventure. Themes of self-acceptance and family relationships resonate throughout. This is a great read for fans of Number the Stars, and would make a fine fiction companion to a WWII unit.






roller girlRoller Girl

Perfect for Raina Telgemeier fans, Victoria Jamieson’s coming-of-age graphic novel explores friendship and perseverance, while introducing readers to roller derby! It’s a fun independent read and a great sports book for boys and girls alike. As it’s a graphic novel, it would also be an excellent pick for a striving reader. The fun, relatable story and illustrations will hook students, and the straightforward text will make it accessible to readers at lower levels.   






This lovely book from Pam Munoz Ryan spans decades and countries to weave a tale of family, fantasy, and harmonica music. What more could you want? Students will surely enjoy this as an independent read. In addition to exploring music’s power to transcend time and space, it also tackles WWII, the Great Depression, family issues and fairytales.





It’s an exciting time in children’s and young adult literature. Beautiful books are coming out every year. The ALA can only recognize a handful, but you can bet they’re all worth reading. So, as you gear up for the 2017 picks, don’t overlook these fantastic 2016 winners and honorees, and consider adding them to your classroom library!