Top 10 Mock Caldecott 2024 Predictions – My First Ever!

Welcome to my first-ever list of Mock Caldecott 2024 predictions! This was inspired by an email from a reader who asked if I do these. Well, I guess I do now!

I cannot tell you how much fun it was to put this Mock Caldecott 2024 list together. As I do my New Release Spotlights, I sometimes add notes if I think a particular book might be an award contender. It really enjoyed going back through my old Spotlights and seeing the titles I predicted, even as far back as January 3rd (An American Story).

I still stand by that prediction, by the way! I actually think An American Story is the one to beat this year.

These are some of the books I noted within my Spotlights, plus a few additions that I dug up. I highlighted my top 3 picks in the blue boxes.

My comments about why I chose each book appear below each title. Hope you enjoy the list!

Top Pick!
An American Story

Author: Kwame Alexander

Illustrator: Dare Coulter

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book

Setting: USA, then and now

Recommended for: Grades 1-6

Themes: struggles, overcoming adversity, African slavery, hope, world history, civil rights, Black History, Black Lives Matter

Protagonist: multiple African American teens and adults

Starred reviews: Booklist, Hornbook, Kirkus, SLJ, Publishers Weekly

See It On Amazon

This year, there is no book that I have seen that even comes close to the artwork in An American Story. This is the story of African slavery in the US, juxtaposed with modern-day teens learning about slavery and Black Lives Matter in school.

This is illustrated in four mediums – clay sculptures, polymer sculptures, acrylic and spray paint paintings, and charcoal drawings. The high-quality and detailed photos of the sculptures really stand out for me.

I also like the last page that brings together the past (sculpture) with the present (charcoal drawing). Simply gorgeous.

My Powerful Hair

Author: Carole Lindstrom

Illustrator: Steph Littlebird

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 2

Themes: hair, long hair, culture, strength, resilience, ancestors, Indigenous cultures, Turtle Mountain Ojibwe, importance of hair to Indigenous cultures, Indian residential schools, #ownvoices

Protagonist: young female, Native American

Starred reviews: THREE starred reviews!

See it on Amazon

This is a story some school administrators enforcing ridiculous dress codes about hair need to read.

It’s about the importance of hair, particularly long hair, in North American indigenous cultures.

The colorful, woodcut-style illustrations show hair as part of the landscape, such as part of a river or lake. There are different hair lengths, which mark the passage of time and specific memories for the young female narrator.


Author and Illustrator: Vashti Harrison

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book

Setting: takes place over the course of a young girl’s life, from babyhood to elementary school

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: criticism, harsh words, body image, bullying, being invisible, self-acceptance, anti-fat bias, fat shaming, social-emotional learning

Protagonist: young Black girl

See it on Amazon

This adorable book is about a young Black girl who starts her life positively as “such a big girl!” but quickly gets comments from adults and other children that maybe she is “too big.”

The color palate is light pinks and purples, which the author says she chose because of her own childhood insecurities about wearing the color pink, a color she loves.

I especially love how the little girl’s tutu and leotard turn from pink to a drab blue gray when people start commenting on her size. By the end, the leotard slowly changes back to pink as the girl gains confidence and literally gives people’s words back to them.

Just One Flake

Author and Illustrator: Travis Jonker

Copyright: 2023

Recommended for: Grades PreS-3

Setting: outdoors in the snow

Themes: snow, outdoor play, having fun, outdoor games, snowflakes, winter

Protagonist: pale-skinned child with a bright red tongue

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly and SLJ

See it on Amazon

This book’s simple, bright, colorful illustrations pack loads of kid-appeal. This is the story of a little boy’s quest to to catch “just one snowflake” on his bright red tongue before his mom calls him back inside. Certainly relatable for many children!

I love the simplicity and color palatte of these illustrations, and that red tongue is just perfect!

Top Pick!

Author: Joy Harjo

Illustrator: Michaela Goade

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book, poetry

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: indigenous peoples, Mvskoke Nation, US Poet Laureates, interconnectedness of living things, nature, the universe, family stories, #ownvoices

Protagonist: Native American girl

Starred reviews: FOUR starred reviews!

See it on Amazon

I also think Remember has a great chance of being selected. This illustrated poem tells the story of indigenous North Americans. No matter your heritage, the poem implores us to always remember our ancestors and where we came from.

The artwork features rich reds, greens, blues, and browns. Illustrations include indigenous artwork and designs superimposed over animals, people’s faces, and natural landscapes.

Fungi Grow

Author: Maria Gianferrari

Illustrator:  Diana Sudyka

Copyright: 2023

Genre: informational picture book

Recommended for: Grades K-4

Themes: fungi, mushrooms, mold, nature, scientific terminology, gardens, STEM, onomatopoeia, antibiotics, science

Starred reviews: SLJ

Pages: 48

See it on Amazon

I’ve been toying with also writing up a Mock Sibert Award (informational books) list this year, but I haven’t yet decided. If I do a Sibert list this year, Fungi Grow will certainly be on it!

This book is an informational picture book in poem format, which intersperses prose facts about fungi within the images.

Artwork is bright and colorful paintings on a white background. Layouts are creative, with lots of swirls and arrows to guide your reading. There are also above and below ground cutaways, so readers can see the full growth of the fungus.

I love the way the text is nonlinear, meaning it is not just in one place on the page. This, along with the flow and movement of the illustrations, kept my eyes moving and my brain interested!

The Indestructible Tom Crean

Author and Illustrator: Jennifer Thermes

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book biography

Setting: Antarctica, 1914-1917

Recommended for: Grades 3-5

Themes: Antarctica, explorers, survival, winter, ice, snow, courage, South Pole expeditions, world history

Protagonist: adult male, Irish

Starred reviews: Three starred reviews!

Pages: 56

See it on Amazon

This is another picture book that I would also add to my Sibert contender list!

The Indestructible Tom Crean tells the story of an Irish explorer of Antarctica named Tom Crean. I had not heard of Tom Crean before this book (such is the greatness of informational picture books!).

What an interesting life and story! I especially enjoyed the Afterword, which includes a timeline and illustrated list of 15 Antarctic animals.

The illustrations are largely shades of blue, white, yellow, and yellow-green, representing the snow, the sky, the sun, the land, and the mighty sea. I love the illustrations that list the expedition name, goal, maps, and dates. These give readers an overall picture of the three separate Antarctic expeditions before detailing each one.

I love the inclusion of lots of maps of Antarctica within several pages and backgrounds. Sensitive students will be sad to hear about the ponies and dogs, which is given a little more detail in the Afterword.

Top Pick!
There Was A Party For Langston

Author: Jason Reynolds

Illustrators: Jerome Pumphrey and Jarrett Pumphrey

Copyright: 2023

Genre: informational picture book, poetry

Setting: New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center in 1991

Recommended for: Grades PreS-3

Themes: Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Black history, jazz, Black authors, poetry, poets

Protagonist: All characters have Black or brown skin

Starred reviews: Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and SLJ

See it on Amazon

If you just go by this front cover, you might think this book has no chance at a Caldecott. I’d say that the cover is probably the least interesting part of this book.

Regardless of the somewhat bland cover, this book is one of my top Caldecott 2024 predictions. I also think it’s a Sibert contender.

I taught several Langston Hughes poems and one short story (“Thank You, Ma’am”) when I taught 7th grade English. Hughes’ simple but powerful language was always a hit with students. I would 100% buy this book for my classroom if I still taught 7th grade English.

Students do not have to be familiar with the poets in the story to enjoy this book. The story is based on a photo from 1991, a cool twist for a picture book. The photo is in the endnotes.

My favorite part about this book’s illustrations is that they contain words from the poets. For example, in one illustration, a mother is holding her son. The mother’s yellow dress spells out MOTHER, with the little boy’s blue pants legs are the H in MOTHER. Their shadow on the floor says “to Son” (referencing the Hughes poem, “Mother to Son”).

There are scenes where books on the library shelves have the authors’ jubilant faces sticking out of the spines, indicating that, even though they may be gone, they are still part of the party. Another scene shows a young Maya Angelou walking up steps made of Langston Hughes’ words, before writing her own words in a book. Gorgeous symbolism there!

These illustrations are to be savored. They are not the kind of illustrations you can just turn the page and go by. To me, that is exactly what a Caldecott award winner should be.

The Umbrella

Author: Beth Ferry

Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book, magical realism

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: rain, umbrellas, sharing, dogs, play, gray days, wishing for sunshine

Protagonist: young child, white of the page

Starred reviews: SLJ

See it on Amazon

Having a series of gray, rainy days? This book is perfect!

This story is about a young child and their dog. The weather has been raining and gray for several days. At school and around town, the townspeople miserably slog through the dreary weather (illustrated in blue-gray and white, as seen on the cover) and dream of a sunny day.

When the child finds an old, broken umbrella in a “Junque” store, they are excited at the free price tag. But on the way home, the umbrella tears and tatters. The child is disappointed until the next day, when they find a fun surprise along the path where the umbrella broke.

The illustrations have lots of fun details, such as a child making a sunny wish at a fountain and the variety of people (and animals) holding yellow umbrellas in the town square.

I love the misery on people’s faces as they stand in the pouring rain. One child waiting at a bus stop even has a book on their head to block the rain. What a great mini-lesson on book care!

The star of the show, however, is that titular bright yellow umbrella. I love how the bright color pops against the gloomy gray and white background. I also love how the yellow of the umbrella is reflected off the wet sidewalk.

This book makes a great tool to teach the magical realism genre for any age.

For older students, pair this picture book with the Ray Bradbury short story “All Summer in a Day.”

Dim Sum Palace

Author and Illustrator: X. Fang

Copyright: 2023

Genre: picture book, magical realism

Setting: in a little girl's bedroom and her dream of a palace

Recommended for: PreS-Grade 3

Themes: Chinese food, dim sum, dreams, palaces, cooking

Protagonist: young girl, East Asian

Starred reviews: Booklist

See it on Amazon

Gosh, this food-themed picture book is just too cute to not mention! I would LOVE to see this one win the Caldecott, but it’s an unlikely choice among some of the heavy hitters listed above. Still, these illustrations just make me smile so much!

Dim Sum Palace is an homage to Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen (sans nudity).

This is the story of a little girl who dreams of going to the Dim Sum Palace. This is a restaurant her mother says they will go to tomorrow, but the little girl thinks it is a real palace with an empress. In her dream, the little girl – Liddy – finds herself in a palace of giants. They are making giant-sized Asian foods, including multiple kinds of dim sum.

I just love the round-cheeked characters and the joy on Liddy’s face when she gorges (and nearly becomes) dim sum. I also the giant hand of the empress placing Liddy gently back in her own bed in the early morning.

The last page includes illustrations of 40 different kinds of dim sum, which made me super-hungry!

Let’s call this one my underdog choice. It’s so cute, and it’s by a debut author/illustrator. It has great kid-appeal, which is not necessarily true for all my choices here. I’m so excited to see more from X. Fang!


More Mock Caldecott 2024 Lists

Want to compare my list with other librarians? There are loads of library bloggers putting together Mock Caldecott 2024 lists. Here are a few lists to check out:

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