Caldecott Roundup! 1930s-40s

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. 


The Caldecott Medal has been given out annually since 1938, and many of the recipients have been favorites ever since!


Here are the first winners, from 1938-1949. Do you recognize any of them?

1938 "Animals of the Bible" illustrated by Dorothy P. Lathrop; text: selected by Helen Dean Fish

Thirty richly detailed black-and-white drawings illustrate the favorite stories of the Creation, Noah's Ark, the first Christmas, and many others.


1939 "Mei Li" illustrated and written by Thomas Handforth

After spending an eventful day at the fair held on New Year's Eve, Mei Li arrives home just in time to greet the Kitchen God.


1940 "Abraham Lincoln" illustrated and written by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

America was at a crossroads in 1939 as they debated whether to join the Allies in their battle against Hitler's relentless march across Europe. As European immigrants the d'Aulaires felt keenly the importance of standing against injustice, and saw in Lincoln the archetypal American hero as he stood against the injustice of slavery. It was this spirit they hoped to exemplify in their biography of young Abe as he grew into manhood against the backdrop of the wilderness of Kentucky, the deep woods of Indiana, and the prairies of Illinois. Camping for weeks in Lincoln country, the d'Aulaires imbibed the spirit of the man Lincoln as well as his humor and good will. From his days as a clerk, teaching himself law reading Blackstone, practicing law in Springfield, running unsuccessfully for office, debating Stephen Douglas over the issue of slavery, and ultimately becoming President of the United States, the d'Aulaires have written and beautifully illustrated the life of one of America's most remarkable citizens.


1941 "They Were Strong and Good" illustrated and written by Robert Lawson

Robert Lawson introduces us to his forefathers and with them we brave Caribbean storms, travel to the wharf markets of New York, and fight in the Civil War. Amidst these adventures Lawson's grandparents meet, marry, and raise a family, and later his parents follow the same cycle of life.


None of them were great or famous, but they were strong and good. They worked hard and had many children. They all helped to make the United States the great nation that it now is. Let us be proud of them and guard well the heritage they have left us.


1942 "Make Way for Ducklings" illustrated and written by Robert McCloskey

Mrs. Mallard was sure that the pond in the Boston Public Gardens would be a perfect place for her and her eight ducklings to live.  The problem was how to get them there through the busy streets of Boston.  But with a little help from the Boston police, Mrs. Mallard and Jack, Kack, Lack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack arrive safely at their new home. This brilliantly illustrated, amusingly observed tale of mallards on the move has won the hearts of generations of readers.


1943 "The Little House" illustrated and written by Virginia Lee Burton

A poignant story of a cute country cottage that becomes engulfed by the city that grows up around it. The house has an expressive face of windows and doors, and even the feelings of a person, so she’s sad when she’s surrounded by the dirty, noisy city’s hustle and bustle: “She missed the field of daisies / and the apple trees dancing in the moonlight.” Fortunately, there’s a happy ending, as the house is taken back to the country where she belongs.


1944 "Many Moons" illustrated by Louis Slobodkin and written by James Thurber

A wise tale of a little princess who wanted the moon and got it. “Grown-ups themselves will find the book hilariously funny. . . . The lovely, squiggly illustrations in color are exactly right.” The New Yorker


1945 "Prayer for a Child" illustrated by Elizabeth Orton Jones and written by Rachel Field

A prayer full of the intimate gentleness for familiar things, the love of friends and family, and the kindly protection of God. Though it was written for one little girl, the prayer is for all boys and girls, and it carries a universal appeal for all ages and races.


1946 "The Rooster Crows" illustrated and written by Maud and Miska Petersham

Here is part of America's heritage. "The rooster crows and away he goes", pictured on the jacket, is only one of these well-known nursery rhymes, counting-out games, skipping-rope songs, finger games, and other jingles beloved by American children for generations. They come from collections all over America, so you may find some that are new as well as your own favorites. "Mother, may I go out to swim", "Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear", "Roses are red, violets are blue", all are here, each one charmingly illustrated to make this an outstanding picture book. An American Mother Goose for every child's library.


1947 "The Little Island" illustrated by Leonard Weisgard and written by Golden MacDonald (Margaret Wise Brown)

There is a little island in the ocean — and this book is about how it is on that little island, how the seasons and the storm and the day and night change it, how the lobsters and seals and gulls and everything else live on it, and what the kitten who comes to visit finds out about it.


1948 "White Snow, Bright Snow" illustrated by Roger Duvoisin and written by Alvin Tresselt

When the first flakes fell from the grey sky, the postman and the farmer and the policeman and his wife scurried about doing all the practical things grownups do when a snowstorm comes. But the children laughed and danced, and caught the lacy snowflakes on their tongues. All the wonder and delight a child feels in a snowfall is caught in the pages of this book the frost ferns on the window sill, the snow man in the yard and the mystery and magic of a new white world. Roger Duvoisin's pictures in soft blue half-tones with briliant splashes of yellow and red emphasize the gaiety and humor as well as the poetic quality of the text.


1949 "The Big Snow" illustrated and written by Berta and Elmer Hader

When the geese begin to fly south, the leaves flutter down from the trees and the cold winds begin to blow from the north, the animals of the woods and meadows, big and small, prepare for the long, cold winter ahead when the countryside is hidden under a deep blanket of snow. They gather food and look for warm, snug places in the ground, trees, caves or thickets, where they can find protection against the icy winds.

Some of these books are available at the Swanton Public Library. If you are interested in reading one that we don't have, we can definitely order a copy!


We'll continue rounding up the Caldecotts by decade until we reach today. Stay tuned!


Descriptions adapted from GoodReads and Amazon.

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