Children's Literature (all forms)

Up Close and Personal: Caldecott Artwork

Picture Perfect

After fruitlessly calling upwards of nine hotels looking to book a room in Chicago earlier in the week (such is my custom of procrastination, friends), I asked hotel #10 what was going on that could possibly be clogging up this much space.

“The American Library Association is holding their conference, sir”.

Oh. It was then that I realized just how big an affair this was to be. Annual 2009 is my first taste of the event that brings together more cardigans and sensible shoes than any other.

One of the activities I didn’t want to miss while in town was not actually a part of the ALA ’09 festivities, but an exhibition at The Art Institute of Chicago. Picture Perfect: Art from Caldecott Award Books, 2006-2009 puts award-winning children’s book illustrations on display.

After walking five minutes to the Institute, located in Chicago’s Grant Park (yep, that hotel thing worked out pretty nicely) my wife and I entered and were amazed. I’ve seen children’s lit artwork up close before, but each time I’m reminded that it is seriously impressive stuff. Originals of many recent Caldecott medal and honor books were on show, alongside tables displaying the books represented.

Here’s a countdown of my top four moments:

4. The amazingly detailed Floatsam artwork. Selections from David Wiesner’s wordless 2007 Caldecott winner remind you all over again why this man should be on the Children’s Lit Mount Rushmore. And that they should make such a monument.

3. The dummy book for The Hello, Goodbye Window. Lovers of behind-the-scenes stuff take notice: Chris Raschka’s small, messy prototype for this Caldecott winner is not to be missed. It reminded me that even when the finished product appears free-flowing, some serious planning still took place.

2. Rough sketches from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It’s hard to believe the depth that Brian Selznick was able to achieve in these illustrations with just a pencil. I also learned that his drawings were enlarged to the size which they appear in the book.

1. Original artwork from A River of Words. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by Eerdmans Publishing of Grand Rapids, MI (my neck of the woods), this artwork is even better in person. Seeing the detail put into these collage illustrations was my favorite part of the exhibit.

Highly recommended for everyone in town for ALA, but the exhibit also runs long after the big show has left town (Nov. 8, 2010).

Visit the website for this exhibit.


  1. Pingback: ALA Annual: Up Close and Personal with Caldecott Artwork « 100 Scope Notes

  2. Pingback: ALA Annual 2009: A Day in the Life (Part I) « 100 Scope Notes

  3. Janssen

    Oh, I wish I could have seen this – it sounds incredible!

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