What is the Caldecott Medal?

Juliet D'cruz

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This is an award that gives recognition to the artist(s) of the most distinguished picture book of the year in America. It was named to honor Randolph Caldecott – a 19th-century illustrator who worked in England. You should check out our new grade calculator. The ALSC – a part of the ALA (American Library Association), confers this medal annually.

In the 19th century, Randolph Caldecott was one among three England-based influential children’s illustrators, the other two being Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway. You should check out our new high school GPA calculator. The illustrations Caldecott made for children were distinctive – both in terms of their wit and ability to trigger a feeling of vitality, movement, and action that complemented the stories they were created for.

The Caldecott Medal’s weight is 3.1 ounces. Its diameter measures two and one-third inches. This medal is given to the recipient in a cherry wood box, which can be displayed on a desk or any other surface that’s flat. The design on this medal is taken from illustrations that Caldecott created for “The Diverting History of John Gilpin,” which is an ideal example of the vitality, wit, and sense of movement readers can find in Caldecott’s work. The illustration depicts John Gilpin straddling a runaway horse, accompanied by braying dogs, squawking geese, and anxious onlookers.

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Some interesting developments led to the Caldecott medal being awarded for the first time. Before it, the American Library Association used to award the Newbery Medal annually for the most notable American children’s books published the preceding year. However, several people became concerned that the artists who worked on picture books for children were equally deserving of encouragement and honor, as were the children’s books’ authors.

In 1937, Frederic G. Melcher proposed the establishment of a second medal to be conferred annually. It was decided to name this medal after Randolph J. Caldecott and award it to the artist who had created the year’s most notable picture book. This idea of a second annual medal was accepted eagerly by ALA’s Section for Library Work with Children and was approved by the Executive Board of ALA.

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For the Caldecott Medal, it was decided that the judges would be the members of the Newbery Medal Committee. It was also decided that in case a book of the year is nominated for both the Caldecott and Newbery Awards, the committee will determine which heading it shall be voted upon, thus ensuring the same title isn’t considered on both ballots. However, some of the initial rules were changed later on.

Concluding Thoughts

Named after Rudolph Caldecott, a 19th Century renowned children’s illustrator, the Caldecott Medal was introduced by the ALA’s Section for Library Work with Children. Named in honor of its first recipient, the medal was created to honor the illustrators in children’s books, whose works were often overlooked in favor of the authors. Judged by members of the Newbery Medal Committee, the Caldecott Medal is the second annual medal awarded by the committee. The two awards give authors and artists a chance to be hailed for their works, as different titles can win in the same year. The Caldecott Medal has lived up to its purpose – recognizing that the illustrators of children’s books are just as important as the authors.