As I wrote in my last "Stories from Room 226" post, we have been exploring potential Caldecott Award Winners. After reading and thinking about 15 high quality picture books, we had our class vote today. The final winner of the WolfCott (my class nickname is the Wolfhounds) was Me ... Jane by Patrick McDonnell. I was honestly surprised by the outcome of the final vote. Based on the response to many of the books we shared including Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Alsburg, I was actually a little surprised that Me ... Jane made the final cut.
Before we had our first round of voting, I let the kids share in small groups for a little about their thinking. I did hear Me ... Jane come up frequently, but it was only seemed to be "the favorite" of a handful my students. During the first round of voting, each student could choose up to 3 books. This gave us the opportunity to narrow the field. Me ... Jane, Queen of the Falls, Grandpa Green by Lane Smith and Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman were the only books that got more than 15 votes.
We then had a secondary vote and this time my students were able to vote for 2 titles. A "winner" and then an "honor" book. Queen of the Falls had 11 winning votes (out of 27) but it only recieved 2 second place votes. Me ... Jane earned 7 winning votes but it got 12 second place votes. I am not sure how our system meshes with the actual Caldecott voting process, but it worked well for us. As a side note, most of my class agreed it would be a nightmare to be on the actual committee. One of my most voracious readers said, "You know I love to read, but I cannot imagine having to read hundreds of picture books, remembering them all, then trying to decide a winner."
I absolutely loved going through this process with my class this year. I highly recommend devoting some time next January to having a Mock Caldecott Vote in your room. It didn't take much effort, but the thinking and sharing about the craft of writing and illustrating was unbeleiveably valuable. I think we all learned a great deal about crafting stories, but we also learned a great deal about how hard selecting an award winner can be. I think it demystified how our literary awards are granted. About the only negative I can think of is the possibility that the actual Caldecott Medal winner is a book that I didn't share with the class. But if that happens, or if Me ... Jane doesn't win on Monday at least I can show my class that they agreed with the Horn Book Mock Caldecott Vote.