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The Best Mock Caldecott 2021 Competition Activities

***This is a previous year’s Mock Caldecott. Click here to see the 2022 Mock Caldecott activities and books (books published in 2021)***

Are you ready for your Mock Caldecott 2021? A fun activity to do each year is to do some Mock Caldecott activities in which you determine which book your class, grade level or school thinks is should win the Caldecott Medal and Caldecott Honors. More so than the Newbery Medal, a Mock Caldecott Medal competition is great for both upper and primary elementary students as each book must be a picture book. Books can be read in short periods of time and allow for many books to be considered. The Newbery Medal, however, includes both picture books and middle grade novels and makes considering possible winners more difficult to do due to the time constraints of reading novels. Check out below some background information about the medal and the picture books I believe stand the best chance of winning the Caldecott Medal this year!

You can get my Mock Caldecott Medal competition slides, activities and voting forms HERE


Each year the American Library Association (ALA) Youth Media Awards honors books and other media for children at the end of January. Named for the 19th century English children’s book illustrator Randolph Caldecott. The scene depicted on the medal is from a book he illustrated titled “The Diverting Story of John Gilpin.”

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The Randolph Caldecott Medal is given to the most distinguished artist of an American picture book. The artist must be an American citizen or resident.

Books may only be considered if they were published in the United States in English first or at the same time as being published in another country or in another language.

A single medal winner is chosen each year and the selection committee may choose one or a few runners-up called Caldecott Honor books.

Selection Criteria

A 15 person selection committee comprised of librarians chooses the winner and honor books based on the following criteria:

  1. Excellence of execution in the artistic technique
  2. Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept.
  3. Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story,
    theme or concept.
  4. Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or
    information through the pictures.
  5. Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child

If you’d like to read the full Caldecott Committee Manual, you can do so here.

Mock Caldecott 2021 Activities

  • Introduce the Caldecott Medal
  • Read previous medal winners and honorees
  • Present the selection criteria
  • Read potential winners
  • Vote for which is the best based on the criteria
  • Decide how many honor books to select
  • Watch the awards live or the recording to see which books won and were honored (usually 30-60 minutes into the awards banquet)
Check out these 16 books that should be on your Mock Caldecott 2021 list.  Suggested Mock Caldecott activities for librarians and teachers to do with their elementary students. These picture books have a great chance at winning the Caldecott Medal or Caldecott Honor and your Kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth or fifth grade students will love selecting which book should win their Mock Caldecott competition.

Mock Caldecott 2021 Potential Winners

See below for books that I think stand the best chance of winning or being honored to include in your Mock Caldecott 2021 competition. Books are not listed in any order nor does the order reflect which are most or least likely to win.

1. I Am Every Good Thing

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid, because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst! Illustrator Gordon C. James was a Caldecott Honoree for his book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Following up Crown may hurt this book’s chances of winning despite how poignant it is this year.

Get the lesson plan and activities for I Am Every Good Thing HERE

2. All Because You Matter

A lyrical, heart-lifting love letter to Black and brown children everywhere: reminding them how much they matter, that they have always mattered, and they always will, from powerhouse rising star author Tami Charles and esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier. Collier is a 4-time Caldecott Honoree, but he’s never wont he medal. Could this be the book that finally wins Bryan Collier the Caldecott Medal? If this one doesn’t win it for him, I’m not sure what he needs to do!

Get the lesson plan and activities for All Because You Matter HERE

3. My Best Friend

What is a best friend, if not someone who laughs with you the whole entire day, especially when you pretend to be a pickle? This pitch-perfect picture book is a sweetly earnest, visually stunning celebration of the magic of friendship. Illustrator Jillian Tamaki has several other books from previous years that I thought stood a chance, but she has yet to win the award.

Get the lesson plan and activities for My Best Friend HERE

4. Packs: Strength In Numbers

Groups, packs, herds of millions, and more—our world teems with animals on land, air, and sea. Packs is an inspiring celebration of how togetherness helps many creatures thrive, in both nonhuman and human communities.
Hannah Salyer’s stunning selection reminds us that teamwork is universal, there is brilliance in biodiversity, and there is strength in numbers. The overlapping animals seen on the cover gives just a hint of the stunning artwork inside.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Packs HERE

5. We Are Water Protectors

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption―a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade. The illustrations with the contrasting colors with the blues and greens are stunning.

This book may be my favorite book on the list and is certainly the one that I think will win a lot of Mock Caldecott 2021 competitions and the Caldecott Medal in general. I put it right at the top of my list of favorite books for Native American Heritage Month especially with it being written by Native voices!

Get the lesson plan and activities for We Are Water Protectors HERE

6. Lift

Iris loves to push the elevator buttons in her apartment building, but when it’s time to share the fun with a new member of the family, she’s pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up entire realms of possibility, places where she can escape and explore on her own. But when she’s forced to choose between going at it alone or letting her little brother tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all. This book was illustrated by Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat who won for Beeckle The Unimaginary Friend.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Lift HERE

7. Swashby and the Sea

Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

8. Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

A tiny honeybee emerges through the wax cap of her cell. Driven to protect and take care of her hive, she cleans the nursery and feeds the larvae and the queen. But is she strong enough to fly? Not yet! Apis builds wax comb to store honey, and transfers pollen from other bees into the storage. She defends the hive from invaders. And finally, she begins her new life as an adventurer. The confining walls of the hive fall away as Apis takes to the air, finally free, in a brilliant double-gatefold illustration where the clear blue sky is full of promise– and the wings of dozens of honeybees, heading out in search of nectar to bring back to the hive.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Honeybee HERE

9. The Oldest Student

In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, babysitting, and selling sandwiches to raise money for her church. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read. From Rita Lorraine Hubbard and rising star Oge More comes the inspirational story of Mary Walker, a woman whose long life spanned from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, and who–with perseverance and dedication–proved that you’re never too old to learn. This is from Caldecott Honoree Oge Mora. Will your students choose her to be your Mock Caldecott 2021 winner? This is also definitely a new favorite for Black History Month!

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Oldest Student HERE

10. Outside In

Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors. Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside. With how many children found their way outside this year during quarantine, I think this one stands a strong chance despite the social issues covered by some of the other books. This is a new favorite book for Earth Day and for environmental awareness.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Outside In HERE

11. Above the Rim

Hall-of-famer Elgin Baylor was one of basketball’s all-time-greatest players—an innovative athlete, team player, and quiet force for change. One of the first professional African-American players, he inspired others on and off the court. But when traveling for away games, many hotels and restaurants turned Elgin away because he was black. One night, Elgin had enough and staged a one-man protest that captured the attention of the press, the public, and the NBA.

12. The Old Truck

When is an old truck something more? On a small, bustling farm, a resilient and steadfast pickup works tirelessly alongside the family that lives there, and becomes a part of the dreams and ambitions of the family’s young daughter. After long days and years of hard work leave the old truck rusting in the weeds, it’s time for the girl to roll up her sleeves. Soon she is running her own busy farm, and in the midst of all the repairing and restoring, it may be time to bring her faithful childhood companion back to life.

Pumphrey’s illustration style is reminiscent of Christian Robinson.

13. You Matter

Speaking of Christian Robinson, we have this book! In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.

14. Hike

In the cool and quiet early light of morning, a father and child wake up. Today they’re going on a hike. Follow the duo into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and play a small role in the survival of the forest. By the time they return home, they feel alive — and closer than ever — as they document their hike and take their place in family history. In detail-rich panels and textured panoramas, Pete Oswald perfectly paces this nearly wordless adventure, allowing readers to pause for subtle wonders and marvel at the views. This one is deeply relevant to the childhood experience of this year in going outside.

15. Nothing In Common

Two neighbors both love to watch the old man and his dog from their windows, but they never wave to each other. After all, they have nothing in common. But everything changes when they are the only ones who notice that one day is different—there is the old man, but where is the dog? Beautiful illustrations as you can already tell from the cover that really add to the story.

16. The Cat Man of Aleppo

Alaa loves Aleppo, but when war comes his neighbors flee to safety, leaving their many pets behind. Alaa decides to stay–he can make a difference by driving an ambulance, carrying the sick and wounded to safety. One day he hears hungry cats calling out to him on his way home. They are lonely and scared, just like him. He feeds and pets them to let them know they are loved. The next day more cats come, and then even more! There are too many for Alaa to take care of on his own. Alaa has a big heart, but he will need help from others if he wants to keep all of his new friends safe.

This book is really unlike a lot of the other books on this list. I think it being about a faraway topic will hurt this one this year as its not as relevant RIGHT NOW.

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Cat Man of Aleppo HERE


Mock Caldecott 2021 Activities

Be sure to have a fun Mock Caldecott competition at your school! Which books do you think have a chance of winning? Did I miss any that you think really have a good chance?

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Hey there! I’m Josh from Picture Book Brain here to share only the best literature for you to use with your students. If you are looking for a specific book, use the search bar below to check my archives. Glad you’re here, and glad to help you!

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