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The Best Mock Caldecott 2023 Competition Activities

Are you ready for your Mock Caldecott 2023? 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

Previous Mock Caldecott Competitions

Last year for the Caldecott Medal 2022, I correctly guessed 3 out of the 5 recipients of the Caldecott medal and honor.

For 2021 Caldecott Medal Competition, I correctly guessed the Caldecott Medal winner as well as a few other award winners and honorees.

Hopefully I can continue my streak this year, so you can have that joy of having read the winning books with your students when the award winners are announced at the Youth Media Awards.


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.

Caldecott Medal 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.

I also have a great blog post detailing some of my favorite Caldecott Medal winners here.

Mock Caldecott 2023 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 books that should be on your Mock Caldecott 2023 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 2023 Potential Winners

See below for the books in my mock Caldecott predictions 2023 that I think stand the best chance of winning or being honored to include in your Mock Caldecott 2023 competition. Books are not listed in any order nor does the order reflect which are most or least likely to win.

Check back frequently as I will be updating this list!

Check out these books that should be on your Mock Caldecott 2023 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.

Blue by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Daniel Minter is Caldecott Honoree. Could this finally be the year that he wins the medal? This book explores the history and cultural significance of the color blue. This book is absolutely gorgeous! My one worry is that, with it being nonfiction, very few nonfiction books ever win the Caldecott Medal. Sure they get Caldecott honors, but very rarely do they win.

The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

I was a little bit peeved that the committee didn’t show any love to this duo’s previous book The Day You Begin. I’m hoping this year they do! This book focuses on two siblings who are bored one day. Their grandmother encourages them to use their minds to escape their boredom. Certainly a message today’s kids need more than ever with their constant access to screens! The beautiful, imaginative illustrations are a joy to pore over.

I Love You Because I Love You by Muon Thi Van and Jessica Love

Last year, Muon Thi Van’s book Wishes, in my opinion, was perhaps the greatest snub from the ALA awards committee. It was my front-runner. On the other hand, the Caldecott Committee also snubbed Jessica Love *cough* Julian is a Mermaid *cough*. Still in Jessica Love’s unique style, I Love You Because I Love You is a beautiful book meant to be read by one or two people. It explores all the reasons, both big and small, that people love each other.

Hot Dog by Doug Salati

This book, on top of being a delightful story, has even better illustrations. The book is about as close to a wordless book as you can get without being a wordless book. It sort of reminds me of Matthew Cordell’s Caldecott Medall-winning book Wolf in the Snow in its near complete lack of words. What is it about wordless books that make them so endearing and so full of emotion and heart?

This book is about a city dog that finally can’t take the heat anymore. The dog’s owner understands and takes them to an island to cool off and escape the city. This book has all of the heart and joy of books that other Caldecott committees have rewarded plus a pinch of humor. This book is all about remembering to stop to smell the roses that could make it a great social emotional learning book or a book for summer.

Endlessly Ever After by Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat

Dan Santat already won the Caldecott Medal for The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, which is a bit of a disadvantage for this book. This book is also not your standard picture book. It’s a choose your own adventure style book with 92 pages. This fractured fairy tale story is delightful and written in couplets, making this book a great book for studying poetry styles. It starts with the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood and adds in many other classic tales depending on which choices you make along the way. I’m not sure the committee will show this book as much love as it deserves, but it could definitely be worthy of an honor.

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

This book is HILARIOUS and so full of cute details that kids love it, and that is one of the main criterion for the Caldecott medal. In the story, Owl wants nothing more than to be a knight. A recent increase in knight disappearances leads to the loosening of restrictions for knighthood, so Owl signs up immediately. He passes with “flying” colors, and is assigned to night knight duty because he can stay awake all night without falling asleep. Cute details, am I right? It turns out it’s a dragon taking the knights. Owl comes up with a great idea, and turns the dragon into a friend (with pizza!).

Nigel and the Moon by Antwan Eady and Gracey Zhang

Nigel goes to a private school that is starting Career Week. He wants to be an astronaut, a dancer or a superhero, but he can’t tell his class that. The only one he can tell is the Moon. During Career Week he wants to think of something like the other kids. He wishes his parents had big important jobs like his classmates, but his mom is a mail carrier and his dad is a truck driver. He is embarrassed about himself and his family.

His parents come to visit his class, and he gains the confidence to tell the class about his dreams. Many are putting this book near the top of their Caldecott lists, and I would do the same: near the top but not quite the top. I love Gracey Zhang’s style. I thought her book Lala’s Words was snubbed last year. Maybe this year she’ll get some recognition.

The Treasure Box by Dave Keane and Rahele Jomepour Bell

Searching for treasures with her grandpa is this young girl’s favorite thing to do. Every week they examine the items in her secret box and go on walks to find more—a broken robin’s egg, rusty spring, even a snakeskin that makes Grandpa squirm and make funny faces.
But then Grandpa is too sick to come. She leaves him a few treasures in the hospital, but when he dies, she can’t bring herself to even open the treasure box. When Grammy brings her some treasures Grandpa wanted her to have, they open the box together and continue the tradition, showing that memories of time together are the greatest treasures of all. The beautiful, emotion-evoking illustrations are sure to catch the attention of the Caldecott committee. That said, it is certainly darker in content matter than most winners and honorees in the past other than historical books like Unspoken.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

I’ve written a lot about this book in my The Three Billy Goats Gruff book review. Jon Klassen is in the top 5 of my favorite illustrators of all time. His illustrations in this book really carry the story and give us details of the bridge troll that we don’t normally get from a classic fairy tale. This closer, more detailed view of the troll and some of the characters add to the comedy and interest in the story, a major factor of consideration for Caldecott Committees. Klassen has earned a Caldecott Medal and an Honor already which can act as a sort negative for the possibility of it again earning the award. Could it win? Definitely! Will it, though?

Get the lesson plan and activities for The Three Billy Goats Gruff HERE

Emile and the Field by Kevin Young and Chioma Ebinama

This was a rather splendid read about a city boy who comes to love a beautiful field. The boy discovers all of the beauty around him, and he loves that he is the only one that loves the field. Winter comes, and others come and enjoy the field. Emile is not pleased by this, but his father explains to him how important it is that others love the field as well. The illustrations in this story are understated but beautiful. They don’t carry the story as much as other books, but they are indeed beautiful and have an aesthetic that is very different from other books. Kids from cities will especially identify with Emile and their experiences in nature.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Emile and the Field HERE

Where Butterflies Fill the Sky by Zahra Marwan

Another book with an artistic aesthetic very different from most others. Zahra lives in a beautiful place where the desert reaches all the way to the sea and one hundred butterflies always fill the sky. When Baba and Mama tell her that their family is no longer welcome here and they must leave, Zahra wonders if she will ever feel at home again–and what about the people she will leave behind? But when she and her family arrive in a new desert, she’s surprised to find magic all around her. Home might not be as far away as she thought it would be.

Get the lesson plan and activities for Where Butterflies Fill the Sky HERE

Somewhere in the Bayou by the Pumphrey Brothers

4 animals on the bayou are trying to cross the water. They find a log, but…there’s also a tail. One by one the animals have an idea about how to get past the tail and each one is swiftly dispatched when they fall into the water. The last animal, though, frees the tail and the alligator helps the animal cross the water because he was his friend now and he’d already eaten 3 animals. Many thought that the Pumphreys should’ve earned at least a Caldecott honor with their book The Old Truck. This one, though, while not a Caldecott Medal winner, I think stands a chance to get an honor.

The World Belonged to Us by Jacqueline Woodson and Leo Espinosa

It’s getting hot outside, hot enough to turn on the hydrants and run through the water–and that means it’s finally summer in the city! Released from school and reveling in their freedom, the kids on one Brooklyn block take advantage of everything summertime has to offer: Freedom from morning till night to go out to meet their friends and make the streets their playground. That is, till their moms call them home for dinner. But not to worry–they know there is always tomorrow to do it all over again–because the block belongs to them and they rule their world. An ode to how childhood used to be. The illustrations are reminiscent of a graphic novel. I wonder, though, if it’s enough to win a Caldecott? Espinosa should certainly be considered for a Pura Belpre at the very least with this one.

Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Yas Imamura

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Tama is sent to live in a War Relocation Center in the desert. All Japanese Americans from the West Coast—elderly people, children, babies—now live in prison camps like Minidoka. To be who she is has become a crime, it seems, and Tama doesn’t know when or if she will ever leave. Trying not to think of the life she once had, she works in the camp’s tiny library, taking solace in pages bursting with color and light, love and fairness. And she isn’t the only one. George waits each morning by the door, his arms piled with books checked out the day before. As their friendship grows, Tama wonders: Can anyone possibly read so much? Is she the reason George comes to the library every day?

To the Front!: Clara Barton Braves the Battle of Antietam by Claudia Friddell and Christopher Cyr

During the Civil War, Clara Barton—one of the first women to receive permission to serve on a battlefield—snuck her supply wagon to the head of a ten-mile wagon train to deliver provisions to the Antietam Battlefield. On the bloodiest day in American history, Clara and her team of helpers sprang into action as they nursed the wounded and dying, cooked meals for soldiers, and provided doctors with desperately needed medical supplies and lanterns so they could operate through the night.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin

Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin, had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

This book does not follow your standard picture book style with the number of pages that it is, but it is a book where the art is essential to the piece as a whole.

Caldecott Predictions 2023

Nigel and the Moon is the book that is getting the most buzz. To be honest, I just don’t get the feeling I get from Nigel and the Moon that I get from some of the other books. Will it get an honor? I don’t think so.

Caldecott Medal: In my opinion, Blue is going to run away with the medal this year. It’s been awhile since a nonfiction book won the medal. Radiant Child, the biography of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, was the last nonfiction book to win in 2017, unless you count Kwame Alexander’s poem The Undefeated in 2020.

Caldecott Honor: Knight Owl will get an honor, but I couldn’t say with any certainty any other book getting a nod. I highly doubt that there will only be one honoree. Those are my 2023 Caldecott predictions.

Conclusion: Mock Caldecott 2023 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? Also, School Library Journal has lists of predictions throughout the year if you are looking for more ideas!


Mock Caldecott 2023 Bundle
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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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