As the days get shorter and the wind gets colder and people put Christmas lights up right after Halloween, our thoughts turn to Caldecott contenders (well, my thoughts do, anyway). So over the coming days we’ll be putting forward some books on our Caldecott radar.
This is the story of Wilfred, a boy who finds and adopts a moose, and Marcel, the moose who will not be adopted. There is so much to love about this book: gentle humor, indelible characterizations, careful pacing. The Caldecott Medal, of course, is awarded for particular criteria, though, and “Thom loves it” didn’t make the cut. Luckily, this wonderful book excels with the actual criteria as well. Indeed, each of the wonderful elements mentioned above is achieved in the illustrations. Indeed, all of them are realized, to a high degree, in the illustrations. The incongruous background material, pixelated Romantic landscape paintings and Victorian engravings, amplifies the situational humor, giving it tone and color. Similarly, even though Wilfred’s behavior gives us the skeleton of his persona, the remarkable, gestural facial expressions take it home. Even the Moose singular apple obsession finds subtle expression in his square countenance. And the book’s design, the varied use of panels, blank backgrounds, image-filled word balloons, and even combination of typeface and handwriting, fixes a perfect pace. This is a picture book that gets better and better with multiple readings. Here’s hoping that it is being read again and again.