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It’s an exciting time of the year, isn’t it? The awards, the accolades, the peanut butter buckeyes (ask me about them sometime) – all things (except the buckeyes) point to discovering which children’s books stood out in 2008. I’ve been paying attention over the past year, read tons of picture books, and I’ve got some opinions on the matter.

So which books will bring home the Caldecott this year? Here are my picks.

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2009 Caldecott Medal Winner Prediction: Old Bear by Kevin Henkes.

I think this one is just too likable to be denied. Great story, outstanding (and memorable) illustrations make this the front-runner in my book. Similar to when Ice Cube “messed around and got a triple double” in the hip-hop masterpiece “It Was a Good Day”, Henkes turns out another classic and makes it look effortless.  The consummate pro just doin’ his thing.

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Caldecott Honor Prediction: We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson.

Hard to imagine this book on the list and not have it take top honors, but this is where it lands. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this take the top spot. I had the opportunity to see the artwork for this book up close when Mr. Nelson visited local Calvin College this year (click here to read about my experience). Impressive doesn’t really do his amazing work much justice. Here’s hoping that this one gets hardware for all the right reasons, and for one wrong one – so that I can use my “Year of Kadir” catchphrase just a couple more times.

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Caldecott Honor Prediction: Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein and Ed Young.

I don’t know, I have a strange feeling that this one will either win the big prize, or it will get nothin’. Yours truly is making an attempt to hedge all bets by marking it as an Honor winner. In my review of the book, I described Mr. Young’s dense and highly textured artwork as “beautifully grotesque”. It is also some of the most memorable of the year.

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Caldecott Honor Prediction: The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger.

I love this book about an autumn leaf that just isn’t ready to let go. The moment that sealed it for me was when Ms. Berger switched up the perspective, showing the tree from a bird’s eye view, so the reader can see that the little yellow leaf has company:

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What do you think? Will these predictions come true? Be sure to watch the 2009 ALA Youth Media Awards (including the Caldecott Medal) and find out. From the ALA website:

The American Library Association (ALA) will provide a free live Webcast of its national announcement of the top books and media for children and young adults on Monday, January 26 at 7:45 a.m. MT.

Online visitors will be able to view the live Webcast the morning of the announcements by going to http://www.unikron.com/clients/ala-webcast-2009. This link is not yet live, but those interested in following the action online should bookmark and use the URL. The number of available connections for the Webcast will be limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

I watched last year’s webcast and I suggest you tune in – it makes for an exciting morning.

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