Thursday, January 31, 2019

What a Year!: The Guessing Geisel Co-Hosts Share Post-YMA Reactions

In this post, the three co-hosts of Guessing Geisel (Amanda, Amy, and Misti) share their thoughts and reactions to the 2019 Geisel Award winner and honor titles. 

Watching the YMAs

Amy: I watched the YMAs live this year in Seattle surrounded by a sea of very excited book people! I must admit, the fact that the Geisel comes so close to the end of the announcements (third to the last, just before the Caldecott and Newbery) really built the suspense for me. The honors are always announced first and I was absolutely thrilled with all of them. But in those seconds before they said the name of the winner, I realized neither of Corey R. Tabor's books had been given an honor. And I thought, "There's no way the committee won't recognize his amazing work!" So I might have done a fist pump when Fox the Tiger was announced! It was magical. 
Amanda: I came in to the office early to watch the livestream. Not exactly like being in the room where it happens, but delightful to text with friends as things were announced, and to hear the reaction in the room (ALA, could we eventually add crowd reaction shots to the livestream?). I definitely let out an audible cheer when Tiger vs. Nightmare was announced as an honor - while all the books are excellent choices this is the one I was afraid might be overlooked. And I am elated for Corey Tabor's win for Fox the Tiger!
Misti: I also watched the livestream from my office, though being in the Eastern time zone meant a morning of gleeful anticipation, rather than the early wake-up that an east-coast conference necessitates. Since my workspace is shared with other staff members who are not as invested in the results from the YMAs, I watch with my headphones on, and amuse my co-workers with my suppressed exclamations and Muppet-like arm flails at certain key points!

Fox the Tiger by Corey R. Tabor

Amy: I'll be honest, I've been hoping for a Geisel win for Tabor pretty much all year. But I had really put my money on his other title, Fox is Late. Something about a fox on a skateboard really spoke to me, I guess! That said, I'm thrilled with the committee's choice because I think both Fox books pair Tabor's crisp, clean, engaging illustrations with simple, yet fun sentences that build to a satisfying and humorous ending. Fox first made his appearance in two picture books a couple years ago, but I think Tabor really hit on something when Fox made the transition to beginning readers. Let's hope there are more Fox books in the works!
Misti: I'm super pleased with this win (and also with the fact that our Guessing Geisel mock vote resulted in a win for the same author/series). The Fox books have a classic feel, and Fox the Tiger certainly deserves its place on the shelf of Geisel winners.
Amanda: I'm thrilled with this win. Like Amy, I've been super impressed with both Fox titles, but thought Fox is Late stood the better chance (all that page-turning momentum). Fox the Tiger is so special and affirming, though, and I am so happy that more kids will see this book as a result of this win. 

The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap by David Milgrim

Misti: Speaking of books with a classic feel, I love what Milgrim is doing with his beginning reader series. We can't have enough of these books on the shelf at my library, and I'm glad the committee chose to recognize this one.  
Amy: This is Milgrim's second Geisel honor (Go, Otto, Go!, 2017), and with more titles in the Adventures of Otto series coming out in 2019 I wouldn't be surprised to see this trend continue! I really appreciate that Milgrim is adding such high quality titles to the too small beginning reader scifi canon. 
Amanda: I agree with Amy - great to see Milgrim's excellent work recognized again this year. I expected it to be the other title released this year, See Zip Zap! but these titles are so strong for the very beginning reader and I'm pleased to see further recognition for the series. 

Fox and Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Amy: I've always been a fan of Ruzzier's surrealist style. In this title especially I think the illustrations and Ruzzier's wry sense of humor combine to offer three short stories that never underestimate readers' ability to appreciate a sophisticated, slightly surreal, world. I'm very excited that a second Fox and Chick title is coming out this year!
Misti: It's so delightful when a funny book is recognized by any award committee, and particularly the Geisel. Being funny is hard enough; doing it with a limited word count and an eye towards the needs of the youngest readers is quite a feat! I'm a big fan of this book, and I can't wait to see what's next for Fox and Chick.
Amanda: I'm not surprised that this is the year Sergio Ruzzier gets Geisel recognition. This Is Not A Picture Book and Two Mice both had fans among the Mock Geisel crowd, and with Fox and Chick sharing the multi-story format popular among some easy readers it makes sense that this would be the one to garner Geisel recognition. I look forward to what Ruzzier will create for young readers in the future, both in this series and in other titles!

King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Amy: Hooray for more Geisel honors for King and Kayla! Butler and Meyers won an honor in 2018 for King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats. Representations of humans in beginning reader titles are few and far between, so it makes me so happy that the committee choose this excellent title featuring a human.
Misti: I'll admit, this book was just a blip on my radar when looking at books with Geisel potential -- more fool me! I should have known to pay more attention when this series has already been honored once before by the Geisel committee. Taking a closer look, I can certainly see the distinguished elements that were present in earlier books in the series -- it's good to see that it continues to excel!
Amanda:  Back-to-back honors in 2018 and 2019! King and Kayla are clearly a very solid new series in the tradition of other pet/person combos like Henry and Mudge or Mr. Putter and Tabby, and with a mystery solving element too! Here's hoping they keep going strong with many more adventures. 

Tiger vs Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Amy: When the three of us chose to write about Tetri's book for our CaldeGeisel guest post on Calling Caldecott, we all agreed we loved, loved, loved it, but thought it might be a long shot for Geisel. Imagine our delight when it was announced Monday morning! I think the artwork in this title is so distinguished, so thoughtful, intentional, and lush. I can't wait to see what Tetri comes up with next! 
Misti: Yes, the three of us have been extolling the virtues of this book for a while now, and I was thrilled beyond words when it won its Geisel Honor. The artwork elevates it above others in the field of early graphic novels, and the characters are so lovable and well-developed.
Amanda: I am so pleased that the committee saw and chose to honor the strengths in this beautiful book. I have been pushing it on everyone who comes near my desk, but didn't dare hope too hard that a graphic novel would be recognized in a year with many strong contenders in traditional easy reader formats. This was the announcement of the morning where my joyful surprise couldn't be contained.

Other Thoughts

Amy: It's interesting that of the five titles discussed above, only one is not illustrated by the author. I think that really speaks to the importance of the text and illustrations working together to create a successful reading experience. I also wonder (as I did last year about Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy) about series that have two or more titles published in the same year. There's no rule in the award handbook that says you can't recognize multiple titles by the same author or series, but looking back on past winners and honors, it seems the committee has never done that. If Fox is Late and Fox the Tiger were published in separate years, would both have won in their respective years? How about the Milgrim's See Zip Zap? It's an intriguing line of thought, although, of course, we'll never know the answer. 
Amanda: Like Amy, I too marvel that we have two titles recognized that have other related titles also published this year. I imagine that the Geisel Award Committee had their work cut out for them, differentiating the strengths between a very strong field of contenders with multiple works by the same authors. Congratulations to the committee again on your results - this is a very fine group of winners, and it is clear you worked hard and thoughtfully in selecting them.
Misti: I had also noted the prevalence of books illustrated by the author, both in the actual Geisel winners and in our mock winners. By the way, readers, good work on choosing those mock winners -- we picked two of the actual Geisel Honor books as mock honors, and two of the other books we selected (including our winner) were by authors recognized by the Real Committee. While our goal is more about gaining a better understanding of the process than it is about picking the actual winners, it's always gratifying when we get so close.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Congratulations, 2019 Geisel Award Winner and Honors!

The winners have been announced! 

The recipient of the 2019 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award is  . . .

Fox the Tiger by Corey R. Tabor

The committee also selected four honor books. They are:

The Adventures of Otto: See Pip Flap by David Milgrim
Fox and Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier
King and Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth by Dori Hillestad Butler
Tiger vs Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Congratulations to all five creators on their excellent books. Thank you to Sarah Stippich and the entire committee - Ellysa Stern Cahoy, Angela Frederick, Diana Garcia, Alex Matheson, Cathryn Mercier, and Toby D. Rajput for your work over the past year. We'll be back soon with additional thoughts on these fantastic choices.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

And the Mock Geisel goes to...

Fox is Late by Corey R Tabor wins Mock Geisel gold this year!

Our honor books are:

Fox + Chick: The Party + Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes
See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
Tiger Vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri
It was an interesting year in Mock Geisel results.  As you can see from this screenshot, if we were the Real Committee, we would have had to do at least one more ballot to determine our winner -- although Fox is Late had the highest number of first-place votes as well as the highest total points, there was not enough of a margin between it and Fox + Chick to satisfy the official rules.  However, the results are certainly decisive enough for the purposes of this blog! 

We had several different options for selecting honor books. We could have given an honor only to Fox + Chick, but would that have done justice to the many other distinguished titles on our ballot? In the end, we decided that four honors recognized the broad spectrum of books for beginning readers.

Congratulations to the talented author/illustrators represented above!  Will any of them go on to be recognized by the 2019 Geisel Committee? We'll know in a few days -- the ALA Youth Media Awards announcement begins at 8:00 A.M. (Pacific Time) on Monday, January 28th. Check back here after the awards announcement for our reactions to the news!

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Ballot #2 + A Quick Discussion

It's time for a second mock ballot (at the bottom of this post)! Why? Because the results of the first ballot simply too close to call. According to the Geisel Award Manual:

There is a formula to determine the winner. A book must receive at least four first place votes at four points per vote for a total of at least 16 points. In addition, that book must have a four-point lead over the book receiving the next highest number of points.

In our mock Tiger vs. Nightmare had enough first place votes (4), but didn't have the required four-point lead over the title with the next highest number of points (A Parade of Elephants with 38). 

Tally for Ballot #1
So what next? The manual says:

If the first ballot does not produce a winner, the committee follows procedures for re-balloting.

The committee may not proceed to another ballot without a second round of book discussion. At this point, certain choices present themselves, and certain procedures apply: 
  • By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw from the discussion list all books that received no votes on the first ballot. 
  • By consensus the committee may choose to withdraw additional books that received minimal support on the first ballot. 
  • Once withdrawn from the discussion list, a book is permanently eliminated from consideration for the award. 
  • Once a second round of discussion is complete, the committee proceeds to a second ballot.  

In the case of our mock, we've decided to eliminate 5 titles because their final point tally was much lower than the 7 titles (highlighted in purple) at the top of the heap. If we were on the real committee, we'd discuss and re-ballot as many times as necessary to select a winner and then honor titles (if any). However, in the case of this mock, we'll just re-ballot once and hope a clear winner and honor titles emerge. 

You might have noticed that the manual states, “The committee may not proceed to another ballot without a second round of book discussion.” Wouldn't it be great if we could sit around a table together a discuss our 7 remaining books? We'd love to know your appreciations and concerns for each titles. But since time and space won't allow that, we encourage you to champion your favorites in the comments below. A short couple of sentences on the strengths of each of title is included below. We hope you'll also take a moment to re-read titles or delve into a review or two before casting your vote. This ballot will be open until Midnight on Tuesday, January 22nd.   

Kick It, Mo! by David A. Adler, illus. by Sam Ricks
I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for a Mo Jackson book. Don't Throw It to Mo! won the year Amanda, Misti, and I were on the Geisel Award Committee. But beyond that, I think there's excellent word repetition and white space. I get asked for soccer books all the time at my library, so I think it has definite cover appeal. 

A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes
The only picture book in our top 7, the pastel colors and soft edges of Henkes' elephants seem like they would appeal to the younger side of the K-2nd age range. As usual, Henkes has picked a wonderful font with stick-and-ball a's and just-like-kids-learn-to-write-them g's. 

See Zip Zap by David Milgrim
Go, Otto, Go! took home a Geisel honor in 2017, could a second honor or even a win be on the horizon for Milgrim? With hilarious repetition and an alien-filled story, it just might happen! 

One of two true graphic novels on this mock ballot (My Friends Make Me Happy has speech bubbles, but is being marketed as a beginning reader), the sophisticated artwork and snarky humor make this book a stand out. 

Fox is Late by Corey R. Tabor
Of the two Fox books by Tabor this year, this one is my favorite (Although I love Fox the Tiger quite a bit as well). Short, declarative sentences are paired with enticing illustrations. This one has an undeniable page-turning dynamic as Fox skates from one page to the next. 

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri
The lush watercolor illustrations in this graphic novel are definitely some of the strongest illustrations in our final 7. It's clearly for more experienced readers though, so I think it depends on if you feel it falls within the K-2nd age range or if it's a tad higher. 
Speech bubbles, oh, how beginning readers love speech bubbles! I love that the cover of this book screams, "Open me! I'm funny!" 

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Excellence in Ineligible Titles

This year there are a number of delightful beginning readers that, if they were eligible, would be strong contenders. Alas, page limits and the pesky requirement that both author and illustrator be United States residents or citizens rules out many a title. The following are, by our estimation, ineligible* for the Geisel but still deserving of your attention and of being shared widely with young readers.

Meet Yasmin - This new series has so much to recommend it - the confident Yasmin celebrating creativity and problem-solving in a way that feels fresh, her Pakistani American extended family (and an Urdu glossary to help readers unfamiliar with the language to follow along). Each individual story is just the right length for a beginning reader, and we’ll be looking forward to the future adventures of Yasmin.

Peter and Ernesto - Anna Taylor did a great write-up of Peter and Ernesto’s strengths here. The facial expressions of the duo as they pursue their great adventures infuse a lot of feeling into a story written at a beginning reader level.

Space Cows - Engaging illustrations of the wacky rhyming descriptions in the text make this an appropriate pick for early beginning readers. Recommended for young fans who will giggle at the premise, or anyone ready to embrace the absurdity of Space Cows.

Chicken on Vacation - Zoey the Chicken takes two of her more literal-minded friends on an imaginative vacation, recasting their experiences on the farm as a beach vacation complete with treasure hunt. More confident readers will enjoy Zoey’s flights of fancy, but as they differ from the reality depicted in the illustrations will need to already be familiar with the vocabulary. A celebration of imagination and creativity.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye - Selznick and Serlin push the beginning reader format into new territory in this animal mystery. At 191 pages it far exceeds the Geisel page limit criteria, however strong word repetition and visual clues, plus a wonderful page-turning dynamic provide support for more confident developing readers. Although there’s much to appreciate about this title, there has also been discussion around the problematic depictions of monkeys and apes in children’s literature.

*Note that we are only privy to what information we can find in author and illustrator bios in the books themselves or on their websites. If the Real Committee has questions about eligibility, they may work with their ALSC liaison to discreetly look into the matter further. As bloggers, we’re just making our best guess based on the information at hand and would be thrilled if one of the titles above was determined eligible by the committee after all and was deemed worthy of the Geisel Award.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Cast Your Ballot for the 2019 Guessing Geisel Mock!

Now's your chance to cast your ballot for Guessing Geisel's Mock! As they do on the real committee, we'll be weighting the responses with 4 points for each first choice vote, 3 points for each second choice vote, and 2 points for each third choice vote.

This ballot will stay open January 7th-14th. Please, complete only one ballot per person. 

This year we have narrowed down our ballot to just 12 titles. Our hope is that a smaller number of titles on the ballot will encourage more participation. However, if your favorite is not on the ballot, we invite you to write it in. We'll include all write in titles in our announcement post. 

It's not required that you have read all books to participate, although we recommend reading as many as possible, and reading reviews here and elsewhere. We are open to the possibility that we, just like the real committee, may have a clear winner after a first ballot, in which case we'll stop there and announce our results. 

If the first ballot does not produce a clear winner, we’ll conduct a second ballot from January 15th-21st. The real committee would keep going until they met the criteria for determining a winner, but we will stop after our second ballot and determine our winners. We invite you to join us for this virtual Mock Geisel with the hope that you’ll discover some new favorites for beginning readers. 

For more about the real committee's process and the benefits of mocking, take a look at our Let's Get Ready to Mock post from last year.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019

More Geisel Contenders (That We Didn't Have Time to Write About)

As the Youth Media Awards approach, we here at Guessing Geisel realize that, despite our best efforts, there are still contenders that we just didn't have time to cover. It's not that we didn't like these books, it's just that we simply ran out of time! So today's post attempts to give the titles we missed a place to shine. 

What else did we miss? Leave a comment and let us know!

Buster the Very Shy Dog, More Adventures with Phoebe by Lisze Bechtold 
In the fourth series title, Buster the dog and his canine companion Phoebe tell two stories of everyday doggy life. Meant for more confident readers, the sentences are longer (8+ words) and there's less leading (space) between lines of text. The illustrations are appealing and friendly, but the plots are rather slight and not as memorable or engaging as one would hope.

King & Kayla and the Case of the Lost Tooth by Dori Hillestad Butler, illus. by Nancy Meyers
King and his human owner Kayla solve their fourth case together. The appeal of a story told from a food-loving dog's point of view, plus the detective elements of this title could be a winning combination, as Brian Wilson considered so thoughtfully in last year's post about the series. Plus, King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats took home a Geisel honor last year, so perhaps the Butler and Meyers have another winner or honor in their future. 

You Should Meet Lin-Manuel Miranda by Laurie Calkhoven, illus. by Alyssa Petersen 
Could this beginning reader trim sized biography win the Geisel? That would certainly be a first! The subject himself is quite popular, which could entice many a reader. However, the large blocks of texts, long sentences, and vast vocabulary could be challenging to even the upper range of the Geisel criteria.

Good Dog by Cori Doerrfeld
Although we didn't cover this title in a standalone post, it was included in the What Kids Say - October 2018 post. As our child and grown up contributors noted, the strength of this title is the sheer cuteness of the dogs and the comforting tone of the book. For the very newest reader, this picture book has a lot to offer. 

My Pillow Keeps Moving by Laura Gehl, illus. by Christopher Weyant
In this hilarious picture book illustrated by Geisel winner Christopher Weyant (You are (Not) Small, 2015) a man accidentally buys a dog instead of a pillow. Wordless spreads and sequential illustrations help to tell the story visually. However, there is a fair amount of text used in the illustrations (window signs, for instance) that could be confusing to new readers because of the orientation (curved, slanted, etc.) and the use of all caps. 

Rocket the Brave by Tad Hill
Rocket, of picture book and beginning reader fame, is back in a gentle story about courage and curiosity. Using just 50 unique words, the repetition in this title is quite strong. The illustrations, featuring a lush forest of greens and browns rendered in colored pencil and acrylic paint, provide helpful visual context clues. Finally, Rocket's movement from left to right throughout the story create a gentle, yet insistent page-turning dynamic. 

Infamous Ratsos: Project Fluffy by Kara LaReau, illus. by Matt Myers 
Louie and Ralphie Ratso take on love, poetry, and friendship in the third book of the series. No strangers to the Geisel, the first Infamous Ratsos title took home a Geisel honor in 2017. As with the previous installments, Project Fluffy manages to hit the 96 page limit exactly. Could this series snag another Geisel nod? That all depends on how the committee interprets the criteria. Specifically, how difficult a text they feel a second grader can successfully navigate. 

Jack and Jill and T-Ball Bill by Terry Pierce, illus. by Sue DiCicco 
Reviving the three main characters from 2002's Jack and Jill and Big Dog Bill, this sports story has a lot of supportive features for new readers: short sentences, large font, ample white space. Although there's some urgency to the plot, overall it may lack the page-turning dynamic sought after by the committee.

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri 
We didn't exactly miss this one, we just decided to write about it's potential for a Geisel-Caldecott double whammy in a guest post for Calling Caldecott. We also covered it in our What Kids Say December post