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by Colby Sharp

One of my favorite things to do with my students is a Mock Caldecott unit. Each year, my friend Mr. Schu and I select 20 books for the study. Mr. Schu posts the list on his blog with a whole bunch of resources. I kick off the unit by sharing Mr. Schu’s post with my students, and then we get to work.


During the unit my students read and reread and reread the books on the list. We discuss the Caldecott criteria. They quickly develop favorites. Those favorites often change as they dig deeper and look more closely at the books.


Once they’ve become experts on the 20 picture books they select a favorite. Then they talk all of their mad persuasive writing skills and create a video essay trying to convince their classmates which book they think should be honored by our pretend Caldecott committee.

After watching the videos, students can come to the front of the classroom and give their final arguments. I love watching an 8-year-old kid beg their classmates to vote for the book that they hold closest to their hearts.

After everyone has said all that they have to say about the books, I pass out the ballet. Each student is allowed to vote for up to four books. This year the first round of voting resulted in 5 books receiving a significant amount of votes.


On to round two.

I love watching the kids react to their favorite book not making it to round two. We talk about how important it is that they respect the opinion of the committee, and that they finish the job that they started. Even though the book they loved the most didn’t win, doesn’t mean they can check out.

During the second round of voting students select two books. This year Deborah Freedman’s SHY and Jon Klassen’s WE FOUND A HAT received the most votes.


Time for the final round!

Before this round we have another round of debates. I really enjoy watching kids get behind a new book, and try to convince their classmates why that book is the one they should vote for.

For the final tabulation of votes, I read the anonymous votes out loud one by one. It creates a fun and dramatic environment.

By a vote of 18-9 SHY took home this year’s top prize.


Deborah Freedman saw some of the tweets that I posted about our little project, and she offered to Skype with our class. The day after we selected SHY as our Mock Caldecott winner we spent a half hour chatting with Deborah about books, chasing your dreams, and how she became an a creator of books.



It is my hope that we can work together to help the kids in our lives realize that you don’t ever have to ever outgrow picture books.

colbysharpColby Sharp is a third grade teacher in Parma, Michigan. He is the co-founder of Nerdy Book Club, Nerd Camp, and the #SharpSchu Twitter book club. He co-hosts The Yarn podcast with Travis Jonker. Mr. Sharp is currently working on THE CREATIVITY PROJECT with a bunch of his friends. Visit him online at and on Twitter @colbysharp.


Viking is generously giving away a copy of Deborah Freedman’s SHY to accompany today’s Storystorm post.

Leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once on this blog post. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!


by Deborah Freedman


Click for full size.


Photo by Chris Randall (

Photo by Chris Randall (

Deborah Freedman was an architect once-upon-a-time, but now she loves to build worlds in children’s picture books. She is the author and illustrator of Blue Chicken, The Story of Fish & Snail, Scribble, and By Mouse & Frog—to be published by Viking in 2015. Deborah lives in a colorful house in Connecticut, where she is busy at work on her next books.


Deborah is giving away a signed copy of THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL.


This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

Frog came running up the path.
“What is all this noise?” he asked.
“My seeds will not grow,” said Toad.
“You are shouting too much,” said Frog. “These poor seeds are afraid to grow.”

“These poor seeds are afraid to grow.” Wait… seeds can be afraid to grow? I didn’t know that. I wonder if that is my problem. Are you talking to me too, Frog? Can stories be afraid to grow, too?

Maybe I am shouting too much: Now ideas, start GROWING—what will the critique buddies think? what will mr. agent, ms. editor think? what will bookstores, kirkus, random readers on goodreads think? what if I never, never have a good idea again? OMG! that really could happen! please, please, ideas—GROW, GROW, GROW!

Help—TOAD—I can’t stop the shouting! Where are you? What would YOU do?

Toad read a long story to his seeds.
All the next day Toad sang songs to his seeds.
And all the next day Toad read poems to his seeds.
And all the next day Toad played music for his seeds.
Then Toad felt very tired, and he fell asleep.

Oh! These all sound like easy things to do… thank you Toad, I will do them! I will read stories and poems and play music. And then maybe I will also look at art, and walk in the woods and stop on the footbridge to play Poohsticks. And then plant things, bake things, make things… make anything but books.

And then finally, I will lie on the couch and stare out the window, until… until there is no more shouting and it is quiet… except for some birds (what’s the gossip today, guys?), and a couple of squirrels (hey, what is the problem out there? stop bickering!), and my cat, Milo, snoring.

I will try all of these things because I have read, and read over many times again, FROG AND TOAD TOGETHER by Arnold Lobel, so I know that in “The Garden”—spoiler alert!!!—once Toad stops shouting, his seeds really do grow in the end. Hopefully, if I’m quiet and patient too, my ideas will stop being afraid to sprout, and if I have a good one—hooray!!—I will jot or sketch it down right away. And then, at last, I can reward myself by taking a lesson from the next chapter of Frog and Toad: “Cookies”.

Toad baked some cookies.
“These cookies smell very good,” said Toad.
He ate one.
“And they taste even better…”

Hey, did you have an idea today? Well then, have a cookie! And by the way, what do you do, to coax your ideas to grow?

Once-upon-a-time, Deborah Freedman was an architect, but now she prefers to build worlds in books. She is the author and illustrator of SCRIBBLE and BLUE CHICKEN, and THE STORY OF FISH AND SNAIL, to be published in June 2013, by Viking. Follow her adventures at Writes With Pictures or on Facebook and Twitter @DeborahFreedman.

And lucky you, it’s time to win something AGAIN! Deborah is giving away a signed copy of her book BLUE CHICKEN!

Just comment to be entered (one comment per person).

A winner will be randomly selected in one week.

Good luck! 

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