Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing

The day before Halloween and I know that I probably should be doing a Halloween Nonfiction Picture Book post, but I finally got my hands of Leonard S. Marcus' Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing and just had to share this book with you.

Author/Illustrator: Leonard S. Marcus
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux (August 27, 2013)
Audience: 4th to 7th graders and beyond
Source: Purchased Copy
Biography * Nonfiction * Illustrators * England

Description from GoodReads:
Randolph Caldecott is best known as the namesake of the award that honors picture book illustrations, and in this inventive biography, leading children’s literature scholar Leonard Marcus examines the man behind the medal. In an era when the steam engine fueled an industrial revolution and train travel exploded people’s experience of space and time, Caldecott was inspired by his surroundings to capture action, movement, and speed in a way that had never before been seen in children’s picture books. Thoroughly researched and featuring extensive archival material and a treasure trove of previously unpublished drawings, including some from Caldecott’s very last sketchbook, Leonard Marcus’s luminous biography shows why Caldecott was indeed the father of the modern picture book and how his influence lives on in the books we love today.

My thoughts on this book:
Last year, I participated in a Caldecott Challenge where I read every Caldecott winning book and as many of the honor books that I could find.  However, I realized as I began to read Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing by Leonard S. Marcus that I knew little about the man whose name is associated for one of the most prestigious honors to bestowed on an illustrator of children's books.

Randolph Caldecott (1846-1886) was born, raised, and lived in England during the 1800's.  Despite his amazing contribution to the world of children's books, Caldecott himself would not be eligible for the award that bears his name. 

Terms and Criteria (taken from the ALA website):
  1. The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
  2. The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.  Books published in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.
  3. The committee in its deliberations is to consider only books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms.
I found that to be somewhat sad.  It was amazing to read about his contributions to the world of children's literature and thankful for the ways that he inspired both illustrators and librarians. However, I couldn't help wonder what Caldecott would think of the criteria.

Anyway, I digress.  Back to my thoughts on the book.  Marcus does a remarkable job writing an in-depth biography of Caldecott in the format of a children's picture book.  The text is substantial.  This is no lightweight story.  Readers learn of Caldecott's early years, his career in the bank (at the young age of 15), and his eventual rise to a sustainable & profitable position as an illustrator, which was rare in those days.  In addition to excellent biographical information, the book also contains original artwork by Caldecott and by others of his time.  It shows the influences that would have impacted Caldecott as he began his career as an illustrator.  I was amused to note that on the books that Caldecott created that it would say "One of R. Caldecott's Picture Books".

Despite Caldecott's natural charisma, sense of humor and amazing talent as an illustrator, he was plagued through his life with poor health and a heart condition from an illness as a child.  As a result, the world did not fully get to witness what Caldecott may have become if he had had more time.  Caldecott died during a trip to Florida in 1886 just a month shy of his fortieth birthday.

If you are a fan of children's picture books, then you will want to add this book to your personal collection.  It would also be a wonderful addition to a classroom or school library. Look for a copy of Randolph Caldecott: The Man Who Could Not Stop Drawing at your local library or independent book store.         

Randolph Caldecott: The Music Video - This is a couple of years old but still great.

The Caldecott Medal 75th Anniversary Logo designed by Brian Selznik:

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews: