The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
In 1937 René Paul Chambellan designed the Caldecott Medal. The bronze medal has the winner's name and the date engraved on the back. When the Caldecott Medal was accepted in 1937, the Section for Library Work with Children invited the School Libraries Section to name five of its members to the awards committee each year. For this reason the Caldecott Medal inscription reads, "Awarded annually by the Children's and School Librarians Sections of the American Library Association." This is a combination and simplification of the actual names of the sections. The wording continues even though several ALA reorganizations resulted in 1958 in the present divisions, including the Children's Services Division, now the Association for Library Service to Children, which now has sole responsibility for administering the award.
How the Caldecott Medal Came to Be
Each year the Newbery Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for the most distinguished American children's books published the previous year. However, as many persons became concerned that the artists creating picture books for children were as deserving of honor and encouragement as were the authors of children's books, Frederic G. Melcher suggested in 1937 the establishment of a second annual medal. This medal is to be given to the artist who had created the most distinguished picture book of the year and named in honor of the nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph J. Caldecott. The idea for this medal was also accepted enthusiastically by the Section for Library Work with Children of ALA and was approved by the ALA Executive Board.
The Caldecott Medal "shall be awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children published in the United States during the preceding year. The award shall go to the artist, who must be a citizen or resident of the United States, whether or not he be the author of the text. Members of the Newbery Medal Committee will serve as judges. If a book of the year is nominated for both the Newbery and Caldecott Awards the committee shall decide under which heading it shall be voted upon, so that the same title shall not be considered on both ballots." In 1977 the Board of Directors of the Association for Library Service to Children rescinded the final part of the 1937 action and approved that "any book published in the preceding year shall be eligible to be considered for either award or both awards." Separate committees to choose the Newbery and Caldecott Awards were established in 1978 and began with the 1980 selection committees.
From the beginning of the awarding of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals, committees could, and usually did, cite other books as worthy of attention. Such books were referred to as Newbery or Caldecott "runners-up." In 1971 the term "runners-up" was changed to "honor books." The new terminology was made retroactive so that all former runners-up are now referred to as Newbery or Caldecott Honor Books.
The Caldecott Medal:
- Weighs 3.1 ounces.
- Has a 2 and one-third inch diameter. Therefore, the circumference for the medal is approximately 7 and one-third inches long (Using the formula C= Pi x d)
- Is not worn, but rather, is presented in a cherry wood box for display on a desk or other flat surface.
A few words about Randolph Caldecott and his illustrations...
Randolph Caldecott was one of a group of three influential children's illustrators working in England in the 19th century. The other two illustrators were Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. His illustrations for children were unique to their time in both their humor, and their ability to create a sense of movement, vitality, and action that complemented the stories they accompanied.
The illustration on the Caldecott Medal, which is taken from Caldecott's illustrations for "The Diverting Story of John Gilpin," is a perfect example of the humor, vitality, and sense of movement found in Caldecott's work. The illustration shows John Gilpin astride a runaway horse, accompanied by squawking geese, braying dogs, and startled onlookers.
Resources on Randolph Caldecott
Caldecott Honor Seal
**The Newbery and Caldecott Medal and book seal images are property of the American Library Association and cannot be used in any form or reproduced without permission of the ALA Office of Rights and permissions.
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.
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.
The committee in its deliberations is to consider only books eligible for the award, as specified in the terms.
A “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised.
A “picture book for children” is one for which children are an intended potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are to be considered.
“Distinguished” is defined as:
Marked by eminence and distinction; noted for significant achievement.
Marked by excellence in quality.
Marked by conspicuous excellence or eminence.
The artist is the illustrator or co-illustrators. The artist may be awarded the medal posthumously.
The term "original work" may have several meanings. For purposes of these awards, it is defined as follows:
"Original work" means that the illustrations were created by this artist and no one else. Further, "original work" means that the illustrations are presented here for the first time and have not been previously published elsewhere in this or any other form. Illustrations reprinted or compiled from other sources are not eligible.
“American picture book in the United States” means that books first published in previous years in other countries are not eligible. Books published simultaneously in the U.S. and another country may be eligible. Books published in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.
“In English” means that the committee considers only books written and published in English. This requirement DOES NOT limit the use of words or phrases in another language where appropriate in context.
“Published…in the preceding year” means that the book has a publication date in that year, was available for purchase in that year, and has a copyright date no later than that year. A book might have a copyright date prior to the year under consideration but, for various reasons, was not published until the year under consideration. If a book is published prior to its year of copyright as stated in the book, it shall be considered in its year of copyright as stated in the book. The intent of the definition is that every book be eligible for consideration, but that no book be considered in more than one year.
“Resident” specifies that author has established and maintains a residence in the United States, U.S. territory, or U.S. commonwealth as distinct from being a casual or occasional visitor.
The term, “only the books eligible for the award,” specifies that the committee is not to consider the entire body of the work by an artist or whether the artist has previously won the award. The committee’s decision is to be made following deliberation about books of the specified calendar year.
In identifying a “distinguished American picture book for children,” defined as illustration, committee members need to consider:
Excellence of execution in the artistic technique employed;
Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.
The only limitation to graphic form is that the form must be one which may be used in a picture book. The book must be a self-contained entity, not dependent on other media (i.e., sound, film or computer program) for its enjoyment.
Each book is to be considered as a picture book. The committee is to make its decision primarily on the illustration, but other components of a book are to be considered especially when they make a book less effective as a children’s picture book. Such other components might include the written text, the overall design of the book, etc.
Note: The committee should keep in mind that the award is for distinguished illustrations in a picture book and for excellence of pictorial presentation for children. The award is not for didactic intent or for popularity.
[Adopted by the ALSC board, January 1978. Revised, Midwinter 1987. Revised, Annual 2008.]
Please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/aboutalsc/coms (scroll down to Priority Group - Awards) for an up to date list of committee members.
Caldecott Medal Manual (Word)
Caldecott Medal Manual (PDF)
Policy for Service on ALSC Award Committees
Frequently asked questions regarding policy for service
Awards Diversity and Inclusion Discussion with Kathleen T. Horning- This discussion took place at the 2015 ALA conference in San Francisco with Kathleen Horning and the 2016 Chairs of the ALSC Awards and Notable Children's Lists Committees.
Please Note: The following links are resources for book award committee members. These recordings are part of the Bill Morris Seminar that took place at ALA Midwinter in Denver 2018.
Book Discussion 101 (Session video is approximately 58 minutes)
The Search for Distinguished Committee Work and Responsibility (Session video is approximately 53 minutes)
ALSC Awards Committee Experiences (Session video is approximately 77 minutes)
How to submit books for consideration for the Caldecott Medal:
- Complete the award submission form.
- Review the terms and criteria below for the award. You can also review the manual below for comprehensive information about the Caldecott Medal.
- Mail one copy of the book to the award committee chair. Address information available upon completion of submission form (see first bullet above).
- The deadline for submitting works is December 31, 2023.
- If you wish, you may attach a cover letter with your contact information to your final work. There is no entry fee for the Caldecott Medal.
- ALSC membership is not a requirement to submit your work.
The ALSC office requests that one copy of your submission be sent to the committee chair. Standards are in place for the committee members to review and share submissions.
Neither the ALSC office nor the committee chair can confirm receipt of submissions. If you would like to confirm delivery receipt of your submission please use a tracking number for your package. Submissions that are dropped off in-person to the ALSC office will not be accepted.
The ALSC office cannot answer eligibility questions or advise on which award your submission is eligible for consideration. It is up to you to review the terms and criteria and if you feel you qualify, submit as appropriate. Eligibility is determined by the committee and is confidential.
The book and media awards are announced each year at ALA’s LibLearnX meeting in January.
Deadline for submitting books is December 31 of the publication year. The medalist and honor book recipients are announced at the youth media awards press conference during the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in late January.