Episode 13: The Caldecott

  • Ok did I hear this right... @Lee-White DID NOT KNOW what Fancy Nancy is? And you call yourself a children's book illustrator..... smh.

    I am totally kidding. But I have to tell you, when I worked in a book store I sure knew where all the Fancy Nancy merch was. Not just the picture books... the early readers, the coloring books, the sticker books, paper dolls. Definitely a good example of a commercially successful book.

    Interesting side note--Fancy Nancy is so big now that one of my local SCBWI member acquaintances was a "ghost illustrator" (for lack of a better term) for the series. Yep, they're so successful that they're getting other illustrators to copy Robin Glasser's style for all the books etc. they're making... and its still Robin's name on the cover. Apparently there is this "bible" they use, having pages of examples of Nancy's face, her mom, dad, the other characters etc. so they can nail the style perfectly.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @sarahluann You have stumbled onto a interesting niche of the children's illustration world. And you got the term exactly right, ghost illustrators are very much a thing (as are ghost writers)!

    Personally I don't know how I feel about ghost illustrators. My understanding is that it's all WFH contracts (not a fan of those) and I knew a ghost illustrator and he's the only grumpy children's book illustrator I ever came across (which never recommended the niche to me)

    But then, how different is it from working as a staff artist for something like an animation company?

  • This is a great episode. I come from the comic world and know very little about children’s book illustrators. I learned a lot. I wanted to suggest a topic that is very similar to this. I guess if you guys could do a counter to Caldecott winners I would love to hear you guys talk about who are your top influencial creators of 2000 and before, 2001-2010, and what current artists you think are doing inspiring work. Maybe your favorite under the radar or under appreciated illustrators.

  • SVS OG

    @SarahLuAnn I’m not sure How I feel about @Lee-White not knowing who Fancy Nancy is. Now I don’t feel so bad when you guys throw out all those name I don’t know. (I promise, I still try and look them up). Fancy Nancy is commercial, but she is a SMART and eccentric girl with a puggy belly who is not afraid to be who she is. My girls loved her. You have a son, that’s why I’m guessing the pop culture may have missed you.

    @davidhohn and Sarah, I noticed the ghost illustrator in one of her books. They were mentioned, but none of the ones on my shelf had it that i could find today. I know i have seen it before. I wanted to check it out again since your brought it up. I don’t think it’s really a bad thing. I don’t see how it would be different than someone drawing a mouse or a Spider-Man! I’m guessing it is just the type of lifestyle you want. Steady paycheck vs a super hard hustle with creative freedom. Who knows.

    Caudlecot. I really hate it when my kids tear off the sticker. “Do the thing you do well and let the world catch up to you.” I love it. I like that direction, make the art you love, then find the village that loves it. Sounds good to me.

    PLEASE do a work shop in Nashville! I can totally drive there. So, make it happen! And don’t knock golf carts in the south. We love our golf carts and they make us happy. Best way to haul our trick or treaters through the neighborhood. @Jake-Parker @Will-Terry Please come to the good ol south!

  • SVS OG

    Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how great of a job Tanner Garlick is doing with the illustrations for each podcast episode. Each one is really fun!

  • SVS OG

    Hello Friends! In case you haven't checked the episode is up and running great, and should be good to go. Please let us know if you there are any other issues. You guys are the best!

  • @jake-parker it’s running perfect! Thank you for another awesome episode!

  • Moderator

    I am no longer shooting for the Caldecott. My new goal is to get the Will Terry Award for Stupid Books. LOL!!!
    You guys crack me up.
    I do like Lee’s mental strategy of thinking, is this art up to Caldecott standard though. I think that is a good tool to keep yourself honest and to not “phone it in” as Jake said.
    As always, thank you again for creating these podcasts and all of your great YouTube videos. 👍💛

  • @jake-parker
    I think the two points made are equally right. "Do what you love and let the world catch up" of course. And that you can go after the prize like an athlete can go after a gold medal, I mean training hard for it, focusing on it, studying your competitors, the tendencies like "now they value a lot that you put an integrational message on your book", etc.

    In one hand the prestige of the prize and the income that comes with it attracts certain people and is normal that a certain environment is created and these persons eventually know each other and then you have politics, private interest, etc It happens in every competitive world.

    But on the other hand is art, and if someone comes with something new and revolutionary, and eventually someone always come, they can not look away.

    So you have this string of like "orthodox predictable" winners and then from time to time you have a new fresh one who changes the game really, or at least evolved the game bringing something new to the table.

    The best example is the impressionist. The story about impressionist when they were banned from the "Salon de Paris" ruled by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, (copy and paste from Wikipedia)"The Académie had an annual, juried art show, the Salon de Paris, and artists whose work was displayed in the show won prizes, garnered commissions, and enhanced their prestige. The standards of the juries represented the values of the Académie"
    ...and they created his own show and changed everything..., until the next change.

    So there are politics and there is art too, with all the things that art comes with, search, discovery, evolution etc. Everyone has to choose what is his way, or most regularly, what percent. like 80% art and 20%commercial or vice-versa etc.

    Great post. You guys are in the trade for some time now so, every subject you touch, more or less important or relevant, sure you three have something interesting to say about it

  • Pro SVS OG

    Awesome podcast, especially love the spot illustration 🙂

  • I wasn't gonna go here but then I thought--what the heck? This is a place for discussion, and they kinda started it in the podcast.

    I know their "Things to do/be to win the Caldecott" list was made in jest (particularly the "be Jon Klassen" joke 😉 ) but one thing didn't make their list that bears pointing out.

    One thing that could legitimately have made the list would be, "Be male".

    The numbers don’t lie: Since inception, the committee has bestowed 81 medals and 261 honor books. Based on the results, the odds seem ever in a man’s favor:

    THE WINNERS by percentage.

    54 Medals for men (67%)
    21 medals for women (26%)
    6 medals for illustrator pairs (often husband and wife) (7%)

    source: https://christinetaylorbutler.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/gender-inequity-caldecott-by-the-numbers/

    Ouch. And if anyone has been to a SCBWI conference or looked at a list of editors or agents or librarians recently, it was probably quite obvious to you that this is an industry dominated by WOMEN. Which means that this is NOT a case of men choosing to give awards to each other and ignoring women. Women are a huge part of this.

    Anyway, I don't want to start a huge argument or anything, but it felt relevant to the topic and I didn't want this angle to be ignored.

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @sarahluann This is a super valid point and one that should be discussed either on the podcast or as you have done in the forum follow up.

    But the question remains -- why?

    As you point out the children's lit field is dominated by women. I've seen the article you linked many times in various kid lit forums over the last (I want to say) year or so. Many have lamented the information it contained but I haven't really seen any discussion about the why or what to do about it.

    Perhaps the article has already done it's job and by simply pointing out an unconscious bias the ALA and Caldecott committees will be more conscious about both gender and ethnic diversity in the future?

  • Pro SVS OG

    @davidhohn @SarahLuAnn
    What do we make of 48 women Nobel Prize winners compared to ca 950 men? We´re talking about the greatest achiements, on a global scale, in all fields deemed of notice (science, literature, medicine, etc...).

    There are way more factors at play than tight networks or blunt discrimination in these numbers - that oversimplifies the history of human society, the legacy of a still very recent past in terms of gender roles and social structures and aspects of gender psychology.
    I’d say, let´s just win that Caldecott (for those talented female illustrators that live in the USA) and make the numbers read better in 50 years from now :-))

  • SVS OG

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  • SVS Instructor Pro

    I've seen it mentioned on these boards before that there is a focus here on the Caldecott -- but the SVS membership is more than just citizens of the United States, and more than just picture book illustrators. So with that in mind I'd like to create a list of all the other major illustration awards (the life changers as @Will-Terry described them)

    As I am another US citizen this is a bit of a blind spot for me so I hope you all will assist me in filling this out:

    Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (Europe)
    An award for picture book illustration

    Hans Christian Anderson Award (International)
    An award for picture book illustration

    Society of Illustrators Gold Medal (International)
    Various awards given in different illustration niches

    Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (Canada)
    Winner receives $20,000

    Kate Greenaway Medal (Great Britain)
    British literary award for "distinguished illustration in a book for children"

  • SVS Instructor Pro

    @smceccarelli I am genuinely curious, and as a college instructor of picture book illustrators (who are overwhelmingly women) I'd like to be able to better explain what is happening. So if you can further explain or point me in direction of appropriate research into what kind of factors are at play I'd appreciate it.

  • Pro

    There's a lot of research an studies that have been done that have found a bias in how people review men and women's work. Even if it's supposed to be objective, when the gender of the person is known it is found that both men and women will judge women more severely than men. When the gender is unknown, they will sing the praise of women's work... More troubling still, when judges are aware of this bias they tend to judge women even more harshly, perhaps out of fear of favoring women (which is to me the most astonishing thing about this, considering no one's ever been fearful of favoring men, ever!). This whole thing is subconscious and affects both men and women, so I feel like it's showing the effects of small casual sexism in our society that doesn't seem like a big deal but gets added up and gets internalized in all of us. It's a tricky and insidious thing to fight. As @smceccarelli has said, I don't feel like changing society is my fight - I just have to work harder and make better art, so one day no one can deny its value!

  • @nessillustration Ugh. So disheartening!

  • Pro

    @eli It is a little bit, especially when considering that children illustration is already such a difficult field, there's already a million things we have to think about and develop (skill, style, network, marketing, portfolio, social media, etc etc) and to think that to top it all off, there's this bias against us. It can be disheartening to think about, but we can choose to think of it as "Well there's nothing much we can do about that, so let's just forget about that and focus on what we CAN work on" 🙂

  • @nessillustration Yes, absolutely! It is really troubling to learn the extent that women judge other women harshly, subconscious or not. At least being armed with that knowledge, maybe we can examine our reactions for this bias. Also, support the endeavors of other women, in the arts and elsewhere.

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