Beside the Caldecott Medal, the committee awards a variable number of citations to worthy runners-up, called the Caldecott Honors or Caldecott Honor Books. The "Honor" was introduced in 1971, but some runners-up had been identified annually and all those runners-up were retroactively named Caldecott Honor Books. The number of Honors or runners-up had always been one to five, and it had been two to four since 1994, until five were named in 2013 and six in 2015. The Honor Books must be a subset of the runners-up on the final ballot, either the leading runners-up on that ballot or the leaders on one further ballot that excludes the winner.
The award has been changed and tweaked over the years, with the most recent changes in 2009. When the award was founded books could be considered either for the Newbery or the Caldecott, with the same committee judging both awards. The committee had noted other books of merit, which were frequently referred to as runner-ups. In 1971 these books were formally named Newbery Honor books, with this name applied retroactively. In 1977 books became eligible for both awards and beginning with the 1980 award separate committees for each award were formed. Until 1958 a previous winner could win again only by unanimous vote of the committee and in 1963 joint winners were first permitted.:2
Randolph Caldecott, for whom the medal is named, was an English artist and illustrator. Maurice Sendak said, "Caldecott's work heralds the beginning of the modern picture book."
A picture book, according the award criteria, provides "a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures" that constitute the book. The Medal is "for distinguished illustrations in a picture book and for excellence of pictorial presentation for children". Specifically the illustrations are judged on their in their artistic technique, interpretation of the book's story and theme, the fit between the illustrations and the story and themes, the precision of depiction of elements of the book like characters and mood, and how well the illustrations serve their targeted audience. Honor books need to fulfill the same criteria. The book must be self-contained, independent of other media for its enjoyment. Components other than illustration, including the book's text or overall design, may be considered as they affect the overall effectiveness of the book's illustrations.
To be eligible for the Caldecott the artist must be a US citizen or resident and the book must have been published in English the United States first, or simultaneously to other countries. Picture books for any audience up to age 14 may be considered. In December 2019 Leonard Marcus suggested that the Caldecott had achieved its mission in the US and the award should be expanded so children's book illustrations from anywhere in the world be considered.
The committee that decides on the Caldecott Award winner comprises fifteen members of ALSC. Seven members are elected by the entire ALSC membership and eight, including the chairperson, are appointed by the ALSC President. Members are chosen based on their experience and to ensure a diversity of libraries (e.g. public and school, small and large) and geographical areas are represented.:7 Publishers send copies of books to the committee; 2009 members each received more than 700. However, a book does not need to be sent to the committee to be considered.:27 Instead, to help identify possible contenders, committee members formally nominate 7 books in three rounds over the year and less formally recommend others.
At ALSC's annual midwinter meeting, held in late January or early February, the committee will discuss the nominations and hold vote on the winner.:8 When voting, committee members list their first place, second place, and third place selections. Each vote is assigned a point value, with first place votes receiving four points, second place three points, and third place two points. The winner must receive at least 8 first place votes and be at least 8 points ahead of the second place finisher.:38 After a winner is selected, the committee can decide whether to award any honor books. Honor books may be chosen from runner-ups to the winner or selected in a separate ballot.:39 The winner and honor books are kept secret until they are publicly announced, with the committee calling the winning illustrators the morning of the announcement.:40
In 2015, K. T. Horning of the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Cooperative Children's Book Center proposed to ALSC that old discussions of the Newbery and Caldecott be made public in the service of researchers and historians. This proposal was met with both support and criticism by former committee members and recognized authors. As of 2020[update] no change has been made.
The Caldecott and Newbery awards have historically been considered the most important children's book awards.Anita Silvey, children's book author, editor, and critic, suggests they might even be the most important book awards, "No other award has the economic significance of the Newbery and Caldecott”. According to Silvey a Caldecott winner can have sales increased from 2,000 to 100,000-200,000. Silvey also credits the Caldecott for helping to establish Bradbury Press and Roaring Brook Press as important publishers. It can also be an important recognition for authors. According to Marcus, Where the Wild Things Are brought its author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak to national prominence.
A 1999 study on the reading levels of Caldecott recipients suggested that most winners were written at the elementary age level, with the average reading level having decreased over time. A 2007 study of Caldecott recipients found that the prevalence and importance of female characters had risen and fallen several times over the history of the Caldecott. It also found that unlike recipients of the Pura Belpré Award and Coretta Scott King Award, the behaviors of male and female characters remained distinct and adhered to traditional gender norms. A different 2007 study by one of the same authors also found an increase in the number of minority characters following a 1965 critic by Nancy Larrick however the number of minorities had fallen by the 2000s. In recent years there has been an increase in the number of minority characters and illustrators recognized.
The annual number of runners-up has ranged from one to six, same as for the Newbery Medal during the same timespan, from 1938. Indeed, for twenty years from 1993 to 2012 there were two to four Honors every year.
^ abcThe Newbery & Caldecott Awards : a guide to the medal and honor books. Association for Library Service to Children,, American Library Association (2018 ed.). Chicago. ISBN978-0-8389-1730-5. OCLC1020310919.CS1 maint: others (link)
^Chamberlain, Julia; Leal, Dorothy (1999). "Caldecott Medal Books and Readability Levels: Not Just "Picture" Books". The Reading Teacher. 52 (8): 898–902. ISSN0034-0561. JSTOR20204726.
^Clark, Roger; Keller, Pamela J.; Knights, April; Nabar, Jennifer; Ramsbey, Theil B.; Ramsbey, Thomas (2007). "Let Me Draw You a Picture: Alternative and Changing Views of Gender in Award-Winning PIcture books for Children". International Review of Modern Sociology. 33 (1): 69–96. ISSN0973-2047. JSTOR41421255.
^Clark, Roger (2007). "From Margin to Margin? Females and MInorities in Newbery and Caldecott Medal-Winning and Honor Books for Children". International Journal of Sociology of the Family. 33 (2): 263–283. ISSN0020-7667. JSTOR23070734.
^Grenby, M. O. (Matthew Orville) (1970-) Immel, Andrea (2013). The Cambridge companion to children's literature. Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-68782-9. OCLC1013120814.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)