Newbery: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
Caldecott: Flotsam by David Wiesner
For the top two books of the year, they sure are repetitive with other things we've seen.
Patron's title captures the only original element, which is her inclusion of a child's eye view of 12-step programs. The rest is fun, breezy, and even amusing at parts, but predictable. Girl without mom worries guardian won't keep her, runs away, saves the day in the meantime, and is rewarded with her guardian's promise of love forever. The "higher power" references are sprinkled throughout, but this theme is dropped at the end. The opening scene that (quite effectively) draws the reader in involves spying at a crack to the town meeting place for 12-step programs. In the end, with no particular explanation, the protagonist seals the crack. Yes, it's the right thing to do. But yawn.
Wiesner is outstanding at creating wordless picture books, but this one is less effective than (my personal favorite) Tuesday, because it's less thematically connected. The 2 "plots" involve imaginative undersea life and a photo of a photo of a photo... etc. of children dating back to the beginning of photography. Actually, as I write about this it strikes me that a magic camera is an interesting metaphor for children's relationship with digital media now. So, I say this book is okay. I would give it thumbs up. But some of the drawings are truly stilted, which is striking in a bad way for a Caldecott book.