2022 Caldecott Roundup: Watercress, Wonder Walkers, Have You Ever Seen a Flower?, Unspeakable, and Mel Fell

The 2022 Caldecott Award: One Winner and Four Honors

The results for the 2022 Caldecott Award are IN! We reviewed the winner, Watercress, several months ago. We’ve excerpted that review below. We also previously reviewed Unspeakable; the other reviews are new.

Watercress by Andrea Wang, illustrated by Jason Chin. Neal Porter Books, 2021. 32 pages.

2022 caldecott watercress

“We are in the old Pontiac, the red paint faded by years of glinting Ohio sun, pelting rain, and biting snow.” A sullen girl stared out the back window, unmoved when the car abruptly brakes and both parents cry out, “Watercress!” The girl and her brother have to get out and dredge the icy creek for the “long stringy stems with leaves round as coins. It’s clearly a beloved childhood memory of China for her parents, but means nothing to the girl or her brother—just another weird custom in a new country where they’ve scrounged for furniture and cast-off clothes and hardly anyone looks like them.

But that evening, as their mother shares gray-tinged memories of China, where everyone dressed alike and there was seldom enough to eat, the girl comes to understand both the blessing of food and the power of memory. Jason Chin’s luminous palette contrasts gray, barren China with hot, blooming Ohio, with gratitude the only proper response.

Awards: 2022 Caldecott Medal, Newbery Honor, APALA Winner (Asian/Pacific American Literature Award). Review originally posted here with other picture books about refugees.

Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer. Nancy Paulsen Books (PRH), 2021, 32 pages.

cover of 2022 caldecott honor wonder walkers

“Wonder walk?”


And they’re off: a brother and sister frolic through the world, wondering to each other about what they see, hear, and feel. “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” and “Is dirt the world’s skin?” Childlike in the best sense of the word, this book invites children (and their parents) to wonder about the magnificent earth on which we live. Collage illustrations add much to the simple text. Vibrant and full of movement, it’s easy to see why this book earned a Caldecott honor! Highly recommended.

Awards: 2022 Caldecott Honor.

Have You Ever Seen a Flower? by Shawn Harris. Chronicle, 2021, 48 pages.

cover of have you ever seen a flower

A child could have drawn this book. That’s not actually true: Harris expertly composes the images as only a professional artist/illustrator can, but the medium of colored pencil and the absolute delight exhibited in the text makes this book feel like it was created by a child. As such, children will respond readily to its electric palette and childlike wonder. The young girl on the cover races out to really see a flower, accompanied by her faithful white dog. Close-ups, imaginative questions about really knowing a flower, and romps through fields of color will remind readers of the exuberance of late spring. A great companion to Wonder Walkers above, Have You Ever Seen a Flower? begs to be read before you head out on your next nature walk.

Awards: 2022 Caldecott Honor.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda Books, 2021, 32 pages.

cover of unspeakable

Once upon a time, the Tulsa community of Greenwood was the wealthiest black neighborhood in the USA. Though strictly segregated from whites, the residents had fended very well for themselves, patronizing two theaters, a fine hotel, two newspapers, and fifteen doctors. Good schools, strong families, and thriving churches had created prosperity but also stoked white resentment. In May of 1921, an incident involving a white female elevator operator and a black shoeshine man touched off the worst racial battle in American history. At the end of a bloody weekend, almost 300 blacks lay dead and Greenwood was torched.

The shameful incident was ignored until 1996 when Congress ordered a full investigation. It’s a sad story but ends in hope, as black and white mourners gather in Reconciliation Park to pray for peace. Both author and illustrator share personal recollections of grandfathers and other relatives who experienced the massacre directly or suffered other forms of racial violence. The text, with its “once upon a time” refrain, and the evocative illustrations bring fear, anger, and determination to vivid life. Ages 7 and up.

Awards: 2022 Caldecott Honor, 2022 Sibert Honor, 2022 Coretta Scott King Winner for both author and illustrator, 2021 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor. First reviewed on Redeemed Reader in May, 2021.

Mel Fell by Corey R. Tabor. Balzer + Bray, 2021, 40 pages.

cover of mel fell

Often the books that are recognized with the “distinguished American picture book for children” medal or honor are artistically significant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re fun and engaging for the intended audience. Thankfully, Mel Fell definitely qualifies as a delightful library storytime or family read-aloud choice.

Ever read a book where the pages go from top to bottom instead of left to right? Tops and Bottoms is one example of this. Mel Fell is similar, but with a twist. Actually a turn.

Mel is a fledgling kingfisher, and one day she decides to fly. Boldly she falls straight down from the tree while the concerned residents of the tree try to keep her from disaster. Right in the middle of the book the format changes and the action rises…literally. It’s a fun story that will appeal to fans of Kitten’s First Full Moon, those who are ready for first steps towards independence, but are still glad to come home.

Awards: 2022 Caldecott Honor.

Readers: have you read any of these? Do you agree with the 2022 Caldecott committee? Let us know in the comments!

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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