Libraries' Steven Herb heads Caldecott Award selection committee

Who doesn't have fond memories of favorite picture books from childhood? In celebration of the emerging children's book publishing industry in the U.S. and in recognition of the importance of the picture book in a child's development, the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), created the Caldecott Medal, awarded to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. The award, now in its 75th year, is named for Randolph Caldecott, a top 19th-century English illustrator, famed for his ability to create a sense of action in the story and enjoyed for the humor he imparted.

A national advocate for the literature choices and literacy rights of children 0 to 14-years old for more than a century, ALSC in 1922, gave the first John Newbery Medal, which is presented annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. No cash prizes are given for either, but the awards boost sales of the books and ensure a lasting place on a school or store bookshelf. According to "Publisher's Weekly," "the Newbery and Caldecott awards are widely known for selling books, thousands, sometimes millions of them. And they may just be the most coveted book awards in publishing."

This year, Penn State's Steven Herb chaired the ALA committee that reviewed more than 1,000 books and selected the 2012 Caldecott winner -- "A Ball for Daisy," written and illustrated by Chris Raschka and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random HouseInc. Herb said, " Raschka’s deceptively simple paintings of watercolor, gouache and ink explore universal themes of love and loss that permit thousands of possible variants and hold as many unique stories as there will be young readers and re-readers." The wordless book is a tale of loss, recovery and friendship.

Herb's committee also selected three Caldecott Honor Books -- "Blackout," illustrated and written by John Rocco, and published by Disney · Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group; "Grandpa Green," illustrated and written by Lane Smith, and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership; and "Me . . . Jane," illustrated and written by Patrick McDonnell, and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Herb is the head of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Library and the director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book (PCFB), which is affiliated with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. In 1988, he was a member of the Caldecott committee that selected "Owl Moon," written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr. He also served as a member of the 2006 Newbery Committee and the 2011 Theodore Seuss Geisel award for the most distinguished American book for beginning readers.

The advent of social media and online resources may bring into question some of the long held tenets of the Caldecott award. Herb, however, says he has full faith in the selection process. “The criteria are charmingly open,” he says. “And they’ve worked for a very long time.”

Under his leadership, Herb has expanded Penn State's children's literature collections and resources and has created programs to promote involvement and bring national attention to the importance of early childhood reading and development. The PCFB with the Penn State University Libraries give two children’s book awards overseen by Karla Schmit, assistant director of the PCFB -- the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for the best book of poetry for children, announced each year in February, and the Baker’s Dozen Award for Family Literacy -- the 13 best books of the year for emerging readers and their caregivers, announced late February. Other PCFB initiatives include for school age readers -- Letters about Literature and for all ages -- the Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, which will be announced at the Graphic Novel speaker series, on April 12, featuring Jim Ottaviani, author of "Feynman," illustrated by Leland Myrick. For more information about the variety of PCFB programs, go to For more information about the Caldecott Medal, go to

For additional information, contact Steven Herb at 814-863-2141 or


Last Updated February 08, 2012