And the Caldecott goes to … RADIANT CHILD!

At the ALA conference in Atlanta last week, the winner of the 2017 Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children was RADIANT CHILD (written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe.)

And what a radiant book it is!

As the subtitle explains, this stunning picture book biography shares the story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose “collage-style paintings rocketed to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art world had ever seen.”

I’m not sure what I love most about this book. The text and glorious illustrations are both exceptional.

As a writer, I find myself lingering over Steptoes’s fresh word choices/phrases. For example, the opening spread describes Jean-Michel lives “Somewhere in Brooklyn, between hearts that thump, double Dutch, and hopscotch …” Later, the text explains how he draws on a “storm of papers,” while another page shares the decorating style of his mother “makes the house look like a stylish magazine.”

Each spread is stunning — filled with bold, gorgeous illustrations Steptoe painted on wood pieces he gathered from New York City dumpsters, city streets, and wood discards from a local museum. The textured background provides warmth, grit, and authenticity to Steptoe’s work. His unique artistic vision and style perfectly conveys his subject’s passion for art, and the power of his paintings. Meanwhile, the text shares the crucial message that art doesn’t need to meet certain expectations, or fit inside specific lines, to be important and appreciated.

And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without sharing the lovely 2017 Caldecott Honor Books below. Enjoy!










Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. I like your choice of the term, “fresh words” thank you.

  2. I’m looking forward to reading this. Thanks for the overview!

  3. This is a gorgeous book in every way. Love it.

  4. Like you, Suzanne, I was bowled over by both the text and the gorgeous illustrations throughout this book. But as a PB writer, I knew “Radiant Child” was an absolute winner when I repeatedly found myself stopping to reread words and phrases that struck me as uniquely lyrical and specially evocative of Jean-Michel’s life and times in New York City. This book is, without a doubt, one of the best PB biographies I’ve ever read!

  5. I’ve seen a few of the honor books, but haven’t yet gotten my hands on Radiant Child. It looks beautiful–can’t wait!

  6. I’ve got to get my hands on this book soon!

  7. I cannot wait to get Radiant Child. It’s been under my radar. The honor books I know. What a great surprise.

  8. For me, the art in Radiant Child first drew my attention to its unique style and “canvas.” Then it pulled me in for deeper exploration. Unfamiliar with Basquiat, I found images of his work online, and while I can’t say it suits my taste, Steptoe has indeed created a fitting tribute and introduction to this artist.

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