Which Award(s) Did Dr. Seuss Win? Newbery, Caldecott, or Pulitzer Prize?

So I was looking through the List of Newbery Winners from 1922 – 1959 and the list of Newbery Award Winners from 1960 to now and I noticed Dr. Seuss (or his real name of Theodor Seuss Giesel) was not on the list. Then it occurred to me that typically picture books win Caldecott awards, not Newbery.

The criteria for the Caldecott Award states: The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book. The ALA (American Library Association which determines the winners) criteria further clarifies that: A “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a collective unity of story-line, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which the book is comprised..

So the Caldecott award goes to the artist, who may not be the author, and it is for the series of pictures. I checked and Dr. Seuss won three Caldecott Honor awards (the runner-up prize) for McElligot’s Pool (in 1947), Bartholomew and the Oobleck (in 1949), and If I Ran The Zoo (in 1950). Three of his books with outstanding pictures, certainly, but I don’t know anyone who would argue that these were three of his best books.

I thought I would look at the Newbery Award criteria, to see if there was a reason, that picture books, like Seuss wrote, wouldn’t be considered. The John Newbery Award was proposed in 1921 and formally approved by the ALA in 1922. The purpose of the Newbery Medal is: “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”

The Newbery award was the first children’s book award and has been called, “the Pulitzer Prize for Children’s Literature.” So how could Dr. Seuss, whose work revolutionized children’s books and went beyong ‘good writing’ never have been given this award? I must say, I don’t get it.

Ironically, while Seuss did not win a Newbery, “the Pulitzer Prize for Children’s Literature”, he DID win a Pulitzer Prize. In 1984, Dr. Seuss won a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation award “for his contribution over nearly half a century to the education and enjoyment of America’s children and their parents.” One of the Pulitzer judges said that the proposal to award a Pulitzer to Dr. Seuss was agreed upon as quickly as any he could remember.

To learn more about Dr. Seuss, I highly recommend the biography, Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography. It was written by a husband and wife who were long-time friends of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s real name). A few critics have complained that the biography is too favorable and doesn’t mention any of Seuss’s shortcomings or personality quirks. Personally, I don’t mind this. I’m content to leave my childhood hero on a pedestal, rather than hold his life under a microscope looking for every speck of dirt.

And here is a complete list of Dr. Seuss books:
And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street (1937)
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938)
The King’s Stilts (1939)
The Seven Lady Godivas (1939)
Horton Hatches The Egg (1940)
McElligot’s Pool (1947)
Thidwick, The Big-Hearted Moose (1948)
Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949)
If I Ran The Zoo (1950)
Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953)
Horton Hears A Who (1954)
On Beyond Zebra (1955)
If I Ran The Circus (1956)
The Cat in the Hat (1957)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas (1957)
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958)
Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958) which includes the stories
   Gertrude McFuzz
   The Big Brag
Happy Birthday to You! (1959)
Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish (1960)
The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961) which includes the stories
   The Zax
   Too Many Daves
   What Was I Scared Of?
Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book (1962)
Dr. Seuss’s ABC (1963)
Hop on Pop (1963)
Fox in Socks (1965)
I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965)
I Wish I Had Duck Feet (1965)
The Cat in the Hat Song Book (1967)
The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1968)
The Foot Book (1968)
My Book About Me, By Me Myself (1969)
I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today (1969), which includes the stories
   King Looie Katz
  The Glunk That Got Thunk
I Can Draw It Myself (1970)
Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? (1970)
The Lorax (1971)
Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! (1972)
Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973)
Shape of Me and Other Stuff (1973)
Great Day For Up! (1974)
There’s a Wocket In My Pocket (1974)
Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! (1975)
The Cat’s Quizzer (1976)
I Can Read With My Eyes Shut (1978)
Oh Say Can You Say (1979)
The Tooth Book (1981)
Hunches in Bunches (1982)
The Butter Battle Book (1984)
You’re Only Old Once! (1986)
I Am Not Going To Get Up Today! (1987)
The Tough Coughs as He Ploughs The Dough (1987)
Oh, The Places You’ll Go! (1990)
Daisy-Head Mayzie (1995)
My Many Colored Days, (1996 posthumous)
Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, (1998 posthumous)
Gerald McBoing-Boing, (2000 posthumous)

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