Story Time Recommendations with Mrs. Smith: The Caldecott winner ‘Hot Dog’

May 5, 2023

In late January, the American Library Association announced its Youth Media Award winners that included the top books, digital media, video and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery, and Printz awards.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to “Hot Dog,” illustrated and written by Doug Salati. The book was published by Alfred A. Knopf, which is an imprint of Random House Children’s books, a division of Penguin Random House. The Caldecott Medal is named in honor of 19th century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott.

This year, the Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children went to Hot Dog which was written and illustrated by Doug Salati. Courtesy photo

Author/Illustrator Doug Salati created a sensory-rich and playful book about an overheated and overwhelmed pup and his empathic owner who escape the sweltering heat of the city to find the calm and coolness at the beach.  

Salati used a combination of pencil and gouache and Photoshop of colorful art and lyrical text to set the scenes that convey character and emotion, escape, and renewal. 

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“Hot Dog” opens with an illustration of a dachshund-esque dog standing on a bed looking out of an air-conditioned window into a city. Next, we see this copper-hued dog sporting a yellow leash being taken out into the city streets by his mistress. Depicted by a blend of red, orange, yellow, and brown pictures, the reader can sense that it is crowded, noisy, and hot, very hot! Suddenly he decides “That’s it!” and he lies down on the street and refuses to get up. His mistress kneels down and looks him in the eyes then picks him up and calls for a taxi! 

As the pages turn, the dog and his mistress leave the taxi and enter a train. Soon they are out of the city and on a ferry which delivers them to an island where his mistress removes his leash and lets him frolic on the beach. 

In this vignette the illustrator’s watery brushstrokes unfold into blues and greens of sky and sea, portraying gentle breezes sweeping away the heat and humidity with soothing effects of waves that lap the sand. While she rests, he brings her his rock treasures to share. They stay at the beach until the sun begins to sink and the moon rises and then, feeling refreshed and renewed, they head back to the city with its familiar smells and activities. After supper, they fall into bed for a peaceful night of rest.

Find your moment of calm as you join the pup’s summer adventure at the beach, a delightful read for the whole family.

In addition to naming the most distinguished picture book of the year, the Caldecott committee may also choose other books they feel worthy of attention. These are called “Honor Books.” 

This year there were four Caldecott Honor Books named:

  • “Ain’t Burned All the Bright” illustrated by Jason Griffin and written by Jason Reynolds (Reading age: 12 and up)
  • “Berry Song” – illustrated and written by Michaela Goade (Reading age: 4-8 years)
  • “Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement” – illustrated by Janelle Washington and written by Angela Joy (Reading age: ‎8-12 years)
  • “Knight Owl” – illustrated and written by Christopher Denise (Reading age: 3-6 years)

For a list of all the 2023 Youth Media Award winners, visit

Each Caldecott winning book is unique and special. To find a listing of other picture books that have won the Caldecott Award go to

Doris Smith worked in the Bedford Public Schools from 1967-2001 as the elementary school librarian covering, at that time, all four schools: Center, Davis, Lane, and Page. She was later the fulltime librarian at the Lane School. She also worked for about five years as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She continues to pursue her interest in art.

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Doris Smith is an Arts and Cultural Reporter for The Bedford Citizen. She was supported by a grant from the Bedford Cultural Council from December 2022 - June 2023.

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