Artificial Intelligence: Food for Thought

Fol­low­ing up on Gail Nord­strom and Hei­di Hammond’s Calde­cott Lines of Con­nec­tion arti­cle, “Food for Thought,” Gail decid­ed to give arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence a chal­lenge to write an arti­cle on the same top­ic. Here’s how it went down. (And be sure to read all the way to the end, because Gail’s lat­er find­ings are includ­ed there.)


Col­leagues at Viking Library Sys­tem have been explor­ing Chat­G­PT for a cou­ple of staff activ­i­ties. While I was writ­ing “Food for Thought,” I decid­ed I would ask Chat­G­PT to write an arti­cle with the same theme and books — but after I had sub­mit­ted my piece.

In my first for­ay into the tool this after­noon, I gave Chat­G­PT these instructions:

Please write a 1700-word arti­cle with the theme “food,” con­sid­er­ing the art­work in these Calde­cott Award books: Water­cress, writ­ten by Andrea Wang and illus­trat­ed by Jason Chin (2022 Calde­cott Medal book); Berry Song, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Michaela Goade (2023 Calde­cott Hon­or book); A Big Moon­cake for Lit­tle Star, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Grace Lin (2019 Calde­cott Hon­or book); and Thank You, Omu!, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Oge Mora (2019 Calde­cott Hon­or book). Include the medi­um used to cre­ate the art­work, as well as ele­ments of art and book design. Include rel­e­vant quo­ta­tions by illus­tra­tors and authors about the theme of food in their books. Each para­graph should dis­cuss one book, with tran­si­tions between para­graphs. Include an intro­duc­tion and con­clu­sion. Audi­ence is edu­ca­tors and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture afi­ciona­dos. Include sources for quotations.

[I used “please” per Tony Molaro’s prac­tice (Saint Cather­ine Uni­ver­si­ty MLIS Pro­gram). As he said in a pre­sen­ta­tion, “I don’t know if it mat­ters, but it can’t hurt to be polite.”]

Warn­ing! There is at least one appar­ent hal­lu­ci­na­tion. Michaela Goad­e’s source for her quote does­n’t exist, at least at that URL. In fact, there are no Calde­cott Hon­or speech­es. The link leads to Doug Salati’s Calde­cott Medal speech — and he says noth­ing about food.

I also real­ized that Goad­e’s sup­posed “incor­po­ra­tion of tra­di­tion­al Tlin­git form­line design” is just plain wrong. She is of Tlin­git her­itage, but the real­is­tic / sur­re­al­is­tic illus­tra­tions in this book do not reflect Tlin­git design.

It took me much longer to write the prompt than for Chat GPT to dis­play this piece. It’s pret­ty humbling.


[Edi­tor: Chat­G­PT did not ital­i­cize the book titles so nei­ther have we. We have insert­ed book cov­ers for some visu­al inter­est but Chat­G­PT did not do that in their article.]

Title:  A Culi­nary Jour­ney Through Calde­cot­t’s Palette: Explor­ing the Theme of Food in Award-Win­ning Pic­ture Books

Intro­duc­tion: In the world of chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture, the Calde­cott Award stands as a bea­con of excel­lence, rec­og­niz­ing out­stand­ing illus­tra­tion in pic­ture books. This arti­cle delves into the cap­ti­vat­ing realm of four Calde­cott-rec­og­nized books with a com­mon thread: the cel­e­bra­tion of food. Each book, adorned with unique artis­tic medi­ums and dis­tinct ele­ments of art and design, takes read­ers on a sen­so­ry jour­ney. Join us in unrav­el­ing the visu­al feasts with­in the pages of Water­cress, Berry Song, A Big Moon­cake for Lit­tle Star, and Thank You, Omu!


Water­cress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin (2022 Calde­cott Medal): Our culi­nary explo­ration begins with Water­cress, a poignant tale by Andrea Wang, brought to life by Jason Chin’s exquis­ite illus­tra­tions. Chin, known for his mas­tery in water­col­or and gouache, invites read­ers to immerse them­selves in the sto­ry of a fam­i­ly out­ing to har­vest water­cress. The flu­id­i­ty and trans­paren­cy of water­col­or beau­ti­ful­ly cap­ture the emo­tions and the pas­sage of time, enhanc­ing the nar­ra­tive.

Chin reflects on the sig­nif­i­cance of food in the sto­ry, stat­ing, “Food is a uni­ver­sal lan­guage; it brings us togeth­er and reflects our shared expe­ri­ences.” This sen­ti­ment encap­su­lates the cen­tral theme of the book — the con­nec­tion between food and fam­i­ly. The medi­um of water­col­or, with its organ­ic flow, accen­tu­ates the famil­ial ties depict­ed in the narrative.

Berry Song

Berry Song by Michaela Goade (2023 Calde­cott Hon­or): Mov­ing from the flow­ing waters of Water­cress, we tran­si­tion to the enchant­i­ng world of Berry Song by Michaela Goade. Through a com­bi­na­tion of dig­i­tal art and mixed media, Goade cre­ates vibrant and tex­tured visu­als that mir­ror the rich­ness of indige­nous cul­tures. Her incor­po­ra­tion of tra­di­tion­al Tlin­git form­line design adds lay­ers of cul­tur­al sig­nif­i­cance to the sto­ry.

In an inter­view, Goade shares her per­spec­tive on the role of food in Berry Song, “Food is not just sus­te­nance; it’s a cul­tur­al bridge that con­nects gen­er­a­tions.” Goad­e’s artis­tic choic­es, includ­ing the use of dig­i­tal medi­ums and cul­tur­al motifs, serve as a tes­ta­ment to the book’s explo­ration of cul­tur­al iden­ti­ty through the lens of food. The intri­cate details in her illus­tra­tions invite read­ers to savor the cul­tur­al tapes­try woven into the narrative.

A Big Mooncake for Little Star

A Big Moon­cake for Lit­tle Star by Grace Lin (2019 Calde­cott Hon­or): Tran­si­tion­ing fur­ther into the cos­mos, we arrive at A Big Moon­cake for Lit­tle Star by Grace Lin. Lin, uti­liz­ing pen and ink with water­col­or illus­tra­tions, crafts a visu­al­ly stun­ning tale of the phas­es of the moon. The whim­si­cal charm of her art­work draws read­ers into the noc­tur­nal kitchen escapades of Lit­tle Star and her moth­er, result­ing in a giant moon­cake.

Lin reflects on the book, stat­ing, “Food serves as a metaphor for the pas­sage of time and the cycles of life.” The del­i­cate lines and sub­tle water­col­or wash­es in her illus­tra­tions con­vey a sense of ethe­re­al­i­ty, empha­siz­ing the celes­tial theme. Lin’s artis­tic choic­es, paired with the nar­ra­tive, cre­ate a seam­less blend of visu­al and tex­tu­al sto­ry­telling, mak­ing the book a sen­so­ry treat for readers.

Thank You, Omu!

Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (2019 Calde­cott Hon­or): Our gas­tro­nom­ic jour­ney con­cludes in the vibrant urban set­ting of Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora. Mora employs a unique col­lage tech­nique, com­bin­ing acrylic paint, mark­er, and pat­terned paper. The col­lage medi­um reflects the diver­si­ty and vibran­cy of the neigh­bor­hood, mir­ror­ing the melt­ing pot of culi­nary delights shared by its inhab­i­tants.

Mora, in dis­cussing the book, empha­sizes the uni­ver­sal lan­guage of food: “Food is a way of show­ing love and build­ing con­nec­tions.” The col­lage tech­nique adds a lay­er of com­plex­i­ty to the illus­tra­tions, sym­bol­iz­ing the mul­ti­fac­eted nature of com­mu­ni­ty rela­tion­ships. Mora’s art­work, filled with warmth and detail, echoes the theme of com­mu­nal shar­ing and the joy derived from break­ing bread together.

Con­clu­sion: In this explo­ration of the Calde­cott-rec­og­nized books — Water­cress, Berry Song, A Big Moon­cake for Lit­tle Star, and Thank You, Omu! — we tra­verse the diverse land­scape of artis­tic medi­ums, design ele­ments, and the pro­found theme of food. Each illus­tra­tor’s unique approach, cou­pled with their reflec­tions on the sig­nif­i­cance of food, enrich­es the nar­ra­tive expe­ri­ence for read­ers of all ages. These pic­ture books not only cap­ti­vate the eyes but also nour­ish the soul, leav­ing an indeli­ble mark on the world of chil­dren’s literature.


Gail Nord­strom, with her astute librar­i­an skills, fol­lowed up with these discoveries.

Regard­ing the “Quotations/Sources” link to a Calde­cott Hon­or speech by Goade that was nev­er giv­en, the link now leads to a “404 Page Not Found” web­page, rather than to Salati’s Calde­cott Medal speech.

All four sources were made up. In addi­tion to Goade’s imag­ined speech in Horn Book, there is no PBS New­sHour inter­view with Chin, no NPR inter­view with Lin about … Moon­cake …, and no Pub­lish­ers Week­ly quote from Mora about food “show­ing love and build­ing con­nec­tions.” I can­not ver­i­fy if any of these quotes were ever made by the illustrators.

I believe I have dis­cov­ered why Goade’s art­work is mis­rep­re­sent­ed and the quotes are prob­lem­at­ic. I used the free ver­sion of Chat­G­PT, which has lim­i­ta­tions. A Sep­tem­ber 2023 arti­cle in ZDNET states:

Anoth­er major lim­i­ta­tion is that Chat­G­P­T’s data is lim­it­ed up to 2021. The chat­bot does not have an aware­ness of events or news that has occurred since then. Last­ly, Chat­G­PT does not pro­vide sources for its responses.

These two prob­lems, how­ev­er, were addressed through … [a Bing plu­g­in,] lim­it­ed to Chat­G­PT Plus sub­scribers at the moment, but … free for every­one to use in the future.

Ope­nAI is not forth­com­ing on the user web­site about these lim­i­ta­tions or when “in the future” the free prod­uct will be enhanced. Thus, with Berry Song pub­lished in 2022, infor­ma­tion about the book would have been too new to be avail­able to Chat­G­PT. The book descrip­tion is entire­ly made up.

Final­ly, with Chat­G­PT prob­a­bly not cur­rent­ly pro­vid­ing sources for its respons­es, why did it not com­mu­ni­cate this to me and, instead, cre­ate nonex­is­tent sources for appar­ent­ly nonex­is­tent quotes?


Food for Thought,” Gail Nord­strom and Hei­di Ham­mond, Calde­cott Lines of Con­nec­tion, Bookol­o­gy, 14 Jan­u­ary 2024

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Jessi Peterson
Jessi Peterson
1 month ago

This reads like some­thing stu­dent pro­duced, which I guess in many ways it is, an arti­cle writ­ten to an assign­ment rather than one writ­ten by a per­son who knows and cares about the sub­ject. The writ­ing gets the words in the right order and they make sense, but there is no char­ac­ter to the writ­ing. Every para­graph is 5 – 6 sen­tences long, each has a quote — all very for­mu­la­ic. It ful­fills the brief and is gram­mat­i­cal­ly cor­rect, but has no soul ‑it’s like adver­tis­ing copy. I do not feel com­pelled to seek out or look again at the titles men­tioned. Where­as after read­ing the actu­al arti­cle,… Read more »