Here are the five Cybils 2011 Early Chapter Book Finalists. What do I think should have won? My favorite was Clementine and the Family Meeting, but it's the most mature of the bunch. My second choice was Just Grace and the Double Surprise. I will have to come back after I poll the kids, but none of them read many of these books, so their votes aren't worth much. Humph. (Hear the whine of the frustrated book-pusher.) What actually won? Have Fun Anna Hibiscus, which must have charmed readers other than my kids.
Clementine and the Family Meeting, Sara Pennypacker. Slightly more sophisticated than the others in this category, the Clementine books bridge the gap between early chapter books and elementary school fiction. I adore Clementine and her brash approach to life, and I had read this one as soon as it came out last year. It's not quite up to The Talented Clementine, but it's a fun read.
Have Fun Anna Hibiscus!, Atinuke. Anna travels from Africa to Canada to visit her maternal grandmother, meets a dog, makes some friends, and travels back home. My boys found it acceptable but rather dull, and I found myself worrying about Anna's mother, who seems to be rather overwhelmed by her husband's boisterous family, so much that Anna doesn't know any stories from her side of the family. I doubt any kids would worry about the protagonist's mother's interior life, however.
Just Grace and the Double Surprise, Charise Harper. I've seen spines of the Just Grace books as I shelve in my kids' elementary library, but this is the first one I've tried. It's a fun book with a strong voice from the narrator, and she tackles her various problems with aplomb and humor.
Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Julie Sternberg. Losing a babysitter is a hard thing, especially for a slightly spoiled eight year old who has never lost anyone important before. This quiet book follows the sadness, the new babysitter, and a few chances for new friends. Eleanor isn't as lively as the other narrators in this category, but she feels authentic as she faces her challenges.
The Trouble With Chickens, Doreen Cronin. As I grow unforgiving in my old age, I have less tolerance for casual betrayals among friends. I think I lost track of the times the ethics-free chickens betrayed the bumbling retired rescue dog in this story, sometimes at the orders of his nemesis, sometimes to save each other, and sometimes for pure personal gain. I know J.J. Tully didn't bear a grudge at the end; he tries to save all the small people regardless of their actions, but I did. Fun to read once, but I won't look for more.