Monday, December 19, 2011

Final Cybils Post

Whew!  I finished the 2010 Cybils Challenge, just in time for the announcement of the 2011 Cybils Finalists.  This was really a lot of fun; I liked revisiting picture books and early readers and seeing what the kids thought of books they considered below them in reading level.  It's interesting to see them step back a bit and consider what would make a good book for their past selves, their DISTANT past selves that I think I saw around here yesterday or so.

I also had a lot of fun with the nonfiction lists; I rarely read kid nonfiction and I hadn't realized how good it could be.  I had some luck in getting the kids to read them along with me.  Poetry was hard; I got P to read a lot of it along with me because I like reading it out loud, but neither of us really got into most of the options.  Well, Borrowed Names sent me off on several reading interests, but I felt the poetry part lessened rather than added to its appeal, and everyone loved Mirror, Mirror.

YA novels are incredibly depressing; I was surprised by how little I enjoyed them.  YA fantasy on the other hand is still a favorite of mine and my middle schooler.  I learned a lot about graphic novels through this challenge, and I'm now capable of reading manga with only a little bit of brain strain.  I'm super impressed by all the judges, who read more books than this in only a few months while I'm sliding into the finish line for just the finalists.  And now I can look at my fancy bookmarks, which I'll be sharing with two elementary schools and a junior high -- I've been avoiding the winners list so my reading was uncompromised.

I've been slacking a bit on the reviews, so here are the thumb nail thoughts on all the books I've just finished or otherwise neglected to comment on:
  • Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off, Jacqueline Jules.  A simple tale of a boy who gets magic shoes and figures out where they came from and what they can help he do, or better yet what he can do without getting in trouble at school.  Bonus points for helping a puppy.  A cute book, but didn't really resonate with me or my sons; A declined to try it.
  • Ninth Ward, Jewell Parker Rhodes. The story of a girl trapped in New Orleans with her dying guardian, her dog, and a boy who may be her friend.  The ghosts she sees sometimes help and sometimes threaten her.  I felt the mix of fantasy with the realism pulled away from the strength of the story, but it's still a strong peek into an exciting and dangerous time.
  • The Shadows (The Book of Elsewhere #1), Jacquiline West.  Middle grade fantasy with the magical and real elements in harness to match her real world problems with the battles inside the pictures of her new home.  X also enjoyed this one and wants the sequel; I've put it on P's pile.
  • The Wager, Donna Jo Napoli.  I have a personal dislike to plots of the sort "horrible thing happens to main character, who then suffers in agony for the rest of the book."  So although I appreciated the writing and skillful depiction of character, I can't say I enjoyed this entry.
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Tom Angleberger.  If the clueless class clown voices advice through his folded paper creation, does the advice morph into wisdom?  The kids wondering about the knowledge of the paper Jedi illuminate truths about friendship and peer pressure.  Both my kids loved this book and have already gobbled down the sequel.
  • Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania, Haya Leah Molnar.  Molnar recalls details of life under newly communist Romania as her parents first suffer because of their Jewish heritage and then use it to emigrate away.
  • An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank, Elaine Marie Alphin.  A history of an almost certainly mistaken verdict that cost the life of a Jewish pencil maker in Atlanta.  The police decided what kind of villain they wanted and then forced the evidence towards the Jewish Yankee manufacturer that fit their description.  When the governor balked at execution because of the flimsy evidence, a lynch mob made up of educated and wealthy men killed him anyway.
  • Some Girls Are, Courtney Summers.  Remember my aversion to plots that involve walking on nails through the course of the book? This is another in that genre, as well as being a call for homeschooling.  It's about evil girls, weak girls, and the turn of fortune's wheel.
  • Stolen, Lucy Christopher.  A twisted story of a girl taken by an obsessed man.  All alone in the Australian desert she struggles to understand why he would kidnap her, and if he truly meant to save her.  Gemma finds herself twisted by strange loyalties when Ty puts her safety above his own.

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