Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cybils Early Chapter Book Finalists

www.cybils.comI called to me all the Cybils Early Chapter Book finalists from my excellent library, which has almost everything anyone could want. King County Library System Rocks! And if occasionally I think of something they don't have, they either find it for me somewhere else or else get it for me because I'm special. Just like everyone else.

If I haven't messed them up, the book titles below should be Amazon links that benefit the Cybils, so if anyone wants to buy these books, use that.

 Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxic Mutants, by Ursula Vernon. It was probably the Cybils that introduced me to Vernon's work, and I've been an eager convert ever since.  Even my high schooler still perks up when a new Dragonbreath is out, and in full disclosure, I'll probably get to meet her next year at Foolscap. Anyway, this series entry is still fresh and lively, since Vernon manages to avoid top-heavy recounting of previous stuff and sticks to what's important now -- which is getting Wendell's retainer back before his mother discovers its loss.  Vernon is a master at blending the fantastical with the mundane for hilarious result, and even her stock characters (harum-scarum Danny, nerdy Wendell,  ever-practical Christiana) have plenty of individuality and charm.

Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales) by James Preller. This is a good, creepy story full of noir and evil consequences, just right for the young elementary crowd. It starts off with a grieving family -- the mom is dead, and the power of loss helps stir up the evil that the children awaken. I especially liked how the bad guys almost won, and did destroy a lot of stuff.

 Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Franklin School Friends), by Claudia Mills. I admit I approached this book with trepidation -- I worry about reading contests and about mocking people who love them, and I dislike when the purpose of the book is to have the main character Learn a Lesson. Mills managed to keep me happy by deftly dodging both bullets. The problems and benefits of a reward based reading program are illustrated naturally, the evil boy reader is unmasked as a boy who likes reading, and I liked watching Kelsey grow and mature even as she reigns as Reading Queen. Also, I've read most of the books name-checked in the story, which always gives me warm fuzzies. (Bonus points for Kelsey imagining in an over-the-top way the fifth grade reading champ still reading in lines at Disneyland, since I just went there and I did, in fact, read in most of the lines.)

 Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, by Hilary McKay. This is a warm and cosy family story about love, patient parents, and a stray dog. The plot is gentle and reassuring -- there's not much doubt that everything will turn out all right, but the path is fun to explore and the interactions between the characters seem real and comforting.

The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems by Lauren Myracle. Another cosy family story, this time with a young boy dealing with the birth of a new sibling and the resulting diffusion of his mom's attention. It had more of the Learn a Lesson feel, and the penguin problems were so unlikely that they threw me out of the book.

 Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat by Anna Branford. Another cosy family story, with an articulate girl in a loving family who deals with appropriately sized problems -- mismanaging a pet ladybug and helping her older sister with a project. The family is close but still realistic, with the big sister reacting with frustration but coming to scratch in the delicate matter of a dead ladybug. I like these a lot. For added fun, I got to share-read this with my emerging reader, and he seemed to like it although he had a bit of trouble with the British-isms.

I'm going to vote for Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat. My sons both voted for The Case of the Toxic Mutants, and my nephew voted for Violet but that was the only one he read so his vote counts less. I now peek at the winner: Home Sweet Horror. Well, I liked that one too, and probably only didn't vote for it because I have a grudge against books with dead moms.

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