Thursday, April 4, 2019

Cybils 2018

Cybils Finalists: 2018

I spent the last few months of 2018 as a first round judge (Middle Grade Speculative Fiction) so I haven't actually finished reading last years finalists. But I am optimistic and as soon as I'm done (or sooner, since I'll probably sneak some along the way) I'll get to work on this years.

I'll probably start at the bottom in an attempt to make fast progress, and of course in the summer my book club will be evaluating the picture books. Maybe I'll talk the elementary kids into doing one of the middle grade books for that book club.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Mirage: A Novel by Somaiya Daud
Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters) by Rebecca Schaeffer 
Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda
Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

Young Adult Fiction

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D Jackson
Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Sadie by Courtney Summers
That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger
We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

Junior/Senior High Non-Fiction (completed)

Junior High Non-Fiction (completed)

  1. Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam by Elizabeth Partridge. The topic definitely helped, because the interviews with the veterans and refugee from the Vietnam war made this an emotionally gripping account. The overview sections covering politicians in between were useful but not as powerful to me (as I knew most of the information) but would give younger readers a sense of what was happening around the individuals in the personal essays. The pictures also brought the history into focus, and the final section on the Vietnam War Memorial brought the story closer to the present and also showed how the effects are still current.
  2. Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster by Patricia Sutton. A forgotten American disaster gets a full report here -- Sutton takes us from the set-up of the picnic and introduces some of the people who would be on the boat, and then slows down to walk through the day the boat sank just as it cast off, then the aftermath and final legal versions. It's suspenseful and tragic and very well done. (WINNER)
  3. Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin W. Sandler. I'm a sucker for space books, and this had gorgeous photos and roomy pages on which to describe the journey and why it mattered to the astronauts, the space program, the USA, the world, and to science. 
  4. Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow. Jarrow can be counted on for clear writing, and in this case also a consistent suspenseful story line. She manages to keep tension on both the actual plot of the show and on how dangerous the enormous reaction to Welles's War of the Worlds broadcast was, and then finish with an analysis of media reports versus actual events. Fascinating, and sadly topical.
  5. Chasing King’s Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Assassin by James L. Swanson. This was suspenseful and informative. The stuff on King gave a good overview of his importance. Ray's life is shown in an interesting way even if he's not as influential to history. I found the back matter a bit cluttered; the bibliography seemed more like a suggested reading list and some of the information in the notes would have done well in the primary text. But another exciting and gripping story of the loss of a great American from Swanson.
  6. Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden. The title refers to the plethora of portraits included as illustrations, documenting Douglass's habit of sitting for photographs as often as possible. This biography felt like a good introduction to his life, showing the main beats of the events and giving hints to deeper exploration.
  7. The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (Young Readers Edition) by Sam Kean. This was a lot of fun to read -- lots of gossip about chemists and cool tricks with chemistry, and the politics of the periodic table. It was a bit rambling, as chemistry is a very broad subject and the author was willing to go down almost any entertaining rabbit hole.

Senior High Non-Fiction (completed)

  1. Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) by Bryan Stevenson. I've read the original, so this paled in comparison. It's still a powerful indictment of American "justice" and a horrific statement of the treatment of the poor, especially when they aren't white.
  2. The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. The art makes the pages turn quickly on this biography. I've read other books about Bonhoeffer; this time what struck me was his theological goals and the three separate plots against Hitler. (winner)
  3. We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson. A good reminder that our current American nature isn't new -- America has always sucked. It traces the continued government actions to keep non-white Americans from voting or prospering since the Civil War, with pointed looks at racist who prate about handout to lazy minorities. Simple language and no compulsion to dig too deep into nuance.
  4. We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists edited by  Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner. I felt very jaded through this collection of essays by the teachers and students of the print and video journalist classes at Parkland. They were very earnest and well meaning, and clearly deeply traumatised by the massacre at their school, but I doubt their conviction that change will happen and I don't think experiencing horror automatically confers wisdom.
  5. The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century (Scholastic Focus) by Neal Bascomb. WWII POW Prison breakouts are famous, but this book is about a WWI event. A group of mostly pilots (who had a big chance of crashing behind enemy lines) found themselves in a cruelly run camp and made huge efforts to get out. A large conspiracy dug a tunnel under a field and about thirty guys made it through, with over ten making it all the way back to England. We are introduced to the men before they get to prison, and then follow the escape attempts and the afterwards in a vivad description.
  6. Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling. I learned more about the work and workers in the 1800s -- from Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Stanton to Victoria Woodhull, who a co-worker from years past was descended from. Also learned more about how lousy people in general are. Sigh.
  7. Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend by Karen Blumenthal. Through no fault of its own reading this after Anderson's book made me concentrate on the wrong things. It's a clear attempt to sort through the mist around Bonnie and Clyde to show how unromantic the reality was, and how a legend grew up. But the sidebars showing the lives and survivors of their victims also showed how little training or ethics it took to be a sheriff, and the descriptions of the murders often showed lawmen confidentiality expecting to murder their suspects (possible bootleggers, definite strangers) only to be surprised by the return fire. Clyde and Bonnie weren't roadside heroes, but their treatment by the law definitely encouraged their lethality.

Middle Grade Fiction

  1. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. Johnson name-checks The Westing Game! There's a puzzle that uncovers history, there's family drama, there are gay people in the world, there are bullies, there are parents who are decent but not perfect, there is so much. I like the double timeline, and the way history is woven into the story -- what does it mean to "pass" as white? When can rules be broken? I really enjoyed this book. 
  2. The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet. This had so many things I adore in a book -- a WWII setting, children negotiating ethics and morality among themselves, adults trying but not always succeeding in doing right, lovely, detailed writing, family secrets dealt with in a believable way. Also music and vision. A great read that could have been written just for me.
  3. Front Desk by Kelly Yang. I thought this would be funny and light-hearted, and it was funny but also authentic and tragic and relevant but also warming and filling. It's the kind of book that leaves you satisfied after you read it -- not just a candy treat. I liked the agency of the characters and how they aren't perfect but they actively try to fix mistakes (both the ones they make and that the world makes).  The ending was a bit too good to be true, but sometimes we need that. 
  4. The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty. Another great book. An girl who has been isolating herself during homeschooling is forced byher family into junior high before she can start college level math classes. She's embarrassed by some of her OCD mannerisms and also nervous about making friends, but some kids are friendly and there's a dog. Lots of heart and realistic struggle along with some authorial steering. I admit I'm kinda hoping she goes to the math school next but I like how the author left it open ended and made me care enough to have an opinion.
  5. Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson. OK, I loved the kids, they way the opened up to each other in the ARTT room, the way they took seriously the call to harbor each other, the way they were sometimes lacking in their ability to live up to that. But alongside that I couldn't muster the suspension of disbelief that the school could afford that class and that these kids would be helped to succeed. So it was a great book and I'm currently too disillusioned to believe in it. Argh!
  6. Skylark and Wallcreeper by Anne O’Brien Carelli. Unfortunately for this book, I am passionately interested in WWII, moderately interested in Hurricane Sandy, and only slightly interested in girls discovering their grandmother's past or moms and daughters dealing with the mother's bizarre overprotectiveness. So everytime we jumped back from the flashbacks of dodging Nazis in Resistance France I would grumble, and then as Lily's attention shifted from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to trying to hide the loss of a special pen from her grandmother I would grumble again. Also, I was interested in Lily's struggle with her mom about boundaries and independence, and that wasn't really resolved despite the dramatic events of the last quarter.

The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz

Poetry (done) (I picked the winner!)

  1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. Wow. Again, wow. I was dragging my feet on starting this because I usually dislike verse novels, especially ones with lots of short lines. But this one really worked. The individual pages didn't really work as poems, but the entire book had that "blow the top of your skull" off quality that is a good way to detect a poem. And the ending was perfect; it reinforced and redefined what had come before. It's a topical story but also a timeless one. (Winner)
  2. In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs to Mammoths in More Than 500 Million Years by David Elliott. This was great! The poems ranged from factual to farcical but always filled with enthusiasm for the creatures on the page. The timeline along the bottom kept a sense of scale, and the short afterward gave more facts for the dinosaur lover. It's on the large size for a picture book, but not too large for a lap.
  3. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. I liked this as a picture book about two kids making friends, and the complications their races make in their lives and their interactions. The poetry format left their voices feeling like authentic kids, although none of the individual poems struck me hard enough to keep.
  4. Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge. This was a powerful story of a lonely, imaginative, brilliant girl willing to chase love across society's boundaries. The pictures echo the words, and the author works to show how the author's life is reflected in her most famous book. But it didn't resonate as a poem to me, rather as highly effective prose and illustrations.
  5. Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. I liked this collection of poems linked by a history of sea voyages with emotional resonance. Reading them aloud made them extra pleasurable; I can see this working well as a read-aloud in an upper elementary class. The pictures added to the poems, echoing their emotional impact (especially Jane Yolen's contribution). I'm glad the Cybils found it for me!
  6. H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z by Sydell Rosenberg. This works as a love letter to New York City as well as an alphabet book and a great example of the power of the haiku. The pictures complement the poems -- sometimes showing the scene, sometimes extending it. I liked the range of subjects across the city and on holiday from it.
  7. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo. I thought this was a strong YA novel about a girl with a passion for words and a mother intent on silencing her. But although she describes her poems the ones we read on the page seem different, paler. I wish I could read the poems she was performing, although actually I tend to get distracted at poetry slams so I'm not really a great audience.

Graphic Novels (done)

Elementary/Junior High Graphic Novels (complete)

  1. Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab, illustrated by Jackie Roche. Touching and real description of being a child in war, in refugee camps, in immigration. Samya shows how children have to take responsibility early but still have no control over what happens in many ways.
  2. The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag. A boy struggles with his loving but controlling family. Interestingly his struggles aren't about school or dull mundane stuff but about what kind of magic he's allowed to manifest. He breaks out and makes friends outside his magical enclave and ends up becoming powerful inside and out.
  3. Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler. I went in skeptical but was charmed by how well the illustrations and text captured the original.
  4. Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. Very emotionally realistic story of a rather unlikable child (like I was!) trying to find a place for herself at a wilderness camp for Russian expatriate kids. She has trouble making friends and dealing with the primitive conditions, but muddles through somehow.
  5. The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Fun book about kids having imaginations and cardboard boxes. These kids are really nice in big ways (no racial tension, no gender norms) but often mean in small ones -- breaking each other's toys, mocking each other's ideas.
  6. Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke. The first day of school shown from many points of view, from the novice teacher to a variety of kids. Small victories and losses and some disturbing rats. 
  7. The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill, Lovely pictures with a small plot to guide them along made this more of a picture book than a graphic novel. It was pleasant but didn't linger.

Young Adult Graphic Novels (done)

  1. Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (Pantheon Graphic Library) by Anne Frank, adapted by  Ari Folman. Wow. I figured that this would be OK, given that I've read the book several times and I'm not that into graphic novels. Instead I was blown away at how well this captures the spirit of the original, conveying Anne's words and attitude through the text and graphics. Their Anne will haunt my dreams again.
  2. Quince by Sebastian Kadlecik (creator), Kit Steinkellner (writer). A great story of a girl who spends her sixteenth year with superpowers, and all the annoyances that brings. She's heroic but also not having time to do her homework. Her family is close, especially her abuela who knows what it's like to be supercharged. But more important than magical powers is decency, and that will be with Lupe for her whole life. It's also unapologetically rooted in Lupe's culture -- everyone knows what a quince party is. 
  3. Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. What really resonated for me with this book was how integrated the illustrations were to the emotional story time. The colors and backgrounds brought out the feelings behind the memories and the incidents the memoir related, ensuring that the book made a comprehensive and complete statement. I didn't notice it that much as I read it, but now in memory I don't really remember the words but see the colors and have a sense of their meaning. And the book isn't abstract at all -- it's drawn with careful details. 
  4. Grand Theft Horse by G. Neri and Corban Wilkin (Illustrator). An older woman -- older than me! -- is the unusual star of this graphic biography of Neri's cousin, who was hounded by an unscrupulous lawyer to release the horse they co-owned so it could be drugged and damaged by the corrupt Californian racing industry. She fought a battle for this horse through horse yards, racing association meetings, civil court and criminal court, and keep it from abuse. Sadly, this also kept it from racing, and kept her in poverty for almost ten years. An exciting story and an indictment of American horse racing. 
  5. As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman. This had the feel of a short story -- we spent just enough time in the story to see Charlie's emotional state move from wary, unsure, and afraid to confident, capable, and receptive. She can hear the adult's points but also see the gaps in their stories. She can reach out to a friend and even disagree with her. She can appreciate the beauty of another girl. And then the story ends, before we make it to the anticipated summit. 
  6. On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. I found it hard to appreciate this because I couldn't tell anyone apart. Which is completely on me -- I don't think most people would have this problem. I managed to mistake Mia for everyone else on teh ship at least onece. The artwork was lovely (sometimes distractingly so), and there was a big romance which I found a bit dull. I'm getting cranky in my old age.
  7. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. The pictures and setting of this were lovely, and the dresses amazing (if, I think hard to to imagine existing in real life). But the friendship seemed forced and the dressmaker walked away at the first opportunity. The happy ending at the end seemed unearned. I liked what the book was trying to do, but I felt manipulated while it was doing it, I guess. Instead of being a story about being true to yourself and we are all worthwhile, it was a story about how protagonists always come out on top. But everyone else loved it so I'm probably just in a bad mood.

Fiction Picture Books and Board Books (done)

Fiction Picture Books (done)

  1. We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins. I was charmed -- this book reminded me of my own son (who might have been named Penelope if things had gone differently!). The hilarious attempts of the little T-Rex to learn how to behave in a civilized manner, as well as the matter-of-fact disapproval of the students and teachers give an excellent introduction to school life. (Winner and my favorite)
  2. Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. I like the idea of celebrating a name, but I want my colors a bit more vivid. 
  3. Juli├ín Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. The warm acceptance and no-nonsense love paired with the lovely illustrations that would balloon to accompany the boy's imagination as well as narrow to give a specific view of a room or a corner were charming. It would pair well with H Is For Haiku to give a feel for a big city.
  4. The Day War Came by Nicola Davies. Very touching and child appropriate depiction of the emotional cost of war and the long shadow it casts over a life. The metaphor of the chairs is a child-eye view of refugee assistance. A good book for teachers to share with a class.
  5. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Another book we saw as a teacher's choice rather than a book kids would seek out, but this was brimmed with color and options. I liked the powerful ending.
  6. The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld. The small illustrations against the white pages showed the child's emotional journey, although I felt sympathy for all the rejected animals and thought they were shortchanged by the story.
  7. The Rough Patch by Brian Lies. Bright colors for superficial me, even as the mourning begins. I liked the metaphor of a bramble garden for grief, and the idea of pumpkin farming as counseling worked well.

Board Books (done)

I liked them all and am searching for kids to share them with. Hmm, my neighbor has a two year old...

Zoe and Zack: Shapes by Jacques Duquennoy. I think this would work for early board book readers as well as more sophisticated toddlers. The simple shapes and colors would appeal to the younger ones, and the construction of the figures to the more reading adept. It would also be fun for the reader!

Peek-A-Who by Elsa Mroziewicz. I loved the illustrations! I'm not sure how long this book would last in the hands of a small child, but hey, possessions should be ephemeral. Some of the pictures were so vivid that I'd worry a bit about nightmares.

Llamaphones by Janik Coat. (WINNER!) I loved the static, calm llamas and the play on words, but I'm not sure the very young audience would appreciate the grammatical humor. I've sent this one off to an elderly four year old who I think will get a kick out of it. A great book, but to me it felt more like a picture book than a board book.

But First, We Nap by David W Miles and Darya Dremova. This book recreates many of the interactions between me and my two year old son while I was newly pregnant with his brother. The quiet illustrations are livened up by the playful rabbit. It's a fun story told in different strands by the pictures and the words.

Black Bird Yellow Sun by Steve Light. A book about colors with an almost plot and clearly recognizable characters both named and unnamed. The triple pattern of bird, worm, and feature make for a great toddler level book of suspense and predictability.

Why The Face? by Jean Jullien. Simple expressive pictures are what I want in a board book, and this one delivers.

These Colors Are Bananas: Published in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art by Jason Fulford and Tamara Shopsin. Great concept that I enjoyed, but I see it more as a good picture book for preschoolers and older rather than a baby board book, which I think needs more expressive pages.

Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction (done)

Since I was one of the first-round judges, I've read these all, but I'm not going to rate them. They are all great!

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel
The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction (done)

Elementary Non-Fiction (complete)

These were all really good.

  1. Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin by Michelle Cusolito. I liked the balance of excitement and science, luring the reader into imagining themselves as the pilot of the submersible and then showing what it would be like, where it would go, what they would see. It presented the information clearly and also made the subject interesting, both the local subject of the sub and the wider subject of science and exploration.
  2. Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story by Joseph Bruchac. A biography of the code maker that not only covers his work in WWII but clearly puts him in place as a Dineh and part of the Navajo generation forced into boarding school that tried to stamp out their culture. It's written from the inside, not peering into the quaint world of the reservation. My favorite page was the hair cut scene at the school, where the boy's hair was cut to try to make them fit into the white world.
  3. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez. I have never heard of Procter, a zoologist between the world wars and one of the first women to earn her way into the profession. This was an interesting story both of her life and of the development of the reptile house at the London Zoo and particularly the training of the komodo dragon, which apparently would go on walks around the zoo with her. I have to ask to local zookeepers about that!
  4. A Frog’s Life by Irene Kelly. Delicate watercolors (? I'm terrible at art) bring these frogs to life as we learn details about frogs in general (toads don't have teeth!) and specific species and their attributes such as deadly poison secretions, winged toes, or reincarnation. Would be fun to read with a kid.
  5. The True Tale of a Giantess: The Story of Anna Swan by Anne Renaud. A biography of one of the featured people from the Barnum museum which shows both her individuality and some of the issues with growing up so noticeably. It's a friendly book that doesn't dwell on the hard stuff but doesn't ignore it completely but also enjoys the fun details like her custom house and the tea with the queen.
  6. Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo by Thane Maynard. Apparently I missed an internet sensation -- Fiona was a premature hippo baby whose hashtags were trending as she and her team fought to keep her alive for her first few months, and then worked to integrate her back into her hippo family. Great photographs, which makes sense since the author was the director of her zoo.
  7. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton. Lovely biography of Barbara Jordan, celebrating her life from childhood until death. I loved how the illustrations echoes the emotions of the page, from her studies to her passion for justice. I do wish her family had made the book as I assume they had an impact, especially her companion.

Middle Grade Non-Fiction (done)

  1. Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson.   I read this last year by accident (an earlier book in the series was a finalist) and enjoyed it tremendously.
  2. Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands by Susan Goldman Rubin. A great introduction not only to Maya Lin and the important works she has created but to architecture itself and what it means and how it is done. The pictures are quietly awesome.
  3. The Hyena Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series) by Sy Montgomery and Nic Bishop. The pictures were astounding and the narrative fascinating. The author brings you along as she describes the work of the researchers and the short biographies of the members of the team feel like introductions. Very fun.
  4. Death Eaters: Meet Nature’s Scavengers by Kelly Milner Halls. Great pictures and approachable text made this a fun book. I learned stuff!
  5. Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other’s Backs by Kathleen Krull. A group of miniature biographies of various siblings and their relationships. I enjoyed the big families the most -- the Kennedy's, who had many famous siblings, but the Siamese twins were interesting. It would be a cosy read and maybe a good gift for an only child.
  6. Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends by Sarah Albee. Colorful pages, short bursts of texts, and good organization make this an easy book to sink into. And the history of dogs speaks for itself.
  7. The Ultimate Book of Sharks (National Geographic Kids) by Brian Skerry. Lots of great pictures of sharks and details about the different kinds of shark and boy does this book justify its name. Each spread is its own topic, making it great for browsing and dipping.

Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books (complete)

Easy Reader (complete)

  1. Fox the Tiger (My First I Can Read) by Corey R. Tabor. I liked the beginning and the middle, and thought the words and pictures worked well to encourage new readers. Fox is reading a book, and we see both his thoughts and the book, and then the recurring pattern of each friend joining in the game is fun. But the ending was a bit depressing -- the game falls apart, and then Turtle reveals its self-loathing. 
  2. Much Too Much Birthday (Maud the Koala) by J. E. Morris. Maud's blow-out of a birthday party is a bit too much stimuli, so she and another quiet kid find peace together. The pictures are nice and the story flows well. There's even an educational afterward telling parents that kids do get overwhelmed even by fun stuff. But for me I found the mix of a realistic setting and a kid whose parents just shrug when she invites an extra fifty kids to her party a bit bizarre.
  3. My Toothbrush Is Missing (The Giggle Gang) by Jan Thomas. A very early reader with a simple joke that is executed with rhythm and predictability. This would be good for precocious readers as school age kids might be too sophisticated for the humor. 
  4. The Perfect Gift (Confetti Kids) (Dive Into Reading; 5) by Paula Yoo. A light tale, with pleasant illustrations and gentle text that gives background about the traditional 100 day party for newborns. Kids new to this tradition should enjoy learning about another excuse for a party and appreciate the big sister's search for an appropriate gift. It's a bit dull though.
  5. I Want to Be a Doctor (I Can Read Level 1) by Laura Driscoll. Well, it's educational and a kid reading this would learn a lot about doctors and emergency room procedures. I liked how different all the people looked; it's a very diverse book and that makes for more interesting illustrations.
Baby Monkey, Private Eye (not a finalist) by Brian Selznick and  David Serlin This one was dropped from consideration because of concerns around this historical use of monkeys as racist stereotypes of Blacks. It's a shame, because I thought it was an innovative and appealing book for early readers, with a size that would appeal to late readers and several layers of meaning that would appeal to kids from age four through mid elementary school. The index to the pictures in the office are a great addition and encourage adults to share the book with their kid. I don't know enough about the issue itself to judge; I'm not sure that all monkeys need to be banned from kidlit, but I don't know enough to gauge when kids would feel uncomfortable. It's too bad Selznick and Serlin didn't have a joke about a baby mouse or something. This one was the most fun to read and I can see kids reading it for fun or our family reading it as a shared event.

Early Chapter Books (complete)

  1. Big Foot and Little Foot (Book #1) by Ellen Potter and Felicita Sala. Buddy book that warm and cosily follows the friendship of a young cryptozoologist and a shy big foot. 
  2. Owen and Eleanor Move In (Owen and Eleanor) by H. M. Bouwman. This felt spot-on -- I remember being a kid like this, and the kids I know are like this. I especially emphasized with how they'd realize when mistakes were being made and be too embarrassed to stop either themselves or their friend.
  3. Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by by Alice Kuipers. Polly uses her new magic book to expand her house and indulge her love of words and word play, but then has to draw on all her writing skills to get a happy ending. Good interaction between the literal minded book and Polly's enjoyment of the sounds and meanings of words and language.
  4. Caterflies and Ice (Zoey and Sassafras) by Asia Citro. Fun science and rational thinking help a girl save the magical creatures that have traditionally come to her family for help. I sympathized with the poor dad who can't see the fancy beasts, but the cat gets to join in the fun. I liked the age-appropriate independence of the heroine.
  5. Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl by Debbi Michiko Florence. A lighthearted and fun book that delivers on the cover's promise. Jasmine learns drumming and a few moral lessons about friendship and family and stuff, but it's not overly didactic and feels very age-appropriate. I had a parental shudder over the school talent show, which apparently encouraged every child to participate, because those run really long. (winner!)
  6. Megabat by Anna Humphrey. I was distracted by the puddles Megabat leaves on Daniel's bedroom floor (ick!) but it turns out they are from TEARS. Daniel's dismay about moving is helped by his efforts to help the accidentally relocated Megabat, and both learn to make friends where they are. But I didn't like the way girls were seen as a monolith -- if a female character did something, the author or Daniel thought "girls are like that." When neighbor Jamie is a bully, that's just a boy's individualism though. This is a personal peeve that kids probably won't notice, and the book is fun and the pictures engaging.

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