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
Young Adult Fiction
Junior/Senior High Non-Fiction (completed)
Junior High Non-Fiction (completed)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists edited by 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Middle Grade Fiction
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!