Thursday, January 2, 2020

Cybils Finalists 2019

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.

Of course, my New Year's Resolution is to only check out two library books at a time. Hmm. I see some logistical problems here.

I think the links help out the Cybils team if you buy from them. 

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Young Adult Fiction

Junior/Senior High Non-Fiction (completed)

Junior High Non-Fiction (completed)

  • 1919 The Year That Changed America (AmazonIndieBound)by Martin W. Sandler
  • Disaster Strikes!: The Most Dangerous Space Missions of All Time (AmazonIndieBound)by Jeffrey Kluger
  • Mummies Exposed!: Creepy and True #1 (AmazonIndieBound)by Kerrie Logan Hollihan
  • Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets (AmazonIndieBound)by Gayle E Pitman
  • The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth (AmazonIndieBound)by Ian Lendler
  • The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in our Food and Drugs (AmazonIndieBound)by Gail Jarrow

Senior High Non-Fiction (completed)

  • A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II (AmazonIndieBound)by Elizabeth Wein
  • Dreamland (YA edition): The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic (AmazonIndieBound)by Sam Quinones
  • One Person, No Vote (YA edition): How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally (AmazonIndieBound)by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden
  • Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound (AmazonIndieBound)by James Rhodes
  • Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of “The Children’s Ship” (AmazonIndieBound)by Deborah Heiligman

Middle Grade Fiction


  1. SHOUT (AmazonIndieBoundby Laurie Halse Anderson. The language was poetic, and especially in the first part this was clearly a book of poems. Some of the later bits were more of a stretch. But it's a beautiful work of memoir, bringing forward the feel of her youth and the careful building of her adult character, her life as a writer, and then her struggles with the apathy and malicious ignorance of society.
  2. Soccerverse: Poems about Soccer (AmazonIndieBoundby Elizabeth Steinglass,. 
  3. A variety of poems along with energetic pictures reflecting both the poems and the soccer field, concentrating more on the feel and the moments of play rather than competition and victory. It's a book I could have read to my kids, which is very rare for poetry books -- they had issues.
  4. Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience (AmazonIndieBoundEdited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond. 
  5. Not many rhymes, but a wide variety of images and emotions from people struggling to define who they are and where they belong while society around them rages about the same questions. It's raw and lost. 
  6. Dreams from Many Rivers: A Hispanic History of the United States Told in Poems (AmazonIndieBoundby Margarita Engle. I listened to this rather than reading it, and I think that was a mistake. Most only vaguely felt like poems and I didn't really like the voices, so it didn't really work for me on that level, but as a history of the Americas it was intriguing and sobering.
  7. The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems (AmazonIndieBound)by Paul B. Janeczko. Soft pictures and a variety of poems make for a good collection. I enjoyed reading this.
  8. Other Words for Home (AmazonIndieBound)by Jasmine Warga. I like middle school books with a twist. This one has Jude as an immigrant from Syria, dealing with a new country and language, complex family dynamics, and difficulties in making friends because of her sense of not belonging. Some anti-Arab prejudice doesn't help. But it felt more like a book than like poetry.

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

  1. The Hidden Witch (AmazonIndieBoundby Molly Knox Ostertag. I really like the way that people can make mistakes, even horrible ones, but their friends still hold out the hope and chance that they can do better. I also like the art (I could mostly tell people apart!) and the writing. 
  2. New Kid (AmazonIndieBoundby Jerry Craft. This was a great description of a year in the life of a middle schooler. He's at a new school and has to deal with figuring out the dynamics of his peers. He's black and a minority at this school, which has its challenges. And he's a good kid. I like how Craft sometimes put it the boy's art directly but it still matched the usual drawing -- that worked really well.
  3. Tiger vs. Nightmare (AmazonIndieBoundby Emily Tetri. It's a bit hard to rank this one because it felt more like a picture book than a novel, but I enjoyed it a lot. Tiger's friend, the monster under the bed, has been warding off nightmares all her life, but a recent one is scaring him. She has to fight it herself for both her friend and her own security. Good pictures, good story, nice family -- my kids would have liked reading this with me.
  4. Operatic (AmazonIndieBound)by Kyo Maclear and Byron Eggenschwiler. I think I would have put this in the YA category; the boundaries are nebulous. The characters are close to the ages of New Kid and Hidden Witch but the themes aim up -- this is about discovering identity, not agency, and about how love fits with our needs and self confidence. It has a lot of lovely moments but for me didn't really come together as a whole, with the identification with the opera singer not really meshing with the crush and with the concern over the missing classmate who is too pure for the for world. But many images are striking and emotionally evocative.
  5. The Tea Dragon Festival (The Tea Dragon Society) (AmazonIndieBoundby Katie O’Neill.  This is lovely and evocative but not really my cup of tea. I managed to have problems telling the people apart, probably because there isn't a real plot. Still, given that the characters are about as diverse as you can get (they include a bipedal llama and a dragon) that is impressive even for me. I know kids I'd give it to, but I wouldn't have been one of them.
  • Crush (Berrybrook Middle School) (AmazonIndieBound)by Svetlana Chmakova
  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women (AmazonIndieBound)by Rey Terciero,

Young Adult Graphic Novels

  1. Mooncakes (AmazonIndieBound)by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu. This was also nominated for a Graphic Hugo, so I read it as part of that packet. It's clearly YA, so I should have checked here! It's a love story between two parte friends and secondarily an adventure dealing with some werewolf hunting bad guys. Lots of earnest diversity and acceptance, which is nice because otherwise I can't tell people apart (somehow I managed to have problems with the grandmothers). I'm cynical enough not to take their young love seriously, but it's sweet to read.
  • Grimoire Noir (AmazonIndieBound)by Vera Greentea and Yana Bogatch
  • Kiss Number 8 (Amazon, IndieBound)by Colleen AF Venable Ellen T. Crenshaw
  • Surviving the City (Volume 1) (AmazonIndieBound)by Tasha Spillett and Natasha Donovan
  • They Called Us Enemy (Amazon, IndieBound)by George Takei,  Justin EisingerSteven Scott, and Harmony Becker
  • This Place: 150 Years Retold (AmazonIndieBound)by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm,  Sonny Assu, and Brandon Mitchell

Fiction Picture Books and Board Books

Fiction Picture Books

  • A Stone Sat Still: (Environmental and Nature Picture Book for Kids, Perspective Book for Preschool and Kindergarten, Award Winning Illustrator) (AmazonIndieBound)by Brendan Wenzel
  • Hair Love (AmazonIndieBound) Matthew A. Cherry
  • Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship (AmazonIndieBound)
    by Susanna Leonard Hill
  • Once Upon a Goat (AmazonIndieBound)
    by Dan Richards
  • One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller (AmazonIndieBound)
    by Kate Read
  • Ruby’s Hope: A Story of How the Famous “Migrant Mother” Photograph Became the Face of the Great Depression (AmazonIndieBound)by Monica Kulling
  • The Undefeated (AmazonIndieBound) 
    by Kwame Alexander

Board Books

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction 

Elementary/Middle Grade Non-Fiction

Elementary Non-Fiction

  • Monument Maker: Daniel Chester French and the Lincoln Memorial (AmazonIndieBound)by Linda Booth Sweeney
  • Moth (AmazonIndieBound)by Isabel Thomas
  • Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born (AmazonIndieBound)by Miranda Pau
  • Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival (AmazonIndieBound)by Lindsay Moore
  • Seashells: More Than a Home (AmazonIndieBound)by Melissa Stewart
  • Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove (AmazonIndieBound)by Barry Wittenstein
  • Titan and the Wild Boars: The True Cave Rescue of the Thai Soccer Team (AmazonIndieBound)by Susan Hood and Pathana Sornhiran

Middle Grade Non-Fiction

  • Can You Hear the Trees Talking?: Discovering the Hidden Life of the Forest (AmazonIndieBound)
    by Peter Wohlleben
  • Free Lunch (AmazonIndieBoundby Rex Ogle
  • It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) (AmazonIndieBound)by Trevor Noah
  • Killer Style: How Fashion Has Injured, Maimed, and Murdered Through History (AmazonIndieBound)by Alison Matthews David and Serah-Marie McMahon
  • Moles (Superpower Field Guide) (AmazonIndieBound)by Rachel Poliquin,
  • Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson (AmazonIndieBound)by Katherine Johnson
  • This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality (AmazonIndieBound)by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy

Easy Reader and Early Chapter Books

Easy Reader

  1. Hello, Crabby!: An Acorn Book (A Crabby Book #1) (AmazonIndieBound)by Jonathan Fenske. A very simple book with few words but a high humor potential, so it's rewarding to read. It would also be easy to do as a shared read for first decoders. And I like Crabby's humor, so I'd enjoy it.
  2. Yasmin the Superhero (AmazonIndieBoundby Saadia Faruqi. Bright pictures help make the words even clearer as Yasmin has a kid-sized adventure. As an adult, I quibbled with her rescue of Ali (the fish vs fishing pole problem) but that's just me. Her family was realistically kind and loving, and I'm always glad to see dads called Baba.
  3. Fox & Chick: The Quiet Boat Ride and Other Stories (Early Chapter for Kids, Books about Friendship, Preschool Picture Books) (AmazonIndieBoundby Sergio Ruzzier. I can see kids enjoying this, but I wasn't in the mood. Fox is a responsible nice guy and Chick is the child-surrogate, but Fox felt too self-sacrificing. Chick ruined everything (I guess except for the cake) but Fox just took it and never gave Chick a chance to learn compassion or even kindness. Sometimes I'm in the mood to roll with the selfishness of children, but sometimes not!

Early Chapter Books (done)

  1. A Is for Elizabeth (AmazonIndieBoundby Rachel Vail.  OK, I'm not even pretending this is in order that I think kids will like. My name is Beth, short for Elizabeth, so this book is perfect for me. I'm considering changing my signature to match the suggested spelling from Elizabeth's name poster. It was a fun read too, with encouraging short chapters and kids figuring out a fair alternative to relentless alphabetical order.
  2. Mangoes, Mischief, and Tales of Friendship: Stories from India (AmazonIndieBoundby Chitra Soundar. I could only get this in audio because of the pandemic, but that was a delightful way to experience these tales of Prince Veera and his young companion as they compassionately trick people into learning the value of fairness. The stories are based on traditional folk tales, so I recognized some of the tricks but that didn't diminish the pleasure. I bet the illustrations add to the charm.
  3. Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet (1) (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor) (AmazonIndieBoundby Megan Frazer Blakemore. The drama of third grade comes alive as Frankie advocates for her preferred class pet, anticipating problems by inventions solutions. But an emotional sidewave almost collapses her when she and her best friend disagree. There's a moral here about what friends can expect and demand from each other, and an example of innovation, and a quiet demonstration of the value of reading even when it doesn't come easily. There's more in the series for kids who enjoy Frankie (and there should be a lot of them!).
  4. Mr. Penguin and the Lost Treasure (AmazonIndieBoundby Alex T. Smith. This book aims at the early mystery reader. Mr Penguin has read a lot of stories and is ready to live the life. He's a bumbling sort of hero, but he has a lot of competent friends. Kids should enjoy being a few steps ahead of the protagonist for most of the story, and the illustrations and bright colors should smooth the way for more reluctant readers. I did feel it was a bit boy-heavy.
  5. Rabbit & Bear: Rabbit’s Bad Habits (AmazonIndieBoundby Julian Gough.This book lost some personal points because my kids and I thoroughly mined the humor of rabbits' poo eating habits, so some of the humor fell a bit flat for me. But given how long it took us to do that I suspect kids would find it hilarious. And the emotional arc of friendship earned was deceptively strong. I do feel a bit bad for wolf, though, even is he was bad. I mean, he was just drawn that way.

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