Happy Valentine’s Day … okay. Now that the formality is out of the way, let’s party … CYBILS style!!
This morning over on the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (CYBILs) Website, Anne announced the 2011-2012 winners. Two rounds of passionate readers (aka panelists) winnowed the nominations list from 1,289 books to 12 winners. From Book Apps to poetry and elementary to young adult readers we’ve got all the winners here. I do want to point out that the CYBILS is a pioneer, as it is the first to include Book Apps as an awards category!
It is always a great experience to be part of the process … and this year, to have a chance to be part of TWO of the genres – one as nonvoting facilitator, and one as a second round judge – kept me flying high! I cannot say enough about my Easy Reader / Early Chapter Book TEAMs, both first-round panelists and second-round judges. To a person, they are passionate (dare I say ‘rabid’) advocates for developing readers. NEVER did their eyes or hearts stray from the importance that our selections “grab” a young reader.
So without further ado … here are our 2011-2012 winners. I’ll start with Easy Reader, Early Chapter, and Nonfiction Picture Book, then go through alphabetically!
CYBILS for Easy Reader goes to …
The Round 1 panelists said: Gerald (Elephant) and Piggie are back at it in I Broke My Trunk! As Gerald spins his crazy story Piggie attempts to find the conclusion to just how exactly her best friend may have broken his trunk. In his characteristic style Mo Willems weaves a tale that is entirely unpredictable and easily enjoyed by multiple age groups. Early readers will giggle their way through this fresh new addition to the series.
The Judges said: Piggie is surprised to see Gerald’s trunk wrapped in a bandage. When she asks how it happened, Gerald starts a v-e-r-y detailed, humorous explanation. It is wonderful how much suspense can be packed into so few words, leaving readers eager to turn the page. Willems effectively blends illustration and early-reader vocabulary in a way that allows new readers not only to decode what’s happening, but to add emotion to their reading aloud. With wonderful facial expressions and expressive body language, Gerald and Piggie invite the reader into their friendship circle. Elephant and Piggie is an entry-level Easy Reader that works very well for that very first-time, read-by-yourself story, and hits kids in one of their favorite spots: their funny bone!
CYBILS for Early Chapter Book goes to …
The First Round Panelists said: The wonder of snow, dogs that live inside houses, tangled woolen tights, the sting of prejudice. Ann Hibiscus experiences all these and more when she journeys from her native Africa– amazing Africa–all the way to Canada to spend Christmas with her maternal grandmother. A master storyteller, Atinuke packs a lot of life lessons into four chapters. Yet the book, the fourth in the series, is never didactic and the morals go down as smoothly as the steaming hot chocolate Anna sips throughout her stay. Lauren Tobia’s cheerful ink illustrations help bring Anna’s experiences in the icy North to life.
The Judges said: Readers of all ages will fall in love with Anna Hibiscus. With beautiful writing and great illustrations, Anna invites us into her world as a young girl from Africa visiting family in Canada during the winter. Have Fun, Anna Hibiscus has a lot of heart and humor. The story not only makes the reader reflect on his/her world, but shows them constructive ways of handling different situations. This is not a “girl book,” but a story that celebrates cultural differences and at the same time highlights how childhood cares and concerns are similar around the world. The illustrations – particularly how they are used – add to the story’s effectiveness as an early chapter book, making Anna a true friend for developing readers.
CYBILS for Nonfiction Picture Book goes to …
[amazon_link id=”0547225709″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]I Feel Better With a Frog in My Throat[/amazon_link]
written and illustrated by Carlyn Beccia
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals
The Panelists said: In a quiz format, we’re introduced to the weird, wacky and just plain gross medical cures people have tried throughout history. Readers turn the pages to discover which cures actually worked and why or why not—and there are more than a few surprises. Beccia’s medieval caricatures are a perfect fit for the gruesomely captivating descriptions, which are fast-paced with just the right level of detail. This is a fascinating, funny and icky book, packed full of well-organized information, complete with clever caveats.
The Judges said: From the very first page, A Frog in My Throat offers readers a great deal of scientific and historical information with just enough “ick” factor to keep readers of all ages turning the pages. The question-and-answer format gives it an interactive feel, and the author includes amazing language choices that continually draw in the reader. The text and the illustrations are loaded with tidbits that will send kids to the library asking for more information on specific topics. Elementary listeners, middle grade readers, and their parents will “eat up” this nonfiction picture book, filled with enlightening conversational text, and perfectly suited pictures. Kids will likely choose I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat for the gross-out factor, but they’ll put it down ever wiser about history, science, and sociology, too … just don’t tell them there’s learning inside.
CYBILS for Book Apps goes to …
The Panelists said: Remember life before Elmo? When Grover was the cutest character back in the day? Well, Grover gets to star in this funny, well-made story app based on the original Golden Book from 1971. Unlike other book apps, the words only appear when Grover narrates them, and are shown in yellow highlighting. This feature makes it great for younger readers to follow along with the text. While Grover talks to us, animated illustrations are added with great, noisy sound effects — crash, boom, bang! These effects and Grover’s very dramatic narration make this hilarious story so much better than the original book — which I have never said before about any book, and might not ever say again!
The Judges said: No one will be able to resist lovable, furry old Grover in this giggle-inducing book app, based on the 1971 classic Golden Book. Sesame Street and Callaway Digital Arts hit all the notes perfectly from the opening pages, as Grover draws the reader in with his charm and natural humor. From that point on, no matter what age you may be, you will laugh, smile, and read along while Grover tries his best to keep you from turning yet another page. Emerging readers will follow the highlighted words as Grover speaks. Little fingers will tap the screen, discovering ways to untie the ropes and knock down Grover’s brick wall, undoing each of his creative attempts to stop you turning the page. This app is perfect for preschoolers, but Grover’s silly voice and the engaging interactive features make it fun for all ages.
CYBILS For Fantasy and Science Fiction (Elementary | Middle Grade) goes to …
The Panelists said: Alley cat Skilley is thrilled be taken on as mouser for Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, a London tavern renowned for its cheddar. There’s just one catch–it’s the cheese Skilley wants to eat, not the mice. So he and the mice form an alliance, acting out games of catch and release, much to the amusement of writer Charles Dickens, who watches their doings while struggling with his writing. But the path to cheese is strewn with dangers and difficulties– an enemy tomcat, named Oliver, aided by an unpleasant barmaid, is scheming to take Skilley’s place, and he is a true hunter of mice. But the greatest challenge of all for Skilley and his mouse friends is to return an injured raven to the Tower of London–before its absence causes the whole British Empire to fall. Surprisingly rich in the twists and turns of its story, peopled with a cast of memorable characters, and with unexpected moments of true emotional depth, this is a book for all ages—adults will appreciate the word play and literary allusions and kids will adore the cats and mice.
The Judges said: The Cheshire Cheese Cat slipped into our hearts like Skilley the alley cat sneaks into Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Much more than just a cute, talking animal fantasy (though it is that too), this book has a depth of theme and character and a richness of language that blew us away. Both animals and humans ring true to life and the unique alliance that develops between Skilley and Pip, an uncommonly well-educated mouse, matures and ripens like a tasty piece of cheese. The illustrations scattered through the text are warmly humorous and add dimension to the characters. Charles Dickens has an important supporting role and there are abundant literary allusions and though these may be lost on some younger readers, we believe they will remember and enjoy them again in later life. We feel that The Cheshire Cheese Cat has oodles of kid appeal and that readers will be as charmed as we were by this sweet and funny tale of an unlikely friendship overcoming the odds to triumph.
CYBILS for Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult) goes to …
The Panelists said: Dystopias are so much the rage in young adult fiction. It seems the world barely has time to breathe before dying anew. What sets a book apart in this genre is the protagonist and the language, not the dire conditions. In these two regards debut author Moira Young has excelled with Blood Red Road. Her heroine, Saba, embarks on a desperate quest through a barren, post-apocalyptic world to save her brother and finds herself tested again and again. Don’t let the patois dissuade you; though language has degraded with this version of the end of the world, the adventure still comes through clearly.
The Judges said: Blood Red Road is one of those books that can be infinitely compared to other stories — one panelist wrote that it “read like the Harlequin Romance version of Mad Max” — while still having its own unique voice and style. We’re not sure where an Australian writer living in England learned an Ozark accent! Although we sometimes struggled with it, we admired the way the innovative use of language allows the reader to get into the head of the prickly but ultimately sympathetic protagonist.
Saba’s beloved twin brother Lugh has been kidnapped, and Saba knows it’s up to her to rescue him. This is no easy task in their post-apocalyptic world, where food is scarce and those who can’t fight are easy pickings. Luckily, Saba’s a survivor, and she finds some allies in her quest: a handsome man named Jack, a group of fierce warrior women, and even her own little sister Emmi.
Saba is a wonderfully dynamic character, growing from a sometimes cruel girl with a single-minded purpose into a more mature young woman sensitive to the feelings of those close to her, particularly Emmi. The violent wasteland Saba inhabits is well-drawn and terrifying in the best way. The romance can feel cheesy, but it’s interwoven in a way that doesn’t overpower the story. While the plot is sometimes predictable, we loved that this book takes risks, doesn’t talk down to its audience, and takes us on a familiar journey in a style that we don’t often see. The combination of voice, character, and fast-paced action make this an appealing book that will keep readers turning the pages.
CYBILS for Fiction Picture Books goes to …
The Panelists said: A picture book biography in the truest sense, McDonnell has created an introduction to the life of primatologist Jane Goodall that keeps the K-2 audience firmly in mind. Themes of following your interests and achieving your dreams are woven into the story of Goodall’s childhood spent indulging her curiosity in the natural world. Expertly combining ink, watercolor, stamps, and one perfectly placed photograph, Me…Jane is as artistically ambitious as it is heartfelt.
The Judges said: Me…Jane is a touching glimpse into the life of a young Jane Goodall as a curious girl with a love of nature, books, and a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. A unique combination of dreamy watercolor vignettes and nature-inspired vintage engravings complement a simple and evocative text. Every element of the book’s design, from its album-like cover and heavy yellowed pages to the inclusion of photographs and Goodall’s own childhood drawings, help create a picture book that feels like a relative’s cherished scrapbook. Readers of all ages will take inspiration from a young girl who so fully follows her dreams.
Graphic Novels (Elementary | Middle Grade)
The Panelists said: Zita finds a mysterious button in the woods and accidentally zaps her friend Joseph and herself into another world. Joseph is quickly kidnapped because the locals mistakenly believe he can save their planet, which is about to be destroyed by an asteroid. Zita sets out on a quest to save him, collecting misfit friends along the way. The story has wonderful messages of perseverance and friendship, but that takes a backseat to the gorgeous illustrations. Ben Hatke has a blast creating the inhabitants of this distant planet, going so far as to create guidebook entries about some of them. Zita the Spacegirl will appeal to a variety of readers: lovers of fantasy, adventure, and graphic novels will all be clamoring to borrow it.
The Judges said: Zita the Spacegirl’s appealing combination of humor and sci-fi adventure already has kids begging their librarians for the sequel. It’s got everything: aliens, robots, critters from the cute to the weird to the scary, and a smart, self-sufficient heroine who’s unfailingly loyal to her friends whether they happen to be human, robot, or giant mouse. The visual storytelling is just as appealing—the drawing style is loose and open, and the fun character design and sound effects add liveliness and humor. There’s enough action, novelty, and color to keep younger readers interested, and enough thoughtfulness to satisfy more sophisticated readers, making this a terrific choice for a wide range of ages.
Graphic Novels (Young Adult)
The Panelists said: When social outcast Anya falls down a well, she meets the ghost of a girl named Emily Reilly who was murdered in 1918. After recovering from her fear, Anya befriends Emily, who helps her escape, gives her answers on tests, and encourages her to talk to her crush. As in most ghost stories, all is not what it seems, and Anya learns that Emily can be truly scary after all. Vera Brosgol’s story features engrossing illustrations and a suspenseful plot that will have readers staying up late to finish the book.
The Judges said: Ghost story—check. Snarky but fully-rounded protagonist—check. Believable teen characters and behavior—check. Humor—yep. Anya’s Ghost has the perfect blend of story elements, and it deftly layers several classic teen literature topics in a relatively short space. The themes of fitting in at school and in life, avoiding toxic friends both earthly and unearthly, and learning to come to terms with who you are, are nicely underscored by the fact that Anya is an immigrant. At the same time, Anya’s interactions with the ghost add suspense and the perfect amount of creepiness. The art style is simple, engaging, and funny, and works well with a monochromatic format. A fast-paced read that doesn’t skimp on story.
Middle Grade Fiction
The Panelists said: Gabe, 10, has been accepted in a prestigious 6-week summer camp, SCGE or the Summer Camp for Gifted Enrichment, which other kids in the school call the Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads. He’s excited about going, but he wants to impress his step-brother-to-be Zack, the ultimate cool guy, who he’s just recently met. He begins wondering how he’s going to look in Zack’s eyes. So, he does what any geek gifted kid would do –he makes a logic proof, which he adds to throughout the summer:
Problem: Am I a nerd who has only nerdy adventures?
Gabe and his new camp friends Wesley and Nikhil are sweet, funny, and self-aware. They’re proud of their brains, and if that makes them a bit nerdy, so be it. Nerd Camp is full of both humor and heart and reinforces the beauty of loving yourself for who you are.
The Judges said: Gabe is a nerd. He’s not ashamed of this fact; quite the contrary, since he’s been accepted into the Summer Center for Gifted Enrichment. It’s the most exciting thing of his 10-year-old life. Then he meets his soon-to-be stepbrother, Zack. Zack is cool, and most definitely not a nerd. In fact, Zack is disdainful of all things nerdy. Gabe really wants his new brother to like him, but he also really loves all things nerdy. In the end, Gabe sets out to find scientific proof, once and for all: are the adventures he has at the SCGE camp over the course of the summer too nerdy for words? Or are they cool in their own right?
With its quirky, nerdy humor; amazing camp activities; and believable characters, Nerd Camp is a delight to read. There are nerds of all stripes, from Gabe’s bunkmates Wesley and Nikhil, to a guy who goes by C-squared (a living legend at the camp because he skipped two grades), and Elissa Brent Weissman just gets the awkwardness of being 10. It’s admirable that Gabe strongly identifies as a nerd, even though he is picked on, and finds comfort and belonging in a group of people as quirky and as unique as he is. (Memorizing pi to the 20th digit, or rocking the nations of the world song on karaoke night, anyone?) A celebration of all things smart, Nerd Camp is a book that’s worth cheering for.
Nonfiction for Middle Grade and Young Adult
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz and Wade Books
Nominated by: Monica Edinger
The Panelists said: Amelia Earhart was America’s most famous woman pilot in the 1930s. She broke speed and distance records and constantly looked for new challenges as aviation technology advanced. She was quite a character: stubborn, willful, courageous and smart, but also prone to rushing into things and making mistakes. Her last series of flights were chosen to circumnavigate the planet at the equator — the widest point, and thus the longest distance: 27,000 miles. The final flights were across the vast Pacific, and the first stop after leaving New Guinea was to be tiny Howland Island, where the Coast Guard cutter Itasca was waiting to help signal the plane toward the island. Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan never made it.
Even though the end of the story is well-known, Fleming keeps the suspense building through the unusual structure, alternating chapters about Earhart’s life with those about the search for her missing plane. Readers see Earhart through her own notes, flight logs, private family photos and writings, as well as how the public saw her carefully created persona in newspapers, magazines and newsreels. Thoroughly researched, balanced in viewpoints and utterly readable, this is a biography for everyone.
The Judges said: Amelia Lost offers both a biography and an expose of Amelia Earhart, the aviation pioneer whose exploits played a groundbreaking role in the achievement of equal rights by American women. Earhart actively crafted and cultivated a mythology around herself in order to create ongoing opportunities as a female aviator and to maintain her heroine status.
Exciting chapters alternate between Amelia’s high-profile life and the days and hours preceding her still-unsolved mysterious 1937 disappearance somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Author Candace Fleming carefully separates history from the with her meticulous research. Packed with photos and informative sidebars, Amelia Lost shows readers in vivid detail the dangers of early aviation and an accurate portrayal of this very real American heroine.
Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto
by Paul B. Janeczko
Nominated by: Tricia Stohr-Hunt
The Panelists said: Janeczko’s Requiem is a slender but powerful collection of poems about the Terezin Ghetto, each line, each word, not merely a requiem but a song to the spirit of the victims. These poems capture the sense of desperation and inevitability, the anguish and daily uncertainty of life for the Jews sent to Terezin, where the Nazis showcased the talents of mostly artists and intellectuals from Prague as a sign to the world of the “humane” treatment the Jews were receiving.
“Although the poems in this collection are based on historical events and facts, most of the characters that appear in the poems are fictional,” Janeczko acknowledges in the Author’s Note at the end of the book. “Some are composites based on my research. Others are totally invented … the characters, their thoughts, and their conversations are products of my imagination.”
Somehow, Janeczko has found the strength and courage to reach into the heart of each character and bring out of its depths a pulsing, vibrant voice so that these voices speak to us on page after page, touching the souls of the dead and the living simultaneously.
The Judges said: “I am a watcher,/sitting with those about to die.” These are the words of Elisha Schorr/25565 as imagined by poet Paul Janeczko. In Requiem: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto, we all become watchers, viewing snapshots of the Holocaust, one after the other, each one deepening the grief and raising questions to which there are no answers.
We watch, but we also hear the story of Terezin, voice by voice, insistent and haunting, so that the effect by the end of the collection is almost choral. For each song of despair, there is a concordant and essential song of anger, tenderness or resignation; like a recurring melodic theme, the voice of one child appears and fades and appears again. We hear the violin of one victim playing “as only the heartbroken can play.”
Young Adult Fiction
The Panelists said: Both funny and heartbreaking, Stupid Fast drops readers into 15-year-old Felton’s mind as he replays the events of the summer that changed his life. It’s rough going from a quiet nobody to the lead recruit for the high school football team, but there’s more to this story than football. Felton’s memorable voice captures the struggle of navigating a family falling apart at the seams and the tenderness of a first love — though he would probably gag admitting this. The novel’s small town setting plays a noteworthy role in helping Felton confront challenges of money, race, and most importantly, himself. This is one summer he and readers will not forget.
The Judges said: “I am not stupid funny. I am stupid fast.” Enter the changing world of Felton Reinstein. His vibrant, engaging voice draws readers into a teenaged mind knocked off kilter by a growth spurt that puts him on the radar of the football jocks – they are sure he’ll be next year’s star player – even though he doesn’t know how to play. On top of that, romance might be blooming for Felton, his best friend has left the country, his prodigy little brother has stopped playing the piano and turned into a pirate, and his mother seems to be suffering from a nervous breakdown. An extraordinary mix of adolescent angst, football, family drama, first love, and refreshing humor, Stupid Fast lets readers run with Felton as he navigates the complicated and raucous maze of going from high school joke to high school jock.
Congratulations to all winners … Happy Valentines Day, too!
NOTES: Book cover images and titles link to Amazon.com. They include affilaite links for the Reading Tub (Easy Reader, Early Chapter, and Nonfiction Picture Book) and for the CYBILS for other award-winning books.
The Book Apps title and cover link to the iTunes store.