What is it about kids’ books that gets us? For me, it’s about peals of giggles and excited pointing. It’s about the dog-earred, juice-stained, crayon-enhanced pages held together by reams of scotch tape and hope.
Cybils is a comfort zone for the similarly obsessed, where no one has to apologize for preferring the manga version of Shakespeare, and it’s always okay to just look at the pictures. Even those who don’t have kids–or who don’t work with them–can curl up with a trashy teen romance or a goofy science fiction spoof. It’s all good.
We had our fun reading and judging, and now it’s your turn. The winners below are a gift from our hearts to you and the kids you love, even if you’re just indulging an inner child.
–Anne Boles Levy, Editor
The winners’ descriptions are courtesy of the judges in each genre. Where possible, we’ve included a link to the reader who originally nominated the book.
Fantasy and Science Fiction
The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex
Nothing has been the same since the Boov invaded Earth and re- named it Smekland. But things get even weirder when twelve-year-
old Gratuity Tucci embarks on a journey to find her missing mother–accompanied by her cat (named Pig), a fugitive Boov (named J.Lo) and
a slightly illegal hovercar–and realizes that there’s more at stake
than just her mother’s whereabouts. A terrific satire with a touching
ending and spot-on illustrations by the author, the novel is
heartwarming and hilarious at the same time. Gratuity’s narrative
voice as she struggles to define "the true meaning of Smekday" will
draw readers in.
Nominated by jennifer, aka literaticat.
Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
On her first day as a Lady’s Maid, Dashti finds herself locked in a
tower for seven years with her Lady, who is being punished for
refusing to marry the Lord of a neighboring land. Thus begins a life-and-death battle against evil and time. Lyrically written and set
in ancient central Asia, this novel retells a little-known Brother’s
Grimm fairy tale with desperate, heart-wrenching emotion. Readers
will be drawn in by the beautiful language and fighting spirit of
Dashti, whose faith, spunk and ingenuity affect not only the
darkness of her tower, but also the hearts and futures of kings.
Nominated by Sarah Miller.
Fiction Picture Books
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
by Janice N. Harrington; illustrated by Shelley Jackson
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Mama says NO, but this farm girl seems determined to
keep right on chasing chickens, especially poor Miss
Hen, the one chicken that always gets away. This
lively story is told in the first-person voice
of our full-of-the-devil young lady, using language
that sings with the vernacular and cadence of true
country storytelling. The illustrations are a perfect
match in spirit, and they move the tale along with
equal verve, using the rich texture of collage,
skilled brush strokes, celebratory colors and
charming whimsy. Best of all, we learn that even the
wildest hearts are capable of warmth and growth.
Nominated by Megan.
Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
written by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin
illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna
The comics format proves a good match for Eoin Colfer’s tale of war between fairies and an obsessed young genius, already popular around the world in novel form. The energetic, manga-influenced drawings capture
the book’s technologically heavy action and many magical creatures. The book’s creative team uses comics techniques from character profiles to changes in lettering to lead readers through the novel’s shifting points
of view and sympathies. A truly over-the-top adventure.
Nominated by Brandon.
The Professor’s Daughter
written by Joann Sfar; illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert
In late Victorian London, the frustrated daughter of an archaeologist and the repressed son of an Egyptian pharaoh fall in love. That he’s been dead for many centuries is the least of their problems. The twisting,
fast-paced story that follows takes readers to many landmarks of classic English adventure tales, from the British Museum and Scotland Yard and into the private study of Queen Victoria herself. While the panel layout is the same on nearly every page, the scenes inside those boxes jump from slapstick action to tender reminiscences to deadly danger.
Nominated by Liz B.
Middle Grade Novels
A Crooked Kind of Perfect
by Linda Urban
Harcourt Children’s Books
A genuinely funny middle-grade reader; how nice to read a book that
isn’t depressing or heavy, yet has its own emotional weight. This book is guaranteed to make even reluctant readers smile, with
sufficient details to hold the interest of more advanced readers too.
If the point of the Cybils is to balance kid-friendly qualities
with literary panache, then Urban’s first novel has that. And
while some may protest that it’s not a terribly deep story, it has
heart, love, a good storyline, and characters you can get behind.
Readers are bound to fall in love with its stunning voice, the amazing
details that Urban shares of 11-year-old Zoe’s life, and the lovely
relationships that occur between Zoe and her music teacher, her Dad
and Mom, and her friends.
Nominated by Kelly Fineman.
Nonfiction MG/YA books
Tasting the Sky:
A Palestinian Childhood
by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Tasting the Sky is beautifully written and conveys the fear, confusion and
tumult of war, but it’s also an
excellent memoir of childhood in any culture: the broad injustices, the
importance of trivial things, the mysteries of the adult world. The setting is both vital to the story–in terms of the war
and the political situation–and strangely unimportant, when it comes to
classic childhood themes of sibling rivalry, loss of a pet and going to
school. The committee felt that Tasting the Sky had the best balance between
high literary merit and kid appeal; the story is timely, and one kids will relate to and enjoy reading. Barakat’s narrative is
gripping and remarkably devoid of anger and hate. We were impressed how she
kept the narrative through her young eyes, choosing not to zoom out and give
an overview of the situation to reassure the reader about the bigger picture
or what lay ahead. Barakat never does, and the reader is left to experience
events from the height of a three-year-old, frightened and unsure.
Nominated by Brooke.
Nonfiction Picture Books
by Brian Floca
Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Gin rummy, wave-tossed trips to "the head," and a cat that can’t get used to the deck-shaking horn are among the intriguing details in Floca’s nuanced, well-rounded view of life on board this now-retired Coast Guard vessel. The story he tells is simple yet captivating because a lightship is likely nothing you’ve ever heard of and you just keep on turning the pages to find out more about this curious ship. Floca’s art–rich in variety and intricately detailed– complements the humor in his spare, poetic text. Shine a light and gather a crew for this fabulous read-aloud.
Nominated by Susan Thomsen.
This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Everyone messes up. The characters in Sidman’s original, funny, and heart-wrenching book certainly do. But in individual poems spoken in utterly believable and age-appropriate voices, by turns hilarious and piercing, this collection offers poems of apology and response that build to an overarching story that will knock your emotional socks off. Kids can read this book straight through like a short story, flip back and forth between the poems of apology and response, study the form and style of a favorite poem, follow one of the appealing, diverse characters, or lose themselves in the expressive and clever illustrations. And if they are suddenly overcome by the urge to write their own imperfect, but perfectly honest, poems after reading this book, it will be with the blessing of poets like Sidman, who understands that poetry is for everyone, and especially for those who mess up.
Nominated by Liz in Ink.
Young Adult Novels
by Barry Lyga
Lyga’s Boy Toy is a story that everyone thinks they understand: Teacher Has Affair With Student. However, this book guides readers beyond sensationalism and straight into empathy, challenging expectations and assumptions on every page. Lyga’s prose is unflinching and the result is heartbreaking and unforgettable.
Nominated by Teen Troves.