As another Cybils winds to a close, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played a part in it this year, from the round 1 panelist who spent countless hours reading to the round 2 judges who spent time debating and discussing to choose the winners below to the organizers who spent hours making sure that everything ran as smoothly as possible. It’s been another great year!
And now…. the 2014 Cybils winners!!
Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats is a whimsical app with a STEM theme. Gears, levers, fire, hammers and cats combine to bring Kalley’s machine to life for the young engineer. This creative book app is based on an idea from the author’s daughter, who envisioned a machine that could make food for her family so they could spend more time together. The app has phenomenal kid appeal with unexpected depth and invites experimentation and discovery. Requiring limited adult intervention to get young readers involved, the app can be enjoyed and revisited by varying age groups. As children read or listen to the story told in rhyme, they encounter levers, handles, knobs and gauges. Throughout the story, a charming cat watches over the process while perched on the machinery. Settings allow readers to easily turn on and off the music, narration, sound effects and appearance of cats. Each page is accessible independently for repeat trials and experiments. Some of the best fun occurs when warning bells and red sign symbols are ignored resulting in flattened, popped and crisped marshmallow-shaped items. Readers are invited to take part in a “cat party” at the end of the story complete with an interactive cat DJ, dancing cats, balloons and the food made in the machine from the previous screen. More cats can be added to the party by sharing the app on social media (adults only here). Kalley’s Machine Plus Cats is a playful book app that will inspire creativity and some process engineering in young minds.
Fiction Picture Books
Four friends creep across the title page of Shh! We Have a Plan and readers have no choice but to turn the page. Where are they going and what is the plan? Chris Haughton has set the stage for this visually humorous story of friends in search of prey. An homage to Tomi Ungerer’s Three Robbers, Shh! We Have a Plan gives readers the foil they want in a fourth robber who is more interested in making friends than capturing them. With repeated verse and anticipated outcomes, this story will have young readers chiming in on the refrain and laughing at the outcome. In a spare 103 words, this tale is told mainly through the images, which enhance the humor with their bold and vibrant colors and graphic style. Haughton’s use of a limited palate for the setting and characters leaves room for the arrival of multi-colored birds. Shh! We Have a Plan is sure to be a read-aloud staple.
Using child-friendly similes, Feathers shows that there is both beauty and purpose in nature and that, although we do not fly, we have many things in common with birds, such as the need to be safe, attractive, industrious, communicative, and well-fed. The simple, large text is suitable for reading to very young children, while the inset boxes contain more details for school-aged kids. The scrapbook-style watercolor illustrations show each feather at life size, and provide a nice jumping-off point for individual projects. Science, art, and prose work together to make this the perfect book to share with budding young artists, painters, naturalists, and scientists, and it will be appreciated by parents, teachers, and kids.
Preston and Andy are friends, though Andy might not admit it. While Andy spends his days in the forest hunting rabbits, going about his day, and trying to catch up on sleep, Preston would much rather spend his time doing fun things with his friend. And though playing tag, collecting found items, and impersonating other animals might not be Andy’s idea of fun, that certainly won’t squelch Preston’s enthusiasm.
Eaton’s story is told in three paneled chapters and introduces readers to two characters who are as different as can be, yet who clearly are a pair. Amid terse dialogue, these characters make an impression on readers that is both unique and memorable. Readers of all ages will find something to enjoy in Okay, Andy, and our early readers will revel in the knowledge that it was written just for them.
Early Chapter Books
Lulu has seemingly put an end to her tantrum-throwing days. But then her parents drop a bombshell announcement: They’re leaving for a week-long vacation without their precious Lulu. To make matters worse, they leave her with the intimidating Mrs. Sonia Sofia Selinksy. There’s no holding Lulu back now! Just as soon as her parents leave, Lulu puts into action a slew of complex ideas to not only bring them back but also to get rid of Mrs. Sonia Sofia Selinsky for good. Just when Lulu’s plans are starting to make an impact, she finds out an intriguing secret about her babysitter. One that has her rethinking the final outcome of her schemes.
Eeny meeny miney mo,
That babysitter’s got to go.
This third installment by Judith Viorst is full of mischief, spunk and a can-do attitude of stubbornness that will tickle your funny bone. With an addictive chant that seems to grow with each chapter, Lulu’s resilience and determination is one to be admired as she pulls out all the stops to get her way. But just how far will she go? Readers of all levels will find the characters memorable, the illustrations humorous and the storyline engaging.
Voices from the March on Washington by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon takes the reader on a journey to August, 1963, when thousands converged on Washington in a march for civil rights. Through eloquent prose and verse poems that showcase a range of poetic forms and voices, the poets have recreated the individuals, both historical and imagined, who participated in the march and were changed by the experience.A thoroughly engaging introduction by Lyon, a “Guide to the Voices” at the end, and all the interwoven stories in between combine to give us an authentic and accessible glimpse into the period and this important event — and offer older readers the chance to meet and imagine the widely diverse marchers, their personal backgrounds, and the private hopes that enticed them to join the march.The immense amount of factual information contained in the poems invites further research, while the themes of civil disobedience, community protest, and racial tension serve as a mirror for current events regardless of where readers live.
The book’s timeliness—and timelessness—is summed up in this short verse, the title of which could easily be rewritten with the date 2015.
For All, 1963
If you contend the noblest end
of all is human rights, amend
the laws: The beauty of the sun
is that it shines on everyone.
Middle Grade Fiction
Eleven-year-old Sam has had a tough life. He had a heart transplant when he was young and was further scarred by his mom leaving, several minor run-ins with the law, and a father who doesn’t understand him. One night he takes his anger out on an old deserted building and this time when he’s trying to get away, he climbs the tree of the biggest house in town and ends up accidentally destroying the extravagant Christmas decorations in the yard. The owner Mr. Wells insists that he repay him with his time. Mr. Wells knows everything about Sam’s past, and he thinks he can use some of Sam’s skills on a secret project to help the town of Nickel Bay. Sam takes his punishment, reluctantly at first, but it doesn’t take long until he is working hard to earn Mr. Wells’ trust.
Nickel Bay Nick will appeal to middle grade readers of all ages as they try to figure out the mysterious Mr. Wells and join in Sam’s secret adventure. Boys and girls will be able to relate to the difficult things Sam faces like his parent’s divorce and financial hard times, peer pressure, illness, the consequences of bad choices and the relief of second chances.
When the village of Drowning is threatened by the fiendish Bog Noblins it falls to 11-year-old Rye O’Chanter to save the village from both the monsters and the wicked Earl who rules Drowning with an iron fist.
This exciting adventure fantasy takes place in a memorable and unique world. Rye is a gutsy and appealing protagonist, and her family and their relationships are fully developed. Adding to the story are well-drawn supporting characters, many with creative names (you know just how effetely villainous someone called Earl Morningwig Longchance is going to be!). The writing is accessible and engaging for middle grade readers, and many gems of description bring Drowing and its inhabitants vividly to life.. The plot is pleasingly constructed and paced, and the novel was complete in itself while also setting up for a series—readers will clamor for the next installment!
The Luck Uglies is top-notch speculative fiction that will have huge kid appeal.
Pointe is a remarkable debut from Brandy Colbert with an excellent, compelling story. Colbert isn’t afraid of having her characters face murky, sticky, really difficult situations, and she doesn’t shy away from the darkest parts of life. The issues the characters face are real, honest, and messy. There aren’t any soft-balled conclusions or answers here, either, which is refreshing.
Full of deeply flawed characters, the novel is a standout largely because of how Colbert draws her protagonist Theo. Theo’s voice is wholly authentic. She’s smart and motivated but also a teenager and marked by the traumatic events of her past. Her slow realization that she’s more affected by her past than she realizes is authentic, raw, and very compelling. The fact that the other characters who inhabit Theo’s world are also fully-realized helps make this story memorable and offers plenty of appeal for teens.
In Real Life/IRL brings gamer culture into the real world, as Anda moves deep into the behind-the-scenes machinations of the multinational online gaming industry. When her new job as an enforcer places her in conflict with a Chinese gold farmer working under terrible conditions, Anda comes to understand that sometimes the right thing to do isn’t so clear. The graphic novel is the perfect venue to story-tell about gaming culture; both comics and gaming sharing a similar cultural history with gender. Doctorow could have written this in novel form, but it is more successful to see the bleed between real life and online life in graphic form. We loved the complexity of the characters: the heroines are rendered as real live girls and women, unrestrained by tiresome expectations — they are cooperative AND competitive, bloodthirsty AND gently compassionate, leaders AND followers. In a strong field of finalists, IRL stood out as a seamless blend of thoughtful text and energetic art, with important commentary on gaming life and cultural privilege.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz and Wade Books
Nominated by: Compass Book Ratings
With its breathtaking scope and Fleming’s narrative finesse, The Family Romanov will lure even history-phobic readers deep into this fascinating – and comprehensive – history of the powerful and ill-fated Romanovs – the last ruling monarchy of Russia. Fleming retells the political and personal conflicts that lead up to the Romanovs’ eventual assassination and Lenin’s rise to power with the fluid storytelling of novelist, with sidebar material illuminating the contrasting lives of Russia’s lower castes and their growing frustration with their Tsar. Impeccably sourced and featuring well-selected historical photographs, The Family Romanov is both a wonderful introduction to this tumultuous, pivotal period of Russian history and a riveting tale of wealth, power, and political corruption that sets the record straight about the fascinating Romanovs and the fate of the notorious Grand Duchess Anastasia. With its well documented sources and unusual center photo placement, this title should not be missed in any young adult nonfiction collection.
As Valkyries choose heroes in battle so, too, do the Cybils Round Two battle teams judge the fate of young adult speculative fiction. Brought together by our love of all things literary, the Round Two judges of the Cybils YA Speculative Fiction team strapped on our armor and gorged on seven books in as many weeks. The task was not easy; as Round One judges had offered up seven glorious examples of some of the best Speculative Fiction in the Young Adult genre. The titles offered for judging were: Salvage, by Alexandra Duncan; While We Run, by Karen Healey; Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, by A.S. King; Death Sworn, by Leah Cypess; The Living, by Matt De La Peña and Noggin, by John Corey Whaley. Our heroes and heroines were rich and poor, devious and innocent; assassins, space ship pilots, terminally ill patients, wealthy soldiers, and teens with extraordinary mental abilities. Who would persevere?
Would we rally against the patriarchal society of Salvage or swear our allegiance, as faithful assasins, to the Master as in Death Sworn? Could the mantra of Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, “free yourself, have the courage,” save Tegan and Abdi as they ran? Could cryogenics really be the future of politics and medicine? Do we love more fiercely with our Noggins or our hearts? Do The Living provide a link to survival forged by friendship, loyalty, and diversity?
While we all loved Glory O’Brien as a batty visionary whose version of tomorrow made her drink deep of life and make bold choices today, more of us felt that with the novel’s fragmented plot it would not have as strong appeal for readers across the board. Noggin‘s beleaguered, beheaded teen touched our hearts — but though its realistic voice made it a firm favorite, the romantic subplot overshadowed our real interest: disembodied heads. As we rallied around our Brunhilde, a lively plot, vivid, pragmatic voice, and an action-packed and horribly realistic plot proved Matt De La Peña’s The Living to be victorious.
The battle was not easy and our fallen soldiers, the books that did not finish, are heroes in their own right. They are strong, good, and interesting reads, and we urge you all to pick them up. But in the end, we dismount and bow to the winner, The Living, by Matt de la Peña, for bringing us both a spine-tinglingly suspenseful story, as well as an important exploration of class, loyalty, technology, love, and diversity; something for everyone.
We, your Cybils judges, now return to our former lives, our conscription complete, our valor shared