The 2012 Cybils Awards

Good morning, book lovers, and welcome to the apex of the seventh season of the Cybils–that is, announcement day for our latest list of favorite books of 2012. They're a perfect blend of kid appeal and literary awesomeness, as befits the criteria of the Cybils Awards. Librarians love 'em, kids can't get enough, and we're thrilled to announce the crop of winners.

If you're an author or an
illustrator and you spot your name on this list, don't forget we have shiny gold stickers now and a fancy logo for you.

For everyone else, get ready to update your "To Be Read" pile.

Elementary & Middle Grade

Book Apps

Dragon Brush
By Small Planet Digital
Nominated by: Aurora Celeste

What would you paint if you had a magic paintbrush? Would you paint all the riches you might want? But what might happen if an evil lord tries to steal this away? Dragon Brush takes children into this scene. The story resonates with heart and kindness as Bing-Wen, the story’s young rabbit hero, discovers the true gift of artwork—creating for those you love. Dragon Brush will charm and entertain with its solid story balancing interactivity and narrative. High production values marked by smooth narration, excellent musical score and precise sound engineering enhance the ancient Chinese folktale setting. Clever and often funny interactions are discoverable on each page of the story, including hidden ink pots that lead to a surprise for the reader. The app works well for a wide age range and will inspire repeat readings. The end of the story includes a painting app where the ink pots add colors and textures with which to paint. Each painting can be erased, saved, or shared. Dragon Brush exemplifies the standards of the Cybil Awards with its perfect blend of story, technology, and entertainment.

Fiction Picture Books

Home for Bird, A
By Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook
Nominated by: Amy @ Hope Is the Word

A Home for Bird is a character-driven story about a frog named Vernon who
sets off on a perilous journey to help his silent friend find home and
happiness. Vernon is a loyal protagonist with whom preschoolers will easily
relate. A Home for Bird offers an engaging read-aloud experience, with ample
opportunity for audience participation, and a narrative with both subtle
humor and charm. Stead's vibrant and fluid illustrations are a perfect match
to the story, and will have young listeners clamoring for parents, teachers,
and/or librarians to "read it again!"

Nonfiction Picture Books

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
By Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Who could forget the endearing face of a panda bear like the one on the cover of Mrs. Harkness and the Panda?
It is more difficult to remember, however, who brought the first panda
bear to America. In 1934, when the story starts, only a few people even
knew pandas existed. Mrs. Harkness, a young New York dress designer,
seemed to be the least-likely person to go to far-off China to look for
one. Yet when her husband dies during an attempt to find a panda, off
she goes on the adventure of a lifetime to fulfill his quest.

this book is an adventure of its own. It delves into China with rich
colors, using actual Chinese writing on the paper in the background of
the illustrations, photographs of Chinese coins, and even including some
well-placed Chinese words. Each page and each reading reveals new

story of a young woman heading off into the unknown is one of bravery
and perseverance that is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. Mrs. Harkness would
be perfect to introduce a geography or history lesson about China.
Although it is a biography, this book is also likely to stimulate
conversations about animal conservation, particularly discussions about
endangered animals and how our views of how to care for rare animals
have changed. It is truly a memorable and inspiring book.

Easy Readers

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is a modern-day rendition of the “Are we there yet?” story. A mouse and a boy travel by boat to Antarctica, all the while seeing fun and interesting things. Alas, Mouse just wants to get there, and then, once there, wants to go back home. The story is told in graphic novel format through speech bubbles and gorgeous illustration. While a fun read for children of all ages, the writing works perfectly for children just beginning their adventure as readers. There are plenty of decodable words, many sight words and lots of opportunity for the pictures to help out when the words are unfamiliar. There is a limited amount of text on each page and the font chosen is big and clear. A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is the perfect trip to take with a new reader. Enjoy!

Early Chapter Books

Sadie and Ratz
By Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Ann James
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Katherine Sokolowski

Hannah's 4-year-old brother sneaks into her room, changes the TV
channel, or uses all the colored markers, Hannah takes matters into her
own hands. Literally. Her hands, which she's dubbed Sadie and Ratz, seek
revenge by trying to rub Baby Boy's ears off. Hartnett's
subversive chapter book doesn't shy away from children's dark side,
which is one of its strengths. It isn't long before Baby Boy figures out
a way to retaliate–he accuses Sadie and Ratz of his misdeeds, like
spilling milk and scribbling on walls. Hannah, stumped by this turn of
events, sends Sadie and Ratz on vacation, but the pair continues to get

Hannah and Baby Boy resolve this conflict of hand warfare will delight
readers, and quite possibly dismay parents hoping for a tidier ending.
James's expressive charcoal illustrations further dramatize the
children's swirling emotions. This powerful book about the murky
underbelly of sibling rivalry deserves a big hand!


BookSpeak!: Poems About Books
By Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

"If a book remains unopened
and no reader turns its page,
does it still embrace a story
or trap words inside a cage?"

BookSpeak! celebrates all things books. One of our judges stated that it shows kids "how to look at a common object with new eyes." Another said, "I love the many 'voices' she created within the book world." A third judge noted, "when read aloud, I feel these poems have heaps of personality–and utility, too."

Laura Purdie Salas explores reading, writing, stories, and book components in a wide variety of poetic forms, styles, and imaginative voices. From the lyrical "Skywriting" to the clever personification of “Index,” the poems flow from beginning to end, providing helpful models that young writers may enjoy exploring and imitating.

Josee' Bisaillon's use of collage, digital montage, and drawings completes the whole package. Complemented by a distinctive use of typeface and energetic and expressive illustrations, BookSpeak! is a book of book poems that readers of all ages will return to again and again.  

Graphic Novels

Giants Beware!
By Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
First Second Books
Nominated by: Charlotte

can't wait to be a hero, just like her dragon-slaying dad (who's now
stuck at the forge in a wheelchair after a vicious battle). When
she learns that a giant attacked her town–and the citizens just let
it get away!–she knows this is her chance. She persuades her friend
and her little brother to go out questing with her, and the result is a
story full of adventure, humor, and heart. Aguirre and Rosado have
refreshingly eschewed traditional gender roles, creating likeable but
realistically flawed characters in a quasi-medieval world. Told with
expressive, full-color art and nice repetition of language for
developing readers, this fun and funny story is sure to appeal to kids.

Fantasy & Science Fiction

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nominated by: Natalie Aguirre

Sage is taken from his orphanage along with three other boys and thrust
into an attempt to save the kingdom from impending war. If he loses,
it's certain death, but Sage is very reluctant to win, since the prize
at the end means becoming someone's pawn and living a lie for the rest
of his life. The detailed world Nielsen creates is full of life,
populated with mystery, twists and turns, and engaging and complex
characters. Readers don't know who to trust, while Sage knows he can
trust no one, especially not Connor, the man who stole them away and has
aspirations of his own. Sage's voice is perfection, reading like a
medieval Sherlock Holmes. Unreliable and snarky, Sage keeps his
observations, assets, and motivations to himself until he knows he can
benefit. Readers can't help but cheer for him, even as he struggles to
come to grips with the ups and downs of a fate he doesn't desire.

Middle Grade Fiction

By R. J. Palacio
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

Auggie has always been home-schooled to accommodate for
multiple surgeries and illnesses. Now that he is stronger, he must join the
world of his peers and learn to deal with their perceptions of his extreme
disfigurement. Wonder is his story, and
it is at turns funny, heartbreaking, and illuminating, and always, always
compelling. Palacio tells it from multiple points of view, a choice that allows
readers to consider the feelings and reactions of many characters.
Auggie is a character endearing, brave, and normal enough to challenge readers
to wonder about some really big questions: What would it be like to be Auggie?
Would I have the courage to be friends with him? How difficult is it to
"choose kind"? This remarkable and surprisingly humorous first novel grips
its middle-grade audience in such a profound and meaningful way, and it is a book we believe could make readers out of nonreaders–making
Wonder our runaway top choice for this year's Cybils Middle Grade Fiction

Young Adult

Nonfiction Books

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World's Most Dangerous Weapon
By Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

A taut, real-life spy thriller, Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is the true story of how the United States, Hitler's Germany, and the Soviet Union each sought to build the world's first nuclear weapon by whatever means possible. A first-rate page turner that has impeccable research and is sure to interest both MG and YA readers, Bomb is the perfect example of how nonfiction can be everything fiction is–and more.

Graphic Novels

Friends with Boys
By Faith Erin Hicks
First Second Books
Nominated by: Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE)

homeschooler Maggie joins her older brothers at the public high school,
she isn't sure what to expect–and her mother isn't around anymore to
ease the transition. This contemporary coming-of-age story captures
realistic teen behavior, though a mysterious ghost adds fantasy to the
mix. Compelling illustrations in black and white play with the
intersections of light and dark, past and future.  The richness of the
relationships, the resonance of Maggie's emotional life, and the
satisfying–though pleasantly ambiguous–conclusion make Maggie's
story one to remember.

[For a shorter version of this blurb, check out Graphic Novel judge Emily Mitchell's review haiku.]

Fantasy & Science Fiction

By Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Ana @ things mean a lot

Seraphina is a genre-blending fantasy that dazzled us all. Dragons, a
murder mystery, family secrets, and a love story–there is something
here for everyone, even those who aren't regular high fantasy readers.
We were hooked by the mystery and intrigue of dragons and conspiracies
as well as the fascinating and intricate world building. Seraphina is a
complex and appealing heroine. She's fiery and vulnerable and gifted and
brave. Her love of music is a refreshing thread throughout the story as
is a fairly surprising mystery. Seraphina's transformation throughout
the novel was inspiring and wonderful to follow. With beautiful writing
and tight pacing, Seraphina kept us turning the pages, eager to follow
the heroine and learn more about the strong ensemble cast. We're sure
readers will find a lot to love in this highly original dragon story.

Young Adult Fiction

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
Nominated by: Leila Roy

wants you to know that he's not writing some soppy cancer book.  The
impending death of his sorta-friend, sorta-ex-girlfriend Rachel from
leukemia won't teach him any great lessons about the meaning of life.
He's gonna swear. He's gonna crack sick jokes. There will be
awkward silences. And he'll make stupendously bad films with his best
friend, Earl, while ignoring his own rules about staying under the radar
during senior year.

Greg doesn't tell you is that his story will break your heart anyway.
With sharply-drawn characters,  dialogue so real you expect to hear it
in the school hallway, and a mix of formats that keep the story moving,
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a book that will make readers laugh
out loud even as they sympathize with Greg's bumpy journey into