The 2019 CYBILS Winners!

We’d first like to thank all our round two judges for their time and deliberation. As always, they did a fantastic job, and we’re so happy with the winners this year. 

And so, without further ado, here they are!

Board Books

Jump! (AmazonIndieBound
by Tatsuhide Matsuoka
Gecko Press
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Move outdoors or to the gymnasium before sharing this exuberant story of animals jumping. Hold the book sideways so your readers will enjoy the heights reached by a frog, a kitten, and a variety of other animals. Ask students to join in the onomatopoeic “BOING!” which also grows with each successive jump. I suspect “again” will be the usual response from readers. NOTE: This is the first English translation of a twenty-five-year old book. Popular much!

Early Chapter Books

Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet (1) (Frankie Sparks, Third-Grade Inventor) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Megan Frazer Blakemore, illustrated by Nadja Sarell
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Frankie’s enthusiasm and energy are palpable and infectious, making it hard to put the book down. Readers will find Frankie likable, but also frustrating at times – just like real life. The well-structured, realistic story sneaks in lots of “teaching moments.” For example, the author not only incorporates lots of animal facts, but Ms. Cupid and the kids demonstrate research skills and the scientific process.

Easy Readers

Yasmin the Superhero (AmazonIndieBound)
by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Aneesa Mumtaz

When spunky Yasmin dons her cape and mask and heads out to defeat evil villains, she discovers that true heroes are those who help others. Written in three chapters, Yasmin the Superhero, celebrates family, diversity, and kindness with humor perfect for young readers. The bright and joyful illustrations have definite kid appeal and help to introduce a culture not often represented in children’s books. As an added bonus, Urdu vocabulary with definitions and introductory facts about Pakistan are included.

Elementary Non-Fiction

Nine Months: Before a Baby Is Born (AmazonIndieBound)
by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason Chin
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Nine Months: Before a Baby is Born is a beautiful blend of art and science for readers 4-8. Page by page, text and art reveal how a baby develops during the months from conception to birth. Miranda Paul’s spare, poetic language alongside Jason Chin’s illustrations of an expectant family of three tie the scientific facts about the growing fetus to the changes taking place in the family’s home. From ultrasound to nursery preparation, children will find comfort in the accessible format. Accurate life-size paintings of the fetal stages and fascinating details like sense of taste or hiccups will help siblings understand and anticipate the arrival of a new baby. Thorough back-matter extends the experience to address questions that are sure to follow by offering gestation times for various species, “Nine Amazing Things Most Babies Can Do Before They’re Born,” and more.

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

New Kid (AmazonIndieBound)
by Jerry Craft
HarperCollins Childrens
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

New Kid is an ideal narrative for elementary and middle grade readers. It maintains a compelling story of new friendship, encourages taking healthy risks, and provides both windows and mirrors as it highlights issues of racism in a manner easy for this age group to comprehend. Craft balances ongoing microagressions towards the protagonist with the general anxieties of starting a new school incredibly well. Warm humor lightens the potentially heavy themes of the book with great success. We are sure every kid will want to read New Kid!

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (AmazonIndieBound)
by Kwame Mbalia
Disney Hyperion–Rick Riordan presents
Nominated by: Reshama

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is an epic adventure that melds African and African American folklore in a riveting fantasy about the power of stories. Tristan, an African American seventh grader, has lost his best friend and is spending the summer down South with his grandparents. There he is transported to an otherworldly land, where he gradually realizes that familiar African-American and African stories are real here, and powerful, and their characters are hurtling toward a cataclysm.  Tristan must accept that he is a hero, while working through his grief and guilt, in this powerful adventure full of twists and turns. Told in rich cinematic detail with beautiful attention to dialogue, a great cast of supporting characters, and with welcome comic relief lightening the weighty mood, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky is an important book that will be embraced by young readers.

Fiction Picture Books

One Fox: A Counting Book Thriller (AmazonIndieBound)
by Kate Read
Publisher/ Author Submission

This is more than just a simple counting book, although young children will enjoy counting the different elements of the story. The book, which has tremendous kid appeal, uses simple text and gorgeous illustrations to tell a suspense-filled story of a nasty fox in the hen house. At first blush the book presents as a primary concept book, but takes a fresh approach to counting and is welcoming and packed with takeaways for young readers of all ages. There are great opportunities for children to learn skills such as inferencing and making predictions, conflict and resolution, cause and effect, and using descriptive language. This could also inspire kids to write their own counting stories that incorporate these important elements. This book is a must-have for all bookshelves!

Junior High Non-fiction

The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth (AmazonIndieBound)
by Ian Lendler
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Charlotte

Today, we accept the fact that dinosaurs once roamed the earth, but have you ever wondered how we first came up with that idea? People had been seeing bone fragments and other fossils for thousands of years, but no one knew what they were. After all, how do you solve a mystery you don’t even know existed? Equal parts science, history, characters, and drama, Ian Lendler’s The First Dinosaur offers something for everyone as it deftly tells the story of how we came to understand a world unlike anything we’d ever imagined.

Middle Grade Fiction

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (AmazonIndieBound)
by Dan Gemeinhart
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Jonemac

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise is the winner of the 2019 Cybils Award in middle grade fiction. Coyote and her father Rodeo have been living in a converted school bus for the past five years, aimlessly traveling around the United States. The devastating loss of his wife and two daughters has Rodeo running from the memories, but Coyote is forced to silently deal with her own grief. Then, the demolition of a neighborhood park threatens to destroy the memory box Coyote had buried with her mother. She is forced to figure out a way to get her father to drive thousands of miles across the country without him knowing they’re returning home. The pair are joined by troubled travelers along the way, as Coyote helps them resolve their problems. Coyote has calculated the hours needed to reach her destination, and time is running out. 
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise presents an emotional adventure with its unpredictable plot and the metaphorical language voiced by the intelligent, relatable main character, Coyote Sunrise. Her confidence and worldly knowledge, that sometimes seems well beyond her years, pays credit to children forced to grow up faster than they should. Coyote displays compassion for others and has a willingness to get involved in order to help them. The story transports the diverse cast of characters across the country, as Coyote races against the clock to rescue the memories of her mother and sisters. The various characters add their own personalities and issues to the plot, as they address grief, abuse, lost loves, and regret. The Remarkable Journey of Coyote was chosen over six other worthy finalists and offers a heartfelt treat for readers.

Middle Grade Non-Fiction

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Trevor Noah
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Miller @RaiseThemRighteous

If you can’t name a single country in Africa, can’t define apartheid, or have ever struggled with poverty, blended families, or fitting in, It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime is a must-read. 

This middle grade adaptation of the author’s memoir illuminates Trevor Noah’s path from the ghetto in apartheid South Africa to a role on the Daily Show and an international comedy career. With humor and emotion, the author shows readers the complexities not only of apartheid and the early days of freedom in South Africa, but also of his intimate family life. Trevor’s very existence as a child of mixed race was against the law in the time and place he was born. But between the help of a mother determined to provide him with opportunities and his own optimistic ability to blend into his surroundings, Trevor thrives on the fringes of a society equally determined to suppress him. From mischievous toddler to teen delinquent, the author never glosses over the harsh truths which tried to define him. Young readers will be riveted by Trevor’s story of courage, through unconditional love and bitter tragedy. 

An empowering read, this book doesn’t shy away from describing injustice and hardship, violence and disappointment, in an age-appropriate way. It offers readers strength to deal with prejudices in their own lives and hope for overcoming a racist system that is both familiar and mysterious.


Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience (AmazonIndieBound)
Edited by Patrice Vecchione and Alyssa Raymond
Triangle Square
Nominated by: Michelle H Barnes

Sixty-four beautifully-crafted poems give a glimpse into the lives of immigrants, refugees, and the children of immigrants. Poets include award-winning writers Elizabeth Acevedo, Francisco X. Alarcón, Gary Soto, and many others. Although the poets hail from around the globe, their experiences and struggles have similar themes and echo the traumas experienced by immigrant families today.

The emotions of fleeing home are shown with vivid details and images. Consider these lines from Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s poem, “Immigrant:” 

We are driving away on the only road to the airport.
We are driving  away from this dollhouse town
and my storybook childhood of tree-climbing
and laughter of too many cousins to count.
We are driving away from impending war.

The poems give voice to the isolation and difficulty of living in a new home where your language and skin color identify you as other. Jose Olivarez captures this in “ode to the first white girl i ever loved:”

my loneliness would walk home with me
my loneliness held my hand as i crossed the street
my loneliness spoke spanish like my family

Poems like Mohja Kahf’s “My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears” show the experience of a child navigating two cultures and two languages, acting as a bridge between her elders and the world around her.

I smile at the midwestern women
as if my grandmother has just said something lovely about them
and shrug at my grandmother as if they
had just apoligized through me
No one is fooled, but I

hold the door open for everyone

The determination to find and make a new home is celebrated by Yosamir Reyes in “Undocumented Joy:” 

I wish I could tell you about the journey
but all I know is that I am here

and I am not going anywhere
this is my home


This remarkable collection would be a wonderful addition to classrooms and libraries for readers ages 12 and up. It could serve as the heart of a writing unit in English or a unit on refugees and immigrants in social studies. The poems offer a mirror to young people who are refugees, migrants, or undocumented. They also serve as a window into the hardship and resilience of those taking this journey that allows students to learn about and empathize with the experience of their classmates or others.  A foreword and afterword plus brief biographies of each poet offer more details of the poets’ lives and the immigrant experience. The publisher’s teaching guide includes writing prompts and helpful background for classroom discussions.

Senior High Non-fiction

Playlist: The Rebels and Revolutionaries of Sound (AmazonIndieBound)
by James Rhodes, illustrated by Martin O’Neill
Candlewick Studio
Nominated by: Katy Manck

Playfully irreverent and snarky, Playlist introduces today’s teens to seven classical composers — original rock stars of music our music world — by detailing the life stories of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel.  and examining two of each of their works. For an interactive experience, Rhodes has curated a Spotify playlist of two works by each composer so readers can listen while reading about the creation of these famous classic pieces. Additionally, the author offers several pop cultural references to movies in which these tunes became soundtracks. One featured piece, Ravel’s Bolero , is 15 minutes in duration and was featured prominently in the 1979 film “10”. Rhodes dissects the list of orchestra instruments carrying each refrain of the melody. His insight to the subtle variation in tone and texture as the theme is passed from one instrument to the next makes it possible to listen to the same melody many times over and enjoy each as new and unique. The psychedelic cover art recalls the age LP album covers (remember those?) Artist, Martin O’Neill, has created fun and complex collage within pages reminiscent of scenes of Monty Python. Everything about this book is fun, attractive, and interactive. Playlist is sure to inspire new, younger fans of classical music.

Young Adult Fiction

Heroine (AmazonIndieBound)
by Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Wendy

Heroine—a novel about an ordinary teen’s prescriptive use of opioids that evolves into not just a pill addiction, but also a heroin dependency—is a raw, hard-hitting cautionary tale that shows the devastating effects drug abuse can have on individuals, families, and communities. Heroine by Mindy McGinnis comes with a trigger warning. With unflinching prose, it tells a disturbing story made even more powerful by its relevance and urgency. The judges engaged in a heated discussion about how the story deals with Mickey’s attempts at recovery, but felt that Heroine is a novel that will fly off high school library shelves.

Young Adult Graphic Novels

This Place: 150 Years Retold (AmazonIndieBound)
by David A. Robertson, Jen Storm, Katherena Vermette, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley, Richard Van Camp, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, and Sonny Assu
Highwater Press
Nominated by: Aaron

This Place: 150 Years Retold uses short stories to introduce readers to aspects of Indigenous peoples’ history that have been largely ignored, unknown, or suppressed. Each story personalizes specific aspects of how colonization has disrupted Indigenous culture. While This Place specifically illustrates Canadian Indigenous history, readers in present-day USA will be able to relate. The book is appealing to a wide variety of readers because each story, introduced with a paragraph and a timeline, quickly highlights a new perspective. Past and ongoing discrimination towards Indigenous peoples is revealed in a way that effectively invites change. Readers of This Place will feel a wide variety of emotions, take many perspectives, and appreciate the book’s hopeful conclusion. Many different art styles distinguish the stories, all of which are written and drawn by Indigenous people.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Fireborne (THE AURELIAN CYCLE) (AmazonIndieBound)
by Rosaria Munda
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kimberly F

Rosaria Munda says three things inspired Fireborne: The French Revolution, Plato’s Republic, and the Blitz of London—plus the thought, “What if the bombers were fire-breathing dragons?”

Fireborne takes everything you might love about dragon-riders, revolution against a corrupt regime, and the loyalty of friends fighting for a common cause, and twists it sideways to create an emotionally intense, unpredictable story, by equal turns thought-provoking and edge-of-your-seat exciting. The revolution has happened; the “good guys” won: but are they really the good guys? Is the new society they created worth the atrocities they committed?

The tensions and opposing philosophies of the revolution are brilliantly captured in the two main characters. Lee was the son of an aristocrat. His family was brutally executed, and he grew up in an orphanage pretending to be a peasant. His best friend in the orphanage was Annie, a peasant whose whole family was killed by an aristocrat’s dragonfire. Now they are both dragonriders, competing to be the next leaders of the new republic. Threats from inside and outside make them question their beliefs, their loyalties, their friendship. Annie, Lee and their friends’ dilemmas are heartbreakingly believable and drive a compelling, endlessly interesting plot.

All five judges were blown away repeatedly by the beautiful writing, rip-roaring plot, believable character development, and window into society issues. We loved the slow-burn romance, the strong female characters, the high emotions and the depths of the ideas.

Amid a powerful and diverse slate of finalists, Fireborne rose to the top with its page-turning depiction of a dragon-filled, believably complex post-revolutionary world.