The 2020 Cybils Winners!

Year after year, it never ceases to amaze us how the Cybils Awards manages to come together. From the people who volunteer as chairs to the panelists who spend so much of their fall reading, to the judges who thoughtfully deliberate to choose a winner. It was especially challenging this year, with the pandemic, and we are especially grateful for all those who stepped up. We are blessed with amazing volunteers each year, who come up with amazing shortlists and winners. 

Thank you, all!

And here they are, the 2020 Cybils Awards winners:

Easy Readers

See the Cat: Three Stories About a Dog (AmazonIndieBound
by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Joella Bagshaw

See the Cat is the Cybils 2020 Award winner for Easy Reader! This is a clever and fun story about a dog that finds itself in the middle of a story. The story follows both the narrator and the dog’s reaction to the narrator–a unique format that will entertain both early readers and their adult helpers alike. There are three hilarious stories and each page has a varied yet balanced use of text, speech bubbles, and illustrations. This all helps to move the story along quickly and is a fun way for young readers to build confidence in their reading skills. See the Cat is an easy book to enjoy–early readers will return to it time and time again. Congratulations to a great book!

Early Chapter Books

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us (AmazonIndieBound
by Lauren Castillo
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Katie B

Our Friend Hedgehog is a captivating story of friendship and adventure. When Hedgehog’s sole friend Mutty is swept away in a storm, Hedgehog embarks on a rescue mission. Encountering new landscapes and forging friendships with a motley cast of characters, Hedgehog finds strength and solace in the company of others. As Hedgehog confronts internal and external struggles, readers develop an emotional connection to the small hero; a happy reunion with Mutty is only one aspect of the touching ending.

This early chapter book will appeal to a range of reading levels, with a flowing storyline and compelling characters. More challenging vocabulary is defined in context by Hedgehog’s companion, Owl; delightful illustrations enhance the narrative. Our Friend Hedgehog provided an emotional adventure while also prompting reflection. Readers will likely still be contemplating Hedgehog and friends days after closing the book for the final time.

Fiction Picture Books

I Am Every Good Thing (AmazonIndieBound)
by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: kelstarly

This book’s stunning illustrations and exuberant, poetic text create driving rhythms and cadences that will capture the broad attention of a group in a read-aloud as well the more intimate attention of parent and child. It’s an empowering story of being proud of who you are during the easy times and the hard times. It rose immediately to the top of our list for a Cybils Award. 

Elementary Non-Fiction

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents (AmazonIndieBound
by Kate Messner and Adam Rex
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

When you look at the presidents’ pictures, can you imagine what they did before they were elected or what they were like as kids? The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents shows fascinating ‘snapshots’ in time highlighting how many presidents were alive at the same time. When Washington was inaugurated as our first president in 1789, there were nine future presidents living, including the seven-year-old farm boy who became our eighth president. Interesting connections thread through the spotlighted years, such as service in the military, loving the outdoors, pets, studying law, and working hard at many types of jobs. While history is often taught in specific periods or units, The Next President reminds us that all history is connected and is not isolated. “So where is the next president?” asks author Kate Messner. “At least ten of our future presidents are probably alive today.” Readers, that could be you!

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Rival Magic (AmazonIndieBound)
by Deva Fagan
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Anne Nesbet

Two very different girls, apprenticed to the same wizard, dream of being powerful magic workers themselves. When their master is arrested for treason, they must put aside their rivalry to save her. Even more challengingly, they must put aside their very different views of the world, which are rooted in the political divisions that are threatening to bring chaos to their island home. Following their master’s last instructions to find a magical crown that confers absolute power on its wearer, the girls face all manner of magical adventures and perils, full of unexpected twists and turns. When they learn to work together they succeed, but who will wear the crown? It’s an exhilarating page-turner of an adventure, with two unforgettable heroines!

Middle Grade Graphic Novels

When Stars Are Scattered (AmazonIndieBound

by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, illustrated by Victoria Jamieson and Iman Geddy
Dial Books
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

Based on a true story, this powerful tale of two brothers in a refugee camp raises awareness of what it means to be a refugee. It’s guaranteed to build compassion in readers. After watching his father get killed, and then being separated from his mother, Omar, only four, has to look after his special needs younger brother in a refugee camp. Through Omar’s story, we learn how people become refugees, what life is like for all kinds of people in the camps, and the special challenges for girls and women.

Middle Grade Fiction

From the Desk of Zoe Washington (AmazonIndieBound)
by Janae Marks
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Susan (Bloggin’ ’bout Books)

Zoe Washington is a girl with a dream—a baking dream to be exact. She wants to become a star baker on a television show. As focused as she is on that dream, real-life reminds her that the here and now demand her attention, too. When she receives a birthday letter from her biological father, Zoe has some big decisions to make: will she write back? He’s in prison. There’s a reason for that, right? With the help and encouragement of her grandmother, Zoe, being the spunky girl she is, decides to answer the letter to find out more about Marcus and why he is in prison.

From racism to social justice, fighting with friends to deciding if doing something right is worth a potential grounding, Zoe takes life for its ingredients and delivers a recipe worth sharing. Not only will readers want to make their own cereal milk cupcakes as Zoe aims to turn her baking dreams into reality, but they will also want to affect change in their own world.

Middle Grade Non-Fiction

All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team (AmazonIndieBound)
by Christina Soontornvat
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Coach Ek knew that his Wild Boars soccer team would like exploring the Sleeping Lady Cave. So the teens and coach rode their bikes there, kicked off their sandals outside, and started an afternoon trip into the cave… just as torrential rains fell on the limestone mountains nearby. The shallow water they splashed through going in became a raging torrent before they could get back out! When they didn’t come home that night, their families and local authorities began the search. Hundreds of experts from across Thailand and around the world worked for 17 days, fighting against the twisting cave passages, the underground river’s power, and time itself. All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat unfolds this real-life rescue mission and features interviews, scientific explanations, and information on Thai culture and religion in a narrative that will keep middle grade readers riveted.

High School Non-Fiction

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (AmazonIndieBound
by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You remixes Ibram X. Kendi’s award-winning study of racism, Stamped from the Beginning, as Jason Reynolds invites young adults to grapple with this difficult but necessary topic to be addressed. Reynolds’ fresh voice outlines racism in America from the birth of this nation to current times, providing common ground for discussion and setting the stage for a better, more just future. Gripping and compelling, relevant and timely, Stamped will spark necessary conversations with readers of all ages.  

Young Adult Graphic Novels

Superman Smashes the Klan (AmazonIndieBound
by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Gurihiru
DC Zoom
Nominated by: Alex Baugh

Tommy and Roberta are excited about the possibility of seeing Superman in action when their Chinese-American family moves to Metropolis in 1946. They never expected to become the target of the Klan of the Fiery Kross, a fictional stand-in for the Ku Klux Klan that has started to terrorize the city. Teaming up with Superman, Tommy and Roberta fight back against the overt racism of the Kross and the casual racism of others in town, eventually uncovering some dark secrets. Based on a real radio play that aired in 1946, Superman Smashes the Klan seamlessly weaves together perennially popular superhero tropes. Yang and Gurihiru tell the story of two kids fighting for their place in the world, a story that will resonate strongly with the teens of today.

Young Adult Fiction

Furia (AmazonIndieBound)
by Yamile Saied Méndez
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Jenna

Quiet, 17-year-old Argentinian Camila Hassan, lives at home in the shadow of her brother’s soccer career always watching her step so as not to set off her father’s volatile temper. Once she is free of the traditional expectations, she is the star of her futbal team transforming into ‘Furia’ and pushing the boundaries on the field with the end goal to be an American professional futbolera. With her perfect English, killer kick, and a showcasing championship in her sights, what could stop her?

Author Yamile Saied Méndez has created a beautifully complex book. She skillfully wraps issues of sexism, colorism, and violence against women in a story of athletic aspiration, capped off with a touch of romance. Méndez’s own background as a futbolera shines through in her exciting depiction of soccer matches. The compelling narrative is brought to life with strong characters and inclusion of Spanish dialog, which makes the story richer and helps cement the Argentinian setting. Just like the Cybils judges, readers will find themselves rooting wholeheartedly for Furia.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Cemetery Boys (Amazon, IndieBound
by Aiden Thomas
Swoon Reads
Nominated by: vampirerevenant

Deeply steeped in Latinx culture and folklore, Cemetery Boys weaves magic, identity, and family birthright into a compelling coming of age story. Yadriel is gay, transgender, and struggling to be accepted as a brujo by his tight-knit family. Yadriel’s community is diverse and vibrant, peppered with loud and lovable characters like his cousin Maritza. His family is loving, supportive, and complicated. This #ownvoices novel is a tender romance, a ray of hope, and a testament to the power of all kinds of love. Aiden Thomas has written a timely story that readers, both queer and straight, can relate to and see themselves in. The judges strongly felt that readers will enjoy the masterful balance of humor, suspense, and magic achieved in Cemetery Boys.