#CybilsAwards Book lists: The Ones That Got Away

Every year, our round-one panelists read lots of books, debate, whittle down, and pick what they think — collectively — is the best, most kid-friendly books of the nominations.

However, since it’s a collective decision, it means individual judges’ personal favorites are bound to not make it to the finalist list. It’s just the way a collective decision goes.

However, we do allow judges to post about their personal favorites that didn’t quite make it. We thought they deserved a chance to have a moment in the spotlight.


The Dirt Book: Poems About Animals That Live Beneath Our Feet
by David L. Harrison, illustrated by Kate Cosgrove
Holiday House

“The Dirt Book is more than dirt; It offers a loving look at the world we live in and invites us to be present in it.” – Margaret at Reflections on the Teche


My Thoughts Are Clouds: Poems for Mindfulness
by Georgia Heard, illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Roaring Brook Press

– Recommended by Anastasia Suen


Ghost Girl
by Ally Malinenko
Katherine Tegen Books

“One of the best books I read last year, and my favourite Middle Grade, it has an exciting story, fabulous characters, deep themes, and in places definitely creepy!” – Valinora Troy


Wulfie: Beast in Show
by Lindsay J Sedgwick
Little Island

“This story by fellow Irish author is perfect for younger readers, and who wouldn’t want as best friend a purple wulfen who shrinks and grows, and freezes time when he sneezes?” – Valinora Troy


by Stephanie Watson
Sourcebooks Young Readers

“I loved this perfectly crafted tale for younger readers of a girl lost in grief for her dead mother who has to rescue her little sister from a monster who wants to erase her.” – Valinora Troy


The Monsters of Rookhaven
by Pádraig Kenny
Henry Holt & Co.

“A fun read about a mysterious family of monsters with a secret pact with the local village which is threatened when strangers arrive.” – Valinora Troy

“The beautiful art, real physical danger, family relationships of multiple kinds, mysteries and monsters combine with deep themes of understanding to make a truly impressive book.” – Katy at alibrarymama


The Gatekeeper of Pericael
by Hayley Reese Chow
Independently published

“This is such an exciting fantasy adventure with excellent world-building and a fabulous magic system. Highly recommend.” – Valinora Troy


Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found
by Rucker Moses and Theo Gangi
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

“Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found is a fast-paced read that even reluctant readers will enjoy. The plot itself is fantastic, emotions are brilliantly rendered, relationships feel real, and the magical element is strong and detailed without being overwhelming or hard to follow. I loved the discussion of Black magicians and the urban landscape the characters explore.” – Jennifer at Raise them Righteous


Fragile Remedy
by Maria Ingrande Mora

“Oh, my heart! Oh this book! Fragile Remedy is set in a relentlessly gritty, claustrophobically hopeless world (that bears a frightening resemblance to our own world), and yet it is one of the gentlest, tenderest stories I’ve ever read.” – Kim at Dead Houseplants

– Recommended by Tria P.


Anya and the Nightingale
by Sofiya Pasternack

“I’m so glad I circled back to it, as it was just delightful. And if you or your loved young ones celebrate Sukkot, you still have time to track this down to have a holiday-appropriate book. ” – Katy at alibrarymama


Girl Giant and the Monkey King
by Van Hoang
Roaring Brook Press

“This story of modern-day kids interacting with gods will appeal to both Percy Jackson fans and those looking for stories of the struggles of finding a place in middle school, an aspect of the story that made it feel much more fleshed-out to me than many similar stories.” – Katy at alibrarymama


The Insiders
by Mark Oshiro

“I really enjoyed getting to know Héctor, and would happily read more stories from Mark Oshiro.” – Katy at alibrarymama


The Last Fallen Star (A Gifted Clans Novel)
by Graci Kim
Disney Hyperion–Rick Riordan presents

” The stakes are high and the sacrifices Riley and Emmett have to make are huge. The challenge for me in these books is always finding enough time in the ever-present action for the characters to grow and feel like real people, and this book succeeds admirably in balancing both of these elements. Here is another new series I look forward to seeing more of. ” – Katy at alibrarymama


Root Magic
by Eden Royce
Walden Pond Press

“I also loved the little doll that Jez’s grandmother left her, which was animated enough to help her, much like Vasilisa’s doll in “Vasilisa the Beautiful”. But most of all, I enjoyed seeing Jezebel grow in power, confidence, and kindness.” – Katy at alibrarymama


Sisters of the Neversea
by Cynthia LSmith

– Recommended by Katy at alibrarymama


That Thing about Bollywood
by Supriya Kelkar
Simon & Schuster

“This had the potential to be an extremely didactic novel. It’s clear from the very beginning that Sonali needs to develop a healthier relationship with her emotions, and that not being able to express herself is hurting her relationships with both her family and friends. Happily, that predictability fits in perfectly with the Bollywood theme, which is so hilarious that the story worked well for me anyway.” – Katy at alibrarymama


These Violent Delights
by Chloe Gong
Margaret K. McElderry

– Recommended by Tria P.


by Alexandra Bracken

– Recommended by Tria P.


Beasts of Prey
by Ayana Gray
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

– Recommended by Tria P.


The Little Spacecraft That Could
by Joyce Lapin, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli
Sterling Children’s Books

“Loaded with valuable and engaging illustrations, labeled diagrams, and photographic inserts and sidebars, there is nonfiction galore. Yet the technique of turning an unmanned spacecraft into this upbeat and determined character makes the entire project come to life on the page.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

“The information is very accessible and includes a variety of helpful graphics that keeps readers engaged. The illustrations help make some of the big ideas conceivable and convey the peculiar beauty of this dwarf planet on the edge of our solar system.” -Mary at Just Read Journal


A Brief History of Underpants
by Christine Van Zandt, illustrated by Harry Briggs
becker&mayer! kids

“In all seriousness, this is a must-have nonfiction book across ages. Expect that readers, even adults, will be tapping others on the shoulder and asking, “Did you know…?” Do yourself and any kids you know a favor and purchase this book.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

“Overall, this quick look at underwear checks off several boxes: appealing, memorable and interesting.” -Mary at Just Read Journal


Dear Mr. Dickens
by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Albert Whitman & Company

“If anything serves as an example of the power of the pen, of the benefits of thoughtful reading, of speaking out about injustice, of supporting solid arguments with legitimate facts, THIS IS IT!” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

“This entire story was heartwarming and frankly a wonderful way to introduce the “problematic elements in otherwise fantastic stories as a product of their time”; and the “obtuse white fragility” conversations.” -Kelly at Kidlit Underground


What’s in Your Pocket?: Collecting Nature’s Treasures
by Heather L. Montgomery, illustrated by Maribel Lechuga
Albert Whitman & Company

“I love how these scientists are introduced as children. Indeed, they may have grown up to make significant contributions to their respective fields of science, but as children their curiosity often created little humorous problems.” -Mary at Just Read Journal

“Parallel text allows direct address to young readers with simple questions about things most children do, leading to a few lines about men and women who grew from curious kid collectors and discoverers into historic figures who made contributions to the wider world, some of whom still are adding to our understanding of the world.” Sandy


Fourteen Monkeys: A Rain Forest Rhyme
by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Beach Lane Books

“This is not the first time Stewart and Jenkins teamed up to make an outstanding nonfiction picture book, but this may just be my favorite among their many beloved titles.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

“You’ll also find a catchy couplet, and two paragraphs that go into more detail on the behaviors of each species. Another memorable feature is an infographic that shows which layer of the Rainforest each monkey calls home.” -Mary at Just Read Journal


Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press

“This is certainly a glorious book on many levels, but immeasurably so on Veterans Day. Both creators mastered a symmetry of awe and simplicity in portraying the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the powerful responsibility and achievement of the Tomb Guard Sentinels, and the timeless costs of war. I hope you will give this a close look, and then give it to someone who will appreciate it at any age.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

“This exceptional picture book is a read aloud for K-8. It’s also one which will touch the hearts of adults. It’s one to share on any day of the year, but especially on Veteran’s Day.” Susan


Sea Lions in the Parking Lot: Animals On The Move In A Time Of Pandemic
by Lenora Todaro, illustrated by Annika Siems

“As gloriously fascinating as this new picture book is, it should also be considered a valuable resource for readers of all ages, including older ones who will find rich connections and content for discussion regarding climate change, habitat, wildlife behavior, and finding balance between progress and environmental responsibility.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books


Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued
by Peter Sís
Norton Young Readers

“Nicky and Vera, with informative but childlike illustrations, side text, and back matter, the lives of a young man and a child feel immediate and present in our lives.” – Unpacking the Power of Picture Books


Mars Is: Stark Slopes, Silvery Snow, and Startling Surprises
by Suzanne Slade

“The text and layout design are part of the breathtaking power of the language and descriptions overlaid on incredible photos of the surfaces and locations on Mars. Thoroughly awe-inspiring.” – Sandy

“If you wanted to focus on the stunning photographs and the large lyrical text, it would work well as a classroom or library read-aloud. Readers wanting to learn more will find plenty of interesting STEM facts.” – Mary at Just Read Journal


Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica
by Rebecca E. F. Barone
Henry Holt & Co.

“This offers one of those strange reading experiences in which the outcome is known and well-documented before the cover is cracked, and yet the narrative is as page-turning and powerfully engaging as the most compelling of suspense novels.” – Sandy


It Takes Guts: How Your Body Turns Food Into Fuel (and Poop)
by Dr. Jennifer Gardy, illustrated by Belle Wuthrich
Greystone Kids

“The simple drawings, labels, key-fact summaries, sidebars, and font/color choices make it every bit as traditional and practical as a text book, but it is SOOOO much better than that. I wish I had this book during my teaching years, and I plan to gift it to friends and family. t’s a terrific way to learn with lively enthusiasm.” – Sandy


Call and Response: The Story of Black Lives Matter
by Veronica Chambers

“The CALL AND RESPONSE aspect is an effective theme that epitomizes the nature of a community connected by their voices. Very valuable and informative/inspiring for middle grade and up, all the way through to Boomers.” – Sandy


William Still and His Freedom Stories: The Father of the Underground Railroad
by Don Tate

“With clarity and nuance in text and illustrations, Tate has produced an account of a remarkable man whose name should be more widely known.” – Sandy