#Cybils2022 Nonfiction


A Perfect Fit: How Lena “Lane” Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion
Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Emma @ Miss Print

A Perfect Fit is a children’s picture book biography about Lena Bryant, founder of what would later become Lane Bryant clothing. But more than just being a story about the beginnings of a plus-size store, A Perfect Fit is an immigrant story, a story of acceptance, and a story of perseverance through extreme difficulty. With a focus on fame and fortune? No, with a focus on how we can help others. Mara Rockliff has expertly focused her story on important, hopeful, and inspiring aspects of a true fashion icon.
Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustration style is a “perfect fit” for this stylish story. This eloquent depiction of Lena Bryant, a Jewish woman and a Lithuanian immigrant, leaves the reader captivated by her beauty and strength. Strength to leave everything and search for a dream in a foreign land. Strength to say no to a match that wasn’t right. Strength to learn and grow and do new, hard things. Strength to start over, even when she was afraid. Strength to do things differently, if she could help others. Lena’s fortitude in the face of fear took her past transposing her name incorrectly when she nervously began at the bank, to a woman capable of providing clothing that celebrated women of all shapes and sizes, in a forward-thinking format ages ahead of her time. Lena Bryant’s story is a “perfect fit” for a nonfiction read of a pioneering woman that elementary children will easily admire. – Brooke Freebairn, thebrookelist

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky
Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illustrated by Daniel Minter
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: literacyedprof

While many of us probably know that jeans and other blues come from indigo, it is very likely that we’ve thought very little about the power and impact of blue as a dye in the fabric of our societies. With Blue: A History of the Color, Brew-Hammond explores the richness and value of collecting or creating blue dye, but also some of the societal impacts and even common idioms that have become part of our daily lives. The journey to understanding this unique, often tricky hue is complete with beautiful, inclusive images, bringing the history and color to life, side by side. A few examples of idioms or cultural uses are hard to forget. “Out of the blue” refers to something rare, or difficult to create, or our long-held royal/wealthy views of this rare color, which may be the reason for many of our “blue ribbon” traditions. And feeling “blue” or singing the “blues” bears connections to the grief or pains of slaves forced to grow/harvest indigo. These thought-provoking facets of this well-beloved color will leave children thinking about more than just their blue jeans. – Brooke Freebairn, thebrookelist

Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill
by Matt Lilley, Illustrated by Dan Tavis
Tilbury House
Publisher/ Author Submission

Ask most kids (and older) about krill, and they’ll say krill are a food source for whales. That produces a quick topic switch to whales because whales are WAY more fun to talk about, right? I’d agree until this book came along. From a surprisingly dramatic “egg” opening through all stages (scientifically labeled near each kid-friendly image), to multiple phases and adulthood, the shifts of location, perspective, and danger add interest and tension. Occasional clever puns are finessed into the brief and informative text. Readers (krill) are schooled (See? Pun!) in their importance as a keystone species, one that is constantly eatin’ while avoiding being eaten! If you also know that krill swim in massive schools, you’ll appreciate how both the author and illustrator managed to convey those huge populations while allowing a single krill to somehow be distinguished from the others. That’s the “you” in the narrative. Visually, that’s accomplished through placement on the page (during early life cycle stages) and using riveting eyes and a distinctive green belly, a krill consequence of eating so much chlorophyll-rich phytoplankton. The author addresses the reader as if they are this krill, the good-eater, green-bellied, eye-focused one. Each page holds remarkable, memorable facts about krill in brief, light text. A did-you-know quality abounds, such as adult krill: have 26 legs, molt (shed their shells) throughout life, look like bugs or shrimp but are neither, and (get this) can live up to TEN YEARS, if not eaten first! Backmatter adds even more fun facts, with readability to match the main text, including resources. – Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

If the World Were 100 Animals: A Visual Guide to Earth’s Amazing Creatures
Miranda Smith, illustrated by Aaron Cushley
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

“Pack age-appropriate lessons about world geography, history, biodiversity, anthropology, and mathematics into a gorgeously-illustrated children’s book” may sound like a Herculean task. Fortunately for the kidlit world, author Miranda Smith and illustrator Aaron Cushley missed that memo. Each page spread boils the entire animal kingdom down into… well, 100 animals, sliced and diced in all sorts of cool ways we never thought of (94% of animals are insects, 91% of ocean animals have yet to be discovered, 53% of land animals live in Asia… the classifications and food for thought go on and on). Discussion questions in the backmatter gently encourage readers to reflect on how to be better friends to animals/stewards of the Earth. Brightly-colored, crisp visuals hold enough interest for cross-age appeal and something new to discover in repeat reads, making this book a great addition to both home and classroom libraries. – Kelly Krasner-Clarke, KidLitunderground

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion
Shannon Stocker, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth
Dial Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

The illustrations of music, sound, and rhythm in this biography of a famous percussionist almost seem to boom in your ears as you read this; seeing sound through your eyes seems appropriate in this book about a deaf musician. Glennie had to relearn how to experience music after losing most of her hearing as a child, and then she had to teach a lot of people to judge her by her ability, not by her label. The story of Evelyn Glennie’s career works both as a fascinating introduction to a talented performer (look up some of her work!) and also to the need to look past assumptions about someone’s capabilities to see the individual with their unique perspective and skills. – Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Marcel’s Masterpiece: How a Toilet Shaped the History of Art
Jeff Mack
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: Jonemac

What is art and who decides? This clever and playful introduction to Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement will inspire discussion and creativity. When artist Marcel moves to America in 1915 he decides to leave painting behind and pursue ideas instead, like taking a urinal, turning it upside down, signing his name, and calling it art. These readymades are the heart of the Dada art movement and well-known artists like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso are mentioned for their own creations using this medium. The illustrations invite kids to have fun while learning about conceptual art and giggling at the toilet on a pedestal at a fancy art show. While perfect for art enthusiasts, the absurdity of a banana taped to a wall selling for $120,000 will certainly encourage a broader appeal and maybe even a trip to the museum to answer the question, what is art? – Stacy Putman, Stacy’s Books

The Gardener of Alcatraz: A True Story
Emma Bland Smith, illustrated by Jenn Ely
Nominated by: Annette Bay Pimentel

In cinematic style, the story opens with a boat bobbing through San Francisco bay to deliver prisoner #AZ-578, Elliot Michener, convicted counterfeiter, to the toughest prison in America. The book manages to strike the perfect balance between telling a sympathetic story from Michener’s point of view without downplaying his crimes. It shows ways that he may have attempted to escape, then the turning point of his imprisonment when he chose to impress the warden by returning a key he had found instead of trying to see where the key fit. This led to him being chosen to work in garden plots on the island. With this new job, he soon forgot about his attempt to cobble together a floatation device to escape and instead focused on learning about plants and soils, and techniques. He went above and beyond what was expected. Inspiring and realistic, this picture book naturally shifts from the steel greys of prison life to the flourishing gardens Michener learned to nurture. The back matter tells more about the prison and the rest of Michener’s productive life as a farmhand, then a landscaper. A fascinating and timely fable of the benefits of hard work in the outdoors. – Genevieve Ford, @GenevieveFord

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Becky L.

Choosing Brave tells the true story of the murder of Emmett Till in the South in 1955, as seen through the eyes of his mother, Mamie. The book follows Emmett’s life leading up to his fateful trip to the South and his tragic death. Mamie, determined to speak out about this injustice and spark the civil rights movement, transforms her pain and grief into bravery. Through powerful illustrations and a poignant narrative, Choosing Brave teaches young readers about the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. The authors tackle the heavy and serious topic of murder and injustice, making it both accessible and thought-provoking for readers. A must read for everyone! – Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Citizen She! A Global Campaign for Women’s Voting Rights
Caroline Stevan Illustrated by Elina Braslina
Publisher/ Author Submission

Citizen She is a middle grade book about the struggle for women’s rights. The book opens with a scene of a teacher granting the boys the right to make decisions in the classroom (such as what games to play, what to do during recess, and where to go on field trips) while ignoring the girls. The scene illustrates how a government might operate if women did not have the right to have a voice. This injustice, unfortunately, still occurs in some parts of the world even today. Citizen She! traces the history of women’s fight for voting rights worldwide, asking questions such as “Why did women want to vote?” and “How did they fight for it?” The book explores the stories of various women who championed voting rights in different parts of the world. A visually interesting and colorful timeline perspective reveals which countries led the way in promoting women’s participation in government, and which regions still deny women the right to vote. Finally, the author highlights the ongoing need for equal rights in areas such as salaries, positions of power, and established roles. Citizen She is a well-researched, engaging, and thought-provoking book that gives readers a snapshot view of the struggle for women’s rights. – Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell (Scholastic Focus)
Candace Fleming
Scholastic Focus
Nominated by: Kelly

Roswell, New Mexico has been the center of UFO and alien conspiracy theories for years, but how much of what we know is actually true. Candace Fleming walks us through the 1947 crash and its aftermath in real time so that we can see what the public knew when and how they were told. The book spans over 60 years, even including information from a 2021 government report. This fun and engaging book invites kids to dig deeper before accepting incomplete information or questionable sources and encourages keeping an open mind. This meticulously sourced book is sure to appeal to kids and help them navigate a fake news world.- Stacy Putman, Stacy’s Books

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life
Cheryl Blackford
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

On the hunt for a middle-grade biography that will leave an impression? Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life by Cheryl Blackford tells the story of a Victorian woman who defied the expectations of her time to play an important role in advancing the scientific understanding of prehistoric life. Mary Anning learned how to go fossil hunting as a young girl from her father along the beaches of Lyme Regis, England. It was a dangerous pursuit that required a great deal of skill. Despite facing poverty and a lack of recognition for her scientific contributions, Mary Anning found a way to dedicate her life to the discovery and preservation of fossils. Cheryl Blackford includes an assortment of appealing visual elements and utilizes a wide variety of resources to present the reader a clear and detailed picture of this influential female scientist. – Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers: A Tour of Your Useless Parts, Flaws, and Other Weird Bits
Rachel Poliquin, illustrated by Clayton Hanmer
Greystone Kids
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

Natural selection produces remarkable changes in organisms over unimaginably long periods of time. But it also leaves some messes behind in the form of disappearing organs, useless body parts, and glitches in the way that our bodies work. The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers is a compelling guide to some of the results of evolution that don’t seem to make sense. Why do people get goose bumps? Why do we have wisdom teeth that need pulling? What does an appendix do? Rachel Poliquin answers these questions and many more with lively prose and clear examples. Even reluctant readers will be enticed by Poliquin’s words and Clayton Hanmer’s humorous illustrations. By reading about various fun facts, many will learn something about the way that evolution works. – Karen Austin, Goodreads

High School Nonfiction

American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South (Medical Fiascoes)
Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Subject matter and writing in this book will HOOK readers from cover to conclusion: “This vampire thrived in the warm summer climate… Invisible to its potential victims, it waited until one of them passed by. Undetected, it hitched a ride, burrowed in through the skin…and hid deep…[inside]… anchored by sharp, fang-like mouthparts.” Paired with photographic images of zombie-like victims, the writing weaves an irresistible account of the murderer (hook worms), the pivotal scientist with a personality that undermined his efforts to eradicate these killers, other scientists and leaders who helped to achieve his goal, and a range of community responses that ranged from welcoming interventions to denying the need for them. STEM enthusiasts will find every element of that acronym embedded in these pages, with compelling text, scientific drawings, photographic examples, and data accounts of the dramatic changes wrought by this ubiquitous murderer and the steps taken to eliminate it from tropical and subtropical populations. Examples of engineering proposals to improve sanitation, especially in rural and impoverished areas, ranged from Rube Goldberg-ish complexity to simply convincing people to wear shoes. Social, economic, and political forces participated in the decades-long movement to educate doctors, government officials, schools, families, and church leaders. It’s no spoiler to report significant success in this country, but several chapters also reveal ways in which other countries have and have not been able to accomplish the same levels. Conversations may be sparked about parallels to current patterns within science and variations in community responses. Readers of this engaging book will be eager to find more titles in the MEDICAL FIASCO series by Gail Jarrow.- Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today
Alice Wong (Editor)
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jen at Introverted Reader

Disability Visibility, an anthology of essays curated by Alice Wong (adult version adapted for young adults) is the window and mirror that disabled people knew we needed, but didn’t dream to ask for. Authored by 17 diverse creators (wide range of visible/invisible disabilities, ages, and cultural backgrounds), this collection addresses many of the elephants in the sub-accessible room: Mixed feelings about one’s own disability/mobility aids/etc; different paths to self-actualization/self-esteem due to disability; beloved family and friends who consider disabled people an embarassment due to cultural or religious beliefs. Content warnings at the start of each chapter create a safe and mindful way to consume the age-appropriate unvarnished truths about life with disability.- Kelly Krasner-Clarke, KidLitunderground

Picturing a Nation: The Great Depression’s Finest Photographers Introduce America to Itself
Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

If the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” has any truth to it, then Picturing a Nation: The Great Depression’s Finest Photographers Introduce America to Itself by Martin W. Sandler has a lot to say. This stunning collection of 125 black and white and 16 color photographs paired with apt historical descriptions and quotes from photographers and historians is as enthralling as it is memorable. During this time, America was facing both the economic devastation of the Great Depression and the environmental distress of the Dust Bowl. In 1935, the Resettlement Administration, which was later renamed the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created and given the task of providing aid to struggling farmers. Within the FSA, there was a group of 10 extremely talented photographers who traveled to the South, Midwest, West, and Northeast of the country on a mission to document the resiliency of a people and land facing desperate hardships. Like any piece of fine art, the composition of these images will immediately draw the attention of teens, adults, and photography enthusiasts and have a powerful impact on their view of the past and the present.- Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
Kekla Magoon
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Here is a movement inspired by bigoted state violence against their young people, rooted in local communities and expanded across the country, frequently misrepresented by major news outlets and faced with hypocrisy by White conservatives who did not accept that the rules for themselves should apply to Black activists. The story of the Black Panthers has a lot of relevance today, and Kekla Magoon’s clear prose, well-chosen illustrations, and grasp of the history behind the movement, the personalities who formed the group, and the pressures against them (societal, personal, federal) make this a living story full of passion and heartbreak. She’s clear on both the mistakes made by leaders (including their attitude towards women) and the incredible steps taken by the American government to stop their message. A great read. – Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life
Amy Butler Greenfield
Random House Studio
Nominated by: Reshama

The Woman All Spies Fear, the biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, premier code breaker, grabs the reader by the lapels and leads them through the fascinating partnership between Elizebeth and William Friedman and their top-secret lives. From having to escape a possessive millionaire patron to building a revolutionary marriage to working on the war front and holding cryptography-themed dinner parties, the Friedmans battled antisemitism, sexism, and even paranoia from the CIA with dignity, humor, and panache. Laced with original activities perfect for teen cryptanalysts, this history is sure to please. – Genevieve Ford, @GenevieveFord1