SpecFic Saturday | #CYBILS2023 Book Reviews 11.18.2023

What do two of our judges say about today’s selections? That if if weren’t for being CYBILS Awards judges, they would not have discovered books they characterized as “gems” and “one of my favorite books of the year.”

The authors and illustrators may be familiar to you – Eoin Colfer, Francis Hardinge, PJ Lynch – but their latest works are as fresh as … well you decide.

Book summaries come from Goodreads. Click the book cover image to add it to your own TBR.


Deb Tanner @ The Book Search – This is a gem that I never would have read, had it not been for the CYBILS. Even though it is beautifully and lavishly illustrated it is really is not a picture book.  The text is dense and complicated and rich, like a beautiful tapestry or a soaring opera. This is a really great story.  The characters are interesting and well developed.  The language of the story is complex and vivid.  The plot is complicated with lots of plot twists.  This would make a wonderful read aloud. The art work is so vivid and so intricate and so emotionally drenched, I spent a lot of time looking at it!  The art work is equally as complicated and rich as the text.  It’s realistic in sort of an Italian Renaissance way. 

Mark @ Mark My Words – This book reads like a fairy tale as it even begins with “Once there was a prince…” It’s possible to read it in one sitting. The beautiful illustrations creatively blend with the narrative to depict Lir’s quest in pictures. I’m not an expert when it comes to art. However, the use of mostly pastel colors elicits a mysterious, magical tone that matches the events in the story. There’s a balance between realism and abstract so the images are easily understood without being too detailed. The illustrations come in a variety of sizes ranging from small corner spots to full, two-page layouts. They wonderfully enhance the story for young readers to make reading the book a magical experience.


Natalie @ Goodreads – I am flabbergasted that I’d never read Hardinge before, but I’m glad I finally found her. This book is top-notch, high-quality writing. It will, no doubt, be one of my favorite books of the year. With excellent world-building and characters that feel real, this book is unafraid to explore the profound darkness of grief and the difficult process of healing with nuance and depth.