Nonfiction Tuesday | #CYBILS2023 Book Reviews 12.26.2023

Tell us. What do these three things have in common:

  • extraterrestrials,
  • a Jewish musician, and
  • a conspirator to kill the President of the United States.

You guessed it! Each of them is the subject of a 2023 CYBILS Awards nonfiction nominee!

Debbie’s Song is a picture book biography for an elementary audience. Both Is There Anybody Out There? and Hanged! challenge readers to think critically about the information presented to them. 

Summary excerpts come from Goodreads. Click the cover to add this book to your TBR.


Karen @ Goodreads – I was honored to “meet” Debbie Friedman in the pages of this book about her life and music. While reading this picture book, I listened to a performance of her best-known work “Mi Shebeirach” recorded December 9, 2001 at Hynes Convention Center, Boston, MA. This work is a blessing of healing set to music. Our world surely can benefit from such a plea. As a way to promote interfaith/inter-path efforts, I recommend this book to all children. It also holds interest in people interested in folk music.

Tiffany @ Goodreads – This picture book is about Debbie Friedman, a woman who gathered people together through community and song and brought new life to Jewish music. A story of perseverance in the face of naysayers and following your heart and passion.


Genevieve @ X/Twitter – Lisa Krantz fairly and humorously explores the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life in IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? A good read for middle grades, but also for anyone who wonders about the ins and outs of the science and the folklore of UFOlogy and extremophiles.

Karen @ Goodreads – Krantz writes a book that will intrigue young readers into learning about various fields in STEM while puzzling out the evidence and critical thinking regarding UFOs. There are a lot of drawings to help pull readers into the text. This was a fun way to use critical thinking skills on every level of Bloom’s taxonomy.


Cindy on behalf of Kiss the Book, review by Michelle in the Middle – Meticulously researched, all dialogue in the book is from primary source documents. This is a fascinating look at civil rights during a perceived threat. The reader is left to determine for themselves whether they think Mary is innocent or guilty. Anyone who is a fan of history, cold cases, or the miscarriage of civil rights, will find this a gripping read. The only downside is the book’s length, which is longish. Well written, this is an engaging story of an intriguing woman during a difficult time in history. 

Brooke @ Goodreads – Fascinating little piece of history regarding the possible co-conspirators of John Wilkes Booth.  This text makes an interesting look at the fervor for justice that so many felt after the assassination, the military commission that tried her, the suspension of many of her rights as an American, and the justice that found her hanged (the first woman to be hung for a capital offense). I’m astonished the crime she was accused of could be considered a capital offense. The non-fiction story reads like a narrative and is engaging and thought-provoking, even though you know from the outset that she’s going to hang 🙂