CYBILS 2023 Easy Reader & Early Chapter Book Finalists

Easy Readers

Bear and Bird: The Picnic and Other Stories
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Bear and Bird are the best of friends. So best of friends, in fact, that they would rather make the other happy than always tell the truth. Is it wrong to lie to your friends? What if your lie is to protect their feelings? Bear and Bird both have some learning and growing to do before they can answer that question, just like the young readers that will surely love this kind hearted duo. Join Bear and Bird as they picnic, sing, paint, and cuddle up! Told with wit and heart, and illustrated with soft, whimsical pictures, this collection of short stories beg to be read and reread.

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Bug Catchers (Dirt and Bugsy)
Megan Litwin, illustrated by Shauna Lynn Panczyszyn
Penguin Young Readers
Nominated by: Claire Annette Noland

When the rain comes, bug catchers Dirt and Bugsy envision and build an insect shelter to temporarily protect their specimens. Including full-color illustrations on every page and diverse characters, this simple beginning reader employs repetition and rhyming to emphasize the hard work and fun inherent in their process.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Doggo and Pupper Search for Cozy (Doggo and Pupper, 3)
Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charlie Alder
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham

When Doggo and Pupper’s friend Cat gets a great new bed, she doesn’t think it’s so great. The adventure is on as Doggo and Pupper help her search everywhere for what makes her bed cozy. Navigating everyday problems from an animal perspective, this book includes features of graphic novels. It is a sweet story with high readability addressing the challenges inherent in changing one’s familiar environment.

Sarah Polumsky

Fergus and Zeke for President
Kate Messner, illustrated by Heather Ross
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Ashe

Fergus and Zeke are pet mice in an elementary school classroom, engaging in various activities with the children. This week, they are making a President’s Day project. While the kids start working on their projects, Zeke assumes the role of “President” overseeing, deeming himself in charge while assigning tasks to Fergus. Meanwhile, the children’s background conversations touch upon the possibilities for women and people of color to pursue political office, prompting the mice to explore the attributes of effective leadership and teamwork. The illustrations display a sense of amusement and silliness, accompanying the text well. The whimsicality along with discussions on leadership makes it an exceptional early reader book for children.

Kirsten Caldwell, Early Literacy Librarian

Nat the Cat Takes a Nap: Ready-to-Read Pre-Level 1
Jarrett Lerner
Simon Spotlight
Nominated by: aquafortis

Nat the Cat is taking a nap but is rudely awakened by the narrator. As the narrator continues to get things wrong — for example, Pat the Rat is NOT Nat’s brother — young readers will delight in the back-and-forth meta-fictive interactions between Nat, the narrator, and even Pat the Rat (who would also like to take a nap). As Nat gets more and more irritated, readers will turn the page to see what happens next and ask to read this title again and again.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Vivi Loves Science: Wind and Water (I Can Read Level 3)
Kimberly Derting and Shelli R. Johannes, illustrated by Joelle Murray
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Kirsten

While visiting her favorite beach, Vivi notices the effects of erosion on the sand dunes. With help from Ranger Earle, Vivi and her friend Graeme help clean up the beach. They work with their science teacher, Mrs. Costeau, to arrange a class experiment to demonstrate how wind and water can move sand. Facts and story are woven together as readers learn geology along with Vivi and Graeme. Full-color illustrations and a diverse cast of characters make this a winning advanced easy reader.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends: Ready-to-Read Graphics Level 1
Kaz Windness
Simon Spotlight
Nominated by: Kate Talbot

Worm and Caterpillar Are Friends is a terrific offering for earliest readers to launch themselves into a lifetime love of books. The two characters are irresistible, their similarities and differences are openly discussed, and the underlying truth is shared directly: do we really need to be the same to be friends? An opening structure before the main text allows the twosome to introduce readers to the ways in which understanding graphic/comic/speech bubble text calls on unique skills, blending word/sound decoding from text narrative with image/meaning skills used in picture book reading. The brief back matter provides age/interest level science related to the story elements. This is an appealing example of STEM and SEL themes within a delightful story. The ability of this format and these characters to elicit emotional concern and connection while providing controlled vocabulary, sentence length, and story elements is as awww-inducing as the storyline and relationships themselves. This will become a new and strong favorite for young readers!

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

Henry, Like Always: Book 1
Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Mika Song’s illustrations give Henry and his classmates characteristics that make them unique. Samuel, who seems like a student who needs movement and needs to express himself, shines in the parade illustration where he gets to showcase his joy and Henry finds his own place that is just right, even though a parade does not belong on Friday. Students will relate and empathize to Henry’s need for some consistency and develop a deeper understanding of classmates on the autism spectrum.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Lola’s First Day of the Dead (¡Hola, Lola!)
Keka Novales, illustrated by Carolina Vázquez
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Kidsbookreviewer

Join Lola as she learns about her family’s heritage surrounding the holiday The Day of the Dead. Her Mom is sad during Halloween. She’s missing her family and the holiday Day of The Dead that she loved to celebrate in Guatemala. Lola’s family is invited to a Day of the Dead party. Lola is excited—until she finds out about the traditional dish fiambre. While introducing readers to Lola’s culture and tradition, the story includes the relatable experience of eating new foods.

Sarah Polumsky

Maddie and Mabel Know They Can: Book 3 (Maddie and Mabel, 3)
Kari Allen, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss
Kind World Publishing
Nominated by: Carrie Kruck

Maddie and Mabel are sisters who have plenty of new ideas and love trying new things. From setting up a lemonade stand to learning how to ride a bike and patiently waiting for flowers to grow in their yard, their story unfolds with their curiosity and support for one another. The book’s illustrations are exquisite and vibrant, breathing life into every page. They tell a story on their own, going beyond the necessity for words. The text is concise yet provides a rich story with depth and heartwarming storytelling, perfect for readers of any age. This story is about childhood adventures, resilience, patience, and sibling bonds. Children will not want to miss the stories of Maddie and Mabel.

Kirsten Caldwell, Early Literacy Librarian

Saving Snakes (Naomi Nash)
 Jessica Lee Anderson, illustrated by Alejandra Barajas 
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Lynna F.

Naomi Nash loves snakes even more than her exotic-animal veterinarian mother. When her entrepreneurial older brother suggests they team up with Naomi’s friend to offer snake-saving services to their Texas neighborhood, the trio have plenty of exciting encounters with snakes, as well as opportunities to educate their neighbors and correct common misconceptions about them. With full-color illustrations, a list of supplementary resources, and numerous snake facts, this installation in a four-book chapter book series will appeal to science-loving fluent readers.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

The Magic Lunch Box (Ben Lee)
Hanna Kim (Ch, illustrated by Emily Paik
Stone Arch Books
Nominated by: Laura Mossa

Ben Lee: The Magic Lunch Box, is an early chapter book which is part of the Ben Lee series for readers aged approximately 6 to 9 years old. Both the author and illustrator self-identify as Korean, which provides important cultural representation to emergent readers. The story centers around the protagonist, Ben Lee, a young Korean child who finds himself and his family transplanted from culturally rich Koreatown in California to Michigan. Ben feels out of place; the Korean things he loved now make him stand out in an uncomfortable way. Ben experiences bullying and is embarrassed by his lunch and his favorite lunch box, which he throws away. In the end, Ben makes friends who also learn to appreciate Korean food. The book contains a glossary containing phonetic pronunciations, a list of Korean foods featured in the story, as well as a recipe to learn to cook Kimbap, Ben Lee’s favorite meal. The Magic Lunch Box is an engaging read that emphasizes the importance of being proud of your cultural identity.

Pam Margolis, An Unconventional Librarian

The Princess in Black and the Prince in Pink
Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by Leuyen Pham 
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

The Princess is Black is back! This time Princess Magnolia is helping decorate for the Flower Festival Ball. She arrives to the festival ready to wow with a special secret decoration, sure to get everyone dancing. But when an angry Emu arrives to crash the party and the decorations, Princess Magnolia worries that she won’t have the decorations fixed in time for the ball. Suddenly a new friend appears, the Prince in Pink, and he has been waiting for just this moment to share his special and secret talents at decorating. Secret identities and teamwork make this story both exciting and inspiring. Who would you be if you had a secret identity?

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Too Small Tola Gets Tough
Atinuke, illustrated by Onyinye Iwu
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: literacyedprof

Too Small Tola Gets Tough is the third title in a unique early chapter booklet series set in Lagos, perhaps one of the largest urban areas in the world but rarely portrayed in typical American texts. In this title, Tola’s loving family is portrayed realistically in both dialect and circumstances that provide a window into daily life that is not unusual for the time and place portrayed. In this case it is set in circumstances surrounding the outset of the Covid pandemic and lockdown. The most unusual part of this early chapter book is not the rarity of material set in this locale, or this cultural portrait, but the fact that Tola is the central character. She’s a tiny girl with a huge heart, and engages with older siblings/family/characters who carry the storylines through several chapters. Those sequences portray challenges that are much older than young Tola would have faced. In fact, though, Tola provides a valuable presentation that proves her to be appealing and innovative. Too Small Tola Gets Tough is broadening in the natural and authentic way in which the story is told and the events unfold.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the Power of Picture Books