CYBILS 2023 Nonfiction Finalists


Glitter Everywhere!: Where it Came From, Where It’s Found & Where It’s Going
Chris Barton, Chris, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
Nominated by: Gary Anderson

Strong opinions about glitter are common, but whether you love it or hate it, this book is a fascinating look at the history and science of all things sparkly! Readers will learn what iridescence is, how it works, and how human use of shimmery beetles in ancient Egypt and shiny mica in South African cave paintings led to the development of what we now know as glitter. There is a discussion of various applications for glitter, from crafts to cupcakes, as well as future glitter innovations to help make new types of sparkles that are not harmful to the earth. An author’s note, bibliography, and selected further reading suggestions round out this fun exploration of a very niche topic.

Jenna Ehler

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better
Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illustrated by Keith Mallett
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Rachael Fryman

You’re about to meet one of the sweetest unsung American heroes: Augustus Jackson, “the father of ice cream”. Born a free but poor Black boy in 1808 in Philadelphia, Gus rose to become White House cook and ice cream entrepreneur. The real barriers of racism and socioeconomic limitations are mentioned. (Likely subtle enough to be permitted in classrooms in all states). But the focus is on Gus’s innovation, passion, and drive to make the then-luxury dessert accessible to all – in the bright hat and dapper suit that is the crowning jewel of Keith Mallett’s illustrations. Yes please, we need more stories of Black inventors, especially in a time when the push to get girls into STEM risks is leaving BIPOC boys in the dust. Back matter goes into the history of ice cream and even provides a fun and easy home recipe!

Kelly Krasner-Clarke, Goodreads

Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider
Jessica Lanan
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Drew

See the world through the eyes of a jumping spider. Feel the world through his sensors. Hear what he hears as he hunts and is hunted. This gorgeously illustrated story of Jumper is sure to please any young child who loves nature, bugs, and, yes, spiders! The story takes place in a corner garden where we can see Jumper doing all of spidery magic, like jumping 5 times his body length and viewing his surroundings through his four pairs of eyes. The end pages provide additional details for the extra curious as well as a glossary and tips for kids on finding and identifying spiders.

Stacy Putnam, Stacy’s Books

Meet The Bears
Kate Peridot, illustrated by Becca Hall
Welbeck Children’s
Nominated by: Bridget Wilson

Be ready to go on a reading adventure with this book! Meet the Bears is an easily accessible picture book packed with beautiful illustrations and valuable information about eight different species of bears, displayed in a variety of ways. Readers will enjoy the “Guess which bear?” feature and the fact that it is set up as an adventure, complete with travel tickets and a packing list! Maps, stats, size comparisons, and even information about other bear-like animals are included. We think this book will appeal to different levels of readers, allowing for a connection to a wide audience.

Tiffany Loveland, Youtube

Piece by Piece: Ernestine’s Gift for President Roosevelt
Lupe Ruiz-Flores, illustrated by Anna López Real
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Piece by Piece is a lovely and heartfelt story about grit and perseverance. It is written, illustrated, and about Mexican Americans, who comprise such an important (and often forgotten) part of the historical fabric of this country. The story chronicles the Great Depression in an easy-to-grasp way for kids. The message of giving and gratitude is top notch, as well. Well-written, with excellent execution and polish.

Hilary Margitich, WRITERS’ RUMPUS

The Girl Who Heard the Music: How One Pianist and 85,000 Bottles and Cans Brought New Hope to an Island
Marni Fogelson, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Sourcebooks eXplore
Nominated by: afrjes7547

The story of Mahani Teave, the world-famous pianist/environmental activist from Rapa Nui/Easter Island, takes on art, science, character education and hits it all out of the park in 40 short pages. A young gifted musician follows her fascination with the unfamiliar piano around the word, incorporating subtle but clear themes of “how to balance your own culture with mainstream and be authentic across the board.” But Mahani’s heart is always in Rapa Nui, and she uses her artistic creativity-to-innovation pipeline to solve the ecological threat of trash encroaching her beloved home … in a way that will get young readers’ creative and problem-solving wheels turning. Beautiful illustrations featuring Moai, Rapa Nui’s natural beauty, and the wildly new cool school that trash built round out this gentle and inspiring tale.

Kelly Krasner-Clarke, Goodreads

What’s Inside a Caterpillar Cocoon?: And Other Questions About Moths & Butterflies
Rachel Ignotofsky
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Charlotte

Author/Illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky has created a quirky, beautiful book about caterpillars that transform into butterflies or moths. The pages are visually stimulating with both warm-yet-vibrant colors, accompanied by various sizes of text. The tone is jaunty and inviting. There is a narrative paired with additional details that are more scientific. The book depicts two dozen or so caterpillars (larva) set in small settings with plants but also shows eggs, pupa, and adult moths and butterflies within broader scenes such as a farm and an urban butterfly garden. At the end, there is one page labeled “Sources and Resources” that suggests educational activities and further reading.

Karen Austin, Goodreads


How It Happened! Sneakers: The Cool Stories and Facts Behind Every Pair
Stephanie Warren Drimmer and WonderLab Group
Union Square Kids
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

We found this to be a well-executed and highly entertaining read for this age level, with a ton of kid-appeal. It is such a fun topic, tracing the full, fascinating history of the sneaker–the world’s most beloved shoe. The text is vibrantly-written to keep the reader’s interest, with a lot of fascinating facts and trivia. Covers so many different areas of knowledge, such as the history of ancient civilizations, the evolution of sports and fitness, consumerism, and popular culture.

Hilary Margitich, WRITERS’ RUMPUS

Plague-Busters!: Medicine’s Battles with History’s Deadliest Diseases
Lindsey Fitzharris and Adrian Teal, illustrated by Teal, Adrian
Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Nominated by: Jen at Introverted Reader

Plague-Busters! is a history of the six deadliest plagues from the bubonic plague to cholera to rabies told with great humor in both tone and illustration. An expert blend of vivid description and drawings that lighten the grossness factor. The absurdity of the cures will have middle schoolers rolling their eyes or laughing out loud as they quickly turn the pages for more. This is especially timely after the Covid years.

Stacy Putnam, Stacy’s Books

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
Elizabeth Partridge, illustrated by Lauren Tamaki
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

We thought this was a gorgeous, poignant, and thought-provoking book. Such a fresh approach to the subject matter and wonderful for tweens and up who love history, social justice issues, and photography/visual storytelling mediums. Takes the perspective of three different photographers from three different walks of life, and how they each captured and portrayed the Japanese American incarceration. This is a one-of-a-kind book that readers will never forget.

Hilary Margitich, WRITERS’ RUMPUS

Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport
Caren Stelson, illustrated by Selina Alko
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Becky L.

What first looks like a lyrical mixed-media picture book, draws the reader immediately into the the timeless magic of childhood set in 1938 Prague. Through the memories of five Kindertransport survivors, we see the slow seeping-in of hatred and how it poisoned Europe. And the quick actions of an (unnamed until the last page) enterprising British Jewish stockbroker that transported 669 children to foster homes in London.

The five survivors and organizer Nicholas Winton aren’t named until the end, adding more poignancy to the magnitiude of this heartbreaking, lifesaving mission. The text alludes to and backmatter underlines that finding how you can make a difference and helping people is so much bigger than individuals.

Kelly Krasner-Clarke, Goodreads

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity
Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist
Random House Studio
Nominated by: KtStar

The Mona Lisa Vanishes is an outstanding example of how narrative nonfiction can be as compelling and immersive of a reading experience as any novel! Nicholas Day weaves together multiple strands of the story of the creation of the painting, its initial reception by the public, its later rise to fame because of the theft, and the eventual recovery and restoration to the Louvre. Brett Helquist’s illustrations add to the fun and exciting tone set by the storytelling and make this an appealing, accessible title for all middle grade readers.

Jenna Ehler

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
Robin Wall Kimmerer, and Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt
Zest Books
Nominated by: Richetta

A brilliant adaptation of Robin Wall Kimmerer’s classic, this brings the iridescent beauty of the original essays and makes them easily accessible for young people through careful subheadings, sidebars, and attractive illustrations. Kimmerer brings us Potawatomie and other wisdom learned from plants, delightful life stories, and weaves them together with lyric wonder. With lessons about gratitude, reciprocation, the power of observation and care, Braiding Sweetgrass should be universal reading and this version will gracefully adorn any bookshelf.

Genevieve Ford, X/Twitter

Impossible Escape: A True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe
Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Becky L.

In Impossible Escape, award-winning author Steve Sheinkin follows the harrowing journey of Rudi Vrba, a Jewish teen from Slovakia who spends nearly two years at Auschwitz concentration camp. There, he encounters horror after horror and determines that he will take any risk in order to escape and to tell the world of this “big secret.” The author includes extensive backmatter about his research, including a trip to Poland to follow Vrba’s escape route in person. This book is a carefully crafted recounting of a dark time in history that is accessible for teen and tween readers today.

Jenna Ehler

Muzoon: A Syrian Refugee Speaks Out
Muzoon Almellehan and Wendy Pearlman
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

What happened to Muzoon, age 14, and her family when the civil war in Syria started to hit too close to home? An escape that leaves the reality of “home” a question. This book is an account of her life from the time before the Syrian War to her time entering a university in the UK. Muzoon’s experience living between refugee camps gave her the strength to become an advocate for girls’ education. We loved the inspiring tale behind Muzoon’s work, her dedication and strength in speaking up for girl’s rights to an equal education!

Stacy Putnam, Stacy’s Books

Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano by Himself
Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge
Zest Books
Nominated by: Colleen

Nearer My Freedom is the found poetry retelling of the life of writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, during the transatlantic slave trade. Readers will feel like they are reading diary entries from Olaudah’s personal journal. Entries include information about his life as a young boy, his enslavement, his travels across the seas, his liberation and his life as a free man. The lyrical and poetic approach to this story allows it to be easily accessible to many readers. In addition to Olaudah’s story, there are also several bits of important information included to help the reader understand context and history during this time period. Great for teaching primary sources, slavery, history and analysis of text. We believe every teen should have access to this wonderful, yet heart wrenching story.

Tiffany Loveland, Youtube

Spare Parts (Young Readers’ Edition): The True Story of Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and an Impossible Dream
Joshua Davis
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: aquafortis

Our panel found this a compelling and inspirational book for teens. The story revolves around four undocumented teens from Mexico, who meet through a high school robotics club and their shared passion for technical design and building. The reader really gets to know them their childhoods, interests and hobbies, pain and dreams. It is an inside look at what it looks and feels like to be a smart, driven, and undocumented child in America. They accomplish the (seemingly) impossible, progressing to an elite underwater robotics competition alongside teams from top colleges and universities. The story is amazingly uplifting, while still keeping its feet on the ground in reality.

Hilary Margitich, WRITERS’ RUMPUS