CYBILS 2023 Poetry Finalists

Animals in Pants
Suzy Levinson, illustrated by Kevin Howdeshell and Kristen Howdeshell
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Becky L.

Animals in Pants by Suzy Levinson is a fun and playful collection full of poems about, well, animals in pants. It’s this premisecoupled with colorful, saucy illustrationsthat will capture the attention of toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary kids, but they’ll stay for the amusing language and ludicrous antics of fashionable creatures throughout this clever book.

Sarah Miller, Can We Read?

Dark Testament: Blackout Poems
Crystal Simone Smith
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

In one of this year’s most unique collections of poetry, Crystal Simone Smith finds poems within the pages of George Saunders’ 2017 novel Lincoln in the Bardo. Utilizing a form of found poetry known as blackout poetry, whereby a poet selects choice words and phrases from a written work and blacks out the unneeded text, the author crafts a collection of heart-wrenching, eye-opening, soul-stirring poems about human life, tragic loss, and a way forward.

Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

My Head Has a Bellyache: And More Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups (Mischievous Nonsense, 2)
Chris Harris, illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Katy K.

In My Head Has a Bellyache by Chris Harris, there is a poem very relatable to how kids will enjoy this book. The poem is called “A Big, Comfy Chair and a Brand New Book.” The entire house is in disarray with dad being burned by a toaster, the dog needs out, the bath is overfilling and more while the boy is so involved in his book, he does not notice any of it. The green, white, and black color palette used on each page adds a playful feel to each silly poem. There is even a poem with adult and child parts. Refreshing and fun!

Sheri Howard , Lobit Education Village Library

Welcome to the Wonder House
Rebecca Kai Dotlich and Georgia Heard, illustrated by Deborah Wordsong Freedman
Wordsong/Astra Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sylvia Vardell

Welcome to the Wonder House is a thoughtful picture book collection of 29 poems gathered into a dozen metaphorical “rooms” that encourage curiosity and questioning. Each “room” is presented in a double-page spread of art and poetry that explores the natural world, each with a slightly different focus from ordinary things to trees and fossils to mystery and wishes. The illustrations help convey a tone of mystery and suspense with intriguing mixed-media art using wide washes of color in shades of blue, green, gold or purple with subtle hints of the objects referenced in the poems. The poets encourage questioning and creativity and challenge young readers to express themselves through writing, painting, building, and more.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children

Where I Live: Poems About My Home, My Street, and My Town
Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Where I Live: Poems about My Home, My Street, and My Town is a collection of entertaining poems. The organization of the book is brilliant, starting with the intimacy of home albeit it an apartment, a farmhouse, or or the suburbs to streets and town. Told from a child’s viewpoint which adds to the fresh look at poems from many award winning poets. Yum’s illustrations in watercolor and pencil are engaging. A perfect launch pad for talking about where one lives.

Jone MacCulloch, Jone Rush MacCulloch

All the Fighting Parts
Hannah V. Sawyerr
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Sam Richardson

Alternating between police interview transcripts and verse, Hannah V. Sawyerr dynamically tells the story of Amina Conteh dealing with and surviving sexual assault in All The Fighting Parts. Sawyerr’s use of different structures throughout makes the novel even more powerful. The compelling story along with the masterful use of mixed media makes this book unforgettable.

Sheri Howard, Lobit Education Village Library

Call Me Adnan
Reem Faruqi
Nominated by: Joanne R. Fritz

Adnan Zakir is pretty happy with his life, full of best friends, an obsession with table tennis, and a wonderful family, including his toddler brother, Rizwan. When they all travel to Florida for the Ultimate Table Tennis Championship, that life shifts abruptly and impossibly when an unthinkable tragedy occurs. This heart-rending novel in verse that is somehow both a coming-of-age story and an unflinching yet age-appropriate exploration of grief doesn’t shy away from the deep pain of losing a loved one — and how everything changes — but its honesty is redemptive and beautiful, and written in a way that’s readily accessible for middle-grade readers on the younger end of that age group.

Sarah Miller, Can We Read?

Enter the Body
Joy McCullough
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Gary Anderson

Shakespeare’s most famous and intriguing young female characters share their own personal stories in this book that is part verse novel, part poetry collection. From Juliet and Ophelia to Lady Macbeth and Joan of Arc, McCullough gives voice to these iconic literary characters as they offer insight into their opinions of life, love, strength, and sisterhood.

Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Charles Waters and Traci Sorell
Nominated by: Katey H

Mascot is a novel in verse set in a contemporary urban middle school that is grappling with the question of whether their Native American school mascot is racist or not. Presented through multiple points of view, many arguments are presented both for and against, sometimes from surprising sources. Questions are raised about representation, class issues, income disparity, and privilege by engaging and believable characters who are white, Black, Native, Latino, and Indian. In the end, not everyone comes to see the need to change the school mascot — a realistic conclusion — but the poets show young people standing up for change while also weaving in practical steps and resources for doing so throughout the narrative.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children

No Matter the Distance
Cindy Baldwin
Quill Tree Books
Nominated by: KtStar

In No Matter the Distance by Cindy Baldwin, Penny, a protagonist with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) develops a unique friendship with a stranded dolphin. Told in spare and poetic language, Penny discovers who she is as she helps the marine team get the sick dolphin back to her pod. Themes of compassion and empathy has the reader rooting for Penny and Rose. It’s a story that remains with the reader after the last page is read.

Jone MacCulloch, Jone Rush MacCulloch