The IN be-TWEEN | #CYBILS2023 Reviews 01.24.2024

I’m not even sure where to begin …

Readers will move through time and space, both literal and figurative. They’ll meet characters with whom they will feel a kinship – and others who will draw out other emotions they may not know how to unpack.

Big themes, big emotions, and still lots of joy, laughter, adventure, and brave new worlds. And yes, that includes our nonfiction selection, too, which, as Hilary points out is filled with “eccentric characters and great stories.”

Summary excerpted from Goodreads. Click book cover to see full summary and more reviews.

Katy @ A Library Mama – There’s a lot going on, yet all of it feels real, without the complexity of real life stripped down to focus on just one big problem. It deals with several weighty topics, including bullying, discrimination, eating disorders, and family health problems while still having many threads of joy, laughter, and connection. I also loved and recognized the distinctive metro Detroit setting, with its landmarks, snack foods, and ethnic mix. Also, the movement teacher goes unremarked by the prefix Mx., which is awesome. This is just all-around good, and reminds me a little of 2021 CYBILS Finalist Thanks a Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas.

NextGen Librarian @ Goodreads – Fans of The Stars Beneath Our Feet will love this MG book by Jack Cheng. Andy is a sweet and sensitive child and the storyline about friends changing is so relatable. CW: racism, microaggressions, anxiety, trichotillomania (hair pulling disorder), bullying, parental death, anorexia

Middle-Grade Nonfiction

Hilary @ Goodreads – I really enjoyed this history- and fact-filled account of the mail system in America. You might think this is a rather banal topic, but it’s really not! I actually learned a great deal about our country’s history, and found the way it was written to be very engaging and animated. The book does a nice job of highlighting the important experiences of different minority groups, and at the end, also framing the current state of the U.S. Postal Service and it’s future direction. The colorful layout is engaging as well, with Osborne including many historical photos throughout to entertain and engage the middle grade reader.

Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Deb @ The Book Search – Cindy Lin’s Creatures of the In Between is an exciting adventure, and one of my new favorite books. This is a really fun book to read. The descriptions of the magical creatures are clear enough that even if you have no background knowledge of them, you can visualize what they look like. Jin and the rest of the characters are well developed and such kind and interesting people, I was sorry to finish the book. There are big themes of building and earning trust, good versus evil, pushing back against rules that are unjust, and kindness. This is going to be a fun one to use as a read aloud because the kids are not going to let you stop reading!

Middle-Grade Graphic Novel

Tamara @ Bookish Things – I really enjoyed this book! Not only was the story a great read, but I learned a bit about the culture of the Mesoamerica area. I also loved the artwork and the outfits of all of the characters. There’s a name glossary in the back to help you pronounce the names and places that are throughout the pages, as well as information about the gods and mythical creatures that show up. It was quite a long graphic novel, packed with laughs, adventure, and more, so I was surprised that this was a volume 1. Can’t wait to pick up the next one.

Poetry Novel in Verse

Sondy @ Sonderbooks – Katherine Applegate has done it again! She’s written a third book about The One and Only Ivan and his friends. I’m not quite sure how Ruby’s vocabulary got so big, but her story was moving. And we did come to understand how mixed her emotions would be about growing up. Once again, this will motivate young animal lovers to want to help, while entertaining them in the company of long-time friends.

NextGen Librarian @ Goodreads – Honestly just when I think Applegate can’t top her previous books she writes a gem like this. Ruby’s story, told in first person POV, is from the eyes of a child who’s been through so much in her short life. I teared up throughout the entire MG novel and the Author’s Note is not to be missed. We need to do more for our animals on this planet. CW: parental death, trauma