Book Reviews: #CYBILS2023 Elementary Nonfiction Finalists

As is our tradition, we held off sharing judges’ reviews of the #CYBILS2023 finalists until the winners were announced on February 14.

With that behind us, we decided to start a new tradition: giving you, our readers, a chance to see all the amazingness in one blog post. 

Read on to learn about the books themselves, as well as what made them stand-outs for the readers who nominated them, the judges who shortlisted them, and why X book was the winner.



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

Tiffany @ Goodreads – JUMPER helps people who fear spiders see the world from the spider’s point of view. It helps the jumping spider not seem so intimidating and more like a friendly neighbor. Well done.

Natalie @ Goodreads – You may not think that “jumping spider” and “cute” are synonyms, but that was my nephew’s designation after picking up this book. I’m not sure that I’m totally convinced about that, but I was taken in by the arachnid’s strange beauty, due in no small part to some keenly-painted illustrations.



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

Brooke @ Goodreads – Such a fun story about painist and environmental activist Mahani Teave. And it brings both together and she works to preserve her beautiful island and bring music to those who live there. Hopeful and good. Reminds us that we can all improve our small places in the world.

Reshama @ Goodreads – Inspirational and eye opening, this book makes for great class room as well as at home reading!

Sondy @ Sonderbooks – An especially inspiring part of [Mahani’s] story was that she co-founded a nonprofit which built a music school on the island — built of trash from the nearby ocean! This book is not only the story of a child prodigy, but also a story of fighting for the environment. It all adds up to an interesting and inspiring story of a kid who started with a love of music and grew up to help her people and her home.


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

Lisa Librarian @ Kiss the Book Jr. – Glitter lovers, this book is for you! Well-organized and engaging, Barton takes the reader through what makes it sparkle, and why humans might like sparkly things. I loved the illustrations – I sort of expected the book to be very glittery, and it wasn’t, and that was totally ok. I’ll enjoy recommending this to my middle school readers as well as the upper elementary crowd. Everyone loves glitter! Right? 

Mary @ Just Read Journal – This STEAM picture book delves deep and reflects back all the shiny, shadowy, and shocking angles that are associated with a niche product like glitter. Just like glitter, the digital illustrations are enticing, multicolored and lively. This is an example of nonfiction that will not only fascinate elementary age readers but will illuminate their minds at the same time!

Tiffany @ Goodreads – I love the way glitter sparkles, but I do not like how it falls off of things and sticks to you. This book taught me way more than I ever knew about glitter and its origin. I also enjoyed learning about natural, safer alternatives to plastic glitter. Even though this book is informative, the author brings in a humorous tone that I appreciated.


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


Cindy @ Kiss the Book Jr. – Such a great story. Includes a simple recipe for making ice cream quickly in plastic bags. What a great way to share ice cream making with students. Change up that old butter making lesson plan with ice cream!

Karen @ Goodreads – I read this book to sisters who are 3 and 5 years old. After they read a couple of other books on hand, they picked this one up again and asked me to read a second time. There are refrains throughout the book of Jackson singing a song about buying ice cream. The siblings I read with found those songs particularly engaging.

Mary @ Just Read Journal – Scoop up this book and you’re bound to learn something new about the early development and marketing of ice cream. Through vivid illustrations, captivating story-telling, and catchy jingles, elementary-aged readers will find themselves drawn to Augustus Jackson. This is a brief picture book biography that will launch many other opportunities for engagement and learning. Even preschoolers will scarf up this book and will ask to read it again!

Reshama @ Goodreads – Fantastic picture book biography of the man behind our favorite dessert! Loved the simple but engaging story telling about Augustus who made accessible a treat that was at that time available only for the elite. Don’t forget to try your hand making some home made ice-cream based on the recipe at the back of the book!


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

Brooke @ Goodreads – Kate Peridot introduces us to eight bear [species] – and some I’d never heard of before! Bears are beloved and fascinating creatures and this beautifully-illustrated book acts as part tour-guide, part atlas. Bears have never looked so cute.

Genevieve @ Twitter/X – If we teach city children that bears are cute, are they in danger of trying to pet them when visiting Natl Parks on the other side of the country? Besides this frankly ridiculous caveat, I have to say this is the most adorable book about bears I’ve ever seen. 

Reshama @ Goodreads – A super cute non-fiction picture book about bears! We read about bears everywhere, but this book shows you the different types of bears and where their habitats are. The illustrations are lovely and endearing! Great book for a read aloud and for home and school libraries!

Tiffany @ Goodreads – What an adorable, yet extremely informative way to learn about eight different types of bears (and even some animals that are called bears, but actually aren’t). This was such a fun book to read, set as an “adventure,” complete with traveling tickets and a packing list.

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

Hilary @ Goodreads – This is such a unique, special, and 100% true story that teaches children about The Great Depression and a beautiful piece of workworking forged by one humble girl’s discipline, hard work, and determination. Her gift to President Roosevelt shows readers just how important it is to offer help, accept help, and express gratitude during the most trying of times. Very sweet story and one that I would guess most people have not had the pleasure of hearing.

Mary @ Just Read Journal – A truly American story of making something remarkable from nothing more than discarded wood crates, ingenuity, and dedication. This picture book has an impressive young heroine who made a mark in history and will appeal to elementary age children. The illustrations emphasize a contrast between the bleak and dreary circumstances of this time and the spark of creativity and spirit that imbues life with joy and wonder. Reading this makes me want to plan a trip to see Ernestine Guerrero’s clock in person!

Sandy @ Goodreads – A wise and sensitive account of one young Mexican-American girl during them Great Depression. This step back into American history through the eyes/life of a child who experienced directly the benefits of the Roosevelt’s efforts to support all people. Her time traveling with and working with her father reveal the truth that GIRLS can also build and develop creative construction projects. The launching note says it all- “f you look closely, treasures can be found in unexpected places.” This is a treasure!

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

Karen @ Goodreads – Author/Illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky has created a quirky, beautiful book about caterpillars that transform into butterflies or moths. The book, however, is not restricted just to caterpillars but the entire life cycle of these insects.

The pages are really busy with color and various sizes of text, but the tone is jaunty and inviting. I love the earth tone colors of this book and the festive nature of the illustrations. It conveys the attitude that learning about nature is not only beautiful but fun. This would make a great coffee table book but I would also suggest it for a reader’s corner in a classroom or a gift for a young reader.

Reshama @ Goodreads – Absolutely gorgeous with stunning illustrations, this nonfiction picture book is not just yet another transformation life cycle book. The author engages the reader through art and language, introducing moths and butterflies and the variety of this species. yes there is a life cycle element, but visually shows different ways different butterflies and moths evolve. This is a must have for every school and home library. Do not miss!

Tiffany @ Goodreads – Learn about the differences and similarities between moths and butterflies in this beautifully illustrated and informative nonfiction picture book. Don’t forget to check out the Sources and Resources page at the back.