#CYBILS2023 Book Reviews: Fiction Picture Book Finalists

What are you doing this Monday morning?

Us? Oh, we’re “March-ing Fourth” with reviews for the 2023 CYBILS Awards finalists and winner in the Fiction Picture Book Category.

From “lovely,” “beautiful,” and “powerful” to “funny,” “hilarious,” and “extra outlandish,” our judges not only share their thoughts, but give you some inside scoop on what their kiddos thought, too!

Go on … March forth to the reviews, then find a copy to read and share with young readers.


Harrison, Vashti
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: TheBrookeList

Sondy @ Sonderbooks – This gorgeous picture book successfully symbolizes how people’s words can make a kid feel too much, and shows her healing and coming into her own. Most of the message is done through symbolism, which not all picture books can handle — but this one pulls it off completely.

Pamela @ What We’re Reading – This lovely picture book will resonate with so many girls and boys who are dancers. This is a powerful book and a must-read for every child. The customer reviews on Amazon are full of stories of women who bought this book for themselves because of the same type “big” shaming that happened to them as children.

2023 Finalists

Doerrfeld, Cori
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Holland

Linda @ Goodreads – It’s a beautiful story. Doerrfeld’s illustrations fill the pages with trees, plants, animals, and people as the thoughtful grandpa walks along looking, imagining what is hidden “Beneath.” It includes something important personally, too, inside one’s heart. It would be so nice to read this with family or young students to discover a list of what they might imagine “Beneath.” The endpapers are covered with that quilt!

Mr. S: A First Day of School Book
Arnaldo, Monica, illustrated by Arnaldo, Monica
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Jenna B

Natalie @ Goodreads – A hilarious day ensues both inside the classroom and out, where the bald-headed man’s series of unfortunate events can be seen through the window. Whiz-bang comedy that’s sure to be a hit for adults and kids alike.

Brooke @ Goodreads – What a darling first-day of school book! It’s one we re-read several times, the minute we finished it the first time. If you aren’t paying close attention (we weren’t at first), you might miss all the chaos and calamity going on outside the classroom window. What a funny adventure!

Amy @ Goodreads – Hilarious. This would be great to use for inferences and discussing how important pictures are to the story.

Night in the City
Downing, Julie
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

Brooke @ GoodreadsNight in the City is an adventure into a busy world that comes alive when you go to sleep. It’s a delightful bedtime book for children, with lots of beautiful bedtime imagery, but shows us some of the things we might not think about, the things that keep a city moving. We loved the well-drawn depictions of families and workers in buildings and on streets as they go about their night-time lives: the nurses, the police, the dispatchers, the drivers, the bakers, the film makers. My husband, who is often a shift worker, sometimes has a hard time explaining his ever-changing schedule to extended family, stuck in their ways of normal hours and normal jobs. Julie Downing teaches us empathy in a clever way, unfolding the wonder of night in the city.

Papá’s Magical Water-Jug Clock
Trejo, Jesús, illustrated by Kinkz, Eliza
Nominated by: Brighton

Brooke @ Goodreads – I didn’t think I was going to give this story of Jesus a fair shot, because the illustration style didn’t feel as polished and the beginning was a little predictable. By the end, though, I was won over by the sincerity of it. It is a lovely story of respect and admiration for a hard-working father in a very real family.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff
Barnett, Mac, illustrated by Klassen, Jon
Orchard Books
Nominated by: Violet

Sam @ Little Cub Literacy – It was so fun to see how they’ve taken such a treasured tale and put their own spin on it, with the dark humor we can expect from Mac. The added lines from the troll are perfection. He rattles off all the ways he enjoys goat meat—reminiscent of Bubba and his shrimp—in rhyming fashion.

Brooke @ TheBrookeList – 🐐 The kids at our house keep pulling out this fun new favorite. Top picture book at our house in many weeks! Just a fabulous retelling! 🍴

Aimee @ KeepABookOut – Please, please, pretty please with goat flambé on top let this be a series!? It’s the classic tale with a hilarious twist. You are going to want this one on your shelves.

Sondy @ Sonderbooks – The book I didn’t know I needed! So much fun! Now thousands more families will find out about this fairy tale, a wonderful one about the little guy making his way.

Natalie @ Goodreads – Yep, it’s that same old Norwegian folktale you’ve heard a hundred times—except that it’s not! Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have teamed up to make this story extra stinky, extra funny, and extra outlandish!

The Yellow Áo Dài
Bui, Hanh, illustrated by Phan, Minnie
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: stacybuckeye

Stacy @ Goodreads – Beatiful book on so many levels.

Brooke @ Goodreads – Hanh Bui writes a lovely story about honesty, family, and traditions. The Yellow Áo Dài reminds me of a book I used to read to my children when they were small about facing consequences and showing integrity, but this book has the added bonus of the introduction to diverse cultural understanding. Bui does a wonderful job of showing that families can treasure things, and each other, while strengthening their bonds through loving forgiveness and honesty. The illustrations by Minnie Phan add so much light and personality to little Naliah and the images of her playing in her mother’s Áo Dài are just too cute for words.