2008 Cybils Finalists

Easy Readers

Houndsley and Catina and the Quiet Time
by James Howe
Candlewick Press

Houndsley and Catina in the Quiet Time tells of best friends that find themselves snowed in on the day of the big concert they’ve been preparing for over the last month. Catina is frantic with anxiety about the shopping and prepping they won’t be able to do, but Houndsley is happy to sit and watch the snow fall. Howe’s language is tender and poetic in spite of the limited vocabulary and concrete imagery that beginning readers require. This is an accessable story that draws adults and children alike into its cozy, musical world.

–andi, a wrung sponge

I Love My New Toy
by Mo Willems

In this entry in the continuing series of Elephant and Piggie, Piggie is enraptured with her new toy, even though she doesn’t know what it does. But when Elephant accidentally breaks it, Piggie and Elephant go through a range of emotions as Piggie gets angry, Elephant gets sad, and they both realize with relief that the toy is not broken; it’s a “break-and-snap toy”. The different colors and sizes of the text help new readers interpret the emotions, as do the simple but expressive illustrations. Young readers will sympathize with this trial of the characters’ friendship.

–Sonja, Bookwink

I Will Surprise My Friend!
by Mo Willems

I Will Surprise My Friend is a great story wrapped in an easy reader book jacket. Mo Willems’ simple color scheme allow kids to quickly pick out the humor in this story of Gerald and Piggy. With plenty of white space, vocabulary repetition, and varied type sizes to add emotion, new readers can easily jump in and enthusiastically tell the story.

–Terry, Scrub-a-Dub-Tub

Maybelle Goes to Tea
by Katie Speck
Henry Holt

Bedecked in a pink bow and a string of pearls, Maybelle is one proper cockroach. Proper cockroach? Hey, why not? With her list of rules (“If you’re spied, better hide”), she does everything possible to avoid an Extermination Event at the home of the equally proper Peabodys. But on the day of the Ladies’ Tea, decorum flies out the window, and one adventure after another ensues. Newly independent readers, and children listening to a read-aloud, will get a kick out of Katie Speck’s original and amusing story, which she tells in thirteen short chapters. Paul Rátz de Tagyos’s whimsical illustrations, of the unlikely heroine and her insect friends, add to the insouciant fun.

–Susan, Chicken Spaghetti

Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig
by Kate Dicamillo
Candlewick Press

The Porcine Wonder, Mercy Watson, returns for her fifth adventure in this easy reader chapter book. This book has it all: a pretend tea-party gone awry, an ambitious animal control officer, and Eugenia Lincoln–the greatest comic foil since Margaret Dumont. Best of all, there’s more of Chris Van Dusen’s cheerily demented illustrations and Kate DiCamillo’s deceptively clever text, in which the words “hot buttered toast” are code for all that we love about life.

— Kara, Not Just For Kids

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)

Cabinet of Wonders
by Marie Rutkoski

Petra Kronos lives in a small Czech village with her father, an artisan who can move metal with his mind and work with invisible tools. When her father is commissioned by the prince to build a marvelous clock, he goes off to Prague–and comes back blinded. The prince has stolen his eyes. Even worse, the prince now has control of a clock that has the power to control the weather. Petra sets off to Prague, determined to steal back her father’s eyes. She has help-from her tin pet spider Astrophil, and from Neel, a Roma boy with fingers that extend into invisible ghosts that can pick locks. But it will still be a treacherous journey–and at stake is the fate of all of Europe. Packed with character, humor and adventure, Cabinet of Wonders is a novel lush with detail and beauty, a full literary meal that will leave readers hungry for the next book in the Kronos Chronicles.


Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

Bod is not your usual boy. He lives in a graveyard. Having been raised by the graveyard’s ghosts, Bod has learned a few, shall we say, tricks of the trade, like walking through walls and fading so that no one sees him. The Graveyard Book is pure delight from start to finish. To me, the thing that was most indicative of Gaiman’s mastery was the fact that this story is unabashedly scary. The world isn’t always sunshine and playgrounds and Gaiman isn’t afraid to give kids a darker reality. This book is full of humor, loveable characters, and a top-notch ending for our brave, orphaned hero.

– Em of Em’s Bookshelf

written by D. M. Cornish
Penguin USA

The second book in the Monster Blood Tattoo series continues the adventure of young foundling, Rossamund Bookchild, as he joins the Lamplighters, a branch of the Emperor’s service sworn to keeping the lamps lit on all the far-flung, monster-hunted roads of the land. The stunning imaginative achievement of D.M. Cornish’s world-creation is, to my mind, unparalleled. He has dreamed the monsters and monster-hunters of the Half-Continent into being fully fleshed. Rossamund is a character to love and follow, and the dark secrets and conspiracies that unfold in this story make a 600-page book a lightning read. I can’t wait to read it again.

Laini Taylor-Di Bartolo

Magic Thief
written by Sarah Prineas

This fast-paced, fun, and engrossing story tells of a young thief who has survived on the strange streets of Wellmet alone, thanks to his quick hands and quick wits. But when Conn picks the pocket of the wizard Nevery, and pulls out the stone that is the locus of Nevery’s magic, his life changes. As the wizard’s new apprentice, Conn has only thirty days to find his own locus magicalus, or lose his new status. Much worse is the fact that someone, or something, is sucking the magic out of Wellmet, and Conn has to use every bit of his quickness, and every bit of his new found magic, to defeat the Magic Thief. A great adventure, with great characters!

Charlotte Taylor

written by Ingrid Law
Penguin USA

Mibs Beaumont is anxiously awaiting her 13th birthday because, in her family, 13th birthdays bring about big changes. The Beaumonts always get their savvies–their supernatural powers–on their 13th birthdays. But this year, Mibs’ dad is in the hospital and it looks like her savvy isn’t coming. Ingrid Law has written a tale that is sure to appeal to kids of all ages. I loved the idea that all kids have their own savvy, even if it isn’t as splashy as the ability to move mountains.

– Em of Em’s Bookshelf

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)

written by Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart love of flying started when he was born in a falling hot air balloon at the 1878 Paris World Fair. Conor dreams of inventing the world’s first airplane, a dream that is interrupted when he is accused and jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. But Conor’s not about to let the person truly responsible get away with it. A rousing adventure story with a sensible hero, with a dash of Jules Verne and The Count of Monte Cristo, Eoin Colfer’s Airman will satisfy readers young and old alike.

A. Feller

Curse Dark as Gold
written by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Charlotte Miller is struggling to keep Stirwaters Mill–the livelihood for everyone in the town of Shearing–running after her father’s death. But one spate of bad luck after another fouls all her plans and labors, until she must face the terrible possibility of failure. And that’s when the mysterious Jack Spinner shows up, with the power to spin straw into gold and the ability to rescue Charlotte and Shearing from despair. But at what cost? When Charlotte learns the true price of Jack Spinner’s aid, she will have to fight to protect her town, her home and her family. Elizabeth C. Bunce spins a dark gorgeous retelling of Rumplestiltskin that takes the bones of an old fairy tale and gives them fresh new life against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution. A flawed heroine, a genuinely creepy ghost story and a stunningly beautiful use of language are woven together in the fabric of this book, and will make A Curse Dark as Gold linger in your mind long after you’ve turned the last page.


written by Jenny Davidson

An “alternate-history supernatural mystery” set in 1938 Scotland, the world of The Explosionist hinges on a crucial incident in history: suppose Napoleon had won at Waterloo. Jenny Davidson has created a fascinating tale set in the Europe that grew out of that victory. Young Sophie and her Danish friend Mikael try to unravel a murder mystery, and while they’re at it, figure out who’s behind the terrorist bombings in Edinburgh, which have very high political stakes, not just for Scotland but the world. All this with the help of the dead and the sort-of dead, through the respected science of supernatural divination, while the country ramps up for war. A great, fun read, with a sparkle of romance and much to discuss.

Laini Taylor-Di Bartolo

written by Kristin Cashore

Katsa is a Graceling–a person who has been blessed with a Grace. However, Katsa isn’t a normal Graceling. Her Grace gives her the power to kill a man with her bare hands, a power she’s possessed since she was eight years old. Rather than giving her a life of ease, her Grace means Katsa is forced to use her powers for a scheming king. When Katsa meets Po, another Graceling, she doesn’t realize just how much of an influence Po is about to have on her life. Katsa is a strong heroine, overcomes her personal struggles with how her powers are used to become as comfortable with herself as she is with her Grace. With a brisk plot, plenty of adventure, and a little romance, readers will be rushing to finish Graceling.

A. Feller

Hunger Games, The
written by Suzanne Collins

In Suzanne Collins’ futuristic and controlled society, Katniss Everdeen passes her days working hard for her family’s survival. When her younger sister is chosen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live television with 23 other teens, Katniss wastes no time in taking her place, even though she knows it mean near certain death. The Hunger Games is a novel full of peril, adventure and action, and a dash of romance, making it highly appealing to teens, but also possesses a very serious side that is as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.

The Compulsive Reader

written by Lisa McMann
Simon & Schuster

Since Janie was eight she has been forcibly pulled into others’ dreams. Now at seventeen, she is tired of being bombarded by her classmates’ anxiety dreams and their sex dreams as they doze in study hall. She hides her ability carefully until she finds herself attracted to former bad boy Cabel whose dark nightmares hint at a scarred past and a mystery she must unravel. The book is told in quick snippets marked with a time and date making the plot race forward in spurts. Romance and suspense combine to create a satisfyingly fast-paced read.

– Amanda Blau, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Fiction Picture Books

Abe Lincoln Crosses A Creek: A Tall Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend)
by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by John Hendrix
Schwartz and Wade Books
Nominated by:

In a year abundant in releases about our 16th president, this picture book title stands out for its originality, vibrant illustrations, and interactive flair. While the setting is historical, the mood is thoroughly modern in this clever celebration of the oral storytelling tradition.

–Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes

Big Bad Bunny, The
by Franny Billingsley
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by:

No rushing stream or mucky swamp can stop Big Bad Bunny and his long sharp claws. Through the tangly bushes he marches, fierce and scowling–and a worried mama mouse has just discovered her baby mouse is missing. Suspenseful pacing, engaging art, and a delightful twist ending make this an enchanting tale for the preschool set.

–Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen

Chester's Back
written and illustrated by Melanie Watts
Kids Can Press, Ltd
Nominated by:

A sublimely pushy cat vies for attention and control with his author and illustrator in this wildly funny book. With creativity and innovation, the author allows her persistent character Chester to scrawl over her illustrations and text with a red marker, creating immediacy, tension, and humor.

Cheryl Rainfield

How to Heal a Broken Wing
written and illustrated by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press
Nominated by:

When a pigeon is injured in the middle of a busy city, no one stops to help until a little boy and his family take the bird home to heal it. Told mainly through pictures with minimal text to drive the plot forward, the story is touching one of kindness, patience, and humanity.

–Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Katie Loves the Kitttens
written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Henry Holt
Nominated by:

The dog Katie can’t contain her desire to play with the new kitten companions in her home, but unfortunately her exuberance is overwhelming to the tiny creatures. With redirection and restraint, Katie finally finds a way to show her love for the kittens. The humor in, the situation, the story-telling, and illustrations will engage kids of all ages in this fun, romping story.

–Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Sea Serpent and Me, The
by Dashka Slater
illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by:

An extraordinary friendship begins when a sea serpent drops from a faucet into a little girl’s bath. As their friendship grows so does the sea serpent, until the girl has to admit that this creature belongs in the sea. This charming tale of friendship is propelled by lovely, energetic watercolor illustrations that create a world full of whimsy the reader will find hard to leave.

–Stephanie Ford, ChildLit

Visitor for Bear, A
by Bonny Becker
illustrated by Kady Denton
Candlewick Press
Nominated by:

When a mouse ignores the sign on Bear’s door that reads “NO VISITORS ALLOWED”, Bear can’t get back to business as mouse continually reappears in Bear’s home finally making Bear wonder if he really prefers to be alone after all. The text begs to be read aloud and the subdued watercolor, ink, and gouache illustrations chock full of personality that creating a tale every member of the family will adore.

–Stephanie Ford, ChildLit

Wabi Sabi
by Mark Reibstein
illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by:

A Japanese cat searches for the meaning of her name, and discovers that beauty can be found in simple, ordinary things and experiences. The text shows many layers and depth, the haikus are well-integrated into the story, and the collage illustrations are astonishing in their texture and beauty.

Cheryl Rainfield

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

by Hope Larson

The mysteries and discoveries of adolescence are given a fresh-air, summer camp setting in this skillfully-drawn, sweetly-written graphic novel that always rings true.

Into the Volcano
by Don Wood
Blue Sky Press

Two brothers’ trip to Hawaii takes them into the heart of a real volcano hiding treasure and family secrets in the caves beneath its flows! The visual fireworks in this exciting mystery do not distract from its intense emotional core.

Jellaby, vol. 1
by Kean Soo

When Portia discovers a gentle giant something in her backyard, she becomes determined to help it find its home. Gorgeously produced, with some subtle hints of a deeper mystery to come in the sequel.

Rapunzel's Revenge
by Shannon Hale
and Dean Hale
illustrated by Nathan Hale
Bloomsbury USA

In this twist on the old tale, Rapunzel frees herself from the witch’s prison, using her legendary hair, and sets off with her new pal Jack (of beanstalk fame) to save their town from the witch. A lively Wild West adventure with a hint of romance, and the most butt-kicking heroine this side of Alanna!

The Savage
by David Almond
illustrated by Dave McKean
Candlewick Press

A grieving boy’s story of a savage living in the woods comes true in this eerie tale of horror for lads who “put on a real tough front… but like most of us, [are] just dead soft inside.”

There's a Wolf at the Door: five classic tales
by Zoe Alley
illustrated by R.W. Alley
Roaring Brook

The big bad wolf tangles up five classic yarns while chasing down some dinner, but his clever victims join forces to trip him up. A superb graphic novel for the picture book crowd.

Young Adult

Emiko Superstar
by Mariko Tamaki
illustrated by Steve Rolston

Teenaged Emiko’s summer goes from babysitting and ice cream shop jobs to nights spent with underground art “freaks” and fabulous creativity. But is this world she loves built entirely on a lie? Slightly gritty but warm, this will inspire anyone who has ever not quite fit in.

Kin: Good Neighbors, book 1
by Holly Black
illustrated by Ted Naifeh

When Rue discovers she’s half-faerie, she is confronted with a choice: in the coming war between the faerie world and humanity, where should her allegiance lie? This atmospheric murder mystery/gothic fantasy is only the beginning of Rue’s story.

Life Sucks
by Jessica Abel
and Gabe Soria
illustrated by Warren Pleese
First Second Books

This funny, believable, and ultimately, pretty sweet graphic novel swipes at popular notions of romantic vamp culture, mashing the myth into the mundane with hilarious results.

by Mariko Tamaki
and Jillian Tamaki
Groundwood Books

Atmospheric and intimate at the same time, this debut graphic novel about an angsty teen avoids the usual cliches through sheer sympathy and grace and the beautiful art lends it an unusual delicacy.

Three Shadows
by Cyril Pedrosa
First Second Books

When death stalks a child, the boy’s father does whatever he can to fight this tragic fate. A mesmerizing and ultimately heart wrenching look at how human beings deal with loss.

Middle Grade Fiction

Alvin Ho
by Lenore Look
Schwartz and Wade Books

Alvin Ho is brave (as long as he has his Personal Disaster Kit), a gentleman (in training), a good friend (but NOT to girls), and an interesting kid (who doesn’t talk in public). It’s just that he’s allergic to everything: girls, substitute teachers, airplanes, escalators … and anything else that’s even remotely scary (like leaving the house). However, he loves explosions, his dog Lucy, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, Aquaman, King V, and all the superheroes in the world. The illustrations are unique and flavorful, and so is the Ho family. A book that everyone — from the struggling second-grade reader through to the adults who know that struggling second-grade reader — will fall in love with.

–Melissa Fox, Book Nut

Diamond Willow
by Helen Frost
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux

Helen Frost tells the story of Willow, a young girl living in a remote Alaskan town. When Willow gets her first chance to mush the family dogs, everything changes. Told in a series of diamond-shaped poems, with sporadic prose every few chapters, Frost has woven a beautiful coming-of-age story fraught with realism and magic. Braiding the stories of Willow, her family, the dogs, and her family’s ancestors, the story is simple and middle-grade students will easily connect with Willow and her family. The deeper themes of love, respect for nature, and being yourself are carved into the poems, just like the diamond willow stick can be carved.

–Sarah Mulhern, The Reading Zone

Every Soul a Star
by Wendy Mass
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Three middle school students are brought together along with thousands of eclipse-chasers to witness a rare full solar eclipse. Told in the three voices of Ally, Bree & Jack, the alternating narrations are beautifully written and increasingly weave together. Ally (short for Alpha) and her family own the Moon Shadow campground, and have been preparing for their eclipse-chasing guests for years. Bree’s parents have bought the Moon Shadow and are dragging her from city life to try running a campground. Jack is along for the ride as his science teacher’s assistant in an amateur astronomy experiment they plan to run during the eclipse. Every Soul a Star offers three humorous and insightful journeys of self-discovery mixed with an intriguing dose of astronomy lessons.

- Matthew Wigdahl, The Book Club Shelf

Shooting the Moon
by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Both the characters and the setting are fully fleshed out and believable in this Vietnam era novel. Born and raised in a career army family, 12-year-old Jamie explores her changing feelings as her brother enlists in the army and is sent far away to fight. While offering no easy answers, this is a thought-provoking page-turner that will have lots of appeal for kids.

- Mary Voors, APCL Mock Newbery

The London Eye Mystery
by Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling Books

This story has Ted and Kat searching for a cousin who disappears from the London Eye Ferris wheel. The two siblings must work together to solve the mystery. What’s unique about this tale is how Ted’s Asperger’s doesn’t stand in the way of him being active in solving his cousin’s disappearance. The portrayal of Ted is a refreshing change from stereotypical characters in some books.

Kim Baccellia

Nonfiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult

11 Planets: A New View of the Solar System
by David Aguilar
National Geographic Children’s Books

My Very Exciting Magic Carpet Just Sailed Under Nine Palace Elephants (10-year-old Maryn Smith’s winning entry for the National Geographic Children’s Book Planetary Mnemonic Contest). So begins this engaging introduction to the newly classified solar system. Stunning artwork, cool facts on how the planets are named after different gods and goddesses, simple explanations and an informative glossary make this a book young astronomers will enjoy reading.

–Vivian Mahoney, HipWriterMama

Ain’t Nothing but a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry
by Scott Reynolds Nelson
National Geographic Children’s Books

A field trip into the mind of a historian. Historian Scott Reynolds Nelson invites readers to follow him as he uses artifacts, photographs, and other documents to put together the pieces of a real-life historical mystery.

–Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner

Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers
by Nancy Amanda Redd
Gotham Books

Leave your embarrassment at the door, because this book combines refreshing candor with no-holds barred topics, untouched photos, and information backed by a leading physician to help empower teen girls. The photos are somewhat shocking, but important for girls to see so they know their body is normal. Don’t let your teens get the wro ng information from their friends…let them get empowered with real information and love the body they’re in.

–Vivian Mahoney, HipWriterMama

King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the American Revolution
by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook

Historian and textbook author Steve Sheinkin provides a factual, fun chronicle that traces the American Revolution from start to finish. Humorous chapter titles and illustrations, entertaining facts, and labeled maps make learning history lots of fun.

–Jill Tullo, The Well-Read Child

Lincoln Through the Lens
by Martin Sandler
Walker Books for Young Readers

John F. Kennedy may have been the first television president, but Lincoln Through the Lens makes a strong case for recognizing Abraham Lincoln as the first photographic president. From the earliest known photo of Lincoln to the only one taken after his death, Martin Sandler shows how the sixteenth president was captured on film, and how he used the images to his advantage.

–Sarah Rettger, Archimedes Forgets

Swords: An Artist’s Devotion
written and illustrated by Ben Boos
Candlewick Press

Ben Boos’ well written and visually stimulating book was a pleasure to read. The illustrations were detailed and the history fascinating. Children of all ages will pore over this book as they trace the sword designs through the ages. Ben relayed the use of the sword throughout the ages including the Middle Ages and the age of the Samurai. Ben’s drawings illuminated not only the variety of swords used but his love for this “formidable tool”.

–Kathy Burnette, The Brainlair

The Year We Disappeared: A Father-Daughter Memoir
by Cylin Busby and John Busby
Bloomsbury USA

In summer, 1979, Cylin Busby was nine years old, living with her parents and two older brothers on Cape Cod, Massachusetts when her life changed in a matter of minutes. Cylin’s father, John Busby, a policeman, was on his way to work when a car pulled up next to him and shot off the bottom half of his jaw. THE YEAR WE DISAPPEARED is a memoir, told by Cylin Busby and her father John, in alternating chapters, of the terrible year following Busby’s shooting. A terrific real life crime read!

–Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner

We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball
written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson connects with readers in his history of Negro League baseball told from the first person point of view of an “everyman” player. The engaging narrative combined with stunning oil paintings capture the joy and passion of the players who were surrounded by hatred and inequality.

–Jill Tullo, The Well-Read Child

Nonfiction Picture Books

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
by Jen Bryant
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

This biography follows “Willie Williams” from his days as a smart, athletic youngster to his later years as a physician. As readers see him aging, they also see the inexplicable pull of poetry in his life and the making of a man as a poet. The multimedia illustrations closely compliment the text, making for a book that exudes the spirit of Williams in every way. The book concludes with timelines of both Williams’ life and world history during Williams’ lifetime.

Astronaut Handbook
written and illustrated by Meghan McCarthy
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers

How does one become an astronaut? McCarthy opens the door to astronaut training and lets readers in on all the secrets. The eye-popping illustrations offer ways to understand information that would be too difficult for the target audience had it been presented only in text. The back matter includes a page of fascinating facts and a bibliography of books, web sites, videos and places to visit.

Duel! Burr and Hamilton's Deadly War of Words
by Dennis Brindell Fradin
illustrated by Larry Day
Walker Books for Young Readers

Fradin’s historically accurate telling of the story of the duel between Hamilton and Burr is dramatically told. Both men are cast as well-rounded human beings with flaws and strengths, and both are shown to be at fault for the duel. The book concludes with a lengthy bibliography.

Fabulous Fishes
written and illustrated by Susan Stockdale

This Seuss-like look at the world of fish uses bold illustrations and rhyming text to introduce young readers to the wide variety of ocean fish. Stockdale follows up her textual overview with a few pages of additional information about each fish pictured. A long list of resources is also included.

Nic Bishop Frogs
written and illustrated by Nic Bishop
Scholastic Nonfiction

Jam-packed with amazing and sometimes quirky facts, and gorgeous photos, this book takes readers on a journey through the wonderful world of frogs. Scientifically, Bishop doesn’t talk down to young readers, but rather helps to make the mystery that is life and science more understandable. A glossary and index are included.

Wanda Gag: The Girl Who Lived to Draw
written and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Using Gág’s own words, Kogan Ray tells the story of a woman born into an art-loving family who followed her own dream to create art, no matter what obstacles stood in her way. This biography follows Gág from her childhood years up through the publication of her Newbery award-winning book, Millions of Cats.

Wangari's Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa
written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

Winter’s bold illustrations and straightforward prose tell the story of this Nobel Peace Prize winner’s efforts to bring the green back to Kenya. Focused on her early life, this biography introduces readers to a girl who loved nature, decried its destruction, and worked tirelessly to reforest her beloved homeland. The back matter includes an author’s note and quote from Maathai.


America at War
illustrated by Stephen Alcorn
edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Simon & Schuster

The poems in the anthology are not about war itself, but about the emotions related to warfare. The anthology is focused on the poetry of war, and the 54 poems inside the book are separated into eight sections, beginning with poems related to the Revolutionary War and concluding with poems about the war in Iraq. . . . Some classic poems are used in unexpected ways, including a portion of Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake and Langston Hughes’s poem, ‘Dreams.’ More than half of the poems were commissioned for the book and are by contemporary poets.” Excerpted from panelist Kelly Fineman’s review of the book.

by Naomi Shihab Nye

As panelist Bruce Black said in an online review “Naomi Shihab Nye’s poetry and prose poems in Honeybee, her newest collection, will draw readers to the page as surely as bees are drawn to nectar to start the honey-making process. . . . These poems are both valiant protest against a world intent on destroying the goodness and beauty contained within it, and, at the same time moving paeans to the beauty and potential sweetness contained in the world, if only we take the time to open our eyes to see it.”

Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures
by Julie Larios
illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Larios creates “many poems celebrating a handful of creatures from a mythological world [using] spare, concise poems with rhythms and imagery which stir the imagination,” as panelist Julie Danielson pointed out. “Larios infuses the poems with a real sense of mystery and reverence, drawing in the reader with what Publishers Weekly called (in their review of the similarly-formatted Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary, 2006) her ‘near rhymes.'”

More than Friends: Poems from Him and Her
by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf
Boyds Mills Press

This collection of poems in a variety of forms from sonnets to free verse, and more, is essentially a dialogue between a teen guy and a teen girl. As Bruce Black commented during our discussions, “MORE THAN FRIENDS pulled me into the life of the two characters immediately, too. From the first line… I was inside the voice on the page, inside the character.” Panelist Laura Purdie Salas concurred, noting the terrific audience appeal of this collection.

On the Farm
by David Elliott and Holly Meade
Candlewick Press

As panelist Elaine Magliaro said in her review of this book earlier in the year,
“This large-format book contains twelve poems about animals commonly found on a farm: rooster, cow, pony, dog, sheep, barn cat, goat, pig, bees, bull, and two reptiles-turtle and snake. . . . Elliott’s rhyming poems, for the most part, are simple and straightforward – but he does include figures of speech in some. For example, the pig’s tail is ‘As coy as a ringlet.’ The snake ‘coils/in the/garden/like a/ spring…'”

Young Adult Fiction

Audrey, Wait!
by Robin Benway
Penguin USA

Audrey started it by breaking up with Evan, but when he releases a hit song about her things quickly spiral out of control in this fresh, funny novel by Robin Benway. Audrey’s distinct, snarky voice and her passion for music immediately sucked me in to the story. Lots of musical details and a cast of well-developed supporting characters flesh out the book. This is a fun read, but it also takes a look at the flip side of being a celebrity – maybe being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

–Abby Johnson, Abby (the) Librarian

Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, The
by E Lockhart

The summer before her sophomore year, Frankie Landau-Banks blossomed. Upon her return to prep school, she finds that she is suddenly one of the most sought-after girls on campus. E. Lockhart has written a novel that is an utter joy to read. Not only is her prose delicious, playful, and lovely, but she created a completely irresistible character and a completely irresistible storyline, complete with a secret society, first love, and the discovery of the delights to be found in the novels of P.G. Wodehouse. Viva La Frankie!

–Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

I know It's Over
by C. K. Kelly Martin
Random House Books for Young Readers

Nick is sixteen and still in love with Sasha when she tells him she thinks they need a break, still in love with her weeks later when she tells him she’s pregnant. In her debut novel, C. K. Kelly Martin writes with precision and honesty about an emotional subject: first love. I Know It’s Over traces the arc of Nick’s relationship with Sasha from the beginning through the end. But this is not just another story about a guy in love or teen pregnancy; it’s a novel in which every detail feels so real and true that you could swear that Nick, Sasha, their family, and friends all actually exist.

–Trisha Murakami, The YA YA YAs

Jellicoe Road
by Melina Marchetta

My father took one hundred and thirty-two minutes to die. I counted. It happened on the Jellicoe Road.” Thus begins the beautiful and haunting novel, Jellicoe Road, by Australian author Melina Marchetta. The narrative hooked me with the prologue and while I’ll be the first to admit that the novel had its challenging moments–it’s not a straightforward novel; it weaves two stories together–I never once considered abandoning it. It’s intricately and exquisitely written. It’s bittersweet, tragic, beautiful, and redemptive. A true must-read in my opinion.

–Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews

by Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Jenna has left behind a painful childhood. With her mother’s remarriage and subsequent move, she’s reinvented herself. Then her grade-school friend, who Jenna thought was dead, shows up at her high school. This novel’s crisp focus on the relationship between Jenna and the ghost from her past gives this story heart and soul. It will have readers wondering how the traumas of their young childhoods affect who they are today–and how much any of us are capable of helping the people who have touched our lives the most.

–Kate Fall, Author 2 Author

Ten Cents a Dance
written by Christine Fletcher
Bloomsbury USA

In this beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction about a Chicago taxi dancer in the 1940s, Christine Fletcher brings to life the shady world of a girl who is paid to dance with lonely strangers. Getting to know spirited Ruby was a pleasure, and the gorgeous use of language and 1940s slang in Ruby’s authentic voice made this book truly captivating. The experience of being immersed in the vividly captured setting, accompanied by characters that feel like real people, is one that shouldn’t be missed.

–Jocelyn Pearce, Teen Book Review