2009 Cybils Finalists

Easy Readers

Dinosaur Hunt (Max Spaniel)
David Catrow
Orchard Books
Nominated by: Becky

Max isn’t a dog, he’s a dinosaur hunter…and hunt he does, looking here and there and everywhere for dinosaur parts. The text in this easy reader is just right for a child learning to read, with short simple sentences and commonly used words. The art extends the story showing Max using household items to build a dinosaur. Recommended for dog lovers, dinosaur hunters, and everyone who collects things, just in case!

–Anastasia Suen, 5 Great Books, Children’s Book Biz

Good Dog, Aggie
Lori Ries
Nominated by: EM

Aggie is a spirited dog who loves to run. Her owner, a young boy named Ben, tries obedience classes. But Aggie is asked to leave so he begins the frustrating process of teaching her on his own. The story is divided into three chapters that follow Ben and Aggie from obedience school to the park to a hat store and finally to a resolution of their problem. The text is simple enough for a beginning reader but varied enough to remain interesting. The bright, energetic watercolor illustration lend clues to the reader and are a perfect match for this sweet, funny story.

Sarah R. Neal

Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans
Cynthia Rylant
Nominated by: Tara Lazar

Mr. Putter’s neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, thinks it would be great if they could attend a class together. Mr. Putter isn’t really interested in learning about 100 Ways to Cook Beans, but Mrs. Teaberry is a friend, and he goes along. They take along their pets, Tabby (Mr. Putter’s cat) and Zeke (Mrs. Teaberry’s dog). When Zeke takes a bite of something he’s found, the beans start flying. Regretably for Mrs. Teaberry they are not invited to return to class. That’s when Mr. Putter shares his own idea of an educational outing!

What sets this apart is the unique characters and the timelessness of the humor. The story is set in chapters, with illustrations that will entice readers to read about what is happening. There is lots of humor, and the title helps kids understand that figures of speech sometimes have a very literal meaning. This is a perfect selection for first- and second graders to read independently, and an enjoyable read-along for developing readers. Parents will love the book, too.

Terry Doherty<

Shampoodle (Step into Reading)
Joan Holub
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Barbara Eppenger

It’s time for a bath and a motley collection of dogs are going to the groomers. Baths, haircuts and fancy touches are in store! But, uh-oh, something’s gone wrong! There are enough familiar, simple words in this easy reader that a child can feel confident on their own, but plenty of new fun words to sound out with a little help. Even with the limitations of language in an easy reader, Joan Holub has created a fun rhyming story that kids will enjoy working their way through and parents and teachers won’t mind listening to for the fiftieth time! T im Bowers’ illustrations are the perfect touch of hilarity, especially when he matches the dogs’ crazy ‘dos to their groomers’ own haircuts. The pictures enhance the text without offering too many clues to readers and will entice readers in to try the chewy words for themselves!

Jennifer Wharton

Watch Me Throw the Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Mo Willems
Nominated by: Melissa

Watch Me Throw the Ball! is a hilarious addition to the Elephant and Piggie learn-to-read series by Mo Willems. The main characters include an optimistic, free-spirited pig named Piggie and a rather pessimistic, droll, rule-following elephant named Gerald. In this installment, Piggie decides she is going to throw Gerald’s ball. This causes great distress to the aforementioned rule-following Gerald. Gerald wants Piggie to understand all that goes into throwing the ball–the practice, the hard work, the precision. Piggie just wants to have fun.

Mo Willems has brilliantly created this new easy reader series full of amusing plots and complex characters, the latter a truly difficult feat in such short stories. Elephant and Piggie books are spectacularly engaging and are sure to captivate and simultaneously inform young readers on their way to reading fluency.

Melissa Young

Short Chapter Books

Alice's Shooting Star
Tim Kennemore
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kyle Dutkiewicz

In Alice’s Shooting Star, we get a good look at her relationship with her little sister, Rosie. In the past, Alice has resented Rosie getting away with all the things nobody else would even dream of doing. Rosie is the star, the cute one, the little sister who shines. But now that she’s growing older, Alice is starting to see her as a person and maybe as a friend. Alice especially loves Rosie’s wild imagination and the magical stories and language she brings home from nursery school. But their parents are worried about Rosie’s “lies.” In a final wild whirl of hilarious events, Alice is, for the first time in her life, in the spotlight.

There’s a lot packed into this little story. The illustrations catch the various characters’ expressions and personalities perfectly and blend smoothly to enhance the text. Alice’s struggles as a middle child trying to find what makes her unique and where she belongs, especially when she’s sandwiched between two very outgoing and assertive siblings, is spot-on. Alice’s relationship with her sister Rosie is a perfect mixture of older sibling exasperation and growing friendship as she begins to see Rosie as a person. Plus, the story is just plain funny!

Jennifer Wharton

Bad to the Bone (Down Girl and Sit)
Lucy Nolan
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books
Nominated by: Jennifer Wharton

A dog named “Down Girl” and the dog next door, her best friend “Sit,” try to teach their masters how to obey in this short chapter book with four chapters. Down Girl and Sit are very patient as they help their masters paint the house, take them to obedience school, and rescue them from Kitty-Kitty. Young readers will enjoy reading a story told entirely in a dog’s point of view. Remember, dogs are good and cats are bad.

–Anastasia Suen, 5 Great Books, Children’s Book Biz

How Oliver Olson Changed the World
Claudia Mills
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

Oliver’s third grade class is studying the solar system. Crystal Harding, Oliver’s classmate, is horrified that Pluto is no longer a planet. Oliver sort of agrees with her–it doesn’t seem fair. At home, Oliver’s parents have taken over his assignment to create a solar system diorama. Even when Mrs. O’Neill asked each student to come up with an idea that can change the world, Oliver’s Mom told him what to suggest. That doesn’t seem fair, either. When Crystal suggests they work together on the diorama, Oliver agrees … but then he has to convince his parents. How can he change the world if he can’t change his parents? This is a story that kids will relate to and that reminds parents to let their kids grow up!

With its humor and third-graders’ perspectives of life, it is fun, poignant, and educational. Although there are other characters, this is Oliver’s story. His thoughts, his feelings, and his reactions are all pulled into a tightly knit story. The author sprinkles in some great factual information too. This short chapter book for almost-independent readers is a great read-aloud selection for developing readers. It is also sophisticated and fast-paced enough for dormant readers too.

Terry Doherty

Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Alyson

Mercy Watson, with her love of hot toast with lots and lots of butter on it, won my heart from the inception of her series, and I was not disappointed in this sixth installment. Something Wonky This Way Comes takes Mercy and her friends and family to the drive-in theater. The evening involves a good chase, Bottomless Buckets of popcorn, butter butter everywhere, and visits with characters from all the other books. Chris Dusen’s illustrations fit the story perfectly. There’s just nothing like the sight of a pig sticking her snout through a car window to get a buttery popcorn treat. Kate DiCamillo has a gift for using simple text to create a hilarious, fast-paced, story that appeals to all ages and gives beginning readers the satisfaction of finishing a whole chapter book on their own.

Sarah R. Neal

Roscoe Riley Rules #7: Never Race a Runaway Pumpkin
Katherine Applegate
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

This is the seventh title in this terrific early chapter book series. Each book begins with Roscoe Riley in a time out, and Roscoe, being the optimist that he is, declares this will be a perfect time to explain to you, the reader, just what happened. The stories are chock-full of hilarity and slapstick situations that Roscoe gets himself into, with safe resolutions. In this one, Roscoe has a run-in with a runaway pumpkin in a contest he’s trying to win, and some superstitions he’s trying to avoid.

Applegate wonderfully captures the voice of a 6/7 year old, and her classroom scenes are authentic and hysterical! Kids will feel comforted that she is describing what really happens in a first grade classroom and will likely recognize elements of their own classroom. Roscoe’s observations at home and in the classroom are witty and dry. Parents can enjoy reading this series aloud to their young reader, and newly independent readers will enjoy reading it to themselves.

Melissa Young

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)

11 Birthdays
Wendy Mass
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski

Amanda’s 11th birthday is the worst ever, and when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers that she and her ex-friend Leo are doomed to repeat the same day over and over–and over! Amanda and Leo’s attempts to live the day the “right” way to break the spell are funny, entertaining, and absolutely believable, whether they are ditching school or auditioning for a rock band. This is a deliciously fresh look at how making small changes in your life–or even in one day–can have big consequences, both ordinary and magical.

Eva Mitnick

Dreamdark: Silksinger (Faeries of Dreamdark)
Laini Taylor
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Melissa

The Dreamdark series, by National Book Award nominee Laini Taylor, opens a window on a world of fierce winged faeries determined to restore their race to its former glory. In Silksinger, Maggie Windwitch, Whisper Silksinger and their motley allies are driven to reach beyond their abilities to guard the sleeping Djinn Azazel from a host of conniving characters and gruesome devils. On panoramic display in Silksinger are Taylor’s gifts for rich language and imagery, suspenseful plotting, and intricate world-building. Even as readers thrill with vertigo while flying alongside Maggie and her crow brothers, they will feel secure in this master storyteller’s hands.

Brian Jung

Farwalker's Quest, The
Joni Sensel
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Joan Stradling

Ariel finds a telling dart, an artifact that hasn’t been in use for hundreds of years and carries a message that only a specific recipient can read. That sends her on an adventure to see who could have sent such a message and why this messaging system has started back up. Farwalker’s Quest takes readers on a journey that is filled with many thoroughly developed characters. Joni Sensel weaves an enchanting story that is easily remembered by readers long after the story is done.

Cindy Hannikman

Odd and the Frost Giants
Neil Gaiman
Nominated by: Susan the Librarian Pirate

In a village in ancient Norway, winter isn’t ending, and when Odd–a fatherless boy with an injured leg and an infuriating smile–encounters a fox, a bear, and an eagle in the forest, he finds out why. The animals are gods exiled from the city of Asgard by a Frost Giant, and Odd takes on the task of defeating him. How he does so is surprising and satisfying, one of many lasting pleasures in this short novel by Neil Gaiman. We loved the inventive use of Norse mythology, the humorous bickering of the gods trapped in their animal forms, and, of course, cheerful and clever Odd himself. It’s a story beautifully told (and illustrated, by Brett Helquist), perfect for reading alone or reading aloud: quite simply, it shines.

Anamaria Anderson

Prince of Fenway Park, The
Julianna Baggott
Nominated by: Doret

When 12-year-old Oscar Egg discovers his dad’s secret life as a half-human, half-fairy living a magical existence under Fenway Park, he decides it’s his duty to break the spell that has cursed the baseball stadium. He gets a little help from Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, among others. The secret and seedy underbelly of Fenway Park, with all its magical creatures wearing Red Sox caps, has a compelling atmosphere that pulls readers right into the story and has them rooting for Oscar and the Red Sox. Not just for baseball fans, this fantasy combines Pookas, hot dogs, Banshees, and home-runs into an exciting and unusual adventure for all readers.

Eva Mitnick

Serial Garden, The: The Complete Armitage Family Stories (Junior Library Guild Selection)
Joan Aiken
Big Mouth House
Nominated by: Charlotte

The Serial Garden is a collection of twenty-four stories about the magical adventures of two very likable English children, Mark and Harriet Armitage. The stories are a brilliant mix of the ordinary and the fantastical–in the world of the Armitage family, the mundane concerns of English village life are mixed seamlessly with witches, druids, unicorns, enchanted gardens, and much, much more. At times hilariously funny, at times surprisingly poignant, this book is perfect for any child or grown-up looking for delightfully extraordinary fantasy. Aiken was a tremendously creative writer, and these stories are some of her most imaginative and skillful writing.

Charlotte Taylor

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: EM

Prompted by her father’s fantastical stories and by an encounter with a talking goldfish, Minli sets off on a quixotic search for the Never Ending Mountain where she will ask the Old Man on the Moon to change her parents’ dreary lives. Woven into Minli’s journey are evocative folktales, each which could stand perfectly well on its own, but which beautifully resonate when brought together within Minli’s quest. Simply told, yet intricately developed, Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is finally a story about believing in stories and how that belief can alter one's fate.

Brian Jung

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)

Pam Bachorz
Egmont USA
Nominated by: Chelsea Campbell

Oscar Banks has fooled the town of Candor, Florida, into thinking he’s the perfect son. Even his father, the town’s founder, believes that the subliminal messages he invented and that are carried by ever-present music, have brainwashed Oscar into becoming one more “good kid” among many. Oscar, though, knows about the messages and has trained himself to resist.

First-time author Pam Bachorz has created a book that perfectly snares what every teen both fears — to lose his/her identity and be part of the bland crowd. Oscar may be selfish, but his motivations are sincere and natural based on the tragedies that have happened to his family. Good science-fiction for young adults is scarce–SF is more than spaceships and lasers, it is how technology could be used to help or harm humanity–and Barchorz’s book will linger long in the minds of readers. They’ll wonder what they would do if they ever found themselves in Candor.

Steve Berman

Demon's Lexicon, The
Sarah Rees Brennan
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Nick Jessee

Brothers Nick and Alan have been living on the run for years, hunted by magicians trying to take back their mother. But while the brothers’ relationship is front and center, the story truly belongs to Nick, the ultimate bad boy barely managed his whole life by his nicer brother. Nick should be unsympathetic, but instead Sarah Rees Brennan manages to make his lack of self-awareness achingly riveting. And in doing so she gives us one of the most memorable, fully realized characters in YA contemporary fantasy–and then she surrounds him with a slew of other memorable characters in an equally intriguing and unforgettable world. The jury simply couldn’t put this book down, not until we reached its satisfying and surprising ending. A thrilling read–this debut novel goes off like fireworks.

Gwenda Bond

Dust of 100 Dogs, The
A.S. King
Nominated by: Lisa McMann

It’s starts with the death of Emer Morrisey, famed female pirate, who is cursed to live the life of 100 dogs. When Emer is reborn as Saffron Adams, completely aware of her past lives, all Saffron can think is how fast she can get to Jamaica to rightfully reclaim her buried treasure. Dust is a novel that interweaves not one but three storylines that work to create one amazing story. King’s ability to tell a story in three distinctive and controversial voices is what truly makes Dust a novel that will push the boundaries of what YA fiction can accomplish.

Samantha Wheat

Kristin Cashore
Dial Books
Nominated by: Jenny Moss

Fire is a human monster and the last of her kind. With the ability to control the minds of those around them, monsters inspire an uncomfortable (at times deadly) mixture of fear, hatred, and absolute longing in the people of the Dells. When her service is requested on behalf of the young King Nash, Fire is thrust into a mounting war and forced to reconcile her questionable abilities with her own demanding conscience. A first-rate high fantasy, Fire is at once subtle, thoughtful and throbbing with genuine emotion. The novel is peopled with a breathtakingly real cast of characters who wrestle with the thorny issues of gender, power, race, friendship, violence and family. Kristin Cashore’s gorgeous, understated writing weaves a complex, vivid world around them and the reader, making Fire an intensely gripping and nuanced read and one of the year’s finest.

Angie Thompson

Lips Touch
Laini Taylor
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Jolie Stekly

In Lips Touch, Laini Taylor takes on that most daunting of tasks reinventing the fairy tale–and succeeds brilliantly. Each story feels like a fresh new tale, and yet still holds the timeless haunting enchantment and wonder of all the best fairy tales. Every story is a self-contained gem, and centers around the danger, power and wonder of that most magical moment–the kiss. These stories are complemented by Jim Di Bartolo’s luminous art, adding another vivid dimension to the magic of the book. In Goblin Fruit, Kizzy is so consumed by longing that she is drawn into a kiss whose price may be more than she can afford to pay. In Spicy Little Curses Such as These, Anamique, cursed at birth to kill with the sound of her voice, must decide if love is worth risking everything for. And in Hatchling, Esme learns the shocking secret of her mother’s past and her own true identity. Taylor’s language is beautiful, lush and rich, and demands to be read slowly so that every word can be savored. Lips Touch is like goblin fruit, tantalizing and delicious, each taste leaving the reader desperately hungry for more.


Sacred Scars (A Resurrection of Magic, Book 2)
Kathleen Duey
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jenn R

As with its predecessor, Skin Hunger, Sacred Scars tells two stories, separated by many years and yet linked together. The story of the founding of the Limori Academy of magic–and a tragic yet resilient young woman named Sadima–connects in surprising ways with the parallel story of Hahp and his fellow students at the Academy generations later. The attention to detail is amazing, and the characters real and poignant. Sacred Scars is deep, dark and intense, and immersive in a way that lingers in the mind long after turning the final page.

Sheila Ruth

Tiger Moon
Antonia Michaelis
Nominated by: Carolyn Dooman

Set in the 1900’s, Tiger Moon is a lyrical South Asian fairytale which invites readers to a front row seat with a masterful storyteller. Colonial history, Hindu religion and mythology all play their part in this sweeping tale narrated by Raka, a new bride who is waiting for her execution at the hands of her husband. Like the Arabian Nights tales, Raka’s sweeping epic is told to pass the time, and includes elements of the fantastic and the realistic, relying on a talking tiger, a 16-year-old thief “with a conscience” and the kidnapped daughter of the god, Krishna, to explore themes of fate, change and free will. Translated from German, and described as both “playful” and “magical” by our panelists, Tiger Moon offers readers a chance to indulge in the richness of a different culture and go beyond the boundaries of the ordinary.

Tanita S. Davis

Fiction Picture Books

All the World
Liz Garton Scanlon
Beach Lane Books
Nominated by: Cynthia Leitich Smith

A multicultural family (and those around them) starts a day with a morning on the beach, endures a thunderstorm, shares a meal and ends with a quiet night at home. A wide audience will enjoy the lyrical rhyming couplets and breathtaking illustrations–this book is perfect to cuddle and read aloud with young children.

Natasha Maw

Book That Eats People, The
John Perry
Tricycle Press
Nominated by: Bri Meets Books

Whatever you do, do not allow your little ones to read this book if they have the slightest hint of peanut butter and jelly on their fingers. You see…this book eats people and has already consumed little Sam Ruskin, sweet Victoria Glassford and a security guard. This wonderfully dark story has as much devious fun as a picture book can hold.

Natasha Maw

Curious Garden, The
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter

When a little boy discovers a near-dying garden atop the buildings in his drab city, he quickly learns the changes that can occur under the caring hands of one dedicated person. This magical tale–coupled with beautiful illustrations–enables children to see just how much they, too, are capable of.

Katie Harvey

Jeremy Draws a Monster
Peter McCarty
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Lily

One day, Jeremy–who never goes out–uses his special crayon to draw a monster. He draws like mad to satisfy the demanding beast, but only finds peace when he sends the beast on its way. Simply told and creatively illustrated, this book wraps itself around the deeper meaning within–that we draw our own monsters, and neither feeding nor ignoring them will make them go away. Brilliant.

Pam Coughlan

Lion & the Mouse, The
Jerry Pinkney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kirsten Cutler

Jerry Pinkney builds on his outstanding résumé with this remarkable, nearly wordless retelling of the classic Aesop fable. One of the most significant artistic achievements of the year, the rich, expressive illustrations invite young readers to interpret the tale in their own way.

Travis Jonker

Listeners, The
Gloria Whelan
Sleeping Bear Press
Nominated by: Joe

In the time when slavery gripped the South, Ella May and her two friends become the ears for the community as they make “listening” trips in the evenings–trips where they learn news from the outside world and the Master’s plans. Beautifully written and illustrated, this is a book that will open your eyes and touch your heart.

Shelly Burns

Silly Tilly
Eileen Spinelli
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books
Nominated by: Kathy Temean

Silly Tilly is not your ordinary goose. Quite the opposite, in fact — and her barnyard friends have decided they’ve had enough of her silliness. But as the farm quickly turn dull, Tilly’s friends realize that her quirkiness makes Tilly special. Funny, rhyming text and colorful illustrations make this book a treat to read aloud, and Tilly’s wacky antics will leave kids giggling.

Katie Harvey

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics
James Sturm
First Second Books
Nominated by: EM

A knight sets out on his trusty steed to defeat the evil dragon, but this silly story has plenty of twists and turns that will keep you reading and laughing. Full of helpful tips on writing (or reading) comics, the book balances story and information perfectly. The simple, bright illustrations show that drawing a great story can be done by one and all.

Alysa Stewart

Creepy Crawly Crime (Joey Fly, Private Eye)
Aaron Reynolds
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Written in classic Thirties’ private-eye style, this crime noir mystery has Joey Fly and his sidekick Sammy Stingtail searching all over Bugville looking for a missing diamond pencil case. With an eccentric cast of insect and arachnid characters that are sure to appeal to kids, the humor will keep them laughing and the mystery itself is a fun one that will keep kids guessing and following the clues. Most of the art is done in dark blue & white to give that old noir feeling, but other color palettes show up as well to add variety. This one will have kids clamoring for another Joey Fly book, so let’s hope Mr. Reynolds has a series planned!

Nicola Manning

Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom
Eric Wight
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Kim Baker

Frankie Pickle has a vivid imagination and spends most of his time play-acting and inevitably making an ultimate mess of his room. It’s hard to be a neat and tidy treasureseeker, you know? But when his mother agrees that he doesn’t have to clean it anymore, Frankie is overjoyed; the only stipulation being he must deal with the consequences himself. Frankie is a fun-loving, intelligent, character with a truly enormous and splendid imagination and a refreshingly respectful and non-whining child. This hybrid of text and graphic novel (about 60/40) has delightful cartoon illustrations that kids will love. Frankie’s imaginary turns as a treasure seeker, super hero, prisoner, surgeon, etc. are all positive role models. They show kids they can have a ton of fun with just their imagination (no remotes, rechargeable batteries or wi-fi required!).

Nicola Manning

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook
Eleanor Davis
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Scope Notes

Eleven-year-old Julian tries very hard to fit in his new middle school. Along with two other secretly smart kids, he becomes part of the Secret Science Alliance. When their blueprints for such ideas as the stinkometer get into the wrong hands, these brainiacs set out to get them back with hilarious results. Clever, imaginative and fun, this graphic novel shows that science can be cool with characters and inventions that readers can get excited about.

Kim Rapier

The Stonekeeper's Curse (Amulet, Book 2)
Kazu Kibuishi
Nominated by: Gracie

The Stonekeeper’s Curse stands on its own as a ripping yarn, even for readers who missed the first volume. As Em and Nevin seek an antidote to cure their mother, they join in the battle against the evil elf king, who has a shadowy history with the amulet Em carries. Will Em learn to manage the power of the amulet before it destroys her?

Elizabeth Jones

Young Adult

Crogan's Vengeance
Chris Schweizer
Oni Press
Nominated by:

Descended from a long line of adventurers, young Eric Crogan finds himself in a “situation of moral uncertainty.” His sympathetic father recounts the saga of Catfoot Crogan, a privateer from the early 18th century. Clever dialogue and Schweizer’s caricature-like drawings merge into a cinematic story of pirates and mayhem.

Maggi Idzikowski

Edgar Allan Poe's Tales of Death and Dementia
Edgar Allan Poe
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kelly Fineman

Sepia tones, pop-eyed crazies and a profusion of whiskers and teeth bring out the horror for fans of Edgar Allan Poe. Gris Grimley’s alternately humorous and horrifying artwork nudges four classic tales into a whole new world of creepy.

Elizabeth Jones

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation
Tom Siddell
Archaia Press
Nominated by: Paradox

Antimony Carver is about to spend her first year at Gunnerkrigg Court, a boarding school that functions more as a factory and is full of mysterious secrets. The setting seems to echo many other boarding school fantasies, but at the same time is wholly unique as the industrial world of the school meets the magic of spirits and fairies of the forest across the river. The use of seemingly simplistic artwork is a great complement to the complexity of the constantly twisting plot.

Alyssa Feller

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood
Tony Lee
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Torey Yates

With a dark palette and a detailed, action-filled plot, this retelling breathes new life into the old legend. We follow the hero Robin as he does his best to right the wrongs of the past, woo a widow, and bring King Richard back to England. Political intrigue, crazy schemes, and questions of loyalty abound; we also liked the afterward by Allen W. Wright.

Alysa Stewart

The Dreamer: The Consequence of Nathan Hale, Part 1 (Pt. 1)
Lora Innes
IDW Publishing
Nominated by: Tina Broomfield

Seventeen-year-old Beatrice “Bea” Whaley vividly dreams of a handsome Revolutionary War soldier and she welcomes her nightly adventures. Later though, she finds they might be more than just dreams. The use of the Revolutionary War mixed with contemporary characters makes this story not only entertaining but sure to appeal to reluctant readers and those who love a great tale.

Kim Rapier

Middle Grade Fiction

All The Broken Pieces
Ann Burg
Nominated by: Laurie Schneider

Even though he’s smart and capable, Newt is the neglected younger brother of a high school football star, mostly content with sliding through the cracks of life. Then a couple of events–his older brother ends up in a coma the night of the Big Game and Newt is forced to improvise a Halloween costume–coincide to spur the creation of a new superhero: Captain Nobody. Newt finds that he feels different when in his costume: stronger, more outgoing, more able to handle…well, everything (within reason, of course) that’s thrown his way. Hilarious, fun, and completely charming, this is one superhero that the world can’t do without.

Sarah Mulhern

Anything But Typical
Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Pam W Coughlan

There is much to love in Nora Raleigh Baskin’s Anything But Typical. The writing–in particular the narrative voice–feels so genuine: vulnerable and heartfelt; simple yet beautiful. Almost poetic. The book stars Jason Blake, an autistic hero, who loves to write stories and participate in online forums. When his parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard writing convention, you might think he’d be happy instead of terrified. But for Jason the thought of meeting his online friend, PhoenixBird, in real life causes nothing but anxiety. Everyone has moments of insecurity and doubt, and to see these reflected so honestly in Jason feels more than right

Becky Laney

Captain Nobody
Dean Pitchford
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Dawn Mooney

Even though he’s smart and capable, Newt is the neglected younger brother of a high school football star, mostly content with sliding through the cracks of life. Then a couple of events–his older brother ends up in a coma the night of the Big Game and Newt is forced to improvise a Halloween costume–coincide to spur the creation of a new superhero: Captain Nobody. Newt finds that he feels different when in his costume: stronger, more outgoing, more able to handle…well, everything (within reason, of course) that’s thrown his way. Hilarious, fun, and completely charming, this is one superhero that the world can’t do without.

Melissa Fox

Laurie Halse Anderson
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: melissa

Anderson has taken the historical facts of the American Revolution and given us a new perspective. Chains is told through the eyes of Isabel, a slave girl. Sold after her master dies, Isabel is thrust into the middle of the war where both sides claim they want what is best for her. She passes along messages to the Loyalists only to learn that the only one she can trust to help her gain her freedom is herself. Anderson has presented a story that with the proper foundation can be read, enjoyed and understood by the youngest to the oldest middle-grade student. War is always a tough topic but the details were intricately woven into Isabel’s life. It can be read as a stand-alone book and yet Anderson has left it open enough for a sequel.

–Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

Heart of a Shepherd
Rosanne Parry
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: jone

Twelve-year-old Ignatius Alderman discovers the “heart of a shepherd” as he helps his grandparents take care of the family ranch when his father is deployed to Iraq. Nicknamed “Brother,” Ignatius is the youngest of five brothers, named for St. Ignatius, and searching for his own gifts, talents and career path. He’s not sure that ranching or military service, the two traditions that dominate his family, are truly his gifts. And although he learns to live up to his responsibilities, it will take a major crisis for Brother to find his own right road to maturity.

The book is rather quiet, the pacing slow and deliberate, like Brother himself. Even when the crisis comes, it sneaks up on the reader rather than announcing itself with trumpets. In addition to its coming-of-age theme, Heart of a Shepherd also has lots of little details about ranching life and rural Oregon and the life of a soldier in Iraq and even about chess. These will capture the young reader who’s interested in any of those subjects and make him pay attention to the larger themes in the book. This debut novel by author Roseanne Parry is a treat to be savored.

Sherry Early

Operation Yes
Sara Lewis Holmes
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

Operation Yes is a story that revolves around cousins Bo and Gari. Bo’s father is in charge of a military base in the south and Gariâ’s mother is deployed to Afghanistan; so Gari must relocate from Seattle to live with her cousin. They are both in the same sixth grade class and their teacher teaches in a box about the importance of life outside the box. What makes this story a standout is how kids can overcome tough times and show adults what they are capable of when they work together.

Kyle Kimmal

Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, The
Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Augusta Scattergood

Popeye is dreading the boring summer that stretches out before him…until Elvis arrives in a broken-down motor home and the two boys start exploring the back woods, investigating the mysterious Yoo-Hoo boats that come floating down the creek. Barbara O’Connor’s book manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and still deal with more serious subject matter without veering into Depressing. This is a rather quiet book for anyone who’s been bored and dreams of having small adventures.

Abby Johnson

Nonfiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Elaine

Phillip Hoose’s Claudette Colvin tells the story of a remarkable yet largely unknown civil rights figure. In March 1955, nine months before the famous Rosa Parks incident, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, and was arrested and jailed. What’s more, Colvin went on to serve as a star witness in the landmark court case that ended segregation of city buses. The compelling narrative–much of which is told in Colvin’s own words–includes plenty of historical context and is complemented by riveting photographs, newspaper clippings, maps and sidebars.

I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure
Larry Smith
Nominated by: Erin McIntosh

Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s famous six-word short story (“For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”), the editors of Smith Magazine challenged readers to create their own six-word memoirs. I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets is a compilation of nearly 800 very short pieces written by teenagers. Creative, chilling, humorous, inspiring–and ultimately honest–these glimpses into others’ lives will stick with the reader far beyond the brief moment it takes to read the words on the page.

Marching For Freedom: Walk Together Children and Don't You Grow Weary
Elizabeth Partridge
Nominated by: Jen Lehmann

The Frog Scientist
Pamela S. Turner
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Laurie Thompson

The Frog Scientist follows UC Berkeley researcher Tyrone Hayes through his field and lab experiments in pesticide exposure. With eye-catching photography–and without falling into preachiness–the book explores the scientific process, explains the implications of Hayes’ work, and shows an African-American scientist and his family at work.

Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland
Sally M. Walker
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Loree Griffin Burns

Written In Bone takes readers along the journey as scientists uncover skeletons and other artifacts from colonial-era Virginia and Maryland. We learn not only about the skeletons themselves, but also about the way of life during this often brutal and even deadly time period. Photos, maps, diagrams, and historical documents add to the engaging text, which may inspire kids to explore careers in forensic anthropology.

Nonfiction Picture Books

14 Cows for America
Carmen Agra Deedy
Nominated by: Natasha Maw

14 Cows for America is the story of Masai warrior Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. An exchange student in New York City, Naiyomah witnessed the tragedy of 9/11 and returned home to Kenya to share his grief with his family and tribe. In the Masai tradition, the greatest gift a man can give is a cow. To help comfort the people of America as we dealt with the destruction, Naiyomah asked the tribal elders to bless his cow to be given to America, as a symbolic gesture of his compassion. Thirteen 13 others did the same. A gentle tale that shows the events of September 11 had world impact. This simple yet moving story is beautifully illustrated with scenes from Africa. The colorful artwork captures the splendor of the continent and the beauty of its people.


Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Sarah Neal

This book begins with the astounding fact that more humans have walked on the moon than been to the deepest spots of the ocean. Writer and illustrator Steve Jenkins leads the reader from the familiar territory of the waters’ surface, down 35,838 feet (almost seven miles!) to the deepest spot in the sea, where humans have visited a mere one time in their total existence. As readers pass from zone to zone, they meet an astounding variety of life forms, from jellies to rays to shrimp to whales; to creatures who glow in the dark, have fearsome teeth, or look more like plants than fish, as they adapt to life in the increasingly alien depths of the sea.

Jenkins’ texture-rich collage is as dynamic and compelling as ever, bringing the creatures to startling life with realism that defies the one-dimensional limitations of the printed page. The overwhelming impression that there is so much we don’t know about the sea further increases the appeal of a book that is not just informative but captivating.

Kara Schaff Dean

Faith (Global Fund for Children Books)
Global Fund for Children
Nominated by: shelf-employed

“In our world, there are many faiths,” sums up the context of Faith by the Global Fund for Children. A stunning photo-essay book, it depicts the elements of faith: prayer, meditation, sacred places, sacred books, singing and the observance of religious holidays. The simplicity of the text serves as a springboard for discussion. The rich tapestry of close-up photos, mainly of children engaged in specific religious rituals is the strength of this book.

The book is well-organized. There is an appendix with additional notes for further study, a map locating where the different faiths can be found, and a glossary. Faith helps readers to see the rich diversity throughout the globe and to understand we are more alike than different.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia

Seven Footer Press
Nominated by: Anastasia Suen

There are those who claim that bigger is better. If that’s so, then we can stop here: Life-Size Zoo is definitely bigger. Life-Size Zoo is so big that the tiptop will always peek out of your backpack.

But bigger isn’t the only thing Life-Size Zoo has going for it. A table of contents that any teacher would die to teach with in her classroom and that any kid would happily, almost unknowingly, utilize, a table of contents shaped like a zoo map, no less (and oh-so-clever). An information sheet about the animals on the front end papers. Brilliant photographs of zoo animals, amazing close-ups. Lists of details to look for on the photographs. Fun fold-out pages. Oodles and oodles of cool facts about the animals.

And what great choices of animals: a panda, zebra, tiger (those scary teeth), gorilla, rhino (with a horn made of hair?), anteater (what a nose!), koala (much smaller than I would have expected). And more. Much, much more.
Kids line up to check out this book. And they don’t just check it out. You can see them everywhere, reading it with their friends.
Life-Size Zoo is bigger, yes, and better, too

Debbie Nance

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!
Shana Corey
Nominated by: Kelly Fineman

Annette Kellerman is a woman who made many waves in her life. The story encompasses her early physical disability, her swimming accomplishments, her introduction of the woman’s swimming suit to the public, and her ability to travel through Europe doing water ballet. Annette Kellerman was a strong and determined woman, which makes her a fascinating study for Corey. This book is delightful also thanks to the illustrator who has created such fun colors on each page. In addition, Fotheringham cleverly includes a wave design somewhere on every page throughout the book, tying in the idea that Annette Kellerman did indeed “make waves” throughout her life. The Author’s Note included at the back of the book is a plus; it gives a far more detailed accounting of Annette Kellerman’s life and accomplishments.


Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (Richard Jackson Books (Atheneum Hardcover))
Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

“Reading MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 gave me the feeling I was back up in space,” said Michael Collins, the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11. This new non-fiction picture book invites young readers to accompany astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong as they “lock their heads into large, round helmets, squeeze into the Columbia’s sideways seats, and blast off into the summer sky.” The experience begins with extensive diagrams of the stages of the Apollo 11’s journey on the front end pages and finishes with extensive author’s notes on the back cover. The information is scientific, specific, and technical, yet it reads like poetry. Listen, for example to Floca’s description of the Saturn rocket:

“a monster of a machine
it stands thirty stories
it weights six million pounds
a tower full of fuel and fire”

Floca’s watercolor illustrations beautifully contrast of light and dark, movement and perspective. A terrific addition to any space collection.

Carol Wilcox

The Day-Glo Brothers
Chris Barton
Nominated by: Cynthia Leitich Smith

This fascinating book tells the story of Bob and Joe Switzer and their invention of the first fluorescent colors. The brothers each had different skills and passions but together they created colors that made a huge impact on the world. The illustrations in this book, which use the colors created by the Switzer brothers, add to the captivating feel of the book. Barton and Persiani have brought an important story to the world of children’s literature.

Franki Sibberson


African Acrostics: A Word in Edgeways
Avis Harley
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Becky

In this collection of 18 poems, each accompanied by a gorgeous photograph of the subject, Harley takes the form of the acrostic to new heights. The poems are deftly created and move well beyond the single-word acrostic to include phrases, double acrostics, quintuple acrostic (yes, that’s FIVE words), concrete acrostic and more. The patterns that exist within each piece never get in the way of the poem itself, and finding them is a wonderful surprise. When you finish this book you’ll have a new appreciation for the form that uses “words in edgeways.”

–Tricia Stohr-Hunt

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors
Joyce Sidman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

Sidman personifies the seasons of the year focusing on colors and color words in elegant, evocative poetry. Strong in imagery and sensory connections, the free verse poems capture unexpected color connections (the pink of winter) using multiple metaphors and color labels (turquoise, azure, cerulean). Zagarenski’s clever book design puts the color words in colors and the stylized art adds dimension and appeal.

Sylvia Vardell

The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry
Bill Martin Jr.
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Brie

With wonderfully varied art from an impressive array of illustrators, Bill Martin Jr.’s Big Book of Poetry is the modern must-have poetry anthology for children’s bookshelves. The poetry is grouped thematically (Animals, Nature, Me and My Feelings, Mother Goose, among others), but is just as easily enjoyed by skipping from page to page, backwards and forwards, being surprised by new favorites and reveling in the comfort of those perfect old standbys. For parents and children alike, this is the way to fall in love with poetry.

Kristy Dempsey

The Monsterologist: A Memoir in Rhyme
Bobbi Katz
Sterling Publishing
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan

In a collection of somewhere between 23 and 28 poems (depending on whether you count some things as independent poems or as part of a greater whole), Bobbi Katz has created a playful, interesting and clever exploration of the world of monsters that range from the real (a computer virus) to the imaginary (zombies, vampires) to the in-betweens (ghosts, the yeti, the Loch Ness monster) that may or may not be real. The individual poems about monsters are imaginatively framed with additional rhymes from the Monsterologist to whom the book is credited, Katz being only a “ghostwriter” per the cover.

Katz provided poems about some of the more “traditional” monsters (werewolf, ghosts, Count Dracula, Godzilla, and Frankenstein’s monster, for instance), but she also includes lesser-known varieties, such as Grendel (from Beowulf), the golem, Bluebeard and the kraken. Fresh, engaging, and fun, these poems will have you coming back time and again to study the monsters inside; it will have you thinking of monsters in new ways and hoping to meet – or become – a monsterologist.

Kelly R. Fineman

The Tree That Time Built: A Celebration of Nature, Science, and Imagination
Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

In much the same way naturalists go about collecting things, Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston have selected more than 100 poems in The Tree That Time Built to celebrate nature, science, and imagination. “Science and art have often been cast as opposites, but the division is an artificial one,” they write in the introduction. “Scientists, like poets, depend on imagination for many of their core insights. And poets, like scientists, observe and explore connections within the natural world.”

This collection is their ambitious attempt to explore these connections. Hoberman, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, and Winston, a cultural anthropologist and teacher, have taken great care to arrange the poems to give young readers a chance to explore many of the “roots and limbs of Darwin’s Tree, the branching tree that shows the connections among all forms of life.”

It’s that rare collection of poems that will wake readers up-really capture their attention on every page — and often startle readers (in good ways), helping them see some things — rocks, sand, mountains, crickets, bees, and more — that they’ve never seen before, even though they may have looked at them a million times. In short, The Tree That Time Built is a collection to treasure, the poems in its pages like shells that you hold in your hand and lift to your ear (again and again) to hear the mystery of life.

Bruce Black

Young Adult Fiction

Blue Plate Special
Michelle D. Kwasney
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Jo Knowles

With Blue Plate Special, Michelle Kwasney has crafted a finely woven plot where the threads of three lives in three different decades create an emotional and gripping tapestry. The depth of that tapestry builds as threads are broken, severed and tied back together. It is about how one teen’s present is also the past of those who came before her; how the leftovers must be turned into the daily special on a life-long scale. The complexity, the attention to details, the individuality of voice, and each character’s hopefulness and determination in the face of strife, make this a sometimes harrowing, though ultimately uplifting and unforgettable novel.

Jackie Parker

Carter Finally Gets It
Brent Crawford
Disney Press
Nominated by: Heather Kemp

Picked for its laugh-out-loud raunchy hilariousness and for its larger-than-life heart, Carter Finally Gets It tells the story of Will Carter’s freshman year in excruciatingly embarrassing–yet extremely funny, because it’s not us–detail. Guys will recognize themselves and girls will recognize–and maybe even begin to understand–the guys they know.

Leila Roy

Cracked Up to Be
Courtney Summers
Nominated by: Robin Prehn

Parker Fadley is snarky, witty and formerly perfect. Her voice is as unique as the pain motivating her prickly actions. While some might think it’s just teen angst, as the layers peel off through flashbacks the real reason behind her sudden change is revealed. Brilliantly paced and mysterious, you will be left guessing until the end, all the while falling in love with a broken–and very angry teen.

Sarah Woodard

How To Say Goodbye In Robot
Natalie Standiford
Nominated by: Mary Kole

A quirky, strange and utterly smile-inducing novel on forming bonds, falling in love, and walking away empty-handed. Brimming with a character-driven plot, the reader is able to watch Beatrice and Jonah, both on the lower end of the social spectrum, dance a strange two-step of romance, friendship and heartbreak. Intermixed with comical episodes of a late-night radio program and a bit of a mystery, the reader will finish this book and have experienced laugh-out-loud moments, some eyebrow raising and a dash of melancholy.

Amanda Snow

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder
Julie Halpern
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Sara Grochowski

High school is tough enough without being labeled a nerd. But defyingstereotypes, discovering who you are, and redefining friendships are only a few of the elements that make Into the Wild Nerd Yonder an atypical reading experience. Throw in a longtime crush that ends in disaster, best friends who betray you, and a little D&D and you will be hooked on Jessie’s high school year. The humor is standout, the main character, Jessie, is refreshing and snarky, and the writing makes it all come together beautifully. Whether you were a D&D player in high school or the Prom Queen, this book captures all the drama, tension and joy that can come with finding your place and defining who you are. Watch out world, nothing and no one is holding Jessie back anymore.

Sarah Wethern

North of Beautiful
Justina Chen Headley
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Torey Yates

North of Beautiful tries to answer the age-old question – What is true beauty? Terra Cooper is artistic, athletic, and according to everyone who knows her, beautiful. That doesn’t change the fact that she has spent her entire life learning to live with the port-wine birthmark that covers the right side of her face. Raised by a domineering father and less-than-supportive mother, Terra’s amazing determination and self-esteem help her when most would simply give up. Chen has artfully created a cast of characters that provide variety and depth to this coming-of-age novel. She intertwines their lives using emotional yet realistic connections. Terra’s story encompasses so many issues, readers from all backgrounds and experiences are sure to take some meaning away from this book.

Sally Kruger

Laurie Halse Anderson
Nominated by: Jeni Bell

What came to the panelists’ attention the most was just how daring and engrossing Wintergirls is. Lia herself is a hypnotizing narrator: her blunt honesty draws you near, only to twist your heart as she delves deeper into the finer points of her disease and reveals her secret plots to become thin, which, in Anderson’s style, manages not to seem completely crazy and twisted, and will allow readers to identify with Lia on some levels. This book is not only about anorexia, but family, grief, suffering, and, ultimately, living, which is what compelled us to shortlist it.

Tirzah Price