2010 Cybils Finalists

Easy Readers

Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Spring Babies
Erica Silverman
Nominated by: Madigan McGillicuddy

In this endearing sixth episode of the series, Cowgirl Kate and her horse, Cocoa, meet and discover baby animals on their farm. Told in four short chapters, the stories are empowering and gently dramatic. The two friends go on a night watch to see a calf born. Cocoa tries being “springy and zingy” with the new calf. A puppy arrives at the farm–to Kate’s delight and Cocoa’s concern. And in the final chapter, we come full circle with another night watch and a visit from a “ghost” in the barn. Full of warm humor, friendship, and action, this book will be a sure hit with early readers who have some established skills and are making the turn toward chapter books. Good use of repetition, short sentences, and picture cues will help early readers to be successful. Likable characters, sweetly satisfying stories, and fun cowgirl language (gully, loft, bale, nickered) will make readers want to saddle up and come along!

Cynthia Lord

Fly Guy Meets Fly Girl
Tedd Arnold
Cartwheel Books
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

Fly Guy, the big eyed fly pet of a boy named Buzz, meets the perfect girl … Fly Girl. Fly Girl’s girl, Lizz, brags that Fly Girl can do tricks and talk better than Fly Guy. So Fly Girl and Fly Guy compete to see who can fly the fanciest, who can talk the best, and who is grossest. Before they know it, they fall in love and see their entire future together – kissing, marriage, and a dog-food can home. But the couple soon realizes that they can’t leave their boy and girl. So, to the relief of kissing-is-gross fans all over the world, Fly Girl and Fly Guy decide to just be friends. Colorful cartoon images stand out from the surrounding white space paired with simple text to make this easy reader a visual delight. Tedd Arnold, the author and illustrator, originally created the Fly Guy series with the first book, Hi! Fly Guy.

Melissa Taylor

National Geographic Readers: Ants
Melissa Stewart
National Geographic Children's Books
Nominated by: Jeff Barger

From habitat to habits, body parts and numbers, National Geographic: Ants covers it all. Part of what makes this book fun is that the ants are, literally, larger than life … these are not the “tiny” things crawling around our yard or kitchen counter. The closeup shots that fill this easy reader let kids see a lot more than that! If you have an animal (and insect) loving reader, they will pore over this one. This is a nonfiction book you’ll enjoy sharing with your kids as they read to you, because you are guaranteed to learn something new.

Terry Doherty

The Babysitters (Cork and Fuzz)
Dori Chaconas
Nominated by: Stacy DeKeyser

Cork, a muskrat, and Fuzz, a possum, are the Odd Couple of the early reader world. Cork is the helpful, understanding animal who patiently cares for a baby porcupine throughout the story while Fuzz takes care of only himself. While Fuzz goes about his own things, he inadvertently entertains the young animal. By the end of the story, Cork and Fuzz come to realize that in their own ways, they have done a great job of sharing the caretaking responsibilities. Cork and Fuzz is made up of four short chapters that will give young readers a sense of accomplishment as they finish each one. Detailed illustrations break up the story in meaningful and not distracting ways. Early readers will enjoy this story while also strengthening their ‘reading muscle’ as they practice the strategies young readers need to grow.

Stacey Loscalzo

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Mo Willems
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter

The Elephant and Piggie books had already made their mark in the world of early readers before the arrival of this year’s new favorite, We Are in a Book! Now if there is any parent, teacher or child who has yet to fall in love with these books, this is their chance. Willem’s expressively drawn duo is back with all their humor and wit as they realize that they, in fact, are in a book. They jump about joyfully as they come to understand that the person staring at them is a reader. It is Piggie who first grasps the power they have been given. The two realize that if they say a word, the reader will read the word. While children will enjoy this book for the animal’s comical expressions and for the ease with which a new reader can read a meaningful and funny book, most adults won’t be able to miss the not-so-subtle message that Willems shares: With writing comes power. Some of Willem’s young readers may grow to express this same power in their own writing.

Stacey Loscalzo

Early Chapter Books

Anna Hibiscus
Kane/Miller Book Pub
Nominated by: Anamaria Anderson

Anna Hibiscus, her African father, Canadian mother, and her mischevious twin brothers live in Africa. These are Anna’s stories about her family life: wanting to have personal space, dealing with younger brothers, respect for elders, traditional African ways v. modern conveniences, hard work, and compassion. Although set in Africa, it has universal appeal and will resonate with young readers. Atinuke contrasts and compares customs and life in Africa with other parts of the world, artfully explaining how modern life and traditional ways can co-exist. The chapters can be read in sequence or as individual short stories, and the illustrations effectively distribute text and make this attractive to dormant and reluctant readers. This is a book you can read aloud with your kids early in elementary school and they can later read for themselves. It is an excellent choice for mixed audiences.

Terry Doherty

Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000
Eric Wight
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Liz Jones

Frankie isn’t doing so well in Possum Scouts. He’s failed the knot-tying badge and can’t move from Pygmy to Shrew with everyone else. His only hope is to win the model car race, the Pine Run 3000. Except Frankie declines his father’s help and builds a creation that only somewhat resembles a functional car.

Frankie constantly gets distracted by his vivid imagination which is hilariously depicted in cartoons and when he becomes the awesome Frankie Pickle. “Wonder Pickle, we pronounce you a member of the League of Awesome. Go forth with your awesomeness,” says his imagination’s superhero mom in one graphic. Author and illustrator Eric Wight creates a thoroughly believable and lovable character – in fact, I’m pretty sure I know this kid. The book is half-and-half graphic and narrative novel, with cartoon black-and-white illustrations. There’s plenty of picture context clues as they read.

Melissa Taylor

Home on the Range (Down Girl and Sit)
Lucy Nolan
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books
Nominated by: Jennifer Wharton

Home on the Range is a delightful story about two city dogs and their masters on vacation at a dude ranch. Narrated by Down Girl, one of the dogs, each chapter provides another hilarious mix-up as she and her canine friend, Sit, meet barking squirrels (prairie dogs), gasoline-powered bulls (trucks), and fierce ugly dogs (coyotes). Along the dusty trail, they meet a sensible ranch dog named Git Along and discover that life on the other side of their neighborhood fence is full of wide open spaces and new surprises: pointy lizards, angry nostrils, chuck wagons, and cows without leashes. It’s challenging to write a short chapter book where the child reader knows more than the main character, but Lucy Nolan provides just the right touch and Mike Reed’s wonderful black-and-white illustrations carry the story along and guide understanding. Brimming with kid appeal, these witty, exciting, tail-wagging adventures with Down Girl and Sit will bring young readers stampeding to the fence.

–Cynthia Lord

Princess Posey and the First Grade Parade: Book 1
Stephanie Greene
Nominated by: Dianne White

Posey is an upcoming first grader who has some concerns about the new school year. As a first grader, she will have to go to her class by herself instead of her mom walking beside her. Fortunately for Posey, she meets her new teacher at the ice cream store and soon learns that Miss Lee will help her make the beginning of first grade quite memorable.

Author Stephanie Greene has spent a lot of time working with kindergarten and first grade students. Posey is a delightful character who reminds me of students that I work with each day. Like Posey, they’re sweet kids who have some fears and need help in navigating this thing we call school. Greene’s connection to real students shows in Princess Posey and The First Grade Parade and makes it an engaging early chapter book.

Jeff Barger

Zapato Power: Freddie Ramos Takes Off
Jacqueline Jules
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter

Author Jules and illustrator Benitez have given us a completely fresh character in Freddie Ramos, a Latino grade-schooler whose father was killed in the line of duty and whose mother only recently graduated from community college, allowing her to get a better job and move her son out of their old, “bad” neighborhood and into a better one. One day Freddie receives a mysterious package containing a pair of purple sneakers with silver wings that give him super speed, and he immediately begins dreaming of using his “zapato power” to make his world an even better place. Even without his amazing shoes, Freddie’s kind heart and willingness to help would make him a hero, and I think that many readers–myself included–will be rooting for him for many years to come.

Julie Jurgen

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)

Call, The (The Magnificent 12)
Michael Grant
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Ben

Michael Grant has crafted a great beginning to a new series that is guaranteed to leave you wanting more action, more plot development, more laugh-out-loud humor and the next book in the series. The Call follows a 12-year-old boy named Mack who is just a “medium” regular old boy with nothing special about him. However, he soon learns he is one of 12 Magnifica and it is up to him to track down the other eleven kids to stop the evil forces. This book will have you reading right through until the end as you come across some interesting characters and some scenes that may cause you to squirm. Through it all you will find yourself laughing along with the adventures of Mack.

Aaron Maurer

Dead Boys, The
Royce Buckingham
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Mike Schoeneck

When Teddy moves to a desert community, he makes a lot of new friends, but they are all dead! Victims of a tree mutated by toxic waste into a vicious killer, the boys all perished ten years apart, and if Teddy can’t help them rest in peace, he may be next tasty snack for the maniacal tree. This creepy tale is packed with action, suspense, sly humor and an environmental message as well.

Karen Yingling

Dragonbreath: Attack of the Ninja Frogs
Ursula Vernon
Dial Books
Nominated by: Debbie Nance

This second tale of the young dragon, Danny Dragonbreath, is full of hilarious enchantment that should delight the fantasy reader of any age. When Suki, a Japanese exchange student, is beset by Ninja Frogs, Danny and Wendell, his geeky iguana pal (who’s fallen hard for Suki), travel with her to mythical Japan to find out what’s going on. Danny thinks it’s the greatest thing ever to be in the thick of real Ninja action, Wendell’s worried about Suki, and as for Suki herself–she just wants to be a comic-book reading veterinarian, preferably a veterinarian who isn’t being stalked by Ninjas…Not only is this a laugh-out-loud story, with smart, snappy dialogue and endearing characters, but Vernon’s many illustrations, including panels that carry the story forward, are masterpieces of comic art.

Charlotte Taylor

Fever Crumb
Philip Reeve
Nominated by: Gwenda Bond

Fever is a foundling, adopted as an infant girl and educated by the Order of Engineers, all male, who live in the head of a giant statue. But she has other memories, too–ones that aren’t hers, that arise on her first assignment outside the head. Who is Fever Crumb, and why do people want her dead? This prequel to Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines quartet, set in a future London that bears the traces of our own in its language (“Who gives a blog?”) and technology, introduces a new series. Yet smart, original, and full of memorable images–of paper boys, and movable fortresses, and a head full of bald engineers–Fever Crumb also stands alone.

Anamaria Anderson

Ninth Ward
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Hallie Tibbetts

Twelve-year-old Lanesha has always seen the ghosts of New Orleans, including that of her mother who died in childbirth. While she thinks often about the Uptown family that’s abandoned her, her heart belongs to her caretaker Mama Ya-Ya, the Ninth Ward where they live, and her dreams of becoming an engineer. This gripping, magical portrait of the days before, during and after Hurricane Katrina follows Lanesha as she and her friend TaShon battle real-life dystopian conditions to save their own lives (and their dog, Spot). The result is a powerful survival story that will haunt young readers.

Gwenda Bond

Cornelia Funke
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Angela

Jacob Reckless never intended for his younger brother, Will, to learn about Mirrorworld. He had been keeping it secret since discovering the enchanted portal shortly after their father’s disappearance. But when an enchantment causes Will to slowly turn to stone, Jacob realizes he can no longer afford to keep the magic of the land a secret. Accompanied by a shape-shifter and Will’s girlfriend, Jacob sets out to find the antidote before his brother’s transformation is complete. Cornelia Funke deftly intertwines familiar fairy tales and characters into an action-packed quest tale full of political rivals, jealous lovers and deadly monsters.

Nicole Signoretta

Shadows, The (The Books of Elsewhere, Vol. 1)
Jacqueline West
Dial Books
Nominated by: Sandra Stiles

After being forced to move into an old Victorian household with her Math nut parents, 11-year-old Olive discovers an amazing secret, stuffed into a dresser drawer is a pair of spectacles that allows Olive to climb through the pictures on the walls and into another world that is strangely similar to the real world, right down to the houses and neighbors. However, Olive quickly realizes there are a lot of hidden secrets contained within the old house like why a mysterious cat follows her around, why none of the pictures on the wall can be moved and who is the child Morton who lives inside the mysterious world known as Elsewhere. This first book in the Books of Elsewhere series, weaves a dark tale of mystery, adventure and a battle against a darker power that is determined to turn the lights out on Olive’s world for good.

Cindy Hannikman

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)

Brain Jack
Brian Falkner
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Hallie Tibbetts

When Sam Wilson hacks into the computer system of one of America’s largest companies, he has no idea that his actions will bring about, in the words of The Washington Post, a “National Disaster.” Or, for that matter, that he will get caught. An action-adventure containing shades of Philip K. Dick, William Gibson and Doctor Who, Brain Jack delivers a fast-paced, white-knuckled, hugely entertaining thrill ride that celebrates technology while raising questions about the ramifications of our dependence on it.

Leila Roy

Guardian of the Dead
Karen Healey
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Alvina

Attending a boarding school in New Zealand while her parents travel the world, Ellie’s days are filled with the usual litany of humdrum events: hanging out with her best friend Kevin, honing her Tae Kwon Do skills, studying Classics, daydreaming over the mysterious loner Mark. Then suddenly everything changes when an unusual woman takes an unhealthy interest in Kevin and an encounter with Mark awakens a magic Ellie never knew she possessed. Expertly weaving together Maori and Greek mythologies into a complex and beautiful web, Guardian of the Dead is a perfectly paced, gritty exploration of the power of one average, opinionated and loyal girl’s belief to change the very shape and fabric of the magical world around her.

Angie Thompson

Plain Kate
Erin Bow
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: James Bow

Katerina–Plain Kate–is already a woodworking prodigy when her father dies, but without funds to purchase an apprenticeship of her own, she’s out on the street with little more than her cat, Taggle. She seeks help from Linay, a ghostlike stranger who offers gifts both practical and magical in exchange for Plain Kate’s shadow. One of those gifts is a voice for the indelible Taggle, whose spot-on cat commentary alternately provides insight into and comic relief from the grim happenings. When Plain Kate’s new friend Drina tries to use magic to help Plain Kate get her shadow back, the magic that’s been creeping along behind them takes an evil shape. Plain Kate’s spare, lyric prose combines with a very dark plot to create a rare tale of friendship and love influenced by Russian and Eastern European folklore that’s hard to put down.

Hallie Tibbetts

Stephen Wallenfels
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

Ask any teen if most adults are unfair or downright cruel and the chorus of “So true!” will be thundering. Such kids should rejoice at Pod: the threat to the kids in this book, if not the world, aren’t simply alien invaders but the human neighbors who so quickly turn vicious and animalistic to protect their own hides. Pod is science-fiction at its best: besides raising the reader’s heartbeat with action and thrills, it raises questions about humanity.

Steve Berman

Rot & Ruin
Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Kristie Winks

Benny Imura has hated his older brother Tom since the night he abandoned their mother to the zombies. But now, with no other jobs willing to take him on, he must become his brother’s apprentice as a zombie killer or starve. But not all is as it seems to be in the great Rot and Ruin, as Benny soon discovers. Part dystopian, part action-adventure apocalypse tale, but most important, a tale about the relationship between two brothers. It’s a zombie book but one with serious heart in a surprisingly complex and heartwarming tale. It is a story that makes you think of who the real monsters are and gives more than zombies something to chew on.

Heather Zundel

Ship Breaker
Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Trisha

Scavenging and recycling, Nailer and his crew live on the edge of the Gulf Coast, making do with what’s been tossed on the heap by those with wealth and ease. Paolo Bacigalupi’s debut YA novel describes with sickening detail the broken world of the ship-breaker where earning enough food to survive means having a small, tough body and an unbreakable will to survive. Bacigalupi’s masterful worldbuilding traps us within the claustrophobic confines of Nailer’s desperation where the present is filled with the dead hulks of oil tankers going nowhere, while on the horizon, the white-sailed clipper ships move fast into the future — a future Nailer will never have, unless he leaps on an unexpected opportunity and holds on with both hands. An unflinching, fast-paced novel where even the good guys nearly drown and bleed with all the rest, Ship Breaker explores hard choices and hard love, and wrestling for a chance at a better world.

Tanita Davis

Wager, The
Donna Jo Napoli
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Margo Tanenbaum

Wealthy Sicilian nobleman Don Giovanni finds himself homeless and poor after his fortune and estate are wiped out in a tidal wave. The devil steps in to tempt him with a magical purse that provides unlimited money and a bet: Don Giovanni can keep the purse if he can go three years, three months, and three days without bathing, but if he bathes during that time, his soul belongs to the devil. Going without bathing for so long is even worse than it sounds, and horrific descriptions of pus, sores, vomit and parasites contrast with the lush imagery of the island of Sicily and the varied cultures inhabiting it. The suspense of wondering whether Don Giovanni will make it is increased by the devil’s attempts to win by trickery. The external physical transformation of Don Giovanni is matched by a corresponding but opposite internal transformation, making this fairy-tale retelling a beautiful story of redemption.

Sheila Ruth

Fiction Picture Books

Beach Tail, A
Karen Lynn Williams
Boyds Mills Press
Nominated by: Jessalynn Pinsonault

While following his father’s direction to stay close to the lion he drew in the sand, a young boy makes the tail longer and longer as he explores the shore. Finding himself far away from the beach umbrella, the boy figures out how to get back along the trail he created. This gentle story for young readers touches on independence and problem-solving in a realistic setting, as the soft illustrations capture the subtle tones of the seashore and the wonder of exploration.

Pam Coughlan

Bill Thomson
Marshall Cavendish Childrens Books
Nominated by: Jeff Barger

When a group of children venture out to the playground on a rainy day, they discover a bag of chalk with unusual qualities: whatever they draw magically comes true. Thing get a tad scary, however, when a little boy draws a large green T-Rex that immediately charges for the kids in hungry pursuit. Using acrylics and colored pencils to create remarkably photo-realistic images, while creating suspense with a dizzying array of perspectives and angles, Thomson’s vibrant illustrations make this wordless picture book a masterful work of visual storytelling.

Kiera Parrott

Cow Loves Cookies, The
Karma Wilson
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Becky

All the animals on the farm love their own special food the farmer feeds them every day. The horse loves hay, of course. The chickens love their feed, the geese their corn, and the pigs their slop. But the cow, well, the cow loves cookies. Clear bold lines, watercolor illustrations, simple rhyming text, repeating theme, and surprise ending makes this story the perfect read-aloud for the youngest of readers who are anxious to get in on the action.

Natasha Maw

Flora's Very Windy Day
Jeanne Birdsall
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Eric Carpenter

As the wind sweeps them into the sky, Flora is tempted to get rid of her little brother as a dragonfly, a rainbow, and even the man in the moon offer to take him away. But with each interaction, Flora becomes more determined to keep him and bring him home. This humorous and touching story, coupled with beautiful illustrations full of whimsy, encourages positive sibling relationships in a fun and fresh way.

Emily Beeson

Interrupting Chicken
David Ezra Stein
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Lenore Appelhans

Bedtime has come for the Little Red Chicken, which means story time! As Papa gets ready to read his daughter a classic tale, he offers a little reminder about curtailing her interrupting habit…but, of course, it’s no use, and Chicken brings hilarity to each story Papa begins. Bright and lively illustrations keep the energy high with each suspenseful page turn. Ideal for reading aloud and perfect for creative voicing, this book is a hit for fun loving (and book loving!) kids of all ages.

Dawn Mooney

Shark vs. Train
Chris Barton
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Janelle

The premise of the story is simple: You have a shark. You have a train. You have a series of increasingly insane situations. Who wins? Well, it all depends…Crisp, vibrant illustrations create a hilarious celebration of imagination and zany competition. Open-ended text makes this perfect for interactive read-alouds or quiet one-on-one giggle sessions.

Jennifer Wharton

Sick Day for Amos McGee, A
Philip Christian Stead
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Amos McGee is a doting zookeeper who finds the tables turned when he catches cold and his animals come over for a visit. With simple text and gloriously hand-made block print and pencil illustrations, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is timeless tale of compassion and friendship that will endear itself to readers for many years to come.

Travis Jonker

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (Olympians)
George O'Connor
First Second Books
Nominated by: Nicola Manning

Continuing his encapsulation of the lives of the Greek gods, O’Connor turns his attention this time to the goddess of wisdom. From her birth from the skull of Zeus to her triumphs and tragedies, we get a full-blooded look at one of the most powerful of the gods. O’Connor brilliantly encapsulates a series of stories into a single telling. His superhero art style is the perfect accompaniment to the over-the-top actions of the gods and his storytelling will more than satiate the Percy Jackson fans out there.

Betsy Bird

Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye 1: Hamster and Cheese
Colleen A. F. Venable
Graphic Universe
Nominated by: Lindsay Matvick

Sasspants the guinea pig just wants to be left in peace with her books, but when the “G” goes missing from her sign—leaving her a Guinea PI—she finds herself dragged into a pet shop mystery by the irrepressible hamster Hamisher. The owner’s sandwiches have been going missing, and he suspects the hamsters. It’s up to Sasspants to collect clues, interview witnesses, and find the real culprit before Hamisher and his fellows are sent away from the pet shop forever!

Madeline Stevens

Meanwhile: Pick Any Path. 3,856 Story Possibilities.
Jason Shiga
Nominated by: Liz Jones

Meanwhile by Jason Shiga: Entropy, chance, massive death, and chocolate ice cream? Imagine if you took an old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure title and gave it a sugar high. That’s a fair approximation of what you can find in one of the most original, interesting, and doggone fun graphic novels of the year. When a boy meets up with a mad scientist, he’s given the choice of playing with a mind-reading device, a time machine, or a doomsday machine. When you make his choices, you see the consequences. A zany, sometimes harrowing, always brilliant look at how the smallest choice affects the future (just don’t give the away the fact that you found the giant squid).

Betsy Bird

Raina Telgemeier
Nominated by: Abby Johnson

One day after a Girl Scout activity, sixth grader Raina, trips and falls. What follows are her on-again, off-again braces, surgery, and embarrassing headgear. Raina’s experiences take the reader through middle school to high school, where she discovers who her true friends are and her own artistic talents. This story is filled with colorful illustrations, a realistic premise, and a very likeable character that most readers are sure to identify with. Even more than that, this fun graphic tale is sure to bring a smile to a reader’s face.

Kim Baccellia

The Unsinkable Walker Bean
Aaron Renier
First Second Books
Nominated by: Jess Pugh

Walker Bean’s grandfather begs his grandson to return a mysterious talking skull to sister sea monsters and end the curse that has plagued him for years. Walker, a pudgy boy who’d rather read than adventure and cries at the drop of a hat, isn’t at all sure he can live up to his grandfather’s expectations. Walker is alternately helped and hindered by pirates, merchants and witches as he blunders and invents his way to an unsinkable conclusion. Renier’s illustrations are rich and full of detail, and the plot is creative with plenty of unexpected twists. Perfect for fans of steampunk, Tintin and Lord of the Rings, this epic sea voyage has something for just about every reader.


Young Adult

Doug Tennapel
Nominated by: D.M. Cunningham

Garth Hale, a kid with a fatal disease, is accidentally zapped into the world of the dead before his time. With the aid of a skeletal horse and two star-crossed lovers (one living, one dead), he tries to find his way home to his grieving mother–discovering along the way that he has something unique and wonderful to offer the residents of Ghostopolis. If he uses his gift well, things may not be as dark as they seem on either side of the world. Clearly drawn, and full of surprising twists, Ghostopolis is a wild ride.

Liz Jones

Hope Larson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski (Mama Librarian)

In 2009, Tara’s longtime home has just burned down and now she’s struggling to fit in with her new life living with relatives while her mom works hard to support their family long distance. Parallel to Tara’s story is that of her ancestor Josey, who has fallen in love with a gold dowser that has promised wealth to Josey’s family in 1859. As the story progresses, the two plots weave and meld together, often playing off occurrences and dialogue in both time periods. With a flowing art style and a touch of magic realism, Mercury is a beautiful exploration of past meeting present.


Night Owls Vol. 1
Peter Timony
Nominated by: Jenny Schwartzberg

A gargoyle, a flapper-turned-gumshoe, and a sunlight-challenged professor(who’s *not* a vampire?) unite to form a supernatural detective agency in the delightful Night Owls by the Timony Twins. Fresh humor, quirky characters and a well-drawn retro-1920’s setting offer a lot to readers of traditional mystery comics and a wider audience. You can enjoy the Night Owls’ escapades in chunks, the way you might in the funnies page, or devour it at one sitting to discover the big picture intrigue. We can’t wait to read volume two!

Liz Jones

Twin Spica, Volume: 01
Kou Yaginuma
Nominated by: Claire Moore

Set in 2024, 13-year-old Asumi wants to be an astronaut and takes the exams to enter space training school. Her mother died shortly after she was born when a rocket crashed into the city. This rocket was named The Lion, which becomes a theme carried on in the story. Now Asumi and everyone who passed the space school entrance exams have been taken to the school and put under a 7-day confined space test in groups of three. What happens is an amazingly well-written realistic and emotionally charged science-fiction story.

Nicola Manning

Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
G. Neri
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Nominated by: Natasha Maw

This gritty portrayal is based on the real life of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer and the murder of a fourteen-year-old Shavon Dean in August 1994. The author peels back some layers of Yummy, leaving readers with questions on how a child ended up killing someone. The black-and-white illustrations are a great backdrop for the harshness of Yummy’s short life and those who live in crime-infested neighborhoods. Told without being preachy, this tale is sure to haunt readers long after they close the last page.

Kim Baccellia

Middle Grade Novels

Because of Mr. Terupt
Rob Buyea
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: David Richardson

Rob Buyea, a teacher and first time author, has written Because of Mr. Terupt. It is a beautiful book about a class of fifth graders and their new teacher. The book is told by seven students. They write about their experiences with a special teacher. The students share the impact that tragedy has on their young lives. The experiences are sad, touching and life changing. Jessica, one of the students, tells Mr Terupt early in the book that she likes happy endings. This book does have one.

Kyle Kimmal

Belly Up
Stuart Gibbs
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Jennifer Rembold

This is a humorous mystery that takes place in a zoo. The main character Teddy along with Summer, the zoo owner’s daughter, must figure out who murdered the zoo’s famous mascot, Henry the Hippo. The characters are well developed and will be loved by both children and adults alike. Listed for 8 – 12 year olds it is probably best for the higher ages due to some mild language. Children will love the gross descriptions and side splitting antics along with the believable parents in the book. The environmental element adds to the flavor of this book. Humor, save the animal type themes, and independent, can’t stay out of trouble kid. Who could ask for anything more?

Sandra Stiles

Betti on the High Wire
Lisa Railsback
Dial Books
Nominated by: Mary Ellen Thompson

Babo is one of the leftover children. In an unnamed, war-torn country, she lives in an abandoned circus turned orphanage. She is a storyteller, she has friends, and she is happy. Then she’s adopted by an American couple, who change her name to Betti. In this heartbreaking, yet humorous and touching book, you get to know Betti as she struggles to adapt and adjust and come to terms with her new life while still yearning for the old. Nothing in this book is black and white: every character and situation is complex, appealing to the older readers, but yet the book is simple enough for younger ones as well. It’s a book that will generate discussion about war, refugees, adoption and immigrants. It’s not depressing, though; Betti is a spitfire, and readers of all ages will end up cheering for her and falling in love with both her and the book.


Leslie Connor
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Deena Lipomi

Gasoline is not available at any price, so Dewey Marriss and his siblings have to tough it out until their parents can get back into town. Dewey was left in charge of the Marriss Bike Barn, and business is booming to say the least. We loved the believable characters and thought provoking circumstances of this story. It has a retro feel, but could easily be set in the near future. A mini-mystery keeps the plot moving along but doesn’t distract from the big question: What would life without gas be like? Crunch is a shoo-in for boys and girls ages 8 to 800.


Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze
Alan Silberberg
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

It’s a story with a sad premise — a boy trying to deal with the death of his mother. However, it reads like a surprisingly normal “kid overcoming an obstacle” kind of story.

Milo’s dad isn’t really up to talking about serious topics, and he keeps moving the family from house to house, seeming to avoid the memories of his wife. That means that Milo is dealing with yet another new school. At this school he finds a good friend who appreciates him for who he is and what he likes (Freezies drinks from the local convenience store) and a next door neighbor who keeps leaving him sticky notes. These friends and a widow neighbor fill part of the hole that his mother’s absence has left. Readers will cheer with Milo as he takes charge of overcoming his situation.

This story will speak volumes to any child who has lost a parent or is trying to help a good friend deal with that loss. But this book’s humor, use of line-drawings and cartoons throughout, and universal themes such as struggling in Math, having a crush, the power of friendship, and moving to a new home or new school will entertain and enlighten other readers as well.

Jennifer Donovan

The Kneebone Boy
Ellen Potter
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan

Dashes of Dahl. Snippets of Snicket. Heaps of Horvath. Those are the comparisons from the blurb on the back of this rather gothic middle grade adventure novel that I read breathlessly to the end in one day. I would add: A modicum of Monty Python. Pinches of The Princess Bride (without the kissing). Even a whisper of Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase.

No spoilers here, but it won’t hurt to tell that The Kneebone Boy has no vampires, no magic, only one very small ghost, one large castle and one small play castle, lots of adventure, many oddities, and a few crazies. Also, there’s not much blood, and lots of stuff happens at night . . . in the dark . . . in a spooky forest. Oh, and there’s a dungeon and a secret passageway. How can any kid with an inkling of imagination resist?


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
Tom Angleberger
Nominated by: Sarah (aquafortis)

There are kids all over McQuarrie Middle School who believe Origami Yoda can tell the future. Others think he’s just a stupid finger puppet made by the 6th grade’s biggest loser, Dwight. Tommy HAS to know the truth. He has to know if Origami Yoda is real before he makes a complete fool of himself. Tommy reasons that Origami Yoda MUST be the real thing because there is no way a loser like Dwight could ever offer such great advice. Still, what if he takes Origami Yoda’s advice and makes a fool of himself? In order to find out, Tommy opens a case file where his classmates explain their experiences with Origami Yoda’s Jedi-like advice. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda will delight readers. It’s filled with humor, great characters, a unique plot and the occasional glimpse of the force at work. Read it, you must.

Cheryl Vanatti

Nonfiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult

Dark Game: True Spy Stories, The

Candlewick Press
Nominated by: heather wilks-jones

The Dark Game presents compelling accounts of global espionage from the American Revolution through present-day cyber spying. Chapters focus on old favorites such as Benedict Arnold and Mata Hari and less well-known figures, such as Civil War spy Elizabeth Van Lew and Juan Pujol, the self-appointed World War II agent who confused officials on both sides of the battlefield. Janezcko gets his readers up to speed quickly on the background of each conflict and shares the memorable quirks and unique methods of each espionage endeavor, resulting in a solid, well-researched and highly readable companion to the study of world history.

Jessica Leader

Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe, The
Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Kate Messner

In this visually stunning book profiling beekeepers and scientists, Loree Griffin Burns traces the research being done to combat colony collapse disorder, which is decimating the honeybee population. This honey bee catastrophe is profiled without being preachy or didactic. However, readers come away from the book knowing more about honey bee hives, the process of making honey, and the research being done to stop colony collapse disorder. Colony collapse disorder is a mystery of sorts, allowing the reader to follow along and urging them to continue to research more after finishing the book. The scientific process if presented from all sides and the narrative is fascinating. Readers will come away from this book knowing more about human-environment interaction, food production, and the how science is practiced “in the field.”

Sarah Mulhern Gross

Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Elizabeth Bird

The oversize, flightless and nocturnal kakapo parrots of New Zealand numbered in the millions before 1900, and were thought to be extinct by mid-century. Conservation expeditions in the 1970s discovered two last groups, which were moved to tiny Codfish Island off the southern coast, where the National Kakapo Recovery Team began research to save the species. Montgomery’s fascinating and sometimes funny text tells the history of the parrots and the project, as well as the story of the ten days the authors spent on Codfish Island during the mysterious breeding season. Bishop’s stunning photos of the parrots, the island, and the scientists at work make this an inspiring book for young science fans and budding environmentalists.

Karen Ball

Secret of the Yellow Death: A True Story of Medical Sleuthing, The
Suzanne Jurmain
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Trisha

The story takes place after the Spanish American War, when U.S. troops had taken Cuba from Spain. Deadly Yellow Fever was rampant on the island, and four brilliant Army doctors were ordered to Cuba to fight it. Major Walter Reed, M.D., headed the team, who worked with local Dr. Carlos Finlay to find the cause of the dreaded disease and figure out how to prevent its spread. Jurmain uses exceptional amounts of primary source documentation in photos and historical documents to tell the story of the scientific process, the dangerous experiments, and brave volunteers who put their lives on the line to solve this horrific medical mystery.

Karen Ball

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook
Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
Flash Point
Nominated by: Vasilly

Warning: this is not your typical writing manual. Potter and Mazer have put together a fantastic guide to the craft of writing that doesn’t actually feel like a guide. Instead, it feels like two friends sitting down over coffee and spilling secrets. This isn’t a book that teaches grammar and conventions. Instead, it teaches the nitty-gritty of writing, like how to actually sit down and get words on paper. Each chapter is filled with practical advice and “dares” that push the reader to sit down and start writing. At the same time, there it is full of practical advice. It’s an inspiring book that is perfect for aspiring writers of all ages.

Sarah Mulhern Gross

Under a Red Sky: Memoir of a Childhood in Communist Romania
Haya Leah Molnar
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Greg Leitich Smith

This is Haya Leah Molnar’s beautifully rendered memoir of her childhood in late 1950s Soviet-controlled Bucharest. The story revolves around Molnar’s personal awakening as a seven-year-old to her Jewish identity, which had been kept secret from her, and the struggles she and her family experience while trying to emigrate from anti-Semitic Communist Romania. A vivid and haunting story emerges as they get closer to leaving and the past secrets of her family’s survival are revealed.

David Judge

Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank, An
Elaine Marie Alphin
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Elizabeth Dingmann

Elaine Marie Alphin presents the harrowing tale of a northern American-Jewish industrialist falsely convicted of the rape and murder of a girl in his factory. Alphin follows the trial through its many injustices, the much-delayed confessions that posthumously exonerated Frank, and its role in reviving the KKK and forming the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. With rich detail about the players and the period, and evocative photos and documents, Alphin spins a story that is equal parts personal heartache, courtroom drama, and a view of a time when public opinion wielded more power than rule of law.

Jessica Leader

Nonfiction Picture Books

Steve Jenkins
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Young explorers might come across skeleton remains, but in Bones, readers are reminded that skeletons are alive. Jenkins’ book delivers all sorts of bones, from snakes to humans to bats and everything else in between. His clever page titles such as “Arm Yourself,” “Big Foot,” or “Support Group” are engaging. The bone illustrations are created at a variety of scales. Intricate paper cuts for each page, along with the straightforward explanations, won the hearts of the panelists. More skeleton facts, stories, history, and science are at the book’s end.

Dinosaur Mountain: Digging into the Jurassic Age
Deborah Kogan Ray
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Raymond Tumarkin

“Find me something big,” ordered Andrew Carne, when he sent paleontologist Earl Douglas to an area of the Colorado/Wyoming border now known as Dinosaur National Monument. Deborah Kogan Ray chronicles Douglas’ efforts, including his struggles with weather, discouragement and bone poachers. Ray uses journal excerpts, diagrams and pencil sketches of other useful information, such as layers of the Jurassic Strata and paleontologist’s tools, to provide additional support for the reader. Prolific appendices include information about ten dinosaurs found in Dinosaur National Monument.

Henry Aaron's Dream
Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Margo Tanenbaum

Henry Aaron had a dream that some day he’d play baseball in the big leagues, but life in the 1940s made it impossible for blacks and whites to do anything together. Using Jackie Robinson as his inspiration, Aaron persevered and played his way into the big leagues while overcoming prejudice and obstacles. The straightforward narrative pulls the reader along in this emotion-filled story of Aaron’s dreams as a child and subsequent path leading him to play baseball professionally. Tavares’s large, muted illustrations depict the times, the disappointments, and triumphs of this player from his childhood to his successful record-breaking career. But best of all, it tells the story of how a skinny kid from Mobile, Alabama, made his dreams come true.

Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum
Meghan McCarthy
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Jess Pugh

hewing gum has been around for thousands of years, but bubble gum was invented by an accountant in Philadelphia. Here, with bright, cartoonish illustrations, Meghan McCarthy tells the story of the invention of one of America’s favorite candies. From the subject matter to the vivid colors used throughout, Pop! oozes kid appeal, while back matter includes additional fun facts about bubble gum, biographical information, and source notes. Together, this makes for a book that’ll give kids thoughts to chew on.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down
Andrea Pinkney
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Allison Moore

In 1960, when four Negro college students decided to sit down and try to order at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, they were part of a movement bigger than they even realized. They were peaceful and respectful, even when those around them chose to be cruel and unkind. They held on to their conviction that they had a right to order food if they were hungry, no matter where they were, or what the color of their skin. Most of the story is written as a metaphor for eating, especially the parts about equality, peace and integration. Pinkney ties the story together so well with those metaphors. Brian Pinkney’s illustrations are amazing and match the text beautifully. His backgrounds are particularly thoughtful, as that is where the hatred of others can be found in a hazy way. Sit-In serves as a springboard to look at all the ways we can stand up for each other and for what’s right, no matter what the color of our skin.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald
Roxane Orgill
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Derek Jones

Ella Fitzgerald is known for her unique voice and giving the world scat, improvisational singing. Fitzgerald didn’t have an easy childhood. Roxane Orgill handles the ups and downs with a skilled hand. We get so much of Ella, from singing with her mother to the time when she had no home. Even through the sadness, Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat never loses its sense of hopeful possibility. Sean Qualls’ illustrations are beautiful, from Ella’s expressive eyes to the detailed clothes of the era. Orgill and Qualls have collaborated on a lyrical and visually stunning biography on a jazz icon.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy)
Barbara Kerley
Nominated by: Jennifer Donovan

Children have no doubt heard of Mark Twain, but here they’ll get to know him in a new and more familiar way through the words of his daughter. As a child, Susy Clemens carefully crafted a secret biography of her beloved Papa, and Kerley brings to life both Papa and Susy, as well as Susy’s journal, for young readers. Kerley weaves quotes from various sources into a narrative that reads like fiction, and Fotheringham’s lively, colorful illustrations portray a larger-than-life Twain and his ever-present biographer. Excerpts from Susy’s journals are cleverly presented in small leaflets throughout the book. Back matter includes further information about Mark Twain and Susy, a selected timeline of Twain’s life, and detailed sources and citations for quoted material in the text. For readers who are inspired to keep their own secret journals, suggestions for following in Susy’s (and Kerley’s) pen strokes to write an “extraordinary biography” are provided.


Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters
Jeannine Atkins
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Jenny Moss

This collection of extended poems for young adults reads as if it’s a novel–a skillful blend of verse, plot, and character development–offering readers a fresh understanding of the complex emotional depths shared by mothers and daughters. The figures portrayed in its pages are based on actual historical figures, and in the creation of these poems the author has remained faithful to history, using information that she researched about each woman’s life.

“When facts failed to answer questions,” explains Atkins, “I let in imagination to coax out what seemed hidden behind surfaces. I hoped each poem could stand alone, but also together suggest the shapes of lives and the connections among the different daughters and mothers.”

Sifting through masses of information about each woman, discovering the seed for a poem, as well as the truth of how mothers and daughters might relate to each other, and then assembling these seeds into poems, Atkins achieves something rare here, a seamless, compelling narrative that sheds new light on the intimacy and challenges of mother-daughter relationships.

Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night
Joyce Sidman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Julie Larios

Three-time Cybils winner Joyce Sidman has given us another topnotch collection of nature poems. In Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night, her focus is on the flora and fauna of the woods. This time, she examines her subjects through the lens of night. While many may presume the period between sunset and sunrise to be a time of silence and sleep, Sidman sees night as a “feast of sound and spark”…as “a wild enchanted park.” She skillfully brings the dark forest to life with her evocative poetry and imagery. She illuminates the nocturnal behavior of an oak tree, mushrooms, primrose moth, porcupette, great horned owl, eft, and a number of other woodland creatures. She even provides insight into the moon’s “thinking.”

Dark Emperor includes a glossary and concisely written prose paragraphs that contain a wealth of information about the subjects of the poems. Artist Rick Allen used muted colors and abundant black lines in his illustrations to capture the atmosphere of a forest after dark. This collection is a must-have for teachers who enjoy connecting science and poetry—and for children who are budding naturalists.

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse
Marilyn Singer
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski (Mama Librarian)

Mirror, Mirror is a picture book collection of clever “reverso” poems that reinvent familiar fairy tales in puzzle like fashion. Each tale/poem is two poems, read down the page for one point of view, then up the page for another; such as Red Riding Hood or the Wolf, for example, or Snow White vs. the Wicked Queen, etc. Witty and irreverent, these pithy poems read well out loud and challenge children to imitate the formula, complete with an author’s endnote for guidance.

Scarum Fair
Jessica Swaim
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

Imagine a State Fair, imagine it dark and filled with the most marvelous monsters, now add a clever dose of poetry; dark and twisty, with bouncy rhymes and that make a child grin from ear to ear. Throw in beautiful and fun illustrations by Carol Ashley and you’ve got Scarum Fair, the marvelous little book of poetry by Jessica Swaim. Scarum Fair has a TON of kid appeal, skillful rhymes with an almost musical feel to them. While the poetry may be a little dark (okay, a lot dark) to adults, most children will love it and squeal with shivery glee about a creepy little monster nibbling at their toes. The book consists of 29 very humorous poems designed to really draw children in with its Halloweeny theme and it works very well. Children drawn to the deliciously scary will love poems like The Werewolves’ Den: “Like our friendly canine cousins,/ we’re a cute and cuddly bunch./ Just think of us as puppies,/ and we’ll think of you as…lunch.”

Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems
ed. by Lee Bennet Hopkins
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Poetry about the seasons gives kids a fantastic opportunity to connect literature with what’s happening in their own lives at that very moment. Hopkins’ anthology of 48 poems, 12 for each season, is a masterful collection of classic and contemporary works by a bounty of poets. Each season opens with a crystalline poem by Hopkins, who highlights some of the sights, sounds, feelings, and gear (lost mittens, anyone?) specific to that time of year. Then, from scooters to fireworks, crickets to apple cider, acorns to icicles, these poems highlight the everyday wonders we often take for granted. Most of the poems are extremely kid-friendly, like “Budding Scholars,” by April Halprin Wayland, which begins: Welcome, Flowers./Write your name on a name tag./Find a seat.

Later, the poem ends with the question every secretly snacking student in the history of students dreads: Did you/bring enough/for everyone? Luckily, this anthology, stunningly illustrated with stylized, stencil-effect art by David Diaz, does indeed have just enough for everyone! A delightful must-have for your school, home, or public library.

Switching on the Moon: A Very First Book of Bedtime Poems
ed. by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: heather wilks-jones

Young readers are sure to fall in love with this book from the moment they open to the first poem (“In Good Hands” by Roger McGough: Wherever night falls/The earth is always there/To catch it.). The 60 poems in this collection were selected by two award-winning poets–Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters–whose eyes and ears for poetry are pitch-perfect. The illustrations by G. Brian Karas prove just right to help young readers ease into the many bedtime rituals that the collection’s poems portray. Few books will soothe night-time fears more effectively or show a child more imaginative, creative ways to look at night time.

(Marilyn Singer’s “Tasty” is a wonderful example: How strange that someone thinks it nice/to eat the moon–a giant slice./I wonder if he finds it kind/to leave a bit of rind behind.) There are poems about the moon, stars, fireflies, bath time, night sounds, dreams and dawn. The book draws together work by Langston Hughes, Lee Bennet Hopkins, Mary Ann Hoberman, Douglas Florian, Karla Kuskin, Vachel Lindsay, Sylvia Plath, Alfred Lord Tennyson and many more. It works beautifully to take children on a journey from the moment it’s time for bed to the moment that dreams end and dawn comes, bringing with it the reassuring sight of the sun. Yolen and Peters have done a masterful job of collecting the poems in this exquisite anthology.

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors
Joyce Sidman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Maggi Idzikowski (Mama Librarian)

Ubiquitous takes readers on a chronological journey through Earth’s “life” time from bacteria, which originated on our planet nearly four billion years ago, to humans, who appeared very late in Earth’s long history. Joyce Sidman proves herself a master of selecting the best type of poem suited to particular subject—be it a diamante about bacteria, poems of address written to a mollusk and a crow, shape poems for the shark and scarab beetle, or mask poems told from the point of view of grass, squirrels, coyotes, and the lowly lichen.

The poems speak to the wonder—and to the essence—of the variety of life forms that exist on this planet today. Beckie Prange’s hand-colored linocuts are an integral part of the book—complementing, supporting, and expanding upon information included in the text. Prange depicts lichens at seven times their life size, provides a close-up look of tiny diatoms as they might appear under a microscope, and illustrates the different stages in the life cycle of beetles. She even gives us a cutaway view of an underground ant colony. The book includes a glossary and an extensive author’s note.

Young Adult Novels

Dirt Road Home
Watt Key
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Kate Coombs

Fast paced, gripping, and heartfelt, Dirt Road Home was a book that we just couldn’t put down. The story follows Hal, who is looking for a clean slate inside the Hellenweiler Boys Home, a juvenile detention facility. What he finds is a jungle where the only rule is for inmates to pick a side in the brewing gang war. When Hal refuses, he becomes a target, which sets off a string of events that makes Hal’s goal of staying on the straight and narrow hard to keep. His earnest voice and straightforward point of view are world weary while still being fresh, and Watt Key has masterfully crafted a book that is not only about second chances, but about staying true to yourself even when you aren’t sure who you are.

Justina Ireland

Harmonic Feedback
Tara Kelly
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Alex Stein

One of the issues du jour seems to be main characters on the autism spectrum or those struggling with Asperger’s syndrome. What the panel loved about this book is that Drea is very much a girl any teen can relate to. Yes, she has Asperger’s, but that is not the sum total of her existence. She is also a teenager, a musician, a girl who has moved a lot and has a crotchety old grandmother to live with. All of these things contribute to a personality readers can easily connect with, and Drea’s straightforward way of looking at life is refreshingly honest.

Ami Jones

I Now Pronounce You Someone Else
Erin McCahan
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Robin Prehn

Using wit and a whole lot of charm, author Erin McCahan has created a unique coming-of-age story centering on Bronwen, a strong-minded 18-year-old in search of a place to belong. Never having felt connected to her own family, Bronwen finds herself on the verge of getting married, hopeful that a life with Jared will give her the family she’s been looking for her entire life. The complex nature of what marriage means, as well as what ultimately makes a family is addressed in a refreshing and, at times hilarious, way. The humor woven amidst a plot with a very serious topic is what ultimately led the panel to fall in love with Bronwen (a.k.a Phoebe Lilywhite) and her quest to find herself, a real family and true love.

Amanda Snow

Mark Shulman
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Rosa Sanchez

An instantly engaging voice is the first clue that there’s more to this school bully than stealing lunch money. Shulman’s expert structure maintained a delicate balance of tension and humor, while his subtle character development creates entire back stories for secondary characters in a single, artful sentence. Shulman takes a familiar technique with journaling and manages to make it fresh and unique all the way to the brilliant last page. Readers can’t help but cheer for the self-described loser, Tod Munn, as he navigates through expectations, loyalties, and aspirations.

Jackie Parker

Some Girls Are
Courtney Summers
St. Martin's Griffin
Nominated by: KElly Jensen

You haven’t seen mean until you’ve seen the girls in Some Girls Are. Picked for its strong, sparse writing, tight pacing, and gut-wrenching grit, the cast of flawed characters in this noir story will leave you gasping–and maybe hoping for mercy–through each new blow. This one begs the question: can high school kill?

Kelly Jensen

Swati Avasthi
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: El

Sixteen-year-old Jace hasn’t seen or spoken to his older brother Christian in five years, ever since Christian broke off all contact with their abusive father and disappeared to another state. Now Jace is the one fleeing home, bruised in both mind and body, seeking refuge with the brother who left him behind. The two scarred brothers–one emotionally closed-off and one barely able to contain the rage that churns within him–struggle to trust each other in an onslaught of painful memories and tense interactions. Jace’s voice is raw and wry and honest, drawing the reader into his pain and his fear: fear for his mother’s safety and for the person he’s afraid of becoming. Like Jace’s father, this powerful novel pulls no punches. Our panel was collectively wowed by its candor, its nuanced characters, its visceral emotional impact, and its strong, authentic narrative voice.

Melissa Wiley

Lucy Christopher
Chicken House
Nominated by: Adele Walsh

Stolen is a haunting novel that explores the fine line between love, lust, and obsession and a book that generated intense, impassioned debate among the panelists. Sixteen year-old Gemma is kidnapped from the airport by Ty, a man who has been fixated on her for years. Written as a letter to her captor, Gemma begins to uncover her true feelings about what happened–feelings she hasn’t even wanted to admit to herself and feelings even the reader will question. What really happened between Ty and Gemma in the desert? Psychologically thrilling and twisted, Stolen is a breathtaking masterpiece.

Cherylynne Bago