2012 Cybils Finalists

Book Apps

Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night
Story Worldwide
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

With an effective blend of traditional nonfiction features and innovative interactive elements, Bats! offers young readers many opportunities to learn about these furry nocturnal fliers. Children will enjoy learning about the physical features, behaviors and habitats of bats through clear text, photographs, captions, diagrams and maps. Readers tap diagrams to make wings flap, tilt the iPad to steer a bat in flight, spin the “Wheel of Bats,” and search for hidden bats in various habitats. The vivid animation of bats flying in the night sky coupled with sound effects from nature (bat wings flapping, wind howling, water babbling, and bats screeching) give readers the sense they are watching live bats in the wild. Children will have a ball learning about science in this high quality nonfiction app.

— Cathy Potter, The Nonfiction Detectives

Dragon Brush
Small Planet Digital
Small Planet Digital
Nominated by: Aurora Celeste

What would you paint if you had a magic paintbrush? An old woman gives young Bing-Wen a magic paintbrush made from a dragon’s whiskers in this imaginative original story. Bing-Wen uses the paintbrush to paint a chicken to provide food for his family, a tree to grow fruit for the village, and a comical dragon that isn’t very fierce. Children will enjoy wiping their fingers across the screen to reveal intricate paintings that come to life. Readers will cheer when the clever Bing-Wen outwits the greedy emperor and teaches him a lesson. Soft guitar music, effective narration, kid-friendly illustrations, and bits of added humor bring a whimsical feeling to this app. A dragon, a greedy emperor, hidden inkpots, and artwork that comes to life…this is an app with kid appeal, for sure!

— Cathy Potter, The Nonfiction Detectives

Rounds: Franklin Frog
Nosy Crow
Nosy Crow Apps
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Young children love learning about the world around them. This app does a beautiful job introducing preschoolers and kindergartners to real facts about frogs, with information about their habitat, feeding and metamorphosis through an appealing story about Franklin Frog and his offspring. The app draws children into the story, as they guide the frogs with their fingers. Children make the frogs jump, swim, catch flies, avoid predators, find a place to hibernate, croak to attract a mate and more. This app always feels like an exploration of how a frog lives, and never feels like a game. With both a charming story and clear nonfiction information, this app is accessible and engaging for young children.

— Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

The Voyage of Ulysses

Elastico Srl
Nominated by: viktorsjoberg

With pathos and romance, the Odyssey is at once a gripping story and a fascinating look at how people long ago lived their lives. In twenty-four screens, mirroring the traditional 24 books of the Odyssey, this book app tells the story of Ulysses’s ten-year travail on his way home from the Trojan War. Spellbinding, slightly accented narration continues while we explore the delights of each page–arrows that rain from the ramparts of Troy, Greek warriors creeping from the giant horse and setting Troy ablaze, text that spins into the whirlpool Charybdis. Understated art, music, and sound effects match the lyrical, timeless style of the text, while pull-up sidebars provide even more information. A truly engaging app that also succeeds in communicating the themes of loneliness and exile that make Homer’s epic emotionally arresting three thousand years later.

— Paula Willey, Pink Me

Where Do Balloons Go? An Uplifting Mystery
by Jamie Lee Curtis, illustrated by Laura Cornell
Auryn, Inc
Nominated by: 760-839-4838

“Where do balloons go when you let them go free? It can happen by accident,” begins this whimsical book app, told in the first person by a young child who says enticingly, “It’s happened to me.” With exquisite illustrations by Laura Cornell, this app is based on a print picture book authored by Jamie Lee Curtis and published in 2000. Auryn has taken this well-crafted story and made it into a digital delight; it is filled with dozens of tappable interactive elements on every page, superb animation, and engaging games bundled into the storyline. Just don’t read it before bedtime–it’s way too much fun!

— Carisa Kluver, The Digital Media Diet

Easy Readers

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse (Toon)
Frank Viva
Toon Books
Nominated by: Lizjonesbooks

Mouse is not a happy traveler. He is on a ship traveling to Antarctica with his owner, a young boy, and all he can think about is going home. The waves make it hard to do anything. The cold means you have to wear extra layers of clothing. All Mouse can do is ask “Can we go home now?” Off the coast, Mouse’s friend sees several species of penguins. Traveling on a dinghy, the boy sees a whale as Mouse announces several different things that whales can do. An unexpected turn takes the duo to a submerged volcano where they can swim in thermal waters. On their way home, Mouse asks a surprising question that doesn’t involve going home.

Emerging readers will enjoy this tale of a mouse out of his element. There are many opportunities to make predictions and readers will gain a surprising amount of knowledge about Antarctica. A Trip to the Bottom of the World is a journey that emerging readers will want to take again and again.

— Jeff Barger, NC Teacher Stuff

Bink and Gollie, Two for One
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

With the first Bink and Gollie book, Kate DiCamillo introduced us to two memorable characters: fast and loyal friends. Readers quickly asked for more. The girls are back in the sequel, Bink & Gollie: Two for One. In this installment, the two friends are headed to the state fair. We follow the girls as they have some fun at games such as Whack a Duck, share their talents at a talent show, and learn their future at fortuneteller Madame Prunely’s booth. The entire book is full of laughter and great attention to details, such as the buttons the girls wear after certain events. Children will be drawn to the friendship, certainly, but also to the loyalty of these two girls who seem to be opposites, but are the perfect complement to each other.

— Katherine Sokolowski, Read, Write, Reflect

Penny and Her Doll
Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Colby Sharp

“I love her already,” declares Penny, upon opening the surprise package from her Gram. The doll inside is perfect and is quickly and easily welcomed into the family. Finding just the right name for her, however, proves to be a bit more difficult. With engaging storytelling and endearing illustrations, Kevin Henkes shows Penny’s careful and thoughtful search for the ideal name. Young readers will relate to Penny’s dilemma, appreciate her perseverance, and just might predict that the perfect name for a perfect doll is right under Penny’s nose all along.

— Mandy Goldfuss, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

Penny and Her Song
Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

The charming and precocious Penny has learned a fun song in school. She can’t wait to share the song with her family. Unfortunately for Penny, listening to her song isn’t at the top of her mom and dad’s list of things to do. Penny patiently waits as her mom and dad take care of the sleeping babies. Then she has to wait until after dinner. Waiting is hard! Finally her moment comes and she can finally share her wonderful song with everyone. Her moment in the spotlight is just as she imagined, and her family loves the song so much that they join in the singing!

Henkes has created a simple yet meaningful story about patience and waiting one’s turn, and when mixed with his signature illustrations, a truly lovely book is what readers are given.

— Amanda Snow, A Patchwork of Books and Colby Sharp, sharpread and Nerdy Book Club

Pinch and Dash Make Soup (Pinch & Dash)
Michael J. Daley
Nominated by: The Cath in the Hat

Pinch is hungry, but he doesn’t feel like walking to the Chat and Chew, nor does he feel much like making something to eat on his own. So he goes next door to Dash’s house. Dash is making soup. It seems a little watery to Pinch, so he suggests adding ingredients, most of which are back in his own refrigerator. Before long, a thick soup is bubbling away, almost ready for the two friends to share. One small problem remains: Pinch thinks the soup needs a little spice while Dash insists it is fine as it is. When the soup ends up with double spices, it is off to the Chat and Chew to eat.

Young readers will appreciate the good-natured arguing between Pinch and Dash, recognizing that compromise is often a key ingredient not just in soup but in friendship.

— Teri Lesesne, Goddess of YA

Short Chapter Books

Ivy and Bean Make the Rules (Book 9)
Annie Barrows
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Melissa @ Book Nut

Ivy and Bean are back–and this time they’re in charge! Finally old enough to spend time on their own in Monkey Park, and disappointed because they can’t attend Girl Power 4-Ever camp with Bean’s big sister, Nancy, these two spunky best friends found a camp of their own. Guided by rules like “You can only have as much fun as you are willing to get hurt” and “The counselor is always right,” Ivy and Bean lead their campers in all kinds of interesting activities, from learning the Heimlich Maneuver to fighting in the Roman Army.

This wonderful early chapter book perfectly captures the joy of childhood imagination and the fun of a child’s first taste of independence. Supporting characters are memorable and well-crafted, the story is funny and exciting, and Sophie Blackall’s illustrations are as full of personality as ever. This ninth book in the Ivy and Bean series is the best yet, and it will undoubtedly leave fans desperate for more Ivy and Bean stories.

— Katie Fitzgerald, Secrets and Sharing Soda

Marty McGuire Digs Worms!
Kate Messner
Nominated by: Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE)

Marty McGuire is back, and in Marty McGuire Digs Worms, this adventure-seeking young lady cements herself as a girl who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. After an environmentalist visits Marty’s school, she is determined to win a special award for having the school’s best project. Marty’s attempt at turning the school’s garbage into fertilizer goes terribly wrong, and Marty must find a way to make things right.

Readers will laugh as they turn the pages, wanting to know what’s next. This early chapter book is meant to be shared and read aloud. It’s a book that, even when you know the ending, you’ll want to go back to read again … just for the cafeteria scene.

— Colby Sharp, sharpread and Nerdy Book Club

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover
Cece Bell
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Rabbit and Robot have an exciting night ahead of them: a sleepover! Rabbit has the entire evening scheduled, from what they will eat, to the games they will play, to when they will go to bed. However, as Rabbit soon learns, even with the best planning, life sometimes goes awry. Reminiscent of the great friendship books such as Frog and Toad, Rabbit and Robot are two friends whom readers will surely identify with. Through this unlikely pair, we learn that sometimes the best things aren’t planned. Cece Bell has created two characters that will remind children of their own friendships.

— Katherine Sokolowski, Read, Write, Reflect

Sadie and Ratz
Sonya Hartnett
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Katherine Sokolowski

It is not altogether uncommon for a child to say, “I didn’t do it,” even when confronted with evidence to the contrary. In Sadie and Ratz, Hartnett darkens this familiar landscape, introducing readers to the REAL culprits of mischief. Sibling rivalry, childish pranks and truthfulness are all explored in this chapter book. Young readers might see themselves in BOTH characters: loving the ability to get away with mischief and the ultimate justice in getting even with an older sibling.

— Teri Lesesne, Goddess of YA

Violet Mackerel's Brilliant Plot
Anna Branford
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Amy

Violet Mackerel is a creative girl with an incredible imagination and a determination that proves inspirational. While at the weekly flea market where her mother sells her knit creations, Violet discovers a beautiful china bird being sold by another vendor. She does not have the money to purchase the bird herself and rather than asking her mother, Violet devises several elaborate plots for obtaining the treasure. Though not always realistic or feasible with her plans, Violet does not waver in her quest for the small bird and ultimately meets with success, despite all of her plans going awry.

Violet is a charming, funny and unique main character who will inspire readers to think outside the box and relish the small things in life. Her positive outlook and the subtle touches of whimsy will leave the reader with a smile, and the black-and-white illustrations scattered throughout add to the cozy feeling of the story.

— Amanda Snow, A Patchwork of Books

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Middle Grade)

Kate Saunders
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Ms. Yingling

When Flora, off to boarding school under duress, wakes up on the train to find that she’s now on her way to school way back in 1935, her horror is great. How will she survive? Though she manages to adapt to the nasty bathrooms, alien food, and strict education, and befriends the roommates who had accidentally summoned her back in time, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever get home again.

Beswitched is a Must Read for anyone who loves British boarding school stories, historical fiction and time travel, combining all three in an utterly delightful fashion. But its appeal is more general than that. Flora’s struggles with an alien time and its alien culture are convincing and very amusing, and her growth as a character, from selfish brat to good friend and decent person, make her story one that will resonate with many readers.

— Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities
Mike Jung
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Jeannie Mobley

Who says encyclopedic knowledge of superhero trivia isn’t an important skill? Vincent Wu knows more about Captain Stupendous than anyone. That must be why he’s the only one who notices a change in the Captain after he fights a giant robot and rescues Polly, a girl in Vincent’s class. And why is Polly suddenly interested in what Vincent knows about Captain Stupendous?

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities takes a light-hearted look at a world where superheroes are real, including humorous touches such as all kids having Stupendous Alerts
on their phones. Ultimately, Vincent needs all his allegedly useless knowledge to figure out how to save his family, his town, and the world. This science fiction adventure is a geek’s fantasy written in a way so everyone can enjoy the ride.

— Sondy Eklund, Sonderbooks

The Cabinet of Earths
Anne Nesbet
Nominated by: Jessalynn Gale

“It was his own grandmother who fed Henri-Pierre to the Cabinet of Earths, long ago when he was only four.” Now the strange and beautiful Cabinet is calling for another keeper—Maya, who’s only just arrived in Paris with her parents and her extraordinarily charming little brother James. But what exactly do Cabinet-Keepers keep? The answer is at the heart of debut author Nesbet’s shimmering fantasy: to find it, follow Maya through the door of 29 avenue Rapp (watch out for the bronze salamander!) and into the magical underworld of Paris, a place where science and magic combine to challenge mortality, morality…and Maya’s little brother.

— Anamaria Anderson, Books Together

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
Jennifer A. Nielsen
Nominated by: Natalie Aguirre

This first book in the Ascendance trilogy begins in the midst of an episode of roast-theft. Our resourceful and inventive orphan-boy hero, Sage, soon becomes the unwilling servant of a man named Conner. Connor wants to use one of the four orphans he has purchased–or kidnapped–to save the kingdom of Carthya from civil war or takeover by a hostile neighboring kingdom. But after Conner chooses one boy to be his false prince and heir to the throne, what will happen to the others? In light of Conner’s ruthless character, it can’t be good.

Sage is a feisty and surprising character with plenty of hidden depth. The action and adventure are front and center in this non-magical tale set in a fantasy world, but children will also find lots of food for thought on the nature of courage and friendship and leadership in this rags to possible riches story. Readers may figure out some of the twists and turns of this tale of adventure and false identity, but they will question their own guesses every step of the way until the ending takes the unsuspecting reader completely by surprise and leaves us all wanting more.

— Sherry Early, Semicolon

The Last Dragonslayer (The Chronicles of Kazam)
Jasper Fforde
Nominated by: itsmeerinc

Magic has been vanishing from the Ununited Kingdoms. Instead of the great magic once practiced, sorcerers find themselves using spells to unclog drains and magic carpets to make pizza deliveries. Ever since Mr. Zambini disappeared, fifteen-year-old Jennifer has been left to run Kazam Mystical Arts Management, where she must look after a building full of eccentric sorcerers and strange creatures. When an unusual upsurge in magic coincides with multiple predictions of the death of Maltcassion, the last dragon, Jennifer finds herself involved in even bigger magic–and with bigger responsibilities. The Last Dragonslayer is a humorous take on magic in the modern world, giving readers plenty of adventure while poking fun at high fantasy tropes. Readers will be left wanting a Quarkbeast of their own as they follow Jennifer’s madcap introduction to Dragonslaying and learn why Dragonslayers may occasionally be called upon to save dragons.

— Jessalynn Gale, Garish & Tweed

The One and Only Ivan
Katherine Applegate
Nominated by: Bigfoot Reads

Ivan, a mighty silverback gorilla captive since infancy, is resigned to his glassed-in life of staring humans, without a gorilla’s instinctive troop-protecting purpose. When his owner buys baby elephant Ruby–and after a mid-story climactic loss–Ivan questions his narrow existence and stops referring to his shopping-mall confinement as a “domain” and begins seeing it for what it is: a cage. Ivan bravely vows that he will save Ruby from his twenty-six-year fate.

Anthropomorphism can be a tricky business–finding the animal voice, yet giving it human depth–but Applegate not only pulls it off, she gives readers a character as existential as Wilbur and as stoic as Charlotte. Written in a prose-like economy of words befitting Ivan’s astute observations on life, the author captures the voice of a gorilla, but quietly speaks to the greater themes of humanity. As Ivan would say, “Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part.”

— Cheryl Vanatti, Reading Rumpus

The Peculiar
Stefan Bachmann
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

In Victorian England, where faeries have been trapped for hundreds of years, a young halfling boy, Bartholomew, and his halfling sister Hattie survive by the mantra “don’t get noticed.” However, when the halfling boy across the street disappears, Bartholomew lets his curiosity get the better of him. He finds himself in a dangerous world of magic and fast-paced action, as he struggles to find out where and why nine half-breed children have been brutally murdered. And the stakes only get higher when Hattie is kidnapped. The Peculiar is a wholly original mix of mystery, steampunk and chilling faerie stories, reminiscent of Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Stroud. With a dash of humor and definitely a hero (or two) to root for, this one is sure to have everyone clamoring for the next book in the series.

— Melissa Fox, Book Nut

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult)

And All the Stars
Andrea K Höst

Nominated by: Kate M.

The apocalypse has come to Australia, and with it come the Spires, a kind of velvety protuberance sprouting up everywhere, gouting fountains of a choking dry dust that leaves humanity changed. But what makes us human is within us–and Madeleine Cost and her friends take a gamble on this truth, and cross the normal boundaries humans put between them. Not just friends, now, but family, this ragtag group of diverse young adults come together with a vow to hold each other up, and resist through to the end of whatever.

Andrea K. Höst has written a solidly plotted post-apocalyptic novel with a superbly diverse cast of characters who come together to create community, save themselves, and maybe, just maybe, save the world.

— Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland

Every Day
David Levithan
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Melissa @ Book Nut

It’s a new day, which means a new body for A.

Every day, A wakes up in a new body and has to live that life for 24 hours. In the 24 hours, A must try not to screw up the life that has been hijacked by following simple rules: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. But A chucks all the rules aside when he meets Rhiannon. From this moment forward, A enters into a deadly, reckless pursuit–each day in a different body–just to find Rhiannon.

Each of us has been given only one life to live, but A lives 1,000 lives in one lifetime, none of them belonging to him. Every Day by David Levithan is a soaring, unique look at the pursuit of that soul connection we all hope to find just once in the one life that we are given. Moving, thought-provoking, and powerful, Every Day asks us to examine who we are, what we think about the people around us, and what we are willing to do for love. Levithan asks the reader to abandon everything they know about gender and identity by taking us on a challenging reading journey with a character that has neither.

— Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian’s Toolbox

Planesrunner (Everness, Book One)
Ian McDonald
Nominated by: lwad

Everett Singh’s father gifts him with the Infundibulum, the key to an infinite number of other universes. It’s a gift and a curse: Everett’s dad has been kidnapped, and someone’s coming for Everett and the Infundibulum next. On the run in London version E3, he meets Sen, a fearless Airish girl who knows a little something about good fortune. Everett joins the crew of Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth’s airship as much-appreciated cook, where he needs both his culinary skills and his prowess at quantum physics if he wants to survive and hold his family, old and new, together. Author Ian McDonald builds intricate cultures and worlds and weaves in a generous dollop of math and technology as the foundation. Combining complex science and technology, a conspiracy, a hint of romance, and peril on the high clouds, Planesrunner is an imaginative adventure.

— Hallie Tibbetts, Undusty New Books

Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Ana @ things mean a lot

Seraphina is the story of an uneasy alliance between two very different civilizations–dragon and human–and a young music mistress caught in the middle. A newcomer to the court, Seraphina is unexpectedly thrust into the public eye when she has to perform at the funeral of Prince Rufus, who may or may not have been killed by a dragon. Seraphina has secrets of her own, which she has to protect even as she becomes involved in the court intrigue and the increasing tension between dragons and humans on the eve of the anniversary of the treaty between the two races.

Rachel Hartman’s sparkling prose makes good use of figurative and sensory language without bogging down the story in too much detail. The worldbuilding is excellent, and Hartman’s dragons have a richly developed culture that is starkly different; even in human form they are clearly Other. With romance, court intrigue, dragons, and a provocative theme of intolerance, Seraphina is a book that is sure to appeal to teen readers. Even readers who don’t like dragon books may find themselves caught up in this coming-of-age story of a young woman caught between cultures.

— Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories (Carolrhoda Ya)
Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton, and Maggie Stiefvater
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Kim Baccellia

The Merry Sisters of Fate–Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff–weave their magic in this very special anthology that includes unique twists on such premises as vampires to ghost tales. But that’s not what makes this collection stand out. Within this anthology are author notes and comments giving aspiring teen writers a backstage pass to peek inside a writing group, with inspiration and tips for their own writing. The short stories stand up well as stories even without this added bonus. Pure genius.

— Kim Baccellia, Si, se puede

The Drowned Cities
Paolo Bacigalupi
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Rae Carson

In a war-torn future America, everyone is just trying to stay alive: Tool, a bioengineered half-man fighter; Mahlia, a cast-off refugee; Mouse, the boy who saved her; Ocho, a young man caught up in a soldier boy army. In this companion to Printz winner Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi tells a horrifying, harrowing tale of the lengths each of us will go to for freedom. This tightly plotted, action-packed story follows Mahlia and Mouse on a hunting trip through the jungle, where they come across an injured half-man who is being pursued by the soldiers from whom he recently escaped. Should they help him? Should they leave him? Mahlia makes a choice that sets the story up for a wonderful discussion of what loyalty means, how trust is gained (and lost), and how easy it is to be swept up into the horrors of war.

The Drowned Cities is a complex, well-written novel about survival. The characters are flawed, the violence is real, and the story is packed with perilous situations that will appeal to any reader who enjoys adventure.

— Flannery Carlos, The Readventurer

Sarah Beth Durst
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Miss Print

Liyana’s life has been on hold since she was younger while she awaits the day a goddess will inhabit her body and Liyana will die. When Liyana performs the ceremony to call the goddess, however, the goddess doesn’t come. Liyana is banished from her tribe and takes up traveling with Korbyn, a god inhabiting a boy. Korbyn says the gods and goddesses of the desert tribes have been imprisoned somewhere, and Liyana must help save them and the desert tribes’ way of life.

Vessel is a thoroughly engrossing book. The amazing worldbuilding of the desert tribes and their pantheon and magic is original and inspiring. The great character development sucks you into the troubles of Liyana, the drive of Korbyn, and exactly why someone would sacrifice his or her life for a god or goddess. Asking hard questions about what is an individual and where the line is between the preservation of life and the sacrifice of one for the good of the many, this book will keep you guessing and reading until the last page.

— Aurora Celeste, Young Adult Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Fiction Picture Books

Black Dog
Levi Pinfold
Nominated by: librarygrl2

One day a black dog of inderminate (but undoubtedly large) size scares the Hope family terribly, leaving the youngest member, called Small, to face the animal. In her bright yellow jacket, she leads the dog on a merry chase with the refrain, “You can”t follow where I go, unless you shrink, or don’t you know?” The dog does follow, and as he shrinks the reader’s heart swells, for Small Hope is a picture of brazen confidence and the face of the dog shows the reader that the only thing he’s hungry for is a friend. Both the text and illustrations offer much to ponder, with younger readers able to enjoy the delicious wordplay and adventure while older readers can explore the allegory of the black dog on a deeper level.

— Julie Jurgens, Hi Miss Julie!

Chloe and the Lion
Mac Barnett
Nominated by: Teacher.Mother.Reader

Author and illustrator appear in their own book as sculpted doll versions of themselves working together to tell the story of Chloe, a young girl who saves her money to ride the merry-go-round in the park. When author Mac decides to fire illustrator Adam over artistic differences, the variety of styles used to tell Chloe’s story creates the perfect illusion that multiple illustrators are taking his place. The differentiation between the “on-stage” happenings of Chloe’s story and witty behind-the-scenes banter of Mac and Adam is expertly defined through the use of different media and fonts for each. Readers are sure to remember the difference between an author and an illustrator after enjoying this clever story-within-a-story.

— Laura Given, LibLaura5

Creepy Carrots!
Aaron Reynolds
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Jasper Rabbit has a big problem: he can’t stop chomping down all the carrots in Crackenhopper Field, and they’ve had enough! As Jasper’s love of carrots turns to fear, he attempts to conquer the Creepy Carrots once and for all. Through vivid noir-style illustrations, readers young and old will be captivated by the pop of bright orange against a Twilight Zone feel of background colors and characters. A perfectly creepy and hilarious story of a gluttonous bunny that may even help little readers conquer their fears of what goes bump in the night.

— Danielle Smith, There’s a Book

Extra Yarn
Mac Barnett
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

In a dreary town, young Annabelle finds a box filled with yarn of every color. Incredibly, the supply never seems to run out. Annabelle decides to share, slowly changing her world for the better. “Timeless” can sometimes be code for “old-fashioned”–that’s not the case here. In Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen craft a story with staying power that feels fresh and modern. Barnett touches on themes of giving while Klassen works wonders with the visuals, covering the once-drab town in technicolor yarn. It’s funny, it’s quirky, yet at the core Extra Yarn is an engaging story that kids won’t soon forget.

— Travis Jonker, 100 Scope Notes

Home for Bird, A
Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Amy @ Hope Is the Word

A carved bird is launched off the back of a truck and discovered by a cheerful frog who adopts the silent creature as his new friend. As Bird says nothing, Frog decides he can only make Bird happy by finding his home, and he bravely takes on that important quest. The reader always understands what Frog does not–that this bird belongs in a clock–and that knowledge makes the completed journey rewarding as the right home is found and Bird finally speaks with a loud CUCKOO! Sweeps of bright colors and playfully sketched illustrations convey the light tone, while underneath lies a heart-warming tale of friendship, dedication, and the beauty of caring for another. Powerful, engaging, and beautifully crafted, this is the perfect book for parent-child reading time.

— Jodell Sadler, Picture Book Lunchables

Infinity and Me
Kate Hosford/Gabi Swiatkowska
Carolrhoda Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

As she stares at the night sky, young Uma wonders about the confusing concept of infinity and she decides to ask her friends what it means to them. Infinity and Me introduces a challenging mathematical concept though the creative explanations of her friends and Uma’s own wonderings, as well as through the mostly muted illustrations that have just enough personality (the bright red of Uma’s precious new shoes, for example) to give them life. The almost abstract illustrations perfectly suit the mathematical theme of the book, and the child-like, yet accurate, understandings of infinity work together to provide a discussion of a mind-boggling topic, well disguised as a compelling story about one girl and her friends. Inspired by the author’s discussions with children about infinity, Infinity and Me includes a two-page author’s note in which she mentions a bit of the history of the concept of infinity and also shares what some other children think about it.

— Rebecca Reid, Rebecca Reads

One Special Day
Lola M. Schaefer
Nominated by: rebecca kai

Spencer is just as strong and fast and loud as any of the wild animals that inhabit his world. Yet when a new sibling comes along, Spencer has no trouble adding “gentle” to his list of personal qualities. Simple text provides a fun introduction to similes, cleverly allowing children to fill in missing blanks. Gorgeous art swirls with motion and emotion until the climax which, by contrast, becomes dear and intimate. One Special Day is an engaging book that thankfully depicts the experience of getting a new sibling in a positive light.

— Aaron Zenz, Bookie Woogie

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller (Center for Cartoon Studies Presents)
Joseph Lambert
Nominated by: Paul W. Hankins

Many middle-grade readers will be familiar with the basics of the biography of Helen Keller and her visually impaired teacher, Annie Sullivan, but Joseph Lambert’s graphic novel expands the story far beyond the facts. Anne’s story is told in flashbacks and excerpts from her journal, while in black-and-white panels, readers experience a world without sight or sound and discover with Helen the meaning of language. Annie’s obstinacy and Helen’s curiosity, presented in fast-paced 16-panel pages, will inspire a whole new generation of readers to see and hear things more richly.

— Maggi Idzikowski, Mama Librarian

Giants Beware!
Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
First Second Books
Nominated by: Charlotte

Claudette wants to be a warrior like her father was, before a dragon ate his legs and arm, so she sets out to slay the local giant with the help of her best friend and little brother. Their fathers each set out to protect the children, although they just might have the skills to protect themselves. Rafael Rosado’s bright, kinetic art is the perfect match for the action and humor of Giants Beware! Fans of fantasy and adventure will both flock to this tale of friends, family, and the ultimate unimportance of fame.

— Allie Jones, In Bed with Books

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

Nobrow Press
Nominated by: Jennifer

Hilda and her mother live in a cabin high in the mountains away from the hustle and bustle, but all that’s about to change. Hilda and her mother are being evicted by the prime minister of a community of invisible people. Her only hope is to find a long-missing giant, thus giving Hilda a healthy perspective on what living with her and her mother must be like for the elves. Pearson’s magical illustrations bring to mind Hayao Miyazaki’s films and the Lilliputians of Gulliver’s Travels. The mixture is fresh and engaging.

— Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

Little White Duck: A Childhood in China (Single Titles)
Na Liu
Graphic Universe
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

Na Liu recounts eight stories from her childhood in communist China shortly after the death of Mao Zedong. Her memoir is a funny, sad and magical exploration of Chinese history, mythology and culture. Liu’s words pair perfectly with her husband Andrés Vera Martínez’s art to fully evoke the time and place. The context might be unfamiliar to readers, but the emotions of a child dealing with change are very easy to relate to.

— Allie Jones, In Bed with Books

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
Nathan Hale
Nominated by: Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE)

Nathan Hale, both the graphic novelist and the Revolutionary war hero, return in this funny, informative, and explosive story of the Civil War ironclads. Meet Gideon Welles, in charge of the (nonexistent) Union Navy; John Ericsson, with a temper as explosive as the ironclads he invented; and William Cushing, Naval hero and all-around completely insane, you-have-to-read-it-to-believe-it guy. Of course, the fact-checking babies are on the job, making sure no historical tidbit goes unchecked. Hale packs history, imagination and plenty of crazy stories into this small volume, drawn in gray and blue hues. Historical figures appear as animals, ships turn into monsters, and readers will finish the story and find themselves amused, delighted, and knowing a lot more than they ever expected about Civil War history.

— Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Young Adult

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White
Lila Quintero Weaver
University Alabama Press
Nominated by: kelstarly

This memoir of race relations during the Jim Crow era really wowed the panel. The black-and-white photography angle cleverly captures a world which could only see itself in relation to those two extremes. Lila Quintero Weaver’s unique perspective as a person of color herself—but one who passed unnoticed in an American South unfamiliar with Argentine labels of race—ultimately pushes the reader to look more closely at these labels, even as the story leads us to look more closely at the multicolored individuals on both sides of the Civil Rights movement.

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Raina Telgemeier
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Backstage, onstage and offstage, drama abounds as Callie and her friends prepare for a production of Moon Over Mississippi while they navigate the perilous waters of Middle School. Can the production survive against cast infighting and lagging ticket sales? Will the complex love quadrangles work out? And most importantly, will the pyrotechnics sizzle or set the stage on fire? Get a front row seat to Drama by Raina Telgemeier, a most excellent story about love, friendship and finding a place to belong.

— Debra Touchette, Guys Lit Wire, (Library Lass) Adventures in Reading

Friends with Boys
Faith Erin Hicks
First Second Books
Nominated by: Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE)

Maggie has always been friends with boys—as long as the boys you’re talking about are her three older brothers. But that was before her mom up and left the family with no explanation. No more homeschooling–now she’s facing the challenge of making new friends at a public school while she’s haunted by glowing memories of her former life, questions about her mother’s disappearance … and by an actual 17th century ghost who’s been hanging around since she was about 6. The ghost seems to want to tell her something—but it never quite does—and Maggie learns that she can be happy even if she doesn’t have all the answers. Family dynamics and coming-of-age issues are gracefully combined in a story with clear, clean artwork throughout.

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Ryan Inzana
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: DLacks

“Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out,” is the advice offered by Ichiro’s favorite T-shirt, given to him by his racist American grandfather. Soldiering has always been central to his life, though his memory of his soldier father, killed during the Iraq war, is dim. He has little knowledge of his Japanese heritage, or even the context for the saying on his shirt, until his mother decides to move home to Japan from NYC. Ichiro is horrified to learn from his Japanese grandfather about Hiroshima and the Rape of Nanking; his favorite shirt forever loses its appeal. Our panelists loved the richly interwoven ideas about race and heritage in Ichiro, especially the way it incorporates Shinto mythology when Ichiro accidentally catches a Tanuki in his grandfather’s persimmon tree. He must work with Hachiman, the god of war, to escape from the underground worlds of Ama and Yomi, who have been sworn enemies ever since the Bridge of Heaven was broken (war is not just a problem for humans, it seems). Ultimately, Ichiro comes to terms both with his dual heritage, and the horrors of war throughout human history and imagination; or as Grandfather Sato tells him, “Heaven and hell are in the hearts of all men.”

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Boaz Yakin
First Second Books
Nominated by: Jackie Parker

This is the story of Eucles, once a slave in ancient Athens, set free to become the fastest messenger of the king. Surrounded by enemies, suffering from the whims of a cruel king, he nevertheless survives to become a pivotal figure in the battle against the Persian forces. This retelling of the legend of the original marathon runner is, as might be expected from ancient Greek history and mythology, imbued with themes of honor, freedom, struggle and courage. The art is vigorous and raw, using heavy crosshatching to express the emotion and desperation of Eucles and the soldiers and the violence of war. Fans of classic myths and legends will thrill to the tragedy and triumph of Eucles’ story.

— Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library, Flying off my bookshelf

Middle-Grade Fiction

Almost Home
Joan Bauer
Nominated by: Sarah Potvin

Sugar’s life is not easy. She has a gambling father who comes and goes as he pleases and a mother who often crumbles under financial hardship and single motherhood. Eventually Sugar is stranded in a strange city with only her puppy, Shush, to cling to. Then Child Protective Services steps in and Sugar finds herself in a foster home and a new school.

The author skillfully weaves this story using Sugar’s narrative voice, emails, thank-you notes and poems. This beautifully combines into a full view of Sugar’s personality. Sugar and sweet she is, with a good amount of down-to-earth, funny thoughtfulness and caring for others sprinkled in, and bound with resilience. Compelling and multi-dimensional secondary characters make the story all the richer. The brisk pacing
keeps the pages turning right up until an ending that is hopeful, but realistic. Sometimes we have to have patience and understanding where family is concerned. In doing so, we can accept them for who they are without sacrificing ourselves.

— Deb Marshall, Reading and Writing for Children and Teens

Carl Hiaasen
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: June Morgan

Chomp is a novel set in the Florida everglades about Wahoo Cray, who lives in a private zoo and is missing a thumb from an alligator accident. His father is an animal wrangler with a headache that just won’t go away. Derek Badger is a reality show star who believes his own hype, even though his show is totally faked, and hired Wahoo and his father to provide animals for his show. Tuna is a classmate of Wahoo’s and is on the run from a bad home situation. Add these characters, mix with a storm and a manhunt or two, and what sounds like chaos is a funny, action-filled, and crazy story.

Full of colorful, larger-than-life characters, Carl Hiaasen’s Chomp is hilarious, even zany at times. Which characters will survive the storm, or even each other? The story draws you in to find out, and also to see what Badger’s next stunt will be. Hiaasen has written several middle-grade fiction novels that feature a large number of characters who come together in the end. In this one it’s clear how they all relate, and the fun is in finding out what will happen next.

— Art Spencer, Book Voyages

Watt Key
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: DLacks

Foster is still struggling with the death of his father, and is irritated that his mother is dating a volatile and unpleasant man who is cruel to his dog, Joe, rude to Foster, and controlling with his mother. One day, Foster meets Gary, a mysterious Army veteran walking across the US to get to Texas. Gary stays the night in the barn, and becomes indispensable to the family as they work through their difficulties. Told in spare but evocative prose, Fourmile has enough action and suspense to keep casual readers turning the pages, but is supported by a multilayered examination of identity, community and loyalty that will intrigue the minds of those who seek deeper meaning in books long after the unsuspected ending.

— Karen Yingling, Ms. Yingling Reads

Liar & Spy
Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

Georges (the “s” is silent) and his family have just moved from his childhood home into an apartment, and the fact that he’s still in the same Brooklyn neighborhood where he’s always lived doesn’t make the transition any easier. Georges feels picked on at school, but in his hours at home he befriends Safer, a boy his age who lives upstairs and who has undertaken a spy mission. As Georges gets involved in Safer’s increasingly risky surveillance scheme, he starts to adjust to his new normal and learn what it takes to stick up for himself–with bullies, classmates, friends and his family. This novel is equal parts funny, suspenseful and heartfelt, and readers can’t help but relate to Georges’ underlying hopefulness throughout a trying time in his life.

— Amy Koester, Show Me Librarian

The Adventures of Beanboy
Lisa Harkrader
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Kyle

When it comes to superheroes, there are the loners like Superman and Spiderman, but then there are those with sidekicks, such as Batman and Robin. In The Adventures of Beanboy, the world is introduced to the next major sidekick. Tucker MacBean is a seventh-grader bearing up under his parents’ bitter divorce, a younger brother with special needs and a girl bully named Sam. To make matters worse, his favorite comic book is not being published for months.
Then he reads about a contest to find the perfect sidekick for the superhero. The grand prize is a college scholarship.

The Adventures of Beanboy is quirky. What made this book so enjoyable were the relationships between the characters. Tucker learns how his actions affect those around him, and appearances can be very deceiving. There are touching parts when Tucker realizes why his archenemy and tormentor acts the way she does. There are funny parts. Let’s get real–the superhero is called Beanboy, so you know what the superpower has to be.

— Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader

The Lions of Little Rock
Kristin Levine
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Teacher.Mother.Reader

Marlee lives in Little Rock, Arkansas. Laws are changing and African Americans are gaining rights they’ve never had before, but the segregationists of the south and the governor of Arkansas are against the integration of public schools. When Marlee meets Liz, a black girl “passing” as white, their friendship feeds the fire of discrimination and endangers Liz’s life.
Middle-grade readers will easily connect with the bond Marlee and Liz share. Their loyalty in the face of violence and familial hardships and their personal growth and sacrifice make these two characters memorable.
Race relations, abuses of gubernatorial power, family sacrifice, real danger, and the strength and conviction of two young girls makes this historical fiction worthy of a spot on the bookshelves.

— Ali Breidenstein, Literary Lunchbox

R. J. Palacio
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

August Pullman is an ordinary fifth grader who feels the same as everyone else on the inside; he loves Star Wars, he argues with his sister, he loves his dog, and he misses his best friend who moved away. The thing is, he was born with a facial deformity that has required over twenty surgeries but it still startles and frightens people. He has been homeschooled up to now, but his parents have decided it is better for him to join the mainstream school and learn to make his way in the world. Palacio does a brilliant job of drawing us into August’s struggles with friendships and the social hierarchy of middle school. What is really precious about this book is the courage, honesty and humor with which he faces all these challenges. Auggie is a regular kid with a one-of-a-kind winning combination of warmth, wisdom and quirky sense of humor. What makes this book unforgettable is the simple but truly precious way he has of showing the value of kindness.

— Andromeda Jazmon Sibley, A Wrung Sponge

Nonfiction: Middle Grade & Young Adult

Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

“In the end, this is a difficult story to sum up. The making of the atomic bomb is one of history’s most amazing examples of teamwork and genius and poise under pressure. But it’s also the story of how humans created a weapon capable of wiping our species off the planet. It’s a story with no end in sight” (Sheinkin 236).

It is something we all learn about in school—the atomic bomb. We know how it ends—the United States and the Allies create the first atomic bomb. What Sheinkin’s Bomb does is show that it was a three-way race to succeed: 1) the Germans are racing to build it first, 2) the Americans are trying to succeed first, and 3) the Soviets are trying to steal the Americans’ plans. It is a book about a story we thought we knew, but we end up learning so much more than we could ever expect.

Sheinkin, who once said he writes interesting historical narratives to atone for his previous job of writing history textbooks, has done an amazing job bringing this book to life. It dips, twists, and races towards the end. Well-documented sources, intriguing photographs and an index all lend support to this well-written and engaging work.

— Stephanie Charlefour, Love, Life, Read

Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan's Rescue from War
Marsha Skrypuch
Pajama Press
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

Over 2000 children were orphaned because of the Vietnam War. Last Airlift describes the last Canadian airlift operation from Saigon in 1975 through the eyes of one orphan, Son Thi Anh Tuyet, who was eight years old and suffered from polio. For Tuyet, leaving Vietnam meant a promise of a new life in a new country.

Tuyet’s journey by airplane from Saigon to Toronto, Canada is gripping. Readers, especially those for whom English is a second language, will cheer for this young girl as she and her new family struggle to communicate despite the language barrier. Historic black-and-white photographs, including some of Tuyet as a young child and adult, make this a moving refugee story.

— Louise Capizzo, The NonFiction Detectives

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
Phillip Hoose
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Amy @ Hope Is the Word

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World
Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Paul W. Hankins

Temple Grandin’s biography isn’t just the story of her success in helping the animals we depend upon for food. It is a walk in her shoes, growing up fiercely stubborn and autistic in a family where her own father demanded that she be committed to a mental institution. Her mother refused, and spent Temple’s childhood locating help, from an experienced nanny to the small private schools where Temple found her passions and creativity could bring her lifelong friends, some of whom joined her in her memorable pranks. Her autistic behaviors and outwardly odd choices, though, drew cruel remarks from other students, and sometimes the attention of bullies as well. She found comfort with the horses at her boarding school and the cattle at her aunt’s Arizona ranch.

The way that Temple’s senses help her to experience the world differently led her to use her creative and constructive talents to design safe and humane buildings for housing animals, especially animals bred for the business of food production. Half of all of the cattle in the U.S. and Canada go through systems she designed to make meat-packing plants better for the animals, and as a result, also safer for the workers and more economical for the companies. The design of the book is inviting and engaging, with many family photographs and drawings of designs. Sy Montgomery’s writing is accessible and thoughtful, realistically bringing the reader into the tension and challenges of one autistic life–one who has made the world a better place.

— Karen Ball, Mrs. B’s Favorites

Titanic: Voices From the Disaster
Deborah Hopkinson
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

One hundred years have passed since an iceberg sank that famous luxury ocean liner, but Deborah Hopkinson’s Titanic: Voices from the Disaster makes the tragedy feel immediate, relevant, and downright riveting. A seamless blend of passenger narratives, traditional informational text, and archival images guides the reader smoothly from the ship’s creation to its last moments. This retelling is even-handed, but never boring–instead of relying on melodrama, Hopkinson builds tension by emphasizing the many choices, mistakes, and happenstances that led to such horrible disaster. What if the boat had slowed down? What if there were tighter safety regulations, more lifeboats? What if the Californian had answered an SOS? Hopkinson poses these questions and more, encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions; this definitive Titanic text inspires historical thinking and presents the lure of the unsinkable ship to yet another generation.

— Jessica Tackett, Her Life with Books

Nonfiction Picture Books

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards))
Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Aaron Zenz

With her trademark colorful collage style, Melissa Sweet brings to life the story of Tony Sarg, the man behind the world-famous balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Starting with his early career as a puppeteer, Sweet beautifully illustrates the evolution of the parade from a reasonably small employee-only event with live animals to a huge production with the enormous floating balloons that Sarg invented. The combination of biography, the history of the parade, and Sarg’s creative process comes together smoothly. Sweet’s text is just as good as the illustrations, bringing the parade to life, with all its color, excitement, and movement. At the end of the book, there is a terrific section about Sarg and his legacy, including the puppet show from The Sound of Music movie and Jim Henson’s Muppets.

— Janssen Bradshaw, Everyday Reading

Dolphin Baby! (Junior Library Guild Selection (Candlewick Press))
Nicola Davies
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Davies welcomes a newborn dolphin calf into the world in this book, which takes readers through Dolphin’s first six months. Along the way, she weaves facts about dolphins and their growth into a loving mother-child relationship. In addition, there are more facts strewn throughout the pages to add to readers’ knowledge. The main narrative is written in a friendly tone that is easy for the youngest listeners to follow, but the friendly tone doesn’t ignore the nonfiction part of this picture book. Granström creates an ocean full of light and striated color along with sleek, energetic dolphins. An index is included, along with some information about endangered species of dolphins.

— Susan Murray, From Tots to Teens

Eggs 1, 2, 3: Who Will the Babies Be?
Janet Halfmann
Blue Apple Books
Nominated by: JC

Eggs 1, 2, 3 – Is it a counting book, is it a poetry book, is it an informational picture book (the category for which it is nominated), is it a pattern book, does it allow for predicting and inferring, or is it a book full of wonderful language? Delightfully for the reader, it is all of the above! Janet Halfmann has done a lovely job teaching the reader about different animals and the eggs from which they come. Each new egg page is organized with a riddle that shares information about the animal, the reader uses both the picture and textual clues to predict and infer what babies belong in the egg, and then the page is turned to discover a view of the babies after they’ve left the safety of their egg. Even the endpages are adorned with the different eggs mentioned in the book. This is a book children will want to read time and time again.

— Karen Terlecky, Literate Lives

Island: A Story of the Galápagos
Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

Jason Chin tackles a huge topic—the formation of the Galapagos Islands and evolution of species on those islands—and does so extremely successfully. Chin tells an engaging story about an island forming, the island becoming populated by plants and animals, plant and animal populations changing over time, and, finally, the island sinking into the sea. Chin explains the process of evolution, a topic that baffles many adults, so clearly that eight-year-olds will be able to understand it. Chin describes geological and evolutionary events in a mere sentence or two and fills in missing details with intricate series of pictures of, for example, a seabird colonizing a new island or a finch species’ beak changing shape.

— Amy Broadmoore, Delightful Children’s Books

Looking at Lincoln
Maira Kalman
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: MotherReader

A chance glimpse of a man in a stovepipe hat and Maira Kalman is off and running, headed to the library to find out more about our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln. Kalman takes a worthy subject, a big subject, Lincoln, and talks around and around Lincoln and draws around and around Lincoln. She looks at Lincoln, really looks at him, sharing little things about Lincoln (He only went to school for one year! His wife, Mary, was very short! He stuffed notes inside his tall hat!), little things that she loves so much that you can’t help but love them too. Go Looking at Lincoln and we promise you will be captivated.

— Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
Alicia Potter
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Pandas have piqued our national interest for a long time and the World Wildlife Foundation credits Ruth Harkness with “evoking universal sympathy for the plight of the species.” The story of her expedition to complete her husband’s mission to bring the first live panda to the US is brought to the children’s picture book format by Alicia Potter and Melissa Sweet. Potter’s text encapsulates an information-rich story in a format digestible for our youngest readers and still pertinent for the oldest readers among us. Sweet’s eclectic illustration style fits the story perfectly, with her use of illustration and authentic collage materials from China matching the journey of Ruth Harkness around the world. The color palette is bright and inviting and the design layout is varied. The story of Mrs. Harkness’ determination in her expedition for the first panda is inspirational. Included are a chronology of events, author’s note, and selected bibliography.

— Ellen Zschunke, On The Shelf 4 Kids

Nic Bishop Snakes
Nic Bishop
Nominated by: T.S. Davis

Nic Bishop has developed his own unique formula for a successful nonfiction picture book, and this title definitely does not disappoint. The intriguing subject matter (snakes, of course) paired with Bishop’s stunning up-close photography–plus the clean design featuring text pull-outs on every page–all add up to make this book an irresistible read for a wide age range. Kids will no doubt be drawn in by the bold pictures, but the text is fascinating as well, and the lengthy author’s note detailing how Bishop got the amazing photos (and even got bitten while doing so!) is an added bonus.

Laurie Ann Thompson


BookSpeak!: Poems About Books
Laura Purdie Salas
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

In a world where e-readers are becoming more and more popular, BookSpeak pays homage to the physical book. Twenty-one poems explore the magic of books and everything about them cover to cover.

These well-crafted poems include literary allusions such as a frightened dog hanging on to a cliff with fish-infested waters below, saying “Please, author, write/ sequel quick;” in the poem with three voices, The Beginning and The End comfort The Middle. And have you wondered what goes on when the lights go off in a bookstore? Read “Lights Out in the Bookstore” to find out about the raucous adventures of the shelves.

Josee Bisaillon’s mixed-media illustrations compliment the whimsical, wacky and just plain fun text.
The committee agreed that, like the final lines of the last poem
“I am not so much/ The End/ As I am an/ Invitation back/ to the beginning,”
readers will return to the beginning and read the book again and again.

— Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It Out

In the Sea
David Elliott
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Kara Schaff Dean

From the magic of starfish shining “in a sky of sand” to the wonder of orca’s “black-and-white tuxedo,” David Elliott becomes undersea explorer in In the Sea, a companion volume to On the Farm and In the Wild, with Holly Meade again stunning readers with her gorgeous woodcuts.

This collection introduces the youngest readers to the beauty and mystery of the sea. We meet familiar creatures like the dolphin–“an acrobat with fins”–and perhaps less familiar ones like the chambered nautilus, “a staircase with no end.” Most poems are four lines or less; all are easily consumed and digested. In so few words, Elliott provides a freshness to this subject matter with an abundance of simple but astonishing analogies. These poems provide the most basic of facts, such as how anemones “Gotta lotta zing!” and that the clownfish is “anemone’s maid.” Readers will especially appreciate Elliott’s brevity and humor. A favorite spread contains four one-word poems, which together become a larger poem complete with the most delightful rhyme.

This celebration of ocean life offers readers of all ages a safe (dry!), delightful dive into the depths of the sea.

— Irene Latham, Live Your Poem

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
J. Patrick Lewis
Nominated by: Tasha

Be forewarned: the humor in these poems is dark! The pictures are gruesome and the animals in the book meet untimely and horrible deaths. At the same time, to the right reader (mostly boys, to be honest), this is a very funny book.

The poems are predominantly short and cleverly punny, containing a surprise factor that rewards the reader with snorts of laughter. These epitaphs were meant, as the title of the book points out, to provide one last laugh.


When le left,

he didn’t put up

a big stink.

(© Jane Yolen)


Here lies a moth

without a name,

who lived by the fire

and died by the flame.

(© J. Patrick Lewis)

— Mary Lee Hahn, A Year of Reading

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses
Ron Koertge
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: The Cath in the Hat

“Do you want to sleep? Find another storyteller,” Koertge tells readers in the introduction. NOT for the faint of heart or those raised on sweet happily-ever-after fairy tales, Lives, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses is a collection of 23 free verse poems that retell both familiar and more obscure tales. It is our only finalist that is specifically for YA readers.

Andrea Dezsö’s digital paper cuts are finely detailed and beautifully complement the tone of the text, though some are even more gruesome than the poems. Twisted, edgy, dark, and violent, yet cleverly told from the perspective of both central and secondary characters (Little Red Riding Hood, the Princess from the Princess and the Pea, the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Ugly Duckling, and others), Koertge re-imagines their stories in a most provocative manner.

— Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar!

National Geographic Children's Books
Nominated by: Joanna Marple

There’s a whole lot of squeaking, soaring and roaring going on in National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry. J. Patrick Lewis, America’s Children’s Poet Laureate, has collected over 200 animal poems—from classic poets like Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Rudyard Kipling, and Alfred Lord Tennyson to more modern poets such as Kristine O’Connell George, Jack Prelutsky, Valerie Worth and Jane Yolen.

Readers, both adults and children, will make many trips through this book, some to savor the poetry, but probably just as many to enjoy the gorgeous, full-color, National Geographic photographs adorning each page. End material includes a two-page spread about writing animal poems, and another two-page bibliography of poetry books sorted by genre. Four different indexes–title, first line, author and subject–ensure that readers will quickly find the poems they love.

The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry is a magnet that will pull even the most reluctant reader into the world of poetry.

— Carol Wilcox, Carol W’s Corner

UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings
Douglas Florian
Beach Lane Books
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Florian is back with paintings, poetry and prose (yes, facts!) about bees. In these fourteen poems, young readers will see life from a bee’s perspective: “All day we bees/ Just buzz and buzz/ That’s what we duzz/ And duzz and duzz.” The prose facts accompanying this poem explain why bees sound like they are buzzing: A bee’s wings move so rapidly, it makes “the air around them … vibrate.”

Each page turn reveals a new facet of a bee’s life with art made from gouache, colored pencils, and collage on paper bags. We see a bee’s body up close, and learn about the roles of each member of the hive and their work: “I’m a nectar collector./ Make wax to the max.”

How bees fit into our everyday world is shown, as is the sad modern-day reality of Colony Collapse Disorder. The back of the book has a “BEEbliography” of books and websites where young readers can find additional information about bees. There is so much to love in this fun and well-constructed book. Florian’s poetry is completely accessible to children, and the bits of information are equally well-written at a kid level.

— Anastasia Suen, Booktalking

Water Sings Blue
Kate Coombs
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

In Water Sings Blue, poet Kate Coombs invites readers to sail away, if just for a few moments, and ponder the wonders of the ocean. From the sandy beaches and tide pools to the creatures lurking in the depths, Coombs transports readers to a watery world and displays for them the intricacy of ocean flora and fauna. The poems exhibit Coombs’ knowledge of and enthusiasm for her subject matter, as well as a mastery of wordcraft.

Many of the poems contain touches of wry humor. “Seagulls” compares gulls to beagles: “And when seagulls take wing, / they become a new thing, / attaining some dignity. / But beagles are round / and remain on the ground, / pretty much dignity-free.”

The accompanying illustrations by Meilo So perfectly highlight the mysterious beauty of the book’s subject matter. So’s delicate watercolors bring to life soaring seabirds, spiny urchins, and trailing jellyfish tentacles. As the book draws to a close, the ocean herself says a haunting goodbye which will echo in the reader’s mind long after the book is closed:

“I was here,

wasss h e r e

wasssss h e r e . . .”

— Misti Tidman, Kid Lit Geek

Young Adult Fiction

Matthew Quick
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: DLacks

Boy21 got game. And that game is basketball, as played diligently by narrator Finley, sublimely by his girlfriend Erin, and almost supernaturally by the titular Boy21, also known as Russell Allen. Boy21 also has heart, as it explores loyalty, friendship, class and racial differences, and the way the past impinges on the present. But most importantly, Boy21 has soul, as all three main characters work to free themselves from the constraints and grief that dominate their lives, threatening to prevent them from becoming who they truly are. So much more than a sports book, Boy21 speaks to our common humanity, and to the notion that we must not live our desires, nor our fears, in silence, lest we lose our humanity.

— William Polking, Guys Lit Wire

Code Name Verity
Elizabeth Wein
Nominated by: Ana @ things mean a lot

A harrowing and riveting tale of best friends who find themselves at the center of the British war effort in World War II, Code Name Verity defies simple categorization. Verity, a female spy for the British, makes a simple mistake while on assignment in German-occupied France and is captured by the Germans. While being tortured for information on the British war effort, she begins to write her confession. An unreliable narrator, the depiction of a strong female friendship, extraordinary prose, and allusions to Peter Pan make this novel a standout. A tour de force of a novel, Code Name Verity is multi-layered and heartbreaking. It’s a book that will leave you whispering “Kiss me hardy. Kiss me quick,” and turning back to page one to begin an immediate reread.

— Sarah Gross, The Reading Zone

Eliot Schrefer
Nominated by: 145lewis

Endangered follows a teen on her annual summer trip home to the Democratic Republic of Congo to visit her conservationist mother. When civil war erupts in the nation’s capital, Sophie finds herself on the run with a young bonobo ape named Otto. She navigates a war-torn country while struggling to protect her charge from a starving population. In a story that highlights inhumane behavior, we come to appreciate the communal problem-solving of the bonobos and the kindness of strangers along Sophie’s escape route. And at the end of this short novel, readers of all ages will find themselves speeding to the Internet and the library to learn more about these shy, matriarchal primates.

— Kirstin Fearnley, Sprite Writes

I Hunt Killers
Barry Lyga
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kelia

A body shows up in a field outside of town, setting into motion a series of events all too familiar for Jasper “Jazz” Dent, son of murderer Billy Dent and the public’s favored heir to Billy’s legacy of ruthless horror. Jazz, concerned they may be right, starts to investigate the murder, using skills learned from his father. Jazz’s constant questioning about nature, nurture and, ultimately, destiny, combined with the hunt to stop a possible serial killer, make for a thrilling and deliciously scary read. Although the book contains a large amount of gore, the blood is never gratuitous and occasionally comes from Jazz’s hemophiliac best friend–and one of the panel’s favorite characters–Howie. Part true crime, horror and psychological thriller, the atmospheric and moody I Hunt Killers explores the dark, creepy corners of being raised by an infamous serial killer.

— Kellie Tilton, The Re-Shelf

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jesse Andrews
Nominated by: Leila Roy

This is not your average cancer book. Narrator Greg wants readers to believe that he’s totally unlikable, but it doesn’t take long to see that his almost violent self-hatred is a coping mechanism for his mess of a life. As Greg navigates his senior year of high school, he also deals with the fact that his mother guilt-trips him into hanging out with the very ill Rachel, the changing nature of his friendship with Earl–a very short, chain-smoking African-American classmate, and the fact that college (and real life) is waiting just around the corner. This frequently hilarious and absolutely heartfelt debut by Jesse Andrews provides incredibly snarky, completely self-aware narration (“This entire paragraph is a moron,” Greg states at one point), fully realized characters, and a great deal of depth.

— Clementine Bojangles, Early Nerd Special

Storyteller, The
Antonia Michaelis
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sommer Leigh

On the continuum of dark to light, light to heavy, Antonia Michaelis’ The Storyteller definitely resides on the dark/heavy end. But it’s also found on the gorgeous end of the scale, as it’s one of the most beautiful books we read this year: structurally, lyrically and emotionally. Flawlessly translated from German, The Storyteller is about a sheltered girl falling in love with a boy who is not only damaged, but possibly irrevocably lost. Michaelis incorporates Leonard Cohen’s lyrics into an atmospheric mystery that is reminiscent of the Grimm brothers, David Almond and Kevin Books. It’s tragic from beginning to end, but it’s also a fairy tale about love, forgiveness, innocence lost and innocence preserved.

— Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

Theory of Everything, The
J.J. Johnson
Publisher/ Author Submission

Johnson deftly blends humor and grief in this story of a teenager’s struggles to make sense of her best friend’s death. The witty chapter drawings (designed by Johnson) and main character Sarah’s pitch-perfect voice make The Theory of Everything compulsively readable, but the underlying veins of emotions—confusion, grief and even hope—keep this from feeling like lighter fare. Teens will understand Sarah’s desire to keep the world at bay with her “snarkbox,” but it’s the moments when Sarah puts aside the snark to truly face life that will leave a lasting impression. With a cast of characters that includes a tame possum, a wonder dog, and a maybe-creepy-maybe-misunderstood Christmas tree farmer, The Theory of Everything keeps readers guessing—and laughing—and crying—to the last page.

— Kendall Kulper, Blogging for YA