2012 Cybils Winners

Book Apps

Dragon Brush
By Small Planet Digital
Nominated by: Aurora Celeste

What would you paint if you had a magic paintbrush? Would you paint all the riches you might want? But what might happen if an evil lord tries to steal this away? Dragon Brush takes children into this scene. The story resonates with heart and kindness as Bing-Wen, the story’s young rabbit hero, discovers the true gift of artwork—creating for those you love. Dragon Brush will charm and entertain with its solid story balancing interactivity and narrative. High production values marked by smooth narration, excellent musical score and precise sound engineering enhance the ancient Chinese folktale setting. Clever and often funny interactions are discoverable on each page of the story, including hidden ink pots that lead to a surprise for the reader. The app works well for a wide age range and will inspire repeat readings. The end of the story includes a painting app where the ink pots add colors and textures with which to paint. Each painting can be erased, saved, or shared. Dragon Brush exemplifies the standards of the Cybil Awards with its perfect blend of story, technology, and entertainment.

Fiction Picture Books

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

A Home for Bird is a character-driven story about a frog named Vernon who sets off on a perilous journey to help his silent friend find home and happiness. Vernon is a loyal protagonist with whom preschoolers will easily relate. A Home for Bird offers an engaging read-aloud experience, with ample opportunity for audience participation, and a narrative with both subtle humor and charm. Stead's vibrant and fluid illustrations are a perfect match to the story, and will have young listeners clamoring for parents, teachers, and/or librarians to "read it again!"

Nonfiction Picture Books

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
By Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Who could forget the endearing face of a panda bear like the one on the cover of Mrs. Harkness and the Panda? It is more difficult to remember, however, who brought the first panda bear to America. In 1934, when the story starts, only a few people even knew pandas existed. Mrs. Harkness, a young New York dress designer, seemed to be the least-likely person to go to far-off China to look for one. Yet when her husband dies during an attempt to find a panda, off she goes on the adventure of a lifetime to fulfill his quest.

Reading this book is an adventure of its own. It delves into China with rich colors, using actual Chinese writing on the paper in the background of the illustrations, photographs of Chinese coins, and even including some well-placed Chinese words. Each page and each reading reveals new discoveries.

The story of a young woman heading off into the unknown is one of bravery and perseverance that is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. Mrs. Harkness would be perfect to introduce a geography or history lesson about China. Although it is a biography, this book is also likely to stimulate conversations about animal conservation, particularly discussions about endangered animals and how our views of how to care for rare animals have changed. It is truly a memorable and inspiring book.

Easy Readers

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

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is a modern-day rendition of the “Are we there yet?” story. A mouse and a boy travel by boat to Antarctica, all the while seeing fun and interesting things. Alas, Mouse just wants to get there, and then, once there, wants to go back home. The story is told in graphic novel format through speech bubbles and gorgeous illustration. While a fun read for children of all ages, the writing works perfectly for children just beginning their adventure as readers. There are plenty of decodable words, many sight words and lots of opportunity for the pictures to help out when the words are unfamiliar. There is a limited amount of text on each page and the font chosen is big and clear. A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is the perfect trip to take with a new reader. Enjoy!

Early Chapter Books

Sadie and Ratz
By Sonya Hartnett, illustrated by Ann James
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Katherine Sokolowski

When Hannah's 4-year-old brother sneaks into her room, changes the TV channel, or uses all the colored markers, Hannah takes matters into her own hands. Literally. Her hands, which she's dubbed Sadie and Ratz, seek revenge by trying to rub Baby Boy's ears off. Hartnett's subversive chapter book doesn't shy away from children's dark side, which is one of its strengths. It isn't long before Baby Boy figures out a way to retaliate–he accuses Sadie and Ratz of his misdeeds, like spilling milk and scribbling on walls. Hannah, stumped by this turn of events, sends Sadie and Ratz on vacation, but the pair continues to get blamed.

How Hannah and Baby Boy resolve this conflict of hand warfare will delight readers, and quite possibly dismay parents hoping for a tidier ending. James's expressive charcoal illustrations further dramatize the children's swirling emotions. This powerful book about the murky underbelly of sibling rivalry deserves a big hand!


BookSpeak!: Poems About Books
By Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

"If a book remains unopened
and no reader turns its page,
does it still embrace a story
or trap words inside a cage?"

BookSpeak! celebrates all things books. One of our judges stated that it shows kids "how to look at a common object with new eyes." Another said, "I love the many 'voices' she created within the book world." A third judge noted, "when read aloud, I feel these poems have heaps of personality–and utility, too."

Laura Purdie Salas explores reading, writing, stories, and book components in a wide variety of poetic forms, styles, and imaginative voices. From the lyrical "Skywriting" to the clever personification of “Index,” the poems flow from beginning to end, providing helpful models that young writers may enjoy exploring and imitating.

Josee' Bisaillon's use of collage, digital montage, and drawings completes the whole package. Complemented by a distinctive use of typeface and energetic and expressive illustrations, BookSpeak! is a book of book poems that readers of all ages will return to again and again.

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

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

Claudette can't wait to be a hero, just like her dragon-slaying dad (who's now stuck at the forge in a wheelchair after a vicious battle). When she learns that a giant attacked her town–and the citizens just let it get away!–she knows this is her chance. She persuades her friend and her little brother to go out questing with her, and the result is a story full of adventure, humor, and heart. Aguirre and Rosado have refreshingly eschewed traditional gender roles, creating likeable but realistically flawed characters in a quasi-medieval world. Told with expressive, full-color art and nice repetition of language for developing readers, this fun and funny story is sure to appeal to kids.

Elementary/Middle Grade Fantasy & Science Fiction

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

Sage is taken from his orphanage along with three other boys and thrust into an attempt to save the kingdom from impending war. If he loses, it's certain death, but Sage is very reluctant to win, since the prize at the end means becoming someone's pawn and living a lie for the rest of his life. The detailed world Nielsen creates is full of life, populated with mystery, twists and turns, and engaging and complex characters. Readers don't know who to trust, while Sage knows he can trust no one, especially not Connor, the man who stole them away and has aspirations of his own. Sage's voice is perfection, reading like a medieval Sherlock Holmes. Unreliable and snarky, Sage keeps his observations, assets, and motivations to himself until he knows he can benefit. Readers can't help but cheer for him, even as he struggles to come to grips with the ups and downs of a fate he doesn't desire.

Middle Grade Fiction

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

Auggie has always been home-schooled to accommodate for multiple surgeries and illnesses. Now that he is stronger, he must join the world of his peers and learn to deal with their perceptions of his extreme disfigurement. Wonder is his story, and it is at turns funny, heartbreaking, and illuminating, and always, always compelling. Palacio tells it from multiple points of view, a choice that allows readers to consider the feelings and reactions of many characters.

Auggie is a character endearing, brave, and normal enough to challenge readers to wonder about some really big questions: What would it be like to be Auggie? Would I have the courage to be friends with him? How difficult is it to "choose kind"? This remarkable and surprisingly humorous first novel grips its middle-grade audience in such a profound and meaningful way, and it is a book we believe could make readers out of nonreaders–making Wonder our runaway top choice for this year's Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Award.

Young Adult Nonfiction

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

A taut, real-life spy thriller, Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin is the true story of how the United States, Hitler's Germany, and the Soviet Union each sought to build the world's first nuclear weapon by whatever means possible. A first-rate page turner that has impeccable research and is sure to interest both MG and YA readers, Bomb is the perfect example of how nonfiction can be everything fiction is–and more.

Young Adult Graphic Novels

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

When homeschooler Maggie joins her older brothers at the public high school, she isn't sure what to expect–and her mother isn't around anymore to ease the transition. This contemporary coming-of-age story captures realistic teen behavior, though a mysterious ghost adds fantasy to the mix. Compelling illustrations in black and white play with the intersections of light and dark, past and future. The richness of the relationships, the resonance of Maggie's emotional life, and the satisfying–though pleasantly ambiguous–conclusion make Maggie's story one to remember. [For a shorter version of this blurb, check out Graphic Novel judge Emily Mitchell's review haiku.]

Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction

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

Seraphina is a genre-blending fantasy that dazzled us all. Dragons, a murder mystery, family secrets, and a love story–there is something here for everyone, even those who aren't regular high fantasy readers. We were hooked by the mystery and intrigue of dragons and conspiracies as well as the fascinating and intricate world building. Seraphina is a complex and appealing heroine. She's fiery and vulnerable and gifted and brave. Her love of music is a refreshing thread throughout the story as is a fairly surprising mystery. Seraphina's transformation throughout the novel was inspiring and wonderful to follow. With beautiful writing and tight pacing, Seraphina kept us turning the pages, eager to follow the heroine and learn more about the strong ensemble cast. We're sure readers will find a lot to love in this highly original dragon story.

Young Adult Fiction

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

Greg wants you to know that he's not writing some soppy cancer book. The impending death of his sorta-friend, sorta-ex-girlfriend Rachel from leukemia won't teach him any great lessons about the meaning of life. He's gonna swear. He's gonna crack sick jokes. There will be awkward silences. And he'll make stupendously bad films with his best friend, Earl, while ignoring his own rules about staying under the radar during senior year.

What Greg doesn't tell you is that his story will break your heart anyway. With sharply-drawn characters, dialogue so real you expect to hear it in the school hallway, and a mix of formats that keep the story moving, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a book that will make readers laugh out loud even as they sympathize with Greg's bumpy journey into adulthood.