2013 Cybils Finalists

Book Apps

Disney Animated
Disney Studios
Touch Press
Nominated by: shannonmmiller

Disney's animated movies have enchanted families for generations. Now, this richly layered multimedia book app takes readers behind the scenes to see all the different aspects that go into creating animated feature films. Read about the original development of animation, watch Walt Disney talk about where story ideas come from, zoom in to look at a detailed storyboard from 101 Dalmatians drawn by legendary illustrator Bill Peet.

It's absolutely fascinating peeling back the layers of classic animated as well as computer generated (CG) films, seeing how a scene develops from the initial story sketch to rough drawings or computer models, to final colored animation. With the scene from Chicken Little, you can see how the animators matched the drawings to the recorded dialog. Picture boards for the Wreck-It Ralph characters in the Sugar Rush game show the visual inspirations, including pictures of marble cake swirls and butterscotch candies. Interactive elements let readers stop animated clips, progressing frame by frame, swipe through a timeline with every Walt Disney Animation Studio feature film, and manipulate Vanellope, a CG character from Wreck-It Ralph. A book could never let readers see these animated layers in action!

This book app lets readers progress at their own pace, diving into sections they're interested in. It's a perfect blend of book, animation and interactive features, all designed to help readers explore the many facets of animation.

Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Endless Alphabet
Originator Inc.
Nominated by: Pink Me

Endless Alphabet is a superb, interactive, picture dictionary app for kids from preschool through early grade school. Combining unique words with clever illustrations and animation, and adding silly monsters and unforgettable sounds, Endless Alphabet is a book app kids will return to again and again. Readers have access to wonderful, not-so-ordinary alphabet words. As they drag letters into words, readers can hear the sound each letter makes. Then, they hear how to pronounce the word, learn the meaning of the word, and watch a short, and often silly, enactment of the word. Kids can choose whether to move from word to word or to repeat a word as many times as they choose. Listen as little readers try letter sounds themselves. Hear giggles as monsters act out words like gargantuan and hilarious.

Jen Vincent, Teach Mentor Texts

MirrorWorld by Cornelia Funke
Nominated by: Liviania

MirrorWorld is a companion app to Cornelia Funke’s fantasy novels Reckless and Fearless. In sixteen short independent chapters, the app expands Funke’s world through seamless integration of illustration, audio narration, music, and animation. Whether documenting animated fencing instructions or telling how Jacob Reckless first met the treasure hunter Albert Chanute, this app is both an intriguing introduction for those new to the world and exciting backstory for fans who want more.

MirrorWorld’s art direction is perfectly on tone with the dark and beautiful content. The art is at once sophisticated and simple, never overpowering the story. In "A Bad Substitute Father", readers can either "view the spectacle" and watch a shadow play while listening to Funke read the chapter aloud, or they can read the story themselves. This reinforces the book qualities of this app, while exploring the multimedia opportunities presented by the iPad's interactive features to let readers explore this world. Multiple methods of navigation encourage exploration and leaves room for imagination. Readers can explore the cavernous Ogre's Tavern or use the navigation aides to follow chapters in sequential order. A layered, unique look into this fantastical world that will grip children and teens.

Jackie Parker, Interactive Reader

To This Day
Shane Koyczan
Moving Tales inc
Nominated by: Jill Goodman

To This Day is the app version of one of the most powerful spoken word poems to be presented and shared in many years. Shane Koyczan writes of his experience dealing with violence, bullying and harassment in school in a searingly honest way. The app takes Koyczan's live performance and adds animation and artwork created by multiple artists, making the anti-bullying message even stronger.

This app provides a unique viewing experience because the artwork changes every time you open it. When sharing this spoken word and artwork with my students, you could hear a pin drop; that is something that does not happen too often in the middle school world. To anyone who has spent time on this planet, you will be moved by not only the words, but also by the animations that accompany the spoken word. Last, go ahead and give yourself a shot by recording your own voice reciting the spoken word. Koyczan makes sure readers know that words can hurt more than sticks and stones, but that in the end we all must walk the balancing act in our lives, believing in our own beauty.

Aaron Maurer, Coffee For The Brain

Wee You-Things
Wee Society LLC
Wee Society LLC
Nominated by: Barb S.

Wee You-Things is a celebration of what makes each of us unique. The interactive children’s book introduces the concept with a colorful parade of friends each with his or her own quirk. Ruth has a purple tooth and Lamar has a crooked scar a la Harry Potter. All the pages are cleverly animated to show off the special somethings. The bold, colorful patterns, sound effects and rhyming prose are spot on. Some of the you-things are silly and fanciful and others reference changes in our society that may be less easy to explain like Brad having two dads. The inclusion of this particular friend and a disabled one speaks volumes about how intelligent this book really is. At the end kids get a chance to create their own You to join the parade of friends. It's a perfect way to let kids know looking or sounding different is okay and these "you things" are what make you special.

Jill Goodman, AppoLearning

Easy Readers

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
Mo Willems
Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Elephant and Piggie are back, bigger and better than ever! When Piggie’s beloved new ball get stolen by a mysterious “big guy” it’s Elephant to the rescue! Until he sees just...how...BIG that big guy is! It’s all about perspective in this latest in Mo Willems’ easy reader series, since only the master of the simple form could convey to young readers the idea that it’s all in how you look at it. Has Piggie’s ball been stolen, or is she the thief? Is the big guy a bully, or just a lonely guy looking for a friend?

As always, Willems conveys humor and heart with simple lines and clever layout. The pitch-perfect timing of the storyline will have parents and children alike giggling together and maybe taking a little lesson on friendship away as well. Elephant and Piggie is the perfect choice for beginning readers, with the limited text and minimal illustrations and A Big Guy Took My Ball is another winner in a long line of delightful entries in this popular series.

Jennifer, Jean Little Library

Joe and Sparky Go to School
Jamie Michalak
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Bigfoot Reads

In the classic easy reader odd-couple style, Joe is a giraffe who's always curious and eager for new situations. Sparky is a turtle who just wants to sit in the sun and relax. But no matter what crazy trouble Joe gets them into, they are still friends and they make it through together.

Joe and Sparky's silly adventures will delight kids who get the insider jokes about school. The illustrations are bright and really pop with Joe's bright yellows and splashes of green and blue, while the text is just right for an emerging reader ready for something a little more difficult than Elephant and Piggie or Fly Guy, but not quite ready for early chapters yet. Joe and Sparky's adventures combine the best of classic easy readers with a contemporary humorous flair and attractive art that will keep kids reading and giggling.

Jennifer, Jean Little Library

Love Is in the Air (HC) (Penguin Young Readers, L2)
Jonathan Fenske
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Katie Fitzgerald

Love Is in the Air navigates the ups and inevitable downs of friendship in a completely fresh way. Balloon is depressed after a birthday party, but a gust of wind brings along a new friend, Kite. Their whirlwind friendship is challenged by their inherent differences, but they overcome the obstacles. Kite is there to cushion Balloon’s hard times, and friendship wins out.

In just over 200 very accessible words, this book celebrates friendship while offering new readers great drama. Word and phrase repetition supports beginning readers, and there are many opportunities for prediction. Touches of rhyme and the terrific word choices make this book rise above much of the standard beginning reader fare. Love Is in the Air will leave you floating on Cloud 9.

Laura Purdie Salas, laurasalas.com/blog

Penny and Her Marble (I Can Read Book 1)
Kevin Henkes
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Linda Baie

While out for a stroll with her doll, Penny spots a marble in her neighbor's yard. It is a shiny blue marble, and Penny instantly falls in love with it. Impulsively, Penny nabs the marble. And almost immediately, she is filled with regret and remorse and anguish. Should she have taken the marble? she asks herself. Has she done the wrong thing? Should she return it?

Kevin Henkes has done it again. He has dropped us right inside the mind and heart of a small child. He has bestowed on us a main character so genuine, so palpable, and so human that she might be playing right now in the house next door to us. In Penny we see a child who is all at once both self-seeking and generous, both gently naughty and deeply contrite, a child who, yes, might take something that isn't hers and yet who also has the courage to return something taken to its rightful owner. A charming little story with big ideas for small people, all told in a mere forty-eight pages.

Deb Nance, ReaderBuzz

The Meanest Birthday Girl
Josh Schneider
Clarion Books
Nominated by: LoriA

Since it is Dana’s birthday, she can do whatever she likes. Besides wearing her favorite dress and eating her favorite breakfast, what she likes to do is call Anthony an “ickaborse,” pinch him, and eat his dessert. But Dana's attitude changes after Anthony surprises her with a birthday gift--an elephant with toenails painted her favorite color.

This story for independent beginning readers delivers its anti-meanness message with a huge helping of humor. The contrast between expressive line work and an understated, matter-of-fact text is genuinely funny. Details like toy ponies, Dana’s bandaged leg, and the book she reads to her elephant ("You’ll Be Sorry") infuse the cartoon illustrations with bits of realism and add interest without overpowering the main story line. The story comes full circle with a final, hilarious twist that will leave readers laughing at this unconventional way of dealing with bullies.

Danyelle Leach, Bookshelves in the Cul-de-Sac

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf
Dosh Archer
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

City Hospital just received a choking wolf patient. A lost little girl in a red coat has just been found. She says she was looking for her missing grandma. Hmmm….what could that wolf patient have devoured that is causing him to choke? Will Nurse Percy be able to overcome his fear of wolves and help Doctor Glenda save the day?

This fast-paced easy reader will draw beginning readers in with the bright color illustrations on each page. Readers can draw on their background knowledge and text connection with the story of Little Red Riding Hood to help identify some of the characters in this twisted story. This humorous tale will have readers laughing from start to finish.

Jodie Rodriguez, Growing Book by Book

Early Chapter Books

Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxic Mutants
Ursula Vernon
Dial Books
Nominated by: sara the librarian

Ursula Vernon is as wackily hilarious as ever in this ninth installment in the Dragonbreath series, featuring Danny Dragonbreath (the only mythical creature in a school of reptiles, who's still working on his fire-breathing skills), his friend Wendell (complete geek, afflicted with a health food-addicted mother and a best friend who likes, ugh, adventures), and his frenemy Christiana (super logical, doesn't believe in dragons. Or fairies, even after the whole kidnapping episode). Their investigation of the theft of Grandfather Turlingsward's dentures is sprinkled with snarky asides on everything from pre-regulation hospital toxic waste to respecting (or not, as the case may be) the elderly.

Vernon's unique humor and characters will attract young readers looking for fantasy, adventure, and humor. The inclusion of illustrations, comic panels, and speech bubbles will encourage readers who might not feel ready for a longer chapter book. Start your Dragonbreath experience with this latest installment or go back to the beginning and enjoy the whole series from sea monsters to mutants!

Jennifer, Jean Little Library

Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales)
James Preller
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Jennifer

Where can a young reader find a good scare these days? There’s a shortage of keep-all-the-lights-on early chapter books, which makes Home Sweet Horror extra sweet. If you can call a book sweet that features a ramshackle house, eerie scratchboard art, and slumber party crasher Bloody Mary. Eight-year-old Liam is fighting grief, big family changes, creepy noises in the basement, and a dangerous, ghostly villain.

This plot-centered story has an emotional core, too, and it’s a satisfying and creepy read for all your thrill-seekers. There’s some leeway for a logical explanation of events, but, really, it’s just a darn good ghost story! Sit down, buckle up your courage, and enjoy the read!

Laura Purdie Salas, laurasalas.com/blog

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Franklin School Friends)
Claudia Mills
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Author Claudia Mills introduces us to her first young readers’ book in the Franklin School Friends series. When Principal Boone announces a school-wide reading contest, Kelsey is determined to lead her class to victory. But, how will her class win a pizza party and special certificates if some classmates don’t want to read or work on winning the contest? And then there is Simon, who might be lying about the number of books he read just to try and beat Kelsey’s reading record. Kelsey learns a lot about her classmates in her quest to win. Which class will win the party? Will Kelsey be the top reader in her class? Does principal Boone shave his beard? Young readers will be chuckling throughout the story to see how it ends!

A black-and-white illustration in each chapter helps the reader to visualize story details. Young readers learn about all the different kinds of readers each class holds. Readers even walk away with a reading list of books they can read just like Kelsey!

Jodie Rodriguez, Growing Book by Book

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Hilary McKay
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: lwad

Lulu loves animals of all shapes and sizes. So it's no surprise that, while on a family beach vacation, she is determined to make friends with the dog everyone has warned her is trouble. Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is perfectly-paced, sprinkled with gentle humor, and home to realistic and lovable characters, both human and canine. Filled with charming illustrations, this early chapter book will appeal to animal lovers of all ages. Even those of us who don't wish to bring home a stray dog will be rooting for Lulu and her unlikely new friend.

Janssen Bradshaw, Everyday Reading

The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems
Lauren Myracle
Dutton Juvenile
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Many children will relate to Ty's sense of adventure, especially when seeing him on a class trip at the aquarium. Ty is likable and readers will connect with how this seven-year-old views the world due. A new sister causes anxiety and frustration for Ty when his mother is tired with the demands of caring for a baby. His school routine changes because his older sister, Sandra, has to drive him. His best friend is currently in the hospital with cancer, and Ty visits him there. A change occurs when Ty finds the penguin exhibit on his class trip and a new plan emerges in his mind.

As you read this story about Ty and his family, you'll see how they come together when he needs their help the most. This is a great beginning chapter book at only 128 pages, with illustrations that highlight Ty’s adventures.

Diana Pettis, Find a Book Guided Reading

Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat
Anna Branford
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

In this third book from the Violet Mackerel series, Violet wants to help small things. Unfortunately, her attempt to help a ladybug by giving it a new home (complete with tinsel, a wishing stone, and cheese-on-toast) ends in disaster. Talking about her mistake with her big sister, Nicola, makes Violet realize that an animal should be left in its natural habitat and sparks an idea that is truly helpful.

Violet’s personality permeates every one of the 100 pages in this short book. Glimpses of her inner world, along with plentiful black-and-white illustrations, radiate seven-year-old charm. The relationship between Violet and her sister is authentic and refreshingly supportive, as Nicola helps Violet face realistic consequences. Large font size, generous margins, frequent illustrations, and an engaging story make this perfect for readers who are just ready to make the jump to chapter books.

Danyelle Leach, Bookshelves in the Cul-de-Sac

Fiction Picture Books

Count the Monkeys
Mac Barnett
Nominated by: Brian Rock

Looking at the troop of monkeys on this cover, young readers may be in for a bit of a surprise as they begin to turn the pages. Where did all the monkeys go? No need to fret, though, for each page brings a new (and increasingly ridiculous) possible factor in their disappearance. Expect a rowdy story time experience with this hilarious, unique addition to the counting book genre.

Dawn Mooney, Five Minutes for Books

If You Want to See a Whale
Julie Fogliano
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Maureen E

There's a lot going on beneath the peaceful surface of this slow-building, contemplative deep blue sea of a picture book. As a small boy meanders toward his goal of seeing a whale, he must decide whether or not to pause in order to investigate insects, roses, smiling pelicans, or other things that are not whales. The deliberate pace, simple word choice and list-like structure mimics process writing, but unpredictable, stuttering line breaks undermine the authoritative tone with a jazzy rhythm. Charming, textured illustrations by Caldecott Medal winner Erin Stead subtly rock the boat - balanced, yet always with an off-kilter, asymmetric element, and sometimes revealing the boy's actions to be at odds with the prescriptions of the text. Is this book about achieving a goal? Or about observation? It is certainly fertile - and beautiful - ground for conversation.

Paula Wiley, Pink Me

Aaron Becker
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Amanda Snow

With a subtle nod to Harold and his purple crayon, a bored young girl draws herself a door into a magical world using a red crayon she finds on her bedroom floor. Lush and detailed double page spreads draw the reader into the imaginary world, while well placed panels of action sequences along with picture clues lead the reader through this wordless adventure. Like the magic in the story, additional details seem to suddenly appear on re-reads, rewarding readers who are sure to take the Journey again and again.

Laura Given, LibLaura

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Peter Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Claiming Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is, perhaps, his most autobiographical book to date, Peter Brown shares a story about a tiger, growing up in a prim and proper place, who looks for that appropriate place to release his wild side. Once sent into the wilderness where being wild is most appropriate, Mr. Tiger feels lonely, misses his friends, and makes the decision to return and settle in to his own unique style. He decides to be himself. This story resonates with readers and celebrates an author-illustrator who is fully in charge of both brush and pen. Brown writes slim, allows art to support and carry the story, and paces this story well. Rhythm, repetition, and dramatic, comedic action on each and every spread beg for interactive attention to the details of story. Parallel house images, parallel text in the before and after of his “wild” and the repetition of one word: ROAR! make this book a performance kids will scream to experience again and again.

Jodell Sadler, Picture Book Lunch

Open This Little Book
Jesse Klausmeier
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Colby Sharp

In an era of enticing digital media, here's a book that celebrates the magic of paper and ink. A ladybug opens her little red book, and inside is nested a frog's even smaller little green book, and so on through a series of quirky creatures until we arrive at the tiniest book of all--which happens to belong to a friendly giant, who will need a reader's help to turn the itty-bitty page. With gorgeous, whimsical, richly detailed illustrations, this charming story pulls young readers right into the action, and may very well inspire them to create little books of their own. The final drawing of the animals curled up among stacks and stacks of books is an irresistible invitation to dive into another tome--or to turn back to the beginning and enjoy this one all over again.

Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen

Sophie's Squash
Pat Zietlow Miller
Schwartz and Wade Books
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Which came first, the text or the illustrations? It’s difficult to tell in this picture book because the two work so well with – and off – each other. The story (created by both text and art) is tender and funny with a big dose of comfort. Kids, who so easily grant inanimate objects the ability to feel emotion, will relate to Sophie’s attachment to a butternut squash with a magic-markered face. Parents will love the inside jokes (ex., mom prepares to make squash for supper, but after learning Sophie has named her squash Bernice, says she’ll “call for pizza”). The story smoothly transitions over time as Sophie’s fresh squash begins to soften, becomes planted, sprouts in spring, and grows two new butternuts that, as Sophie declares, “look just like your mom.” It’s a contemporary book with an old-fashioned storytelling feel that can be read again and again with pleasure.

Carol Munro, Just Write Words

The Bear's Song
Benjamin Chaud
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: The Cath in the Hat

First sight of this book hints at its uniqueness with the large format bathed in deep colors and intricate illustrations. The Bear's Song by Benjamin Chaud is a gorgeous French import with spare narrative text and humorously packed illustrations that have an almost Where's Waldo? characteristic in a more sophisticated flair. Chaud's lightly clever narration follows Papa Bear as he attempts to track down his bee-following Little Bear through forest and city, busy streets and bustling opera house; until a final hilariously misunderstood, climactic performance by Papa Bear clears the stage for an endearingly cuddle-worthy ending. The Bear's Song begs for rereads; moves with powerful, yet lilting pacing; and invites lingering over each scene to relish the many added details as well as help spy on the trail of that adventurous little bear.

Caryn Schafer, Three Books a Night

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction

Anubis Speaks!: A Guide to the Afterlife by the Egyptian God of the Dead (Secrets of the Ancient Gods)
Vicky Alvear Shecter
Boyds Mills Press
Nominated by: Jackie Parker

Shecter brings to life the god of the dead, no easy feat for a mere mortal author. As narrator, Anubis guides us through the Duat, the Egyptian afterworld, and explains many of the ancient Egyptian rituals surrounding death. No gruesome details are spared and middle grade readers will love going along for the ride through the dark lands just as Ra did every night to be re-born each morning. Antoine Revoy gives Anubis his sneer and includes top borders and pagination illustrations with attention to the finest details. Together, Shecter's voice and Revoy's visuals make the Land of the Dead difficult to resist for even the most reluctant readers. Well researched sources are included for further reading as well as a veritable "who's who" of Egyptian gods and demons, glossary, and index.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Barbed Wire Baseball
Marissa Moss
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: librarygrl2

Barbed Wire Baseball introduces the difficult concept of the Japanese-American Internment through the act of building a baseball field. An ambassador of the game, Kenchi Zenimura organized exhibition play both at home and in Japan, right up to the time of his family’s relocation to the Gila River Internment Camp. Moss expertly condenses Zenimura’s backstory with historical context into a few succinct pages. Readers gain a deeply authentic understanding of the story's character and theme through the ballpark’s construction. From desert to playable to world class, each successive page-spread reinforces the pure passion Zenimura had for America’s favorite pastime.

Yuko Shimizu’s final endpapers show a barbed wire fence low on the horizon; a baseball sailing high above. Not only will the story of Kenchi Zenimura enthrall baseball fans 3rd grade and up, by the time you reach that final end-page, kids will be clamoring to discuss its symbolism. Barbed Wire Baseball is more than an enjoyable story about building something out of nothing. Utilizing the format of a picture-book biography, Moss and Shimizu provide the window for a younger audience to examine the injustice of internment and the decisions Kenchi Zenimura made to be better than the duress forced upon him.

Mike Lewis, Blog 142

How Big Were Dinosaurs?
Lita Judge
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: sara the librarian

Judge teaches readers that dinosaurs came in a variety of sizes by comparing various dinosaur species to chickens, SUVs and other familiar objects. Most kids will not remember that fierce Microraptors weighed a mere two to four pounds after simply reading this fact. However, kids will find this fact hard to forget after seeing Judge’s memorable illustration of a concerned Microraptor gazing up to a menacing rooster. Each of Judge’s illustrations is fantastic — from the fierce rooster towering over the Microraptor, to the curious Leaellynasaura exploring a group of snooty emperor penguins, to the three kids trying to persuade a Torosaurus to visit the vet.

Judge’s illustrations exude the same energy and skill that she demonstrated in Bird Talk and Red Sled. However, in this, her latest book, Judge tackles a subject with broader kid appeal — dinosaurs — and does so with humor that is lacking from most nonfiction books on the subject. For readers who are interested in learning more about dinosaurs, Judge includes clear and informative endnotes. She provides statistics about each of the dinosaurs pictured and explains how scientists use fossils to determine how big dinosaurs were.

Amy Broadmoore, Delightful Children’s Books

Brian Floca
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

All aboard for a nonfiction extravaganza! Locomotive follows a pioneer family as they travel from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California, in 1869. The reader experiences the journey firsthand as the crew fires up the massive beast for its first transcontinental journey, then the family climbs aboard. Readers meet the conductor picking up tickets, the "butch" peddling newspapers, fruits and candies, and “all the cigars you can smoke,” and experience the "convenience" in the corner ("don't wait for the train to stop-it's rude to use the toilet when the train is sitting at a station”). Careful book design captures the motion of the train as it makes its way west from Omaha through the Platte River Valley, then labors over the steep inclines of the Rocky Mountains, across rickety bridges, through dark tunnels and into California.

Locomotive is a book for train lovers of all ages: the poetic and rhythmic text will capture the heart of preschoolers, while intricately detailed diagrams will grab the attention of the most reluctant middle school readers. Author’s notes provide background information about Floca’s research process, while gorgeously detailed end pages map the train’s journey and the intricate inner workings of a steam engine.

Carol Wilcox, Carol's Corner

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard
Annette LeBlanc Cate
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: lwad

Whether you are an avid birdwatcher or not, you will find yourself fascinated by the information in this book. It's designed to be everything you need to know to begin birdwatching in your own backyard. But the design, illustrations, humor and content make it so much more than a typical birdwatching book.

Each two-page spread is designed to focus on a big idea within the topic of birdwatching. And each spread includes fascinating content, gorgeous illustrations and surprising humor. Whether readers are learning how to sketch a bird that we see, noticing the difference in bird claws or learning about birds’ colors, the learning is fun and engaging.

Franki Sibberson, A Year of Reading

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos
Deborah Heiligman
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: diane

Do you have an Erd?s number? Either way, you're going to love reading this book about mathematician Paul Erd?s. Heiligman balances detail and overview in the text, making the story accessible to the very young and interesting to readers of all ages. Heiligman chronicles Paul Erd?s's life with humor, heart, and perfect pace, and asks the interesting questions: why did his mom let him stay home from school? How did he manage to do so much math? Why did people love him, even though he was a horrible house-guest? How do we benefit from his work, and what can we learn from his life? LeUyen Pham illustrates with eye-catching color and mind-boggling detail (just read her end-note!). She depicts not only Paul's math friends -- the number line, the hundreds chart, and many more numbers, proofs and so on -- but also the people and scenery which surrounded him from childhood into old age. The odds are good that you will love The Boy Who Loved Math.

Alysa Stewart, Everead

Volcano Rising
Elizabeth Rusch, illustrated by Susan Swan
Publisher/ Author Submission

Most kids (and many adults) are fascinated with volcanoes, likely because of the potential for a huge explosion. Rusch takes the stereotypical image of volcanoes as destructive forces of nature and turns it on its head by focusing on their creative nature. Rusch describes how volcanoes make new mountains, both on land and below the sea. Examples from around the world show how volcanoes are currently involved in changing the landscape around them. Gorgeous mixed-media illustrations by Susan Swan perfectly complement the text. Each page has text in bolder print that is fairly simple yet still gives a solid understanding of volcanoes and creative eruptions as well as a smaller text block that gives more in-depth information for those kids who want to learn more. A wide range of ages will find something to love here, from preschoolers who might just appreciate the intense colors and varied textures of the illustrations to older kids who learn to appreciate volcanoes in a whole new way.

Alice Mar, Supratentorial

Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Sage Blackwood
Nominated by: Brandy Painter

Deep in the dangerous forest of the Urwald, a boy named Jinx grows up in the home of a mysterious magician. Though Jinx is no apprentice mage, magic runs deep in him. When the magician steals part of that away, Jinx, devastated and furious, runs away into the forest. With two other travelers, a boy and a girl, each suffering from magical misfortunes of their own, Jinx sets out to find the Bonemaster, the dark wizard who might be able to set them free. From the contemplative beginning of a boy growing up in mystery, the reader is plunged into adventure and danger as the threesome confront the perils of the Urwald and the terrible truth of the Bonemaster. Jinx is a character to love, and his story, rich in imaginative details, is one to savor.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase
Jonathan Stroud
Nominated by: lwad

Set in an alternate England, where ghosts stalk to kill, a strict curfew is put on all citizens so they will not be killed and become a part of the ghost plague that has lasted 50 years. When Lucy shows signs of hearing ghosts at a young age, she is enlisted to become an agent of the Psychic Investigations. A tragic accident leaves Lucy without work near her home and she decides to set out for London. With new colleagues and new cases, Lucy finds herself involved in a case that could make or break her career - or even end her life. A mix of horror and adventure, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a series that will engage readers until the very last page.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Holly Webb
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

In a Victorian London where magic is powerful, and sorcerers and alchemists have the ear of the monarch, Rose is a young girl growing up in an orphanage. Taken into the home of the Court's most important alchemist, she hopes for a safe and simple life as a servant. But strange things are happening to Rose. She can make pictures appear when she tells stories, she can see the house's magic, and she can understand her new master's cat when he speaks. When children begin to disappear all over London, Rose realizes she may be able to unravel the mystery if she's willing to combine her unwanted magic with the resources of her ordinary life. Rose is an enchanting tale with magic, mystery, friendship, bravery, and the power of being yourself. It is sure to delight any reader who picks it up.

Brandy Painter, Random Musings of a Bibliophile

John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Cecelia from Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

A story of super powers, dangerous villains . . . and middle school. For Andrew Bean (a.k.a. The Sensationalist) being suspended over a swimming pool of acid is just one of the hazards of being a sidekick in training. Having hypersensitive hearing, smell, sight, touch and taste isn’t quite the same as being able to bench press a car; still, he embraces being a part of H.E.R.O., the secret organization that trains sidekicks and pairs them with full-fledged Supers as mentors. But his mentor is MIA. When an old enemy reappears in town and Andrew finds himself targeted, this Super-less sidekick will have to try and save the day.

Sidekicked decants superhero myth and legend, and melds it with the realities of middle school life from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old protagonist. Larger-than-life adventures of wildly powerful individuals touches dark side of being a superhero. Andrew's powers may be super, but his observations and day-to-day struggles to understand the lines between good and evil are something every tween reader can identify with.

Stephanie Whalen, Views from the Tesseract

The Rithmatist
Brandon Sanderson
Tor Teen
Nominated by: diane

Joel is a scholarship student at the Armedius Academy, one of the leading schools for training Rithmatists--an elite band of magicians who can make chalk drawings come alive. In spite of his learning and ambitions, Joel cannot make living chalkings. His classmate Melody is the daughter of a long line of Rithmatists, and though she has magical ability, she doesn't have the drive or the talent to pass the courses. When a string of murders by "wild" chalkings happen on campus, they become unlikely partners in both chalk magic and detection. Full of twists and turns, Sanderson draws readers into the compelling, rich, and sometimes deadly magic of the chalklings.

Melissa Fox, Book Nut

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
Kathi Appelt
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Bifoot Reads

Raccoon brothers J’miah and Bingo are official Sugar Man Swamp Scouts, and they know their duty: to be alert for trouble and to wake the legendary Sugar Man in case of emergencies. Never mind that no one has seen him for nearly 60 years! Nearby, 12 year-old (human) Chap Brayburn is mourning the death of his beloved grandfather Audie, and trying to figure out how to be the man of the house. When trouble comes to the swamp, J’miah, Bingo and Chap must each use all of their ingenuity and courage to save it, and themselves.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a funny, beautifully written and environmentally friendly tale of familial love and the ways in which a specific spot in nature can become ‘home’ to the heart. J’miah, Bingo and Chap explore the swamp and discover some of its dangerous and wondrous secrets, and each tries to protect it in his own way. This vivid adventure is especially charming read aloud, when the variety of animal and human voices come alive. A great pick for fans of Kate DiCamillo and The One and Only Ivan.

Cecelia Larsen, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

The Water Castle
Megan Frazer Blakemore
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

When Ephraim's family moves to the Water Castle in Crystal Springs after his father has a stroke, Ephraim doesn't expect all of his classmates to be smarter than him and know more about his family's history. Intrigued and desperate to help his father, he convinces Mallory, whose family has always served Ephraim's, and Will, whose family has always feuded with Ephraim's, to join with him and continue their ancestors' search for the fountain of youth.

This slow-burning gem flows between the past and the present, science fiction and fantasy, concerns about family and race with questions about eternal life. The young heroes of The Water Castle must question history and search for the truth themselves. This engrossing adventure will appeal to the imaginations of a variety of readers, with its diverse trio of heroes and atmospheric setting. Who could resist exploring.an old, strange castle that crackles with electricity, one filled with both danger and wonder?

Allie Jones, In Bed With Books

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton
Matt Phelan
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Cathy Potter

Although some readers may not know the story of Buster Keaton, they will quickly become entranced and enthralled with him thanks to the beautiful graphic novel Bluffton: My Summers with Buster. From 1908 to 1938, Muskegon, Michigan was taken over by the premier Vaudevillian actors of the day. This group of screen and stage stars formed the Actors’ Colony, and every summer they would return to the beautiful Bluffton neighborhood to while away the hot days. Eisner award nominated author and illustrator Matt Phelan imagines what it might have been like for a boy, who has grown bored with his small town life, to be drawn into the fun and carefree summer world of Buster and the other actors in the Colony.

Traci Glass, No Flying, No Tights

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
Barry Deutsch
Nominated by: Robin

Mirka-- the 11-year-old, troll fighting, singularly charming Orthodox Jewish girl--appears in her second, even more daring adventure in How Mirka Met a Meteorite, where she has to face a much more dangerous adversary: her own dark side, which manifests as a duplicate of herself. This "copy" is better groomed, more talented, and self-assured, and it means to stay on and obliterate Mirka's existence. Deutsch and team deliver a humorous and action-packed tale with theatrical facial expressions, effective uses of varied panel designs, and bold strokes and skilled shading techniques.

Roxanne Feldman, Fairrosa Cyberlibrary

March Book 1
John Lewis
Top Shelf Productions
Nominated by: 145lewis

The visit of a constituent family from Atlanta to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama frames this story of Congressman John Lewis’s childhood in Alabama and his involvement as a college student in the civil rights movement. Readers see Lewis preaching to the chickens on his family’s farm and making a difficult choice on whether to integrate an all-white public university near his family’s home. A comic-book account of the Montgomery Bus Boycott inspired Lewis to become an activist in the 1950’s, and Lewis’s graphic-novel memoir will inspire readers to make a difference today.

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, The Pirate Tree

Monster on the Hill
Rob Harrell
Top Shelf Productions
Nominated by: Adam (@MrShafferTMCE)

So, you'd love to brag to your cousins far away about the really ferocious monster that lives in the 'hood, but there's just one problem -- he's depressed! It's worse than having your town known as the place with the sports team that always loses -- much worse. Because if your monster can't turn that sniffle into a fireball, and soon, there's a far worse fate in store for all of you from a creature known only as the Murk. The crazy mixture of times and cultures (including some cockney accents about as authentic as Bert's in Mary Poppins) turns the campiness to 11, and the art is colorful and clear. Rob Herrell's Monster is a keeper.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party
Nathan Hale
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Many people have heard of the Donner party’s difficult trip west in the mid 1800s. Nathan Hale has managed to bring this story to life as a graphic novel, somehow managing to make the more distasteful aspects of the story palatable for young readers. And yet, Hale holds nothing back as he turns this story into an engaging page turner. The historical Nathan Hale's story-loving executioner provides an emotional touchstone for readers, with his sympathy for the animals during the journey. This series continues to be an excellent resource for parents and history teachers both.

Colby Sharp, Sharpreads

Squish #5: Game On!
Jennifer L. Holm
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Mary Ann Scheuer

Jennifer and Matthew Holm’s Squish 5: Game On! will captivate young readers. In Squish’s latest adventure, he becomes addicted to the video game Mitosis. Game On! might just help a few young readers think deeply about the amount of time they spend with their hands behind a controller.

Colby Sharp, Sharpreads

The Lost Boy
Greg Ruth
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

Greg Ruth's Lost Boy is a delightfully spooky romp through a parallel world, in which our main characters, isolated due to life circumstances, find belonging and redemption in two worlds, ordinary and extraordinary. There are many things to love about this graphic novel. The writing is suspenseful, the characters fresh, and the art is beautifully drawn and clear. This may be the first story in which a creepy doll comes to life and turns out to be a good guy. An excellent story for the middle grades, but adult readers will love it as well.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

Young Adult

Bad Machinery
John Allison
Oni Press
Publisher/ Author Submission

Who knew that the sleepy little town of Tackleford, England would be home to so many weird and wacky mysteries? A group of local teenage girls, Shauna, Charlotte and Mildred, are working together to keep old Mrs. Biscuits in her house in the face of evil industrialism. Meanwhile, their schoolmates, Jack, Linton and Sonny, are trying to figure out why the owner of their local football team seems to have been cursed. Little do they know, but their cases might be related, if they’d just quit being embarrassed long enough to talk to each other! This hilarious collection of John Allison’s daily online comic strips will satisfy even the most discerning sleuth, all the while keeping them in stitches.

Traci Glass, No Flying, No Tights

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set
Gene Luen Yang
First Second Books
Nominated by: Liviania

Award-winning graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang takes on the historical turf of the Boxer Rebellion in turn-of-the-twentieth century China. Yang gracefully interweaves stories of two young people -- one on each side of the conflict -- to lay each group's motives bare. In doing so, he provides the reader with profound insights on how the foreign culture of Britain brought the hope of a better life to some, and destruction of everything familiar and holy to others. The ending, in which we see that the characters' lives are intertwined despite their differences, is particularly satisfying.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight
Kelly Sue Deconnick
Marvel Books
Nominated by: mselke01

Carol Danvers is a lot of things – extraordinary pilot, former Ms. Marvel, part alien, part human. But, there are two things that truly define her: she’s an Avenger and she’s Captain Marvel. And, whether the trouble is on Earth or far out among the stars, she’ll be there with her fellow Avengers to save the day and make some pretty awesome jokes. Both seasoned and new readers will enjoy the first volume in the new ongoing series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and illustrated by Dexter Soy and Emma Rios. When Captain Marvel accidentally travels back in time to a 1943 battlefield, she finds the all-female Banshee Squadron, and boy, do they need her help. But, if she does…will she change history as she knows it? And, just how is she supposed to get back to her time, or is living in the past her future destiny?

Traci Glass, No Flying, No Tights

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Tony Cliff
First Second Books
Nominated by: Pink Me

It would be difficult to write a review of Tony Cliff's first graphic offering that didn't contain the words rollicking and swashbuckling, so there you have it. The Turkish Lieutenant has a lot going for it, lying as it does along the interface of pirate chic and steampunk, with an indomitable heroine whose character is greatly at odds with the usual roles available to her in the 19th century, and her supportive but reluctant companion, Salim. The art is lovely and the storyline is exciting; in short, it's a whole lot of fun.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

Jordan Mechner
First Second Books
Nominated by: Compass Book Ratings

Mechner, Pham and Puvilland created a captivating story based on the Templar Trial in 1307 France, with a fictional cast of the few “ordinary enlisted men” who escaped arrests, but the details were never recorded. Through perfectly penned dialogues and fluid, organic illustrations, readers intimately witness the bravery of noble Martin, the resourcefulness of witty Bernard and loyal Dominic, the tender romance between Martin and Isabelle, and the inevitability of heroic sacrifices for a worthy cause. These historical "figures of no importance" can now live vividly in the imagination of readers of this 472-page tome.

Roxanne Feldman, Fairrosa Cyberlibrary

Uzumaki Deluxe Edition
Junji Ito
VIZ Media, LLC
Publisher/ Author Submission

Do you find spirals frightening? They seem so benign...beautiful, even... ight? In Uzumaki, Junji Ito creates a town spiraling inexorably inward with horrific results. Reminiscent of American stories like Dawn of the Dead and the Twilight Zone, Uzumaki is structured as a series of tales following the same characters through the unfolding disaster, each with a satisfying conclusion. Each tale adds another layer of disruption and fear, and the ending is truly twisted in a very familiar shape. One final tale follows the conclusion, presumably to lighten the mood. The deluxe edition pulls all of the stories together into one volume that teen horror readers won't want to miss.

Liz Jones, Lizjonesbooks

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
Sharon McKay
Annick Press
Nominated by: bevpdx

Soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army kidnap Jacob and his friends Tony, Paul, and Norman from their exclusive boarding school in Uganda. At first held for ransom, the four are given a choice—become child soldiers themselves or toil as slaves in the military camp—when their parents fail to buy their freedom. The choices that Jacob and his friends make will test the bonds among them and haunt them long after their desperate journey through a wildlife preserve in an attempt to flee this terrorist group led by war criminal Joseph Kony. Vivid language, storytelling, and artwork connect readers to the characters and evoke the question, “What would I have done in those circumstances?”

Lyn Miller-Lachmann, The Pirate Tree

Middle-Grade Fiction

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
Chris Grabenstein
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

When a book is compared to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Night at the Museum, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Westing Game, you know you have something very intriguing in your hands. A quirky benefactor invites 12 kids to spend the night in a new library. While there, they have to solve puzzles that involve famous literary characters both classic and contemporary. They also have to learn to work together. My avid readers have loved this book because of the mystery, the challenges, and the allusions to other books. One even recently told me he needed to read it again to try and figure out more of the puzzles. It also inspired him to read some of the other books mentioned in this book.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond

Prisoner B-3087
Alan Gratz
Nominated by: Becky L.

Yanek Gruener lives in Krakow, Poland when the Germans invade in 1940. After spending two years in the Krakow ghetto as conditions continually worsen, he is taken to his first camp. There he meets the only member of his family yet living, his uncle Moshe. Yet after his uncle is killed, Yanek is forced to find the will to survive within himself, with no help from anyone else. As he struggles to survive the most horrid conditions, he somehow he holds on to a smidgen of hope that someday the war will end. But will it all be too much?

The plainness of the telling here makes this a powerfully emotional read. Gratz has captured the spirit and strength of a young man who struggles to survive despite having lost everything. The author's note at the end explains that while this is based on someone's personal experiences, it has been fictionalized to provide a more complete picture of the Holocaust.

Heidi Grange, GeoLibrarian

Serafina's Promise
Ann E. Burg
Nominated by: Svale

When I'm looking to get deep into a good story, free verse isn't the first format that comes to my mind. Serafina's Promise is a novel in verse, and though it seems non-traditional, the scarcity of words is accessible to readers of all interest and ability-levels.

Serafina's story made me realize how very different the life of a young girl living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is from mine or my children’s. Of course I knew that, but Serafina’s hope in the midst of her daily trials inspired me: her longing to go to school, something that might not even be possible for her that we all take for granted, her loss of a baby brother who failed to thrive, her concern for a friend who lost her mother, and in the midst of it all, her perseverance. She talks so much about being hungry, a feeling my children only think they feel when they have to wait an hour for dinner. Her circumstances were sad, and when tragedy heaped upon tragedy, I was on the verge of tears, which doesn’t often happen to me when I’m reading. But Serafina is a strong heroine, full of hope, who isn't defined by her circumstances.

Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books

The 14 Fibs of Gregory K.
Greg Pincus
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Mike Jung

Gregory's family loves math, and they think Gregory does too, due to one of the many fibs he tells them. Instead Gregory loves to write and the only person who knows is his best friend, Kelly. He and Kelly want to go to Author's Camp for the summer, but Gregory knows he can't ask his parents unless he passes math. So he decides to enter the Citywide math contest that his dad and brother have previously won. But as Gregory gets in over his head, the number of fibs he tells to make everyone happy goes up. Filled with a variety of relationships (parents/children, brothers/sisters, friends/friends and teachers/students) The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is a great book for kids to experience. Not everything is tied up into a neat bow at the end, with the ending real and true to itself.

Jennifer Rumberger, Jennifer Rumberger

David Carroll
Scholastic Canada
Publisher/ Author Submission

Quinn is a thirteen year old boy competing as the youngest-ever participant in a 100-mile, 24-hour ultra marathon. The race will take him on a physically and spiritually exhausting run into the forest and up a mountain. It was a race he was going to do with his father, but now it is just Quinn who represents the father-son duo.

A coming of age, sport and survival story, Ultra is a multi-layered novel with that magical blend of literay merit and wide appeal that makes this one for the shortlist. Without leaving the reader confused, the author skillfully weaves sections of interviews following the race, flashbacks to a time when the family of three was a family of four, and of the race itself. You want to know the outcome of the race, you want to know what happened to the father, where he is, and you look forward to the interactions between Quinn, his mother, best friend and little brother at each of the rest stops. You want to know what happens with other characters he meets in the race. And through it all you care because Quinn is a good kid with a serious load he is carrying up that mountain. It all comes together in a novel that is a smooth, compelling read for a wide range of ages and reading interests.

Deb Marshall, Reading and Writing for Children and Teens


Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems
Marilyn Singer
Dial Books
Nominated by: Perogyo

Marilyn Singer returns to the reverso, a poetic form she created, in Mirror, Mirror. The reverso is quite clever. First you read the poem from top to bottom. Then you flip it and read it from the bottom up. The reverso proves the old adage "there are two sides to every story." Singer describes the collection best: "Imagine / fairy tales / upended." And now reversed: Upended / fairy tales? / Imagine!"

In Follow Follow, Singer takes twelve tales and breathes new life into them. Too often people perceive fairy tales as unchanging. This couldn't be further from the truth. In this collection readers will hear from Thumbelina and the mole, the tortoise and the hare, the twelve princesses and the soldier. At the end of the book Singer offers more information about the tales and the reverso form. Josee Masse's beautifully bright illustrations offer readers a visual of both sides of each tale.

Bridget Wilson, What is Bridget Reading?

Forest Has a Song: Poems
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas

This is a beautifully designed poetry picture book in which the gentle watercolor paintings by Robbin Gourley, the layout of poem and painting on each page, and even the spidery font of the text work together to create a poetry collection that is both inviting and comforting. The natural world has long been the topic of poetry for young people and VanDerwater taps into the child's connection with the simplest details: pinecones and sticks, footprints and flying birds, with poetry that offers many tactile details that invite children to touch, smell, and see the world outside their iPads in tangible ways. She also offers a variety of poetic forms so children (and teachers) can see how poets use the words and space on the page. Her use of rhyme is particularly noteworthy -- making it look so natural -- as if we all spoke in lyrical language when captured by the beauty of the forest.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children?

Poems to Learn by Heart
Caroline Kennedy
Nominated by: bevpdx

The ambition of this beautiful collection of more than 100 poems is truly to encourage students to learn poems by heart. Editor Kennedy's preface includes practical tips on memorization, ending with, "I hope that…once they learn them by heart, they won't even need this book." Classic, contemporary, nonsense poems and poems that challenge readers to think are organized organically within each of ten sections . These sections are about self, family, school, sports and war, with an extra credit section for those who want to memorize even longer poems. Every section begins with an engaging one-page introduction, often disclosing Kennedy's personal connection with the poems that follow. Its premise, poetic choices and the editor's enthusiasm throughout as well as the exquisite watercolor paintings by Jon J. Muth which, as Kennedy writes, "add meaning, depth and freshness to the poems" combine to make this an award-winning book.

April Halprin Wayland, Teaching Authors?

Pug: And Other Animal Poems
Valerie Worth
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: The Cath in the Hat

In this follow-up to 2007's Animal Poems (itself a Cybils finalist that year), Worth again brings her seemingly simple subjects to life in a sophisticated yet accessible way. Readers will meet her "plug-ugly" pug, the bull who "would not melt", a mouse "left as a gift on the step", and sparrows and pigeons who "seem at home where there appears to be no home", plus fourteen other inviting, inspiring, or sometimes intimidating creatures. Jenkins adds color and texture to each poem, from the silver sparkle of a wood thrush's eye to the distressed look on a too-long dachshund's face, making each two-page spread pop. Pug is a masterful book of free-verse poems and illustrations that will challenge readers to view animals from an entirely new perspective, and to admire the subtle behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics that make each one unique.

Ed DeCaria, Think, Kid, Think!?

The Pet Project: Cute and Cuddly Vicious Verses
Lisa Wheeler
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Bridget Wilson

Any young reader longing for a pet will want to read this riotously funny research romp by a bespectacled young girl on a quest to find the perfect pet. Readers are forewarned that "Animals aren't always charming." Notebook in hand to track observations, she visits a farm, zoo, and the woods as well as performing a "home study." What she concludes from her research may surprise readers.

Wheeler's tongue in cheek verses will provide laughs for all while introducing readers to a variety of pet possibilities. Combined with Zachary OHora's use of strong lines yet whimsical acrylic illustrations this book will be read and reread. What stood out in The Pet Project was the author's ability to weave words, poems, and a little bit of science into a fabulous collection.

Jone MacCulloch, Check It Out?

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, and Blessings
Joyce Sidman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Sylvia Vardell

Truly a miraculous little book, and hard to categorize in some ways. It's divided into four sections: 1. chants & charms - to bolster courage and guard against evil; 2. spells & invocations - to cause something to happen; 3. laments & remembrances - to remember, regret, or grieve; and 4. praise songs & blessings - to celebrate, thank, or express love. I love the idea of giving children both poems and permission to express and validate their emotional experiences.

Kelly Fineman, Writing and Ruminating?

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders
J. Patrick Lewis
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Becky L.

Written by 2011-2013 Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis, this valuable book of poetry profiles seventeen civil rights leaders, the famous and the not-so-famous. Each poem has a two-page spread with gorgeous artwork by five different artists.The title of the poem explains the person’s role. Mitsuye Endo is "The Captive": “I was a typist, nothing more. / I loved my life, I hated war.” A short biography in the back of the book explains how she fought for her civil rights after being held in a World War II Japanese internment camp. This collection can be used year round to celebrate the heroes of civil rights. For children and teens who want to change the way things are, this smart and intriguing look at key civil rights figures can guide the way.

Anastasia Suen, Poet!Poet!?

Young Adult Nonfiction

Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays

Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Katy Manck (BooksYALove)

Writing and reading essays usually evokes yawns. Forcing students to use the formal style of writing not only is boring but kills creativity. Breakfast on Mars takes the dreaded essay assignment and spins a fun, creative twist that is sure to inspire younger writers. Each essay takes a usually boring subject and brings it to life. There are examples of persuasive, informative, literary, personal, and illustrated essays. In this collection, readers will find essays on such topics as summer camp, invisibility, life on Mars, and the first kiss. Delightful twists on the dreaded essay. A must-add to any middle and high school classroom.

Kim Baciella, Si Se Puede

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II
Martin W. Sandler
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Imagine having your loyalty to your country of birth questioned and you and your family forced to relocate to an interment camp. For the Nisei , second generation children Americans of Japanese descent, that meant the United States, Canada and parts of South America imprisoned them in interment camps after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Imprisoned outlines the challenges Japanese immigrants faced while trying to make a life for themselves and their children in the years before the war, the weeks leading up to the relocation, the years in the camp, and the fight for reparations by the Sansei, or third generation, on behalf of their parents and grandparents.

Included in the book are numerous photographs, maps, and first-hand accounts.

Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible . . . on Schindler's List
Leon Leyson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals

Leon Leyson’s memoir offers a distinctive glimpse into the life of the youngest Holocaust survivor on Oscar Schindler’s renowned list. Unlike the Hollywood version of events, Leyson tells his story in a matter-of-fact style, which helps readers connect to the daily fear and hardship of the Holocaust from his first-hand perspective. Leyson veers away from anger or blame, leaving readers free to experience and reflect upon the momentous history in his telling. The Boy on the Wooden Box is a significant book, not only for the unique historical perspective it holds, but for the dignified way the author lived his life.

Cheryl Vanatti, Reading Rumpus

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
Catherine Reef
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Sherry Early

In this thorough and engaging family biography, Catherine Reef recreates the lives and works of the famous Brontë sisters. Raised by a busy Reverend and a somber aunt, the Brontë children turned to each other for entertainment – rambling about the English moors, writing stories, and constructing elaborate fantasy worlds together. This shared passion for imaginative play and storytelling would lead the sisters toward literary greatness, but first they endured severe boarding schools, family tragedy, and unrewarding teaching careers. The Brontës’ swift but hard-earned transformation from playful girls to serious writers is fascinating and inspiring, but what makes Reef’s biography shine is her attention to the everyday struggles of 19th century living, especially for young women.

Charlotte, Emily, and Anne become strong female protagonists in their own life stories; readers will root for the three girls as they overcome challenges of class and gender in order to pursue their art. Well-read teens will enjoy tracing paths from the Brontë’s childhood experiences into the worlds of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and Reef’s crisp, readable narrative will easily breed new fans.

Jessica Tackett MacDonald, herlifewithbooks.com

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy
James L. Swanson
Nominated by: Amanda Snow

“There was a father with a little boy, a little girl, and a joy of each in the other. In the moment, it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed in his hands. There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and it a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and place in his hands “ (page 180).

Ask anyone who was a teenage or older about November 22, 1963, chances are they can tell you where they were when they learned President John F. Kennedy had been shot. A moment that defined a generation, it has forever changed our country. Swanson takes readers through the a brief account of JFK’s presidency, the last several days leading up to the pivotal moment, Jacqueline Kennedy’s bravery and strength as a nation watched her every move, through the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald.

With a subject that has been well covered by both media and conspiracy theorist alike, Swanson presents the information in an engaging tone and select photographs. One of the most intriguing aspects of this book is the ending, which includes the diagrams, photos and illustrations from the assassination. Also included is Places to Visit, Source Notes and a thorough index—all adding to the usability of this title.

Stephanie Charlefour, Love. Life. Read.

Young Adult Fiction

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets
Evan Roskos
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Nominated by: Jessica @ herlifewithbooks

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets hits a seldom-found sweet spot between artful prose and an honest, authentic teen voice. James struggles with depression, anxiety, and abusive parents. With his sister Jorie, one of his few confidants, out of the house, he turns to the fictional Dr. Bird and the poetry of Walt Whitman for solace. Like most teens, James is very self-aware about some things, like his need for therapy, and totally oblivious to others. Well-developed characters, each with clear motivations of their own, populate James' search for real human connections and the professional help he needs. Excerpts from Whitman are well integrated into the text and passages where James adopts Whitman's style are particularly memorable.

Beth Saxton, Beth Reads

Eleanor & Park
Rainbow Rowell
St. Martin's Griffin
Nominated by: Linda Baie

You don’t have to be a child of the '80s to appreciate Rainbow Rowell’s young adult romance Eleanor & Park, set in Omaha in 1986. Even if a mixtape is as foreign to you as the krone as a unit of currency, you should still devour this book. You just have to be alive; alive to the awkwardness of first love and the potential for such love to overcome the isolation of growing up poor or different. Rowell’s choice to write in third person, switching perspectives between Eleanor and Park, works wonders. Eleanor & Park is not a mushy, feel-good romance. It is wrenching in its sadness, its honesty, and its admission that broken is not so easily fixed.

William Polking, Guys Lit Wire

Out of The Easy
Ruta Sepetys
Nominated by: Flowering Minds

Ruta Sepetys transports readers to 1950 New Orleans with a cast of colorful characters, vibrant historical details, and an intriguing and suspenseful plot. A survivor relevant today, Josie is the daughter of a prostitute who longs for college and a better life - and she isn’t going to let a murder investigation full of twists stop her. It will take her intelligence, her New Orleans family, and her street smarts to get her there. You'll root for her the whole way.

Lucy Tonkin, The Reading Date

Rose Under Fire
Elizabeth Wein
Nominated by: Brandy Painter

When she is captured and sent to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp, young American pilot Rose Justice sees the worst that humans can do to each other. With the help of friends she makes in her cell block, Rose struggles to survive, and to find a way to bear witness. Rose's poetic background gives her narrative a resonance that makes her description of camp life all the more shocking. Full of quiet courage and heartbreak, Rose Under Fire is a powerful testament to the strength of the human spirit, making World War II real in a way that will haunt its readers and make them, too, want to tell the world.

Maureen Eichner, By Singing Light

Sex & Violence
Carrie Mesrobian
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Liz B

Evan has always been good at getting girls, getting down, and getting out. When he picks the wrong girl, the results are violent, and he has to deal with the very real consequences. His father whisks him away to a quiet Minnesota town on a lake, where Evan is forced to confront his callous views on sex and girls as he also learns to let people in, form real relationships, and recognize that his father might actually be a real person. Evan's first-person narration is startlingly authentic, and his intense and sometimes uncomfortably frank inner-monologue will compel readers. Mesrobian's excellent novel raises very real questions about becoming a man and owning one's actions., in a way that is authentic, compelling, and unafraid to show the ugly side of life.

Madeline Rudawski, Early Nerd Special

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Meg Medina
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Madelyn Rosenberg

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass explores the frustration and complexity of bullying and racial tension in a fresh and realistic way. Tenth grader Piddy Sanchez is dealing with a lot of "new" in her life. She's still getting used to the new curves of her body, her new school, and its racial cliques. When she learns that an indomitable girl at her new school named Yaqui Delgado doesn't like Piddy solely because of the way Piddy’s hips swivel, she'll have even more to deal with. Piddy doesn't know who Yaqui is, but soon the bullying begins and Piddy learns that the options of fight or flight are too simple for the horrible reality she now faces. Piddy's emotional journey is not only believable, but one that demands attention. This first person narrative brings not only Piddy, but also her friends, and Queens itself to life. A must read, and not just because it has the word "ass" in the title.

Michelle Castleman, The Hungry Readers

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Sarah Beth Durst
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Leila Roy

Conjured is a multiverse fantasy about a magician, a dark carnival of horrors and delights, a group of snarky, teenaged magic users, and a protagonist who is hugely powerful but also hugely vulnerable. It's a cop story about a girl in witness protection. It's a story about friendship and first love, about discovering one's self, about finding a safe haven in a library, and about what it means to be human.

Our narrator is Eve, a girl who doesn't entirely know who she is; who isn't sure who or what, exactly, she's being protected from; whose memory is so fragmented that she sometimes loses entire weeks of her life. By turns, it is frightening, funny, romantic, and heartwarming, and it is, from beginning to end, completely mesmerizing. As Eve unravels the mysteries that surround her, it becomes more and more clear just how layered, complex, beautifully realized, and wholly original her voice--and Durst's vision--is. Upon finishing the book, readers will want to immediately turn back to the beginning to read it again with a completely new perspective.

Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin Trilogy)
Robin LaFevers
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Laurie Ann Thompson

In late fifteenth-century Brittany, Sybella is sent from the convent of Saint Mortain to her ancestral home, where her faith will guide her in the assassination of her father, the horrible Count d’Albret. She is ready with crossbow, garrote, even poison—but she cannot see the marque of death that allows her murder to be sanctioned by her god, and cannot decide whether or how to act. Throughout Dark Triumph, the sequel to Grave Mercy that can be read as a standalone, Sybella struggles with dissonance: mercy and justice, fate and free will, betrayal and loyalty, vengeance and forgiveness, family and freedom, faith and skepticism. And there’s no time to delay, no time to consider, because France could invade at any moment. Dark Triumph is a grim but hopeful fantasy that blends intrigue, danger, and a little romance into a real historical setting.

Hallie Tibbets, Undusty New Books

Pantomime (Strange Chemistry)
Laura Lam
Strange Chemistry
Nominated by: Liviania

When sixteen-year-old Micah Grey is caught eavesdropping on the grounds of the R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, a potentially terrifying incident evolves into an impromptu audition. Micah is hired as an aerialist and begins training to replace a soon-to-retire flyer. But the circus is full of secrets, including Micah's, and nothing is as it seems.

Magical, atmospheric and spellbinding, Pantomime is more than just a story about a circus. With complex worldbuilding, full of culture, mythology, and magic, Lam manages to weave a story full of intrigue and emotion. Lam's characters are fully realized and three-dimensional and the way Lam presents Micah's struggle with gender identity and sexuality is handled deftly and without being didactic. Pantomime is a touching, complex, and fantastic story of a teen struggling to find a place in the world; a timeless theme.

Sarah Mulhern Gross, TheReadingZone

Robin McKinley
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Stephanie Burgis

Maggie's mother marrying a backwards, Oldworld geek with a thick accent and a lamentable fashion sense isn't the worst of it. It's abruptly seeing what no one else seems to see - shadows. Newworld belongs to science - bright lights, reason, and technology is what keeps its denizens safe. But with every tremor shaking up her safe, familiar life, Maggie realizes that Newworld - and everything else - isn't what she's been told, and sometimes looking into the shadows lets a person see.

Panelists were nearly unanimous in their love for this fast-paced novel with obedient dogs, less obedient algebra books, quirky humor and loveable characters who are clearly a tribute to the imagination of Diana Wynne Jones. Robin McKinley's Shadows is a classic fantasy novel which reveals a new world to a reluctant heroine, and sends her on a fantastic journey. McKinley touches on themes of civil liberty, freedom, and knowledge in this book and reminds us that we can take what we fear, and use it to arm ourselves to take on the universe.


Tanita Davis, Finding Wonderland

The Summer Prince
Alaya Dawn Johnson
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: thereadingzone

In the lush city of Palmares Tres, June Costa creates art that's sure to make her legendary. In Enki, the bold new Summer King, she sees more than his amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist. Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die. Set in a world rich with organic diversity, The Summer Prince is sure to take readers on a journey through the beautiful Palmares Tres and the lives of its inhabitants. Teens, especially, will relate with the pain the book’s protagonist, June, feels, wanting to be recognized for her art in a society where being under 30 means you are no one. In addition, the complex relationship between June, her best friend, Gil, and the one they both love, Enki is sure to pull at heartstrings, making readers fall uncontrollably in love. The Summer Prince is a fantasy like no other, and from its very first sentence, it promises to amaze.

Patrice Caldwell, Whimsically Yours

The Waking Dark
Robin Wasserman
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Liz B

When the killing day comes, violence erupts in the town of Oleander. Many are dead at the hands of the people they love, but this is only the beginning. A year passes and the dark is once again slowly waking; a sinister something seems to seep into the heart of Oleander, turning loved one against loved one. And when the dark wakes, can anyone be safe? The Waking Dark is a slow-boil horror tale where a sleepy, small town becomes a character in its own right. A group of teens are left behind to navigate a path to safety only in the midst of the incredible violence that has overtaken their town. They struggle with the very real emotions of self discovery and alienation, the trials of faith and doubt, and the very real question of who you can trust when this sickness seems to turn the hearts of all the towns inhabitants. Wasserman takes the epidemic tale to interesting new depths by placing very real teens in the midst of a Stephen King-esque novel and amping up the volume. Teen life was never quite so terrifying.

Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian's Toolbox

William Shakespeare's Star Wars
Ian Doescher
Quirk Books
Nominated by: Pink Me

Star Wars and Shakespeare go together like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. If the Bard were alive today, he would surely have written the epic story of a young man’s search for identity amidst a galactic battle for freedom -- and the larger tragedy of his father's descent into darkness, redemption, and death. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars turned out to be so much more than the gimmicky book we initially assumed it would be. Ian Doescher has imbued every line of this book with his passion for, and understanding of, both the Shakespeare and Star Wars canon. It goes far beyond just mimicking Shakespeare’s language: from Darth Vader’s introspective monologues to R2-D2’s Puckish asides, this is truly Star Wars the way that Shakespeare would have written it.

Although this book tells the story of Episode IV: A New Hope, (the original Star Wars movie) it draws on the other films and the larger Star Wars universe for some of the material, and even includes nods to Star Wars fandom. William Shakespeare’s Star Wars is rich with literary merit - one judge is already using it in a classroom Shakespeare unit - and oozing gooey teen appeal, especially for Star Wars fans. All of the judges would love to see this performed live, or even participate in the staging of it!

Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds