2018 Cybils Finalists

Board Books

Black Bird Yellow Sun
Steve Light
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

What first appears to be a simple concept book teaching colors turns out to be so much more! Using just 18 words, Light tells a complete story with action and adventure. Little ones will be thrilled to find they can 'read' the story themselves by following the pattern of the text and by using the vibrant illustrations - and of course the featured colors - as clues. There is even the seek-and-find challenge of spotting the worm in each spread. So many pre-reading skills in one small package!

Ami Jones, A Mom's Spare Time

But First, We Nap
David W Miles
Nominated by: Sherry Early

Let’s play. OK, but first we nap.

A riddle: What is the one thing that children resist and parents desperately long for the most? Yup. It’s a nap. Sloth wants to nap. Rabbit doesn’t. (Can you figure out who is child and who is parent? Hmmm.) Who will succeed? A delightfully fun spin on naps that will be a surefire segue into naptime for the most determinedly non-napping child.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Janik Coat
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: ChristaS

This is Janik Coat’s third book in this series on word play. Llamaphones features homonyms – words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. One special element of this board book is that it is meant to be read as spreads. The unique spine design allows full flat opening without cracking the spine. This allows the reader to enjoy each pair of words, demonstrated by the pair of llamas drawn in a visually arresting way. Added to the fun of the word pairings are Coat’s added interactive touch-and-feel elements such as clock hands that move, raised and flat rows, and flaps that lift. This board book hits the trifecta of being clever, appealing, and educational.

Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

Elsa Mroziewicz
Publisher/ Author Submission

With its triangular shape, Peek-a-Who announces that it is not your average book! Each two-page spread unfolds to reveal a mystery creature. "Who says BAA BAA?"--- the most gorgeous sheep you've ever seen! Elsa Mroziewicz's concept and artwork is truly amazing. If you plan on reading this to little ones, be ready to hear: Again, again! Sturdy design assures many fun reads ahead.

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

These Colors Are Bananas: Published in association with the Whitney Museum of American Art
Jason Fulford
Nominated by: Jennie

These Colors Are Bananas, by Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford, beautifully teaches colors in an innovative way that draws children in. The book invites children to think about color more deeply, and consider how many colors there are for simple things like bananas. I especially love the last page where all different colors of skin are portrayed with a square cut out for the child to add their color. "Your hand is a color, too. Put it under the square over there and join the party." There is a beautiful message of diversity in this simple yet engaging and informative book.

Kirsti Call, ReFoReMo

Why The Face?

Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

With a playful nod to an adultish adage, this sturdy question and answer board book spurs children to examine cartoon faces and think of an emotion or experience that might accompany each. After asking the titular question, each face’s page folds out to reveal the source of that expression– from a stack of freshly made pancakes and warm bread that elicit an enthusiastic “yum” to a pink-haired rocking trio making music much, much too loudly, among others. I particularly like one page that shows two very different reactions to a collection of various insects and bugs, with one thinking they’re pretty cool while the other is totally grossed out. (Note: the genders I perceived of the two faces did not match the expected stereotype, so bonus points!) Little ones will giggle along at the silliness, while adults can introduce words for the various emotions and expressions.

Dawn Mooney, 5 Minutes for Books

Zoe and Zack: Shapes
Jacques Duquennoy
Publisher/ Author Submission

Zoe, a clever zebra, and his colorful little buddy Zack (who seems to be an anole, shifting colors from page to page), wield paintbrushes on opposite pages. Flappable acetate inserts turn their separate strokes into new shapes. As each produces simple strokes, their efforts combine to form other shapes and even colorful characters. Arcs become circles, circles become bears, lines become squares, and squares become robots. Simple sentences label the shapes and figures, leading to a fun conclusion. The font is sized and placed to be visible but not interfere with the creative images. The acetate pages are mounted on cardboard frames, allowing them to survive multiple toddler page turns.

Zoe and Zack star in a series of other titles (Colors, Opposites). In each case the simply-drawn characters convey appealing personalities, along with charming curiosity, surprise, and delight as they explore basic concepts.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

Easy Readers

Fox the Tiger (My First I Can Read)
Corey R. Tabor
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Claire Annette Noland

Written and illustrated by Corey R. Tabor, Fox the Tiger, is an accessible story about a fox who wishes he was big, fast, and sneaky like a tiger. Fox reinvents himself with painted stripes and renames himself Tiger. Seeing this, Tiger's friends join in on the fun with their own imaginative identities until the rain returns them to their natural selves. Luckily a squirrel who admires foxes encourages Fox to embrace his identity, which provides young readers with a subtle lesson in self-acceptance hidden by humorous costume changes. Fox the Tiger is a sweet story perfect for building reading competence and self-confidence in young readers.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

I Want to Be a Doctor (I Can Read Level 1)
Laura Driscoll
Nominated by: ChristaS

A little brother’s injured foot takes an African-American family of four to the hospital where the sister’s observations and questions provide information about different types of doctors and the process of getting a cast. Engaging illustrations of x-rays and wheelchairs along with those of smiling, diverse staff offer a welcoming environment to counter what could be a frightening unknown to a child. The text is age appropriate for the level, but also lists the difficult words for physician specialties (pediatrician, radiologist) at the end of the book for further investigation. In combining flowing narrative and useful knowledge in an accessible way for young readers, I Want to Be a Doctor excels, educates, and perhaps inspires.

Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Much Too Much Birthday (Maud the Koala)
J. E. Morris
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Sara S

After everyone Maude invites to her birthday party arrives, Maude finds her excitement turning to nerves as she begins to feel overwhelmed. While hiding in the bushes on the edge of the party, she meets another party-goer and realizes she's not alone-and that they can face the party together.

This accessible early reader gives children and adults a great starting point for talking about social anxiety. Bright colors, a sweet and simple story, and easy to read text make this a book young children can understand. The message is never forced and Maude is a relateable character for many children. The note to caregivers in the back adds a unique touch to guide adults to conversations and ideas of what to do if their child experiences social anxiety.

Sarah Bean Thompson, Green Bean Teen Queen

My Toothbrush Is Missing (The Giggle Gang)
Jan Thomas
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Becky L.

The story begins with Dog, who is missing her toothbrush, and Donkey, Sheep, and Duck, who are worried but unhelpful. With each item that is not dog's toothbrush, the hilarity increases until the surprise twist at the end of the story. Thomas' bright colors and cartoon illustrations have long been a favorite of the toddler and preschool set and this book clearly hits the mark. This new story in the Giggle Gang series includes bold text that is truly easy to read, carefully arranged speech balloons and illustrations that make the story easy to follow, and Thomas' trademark surprise twist at the end of the story. Sure to delight kindergarten through second graders, the goofy adventures of the Giggle Gang will keep kids entertained and reading while they giggle.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

The Perfect Gift (Confetti Kids) (Dive Into Reading; 5)
Paula Yoo
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Nominated by: Kate B.

Mei has a problem. Her Chinese-American family is preparing a 100-day party for her baby brother Ming and Mei wants to give him a special gift. Her friends offer suggestions but nothing seems quite right. As Mei’s grandmother teaches her about the traditions of the Chinese celebration, Mei realizes that the perfect gift comes from the heart and she is inspired to make a special 100-Day book for Ming.

Written in three short chapters, The Perfect Gift introduces a Chinese celebration unfamiliar to many children. Customs and traditions are integrated into the story which is part of the Confetti Kids early reader series featuring a diverse group of friends navigating common childhood experiences. The cultural story-line, colorful illustrations, and accessible vocabulary make The Perfect Gift a perfect pick for children ages 5-8.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Early Chapter Books

Big Foot and Little Foot (Book #1)
Ellen Potter
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Kimberley Moran

In his cavern apartment, a young Sasquatch named Hugo loves his family and friends, but longs to explore the wide world. Taught to fear humans, Hugo's accidental encounter with one leaves him curious, and when a human answers his stream-cast message, he can't resist the adventure ahead of him. In the first book of this new series, Ellen Potter creates a fantasy home for the Sasquatch that has many familiar elements - apartments, school, lip gloss - but with its own imaginative twists and appealing characters. The clever line drawings support and illuminate the story while breaking up the text nicely for readers adjusting to longer books. The message against preconceived ideas is delivered with a light touch that plays into the story organically. With great world-building and gentle humor, Big Foot and Little Foot shows the value of acceptance and friendship in a throughly entertaining chapter book.

Pam Coughlan, MotherReader

Caterflies and Ice (Zoey and Sassafras)
Asia Citro
Innovation Press
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Zoey loves helping her mother take care of magical animals. When her mother is away, two small Caterflies visit Zoey during a snowstorm she knows she has to help them. Their eggs have been trapped behind ice and they need to get out! Can Zoey think of a solution all on her own? Zoey is a smart main character who uses her interest in science, her love of animals and her kindness to help those in need. Zoey and her cat Sassafrass are endearing and the science elements add to the story as readers can try Zoey's experiments themselves. An added glossary in the back is a nice addition for those new to chapter books.

Sarah Bean Thompson, Green Bean Teen Queen

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl
Debbi Michiko Florence
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: PragmaticMom

Eeight-year-old Jasmine is excited when her teacher announces an all school talent show. While her friends all have awesome talents, Jasmine isn't quite sure what talent she can share. When the new girl brags about her excellent violin skills and tries to turn the event into a competition, Jasmine begins to doubt herself. Fortunately, Jasmine's mother introduces her to taiko - Japanese drumming. Jasmine takes lessons and learns a short song while learning the importance of hard work. Her diligence pays off and Jasmine realizes that her drumming talent makes her feel "free and strong and happy." The relatable plot, short chapters, and black and white drawings make this an appealing book. An author's note introducing Japanese culture is included as well as instructions for making a hachi-maki headband make this a perfect choice for young independent readers.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Anna Humphrey
Nominated by: MotherReader

When Daniel has recently moved to a new town, he is jolted out of his loneliness by a talking bat who has taken up residence in his attic bedroom. The two quickly bond over their shared sadness and Star Wars. It turns out the bat, who Daniel names Megabat, is from Borneo and is desperate to return home. Daniel and Megabat become great friends and enlist the help of neighbors as they try to get Megabat back to Borneo. The bat and the boy’s stories parallel, allowing Daniel to learn from his small winged friend. Children are sure to fall in love with Humphrey’s story and characters. Many will likely wish for a talking bat to befriend!

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

Owen and Eleanor Move In (Owen and Eleanor)
H. M. Bouwman
Sparkhouse Family
Nominated by: Jennifer W

Two very different families learn to live together in the first book of a new series. Eleanor is not happy about moving; they have to share a house with another family (it's a two-level duplex), she had to leave her treehouse behind, and her fish, Scrumpy the Fourth, died on the way. When she meets Owen, she's intrigued; he's homeschooled, has some cool ideas, and is very excited to have a new friend his own age right there! Eleanor decides he's just the right person to help in her plan... to run away back to her old home. It's rare to find children's literature where faith is included in the story; not as a proselytizing tool or the focus, but as an everyday part of life and there are equally few books which depict homeschooling. Eleanor's family is Hispanic and conventionally religious; Owen's family is white and have a more general spirituality. The kids ask matter of fact questions and talk casually with their parents about their differences but it doesn't overshadow the main plot of the story. This stands out as a well-written book with a strong sense of diversity and inclusion. The humor and plot will also appeal to young readers who will be able to recognize their own concerns and trials throughout the story.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Diana Toledano
Chronicle Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Polly loves to write stories. If she could write any story, she'd write one about how her family gets a bigger house - so she wouldn't have to share her room with her annoying little sister Anna when her new baby brother is born. When Polly is gifted with a magical notebook that makes her stories come to life it seems like all her dreams have come true! The illustrations, in soft shades of gray, show a biracial family and a sweet little girl who has to figure out how to fix the problems she’s caused with some loving help from her family. Polly’s story is sure to be a hit with kids who like to use their imaginations and are unsure about family change. Although there’s plenty of wish-fulfillment here, there’s also a gentle lesson about how getting what you want isn’t always what you need. Pair this first book in a new series with some blank paper for kids to write and illustrate their own stories, real or imagined, and be ready for more books about Polly’s adventures with her magic notebook.

Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
Nominated by: Reno

Have you ever had an inkling that something was about to happen? For the Rylance family things have been tough since Mom died. Dad has writer’s block, Ethan’s school project is overwhelming and Sarah, who has Down’s Syndrome, is fixated on getting a puppy. Then, one night, a little blot of ink jumps off Dad’s sketchbook and begins to explore the world by devouring the books it encounters. Ethan names it Inkling, and its inquisitive and caring nature helps the Rylance family work through their grief and learn about themselves. Thought-provoking dilemmas, great characterization, and a swift plot, all make this a book that kids will devour.

Vanatti, Dr. Cheryl S., Reading Rumpus

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble
Anna Meriano
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Sarah Sammis

It’s not easy being the youngest of 5 sisters, but what makes it worse for Leo is being told she is too young to help in the family bakery for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival. To top it off, the family secret is revealed by accident - they are Mexican brujas, who put magic to work in their baking! Leo knows could help, if they'd let her. When her best friend starts to fall for a boy, she decides to test her baking magic and prove her talent so she can join in the family traditions. It's magically realistic, with a family that makes mistakes and forgives and fills the pages with baking love. Readers will warm to this story full of spells going hilariously wrong, baking, family love and friendship.

Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
Jessica Townsend
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Beth Mitchell

Cursed from the day she was born, Morrigan never expects anything good to happen to her. Then, on her eleventh birthday, she is whisked away to the secret, magical city of Nevermoor and invited to compete in the trials to become a member of the Wundrous society. There is plenty of suspense and action as readers follow Morrigan through the trials, hoping that she will be chosen to stay. This is a very readable fantasy adventure that will keep readers wondering what will happen next, and especially delight Harry Potter fans!

Jenni Frencham, From the Biblio Files

Snared: Escape to the Above (Wily Snare)
Adam Jay Epstein
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Wily Snare has never left the Carrion Tomb, where he works as a trapsmith for its cavern mage Stalag, designing elaborate traps to foil treasure seekers. Then an acrobatic elf, a moss golem, and a former knight with a floating arm named Righteous evade all of his traps, ambush Stalag and take his most valuable treasure, Wily himself. They want Wily's quick fingers, wit, and ability to detect and disable traps to raid some of the most challenging dungeons in the realm. But by the end of their adventure, treasure isn't important to the group--they have become a family. Snared is an action-packed and heartwarming adventure filled with twists and turns and memorable characters, that’s sure to captivate fans of dungeon crawling.

Brenda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Jonathan Auxier
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Angiegirl

Life is hard for the kids who clean the chimneys of Victorian London, especially if the kid is a girl. Nan Sparrow was once looked after by the Sweep, who made her story soup when times were tough. But since his disappearance, Nan's been forced to climb chimneys for a cruel master. Then the glowing coal the Sweep left her becomes a living creature of ash, her friend and protector, "Charlie." Nan's adventure is a heartwarming journey of the magic of love and story, full of vividly drawn characters, from the cruel sweep master Crudd to Nan's friend the mudlark Toby Squall and the kind teacher Miss Bloom - the last two keeping their Jewish heritage a secret from almost everyone but Nan. And Charlie, the soot "monster," is the most marvelous of all.

Katy Kramp, A Library Mama

The Stone Girl's Story
Sarah Beth Durst
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Kristen

For Mayka, a living girl carved from stone, and the rest of her stone family, the stories of their lives are carved directly onto their surfaces by their maker, and as the marks erode so do they. When there is no one left to refresh the carvings, Mayka ventures into the world of humans to find someone to take up the task, but she learns that not all people can be trusted and that the rules may be different for people of flesh and stone. Old fears and secrets (and a giant carved monster) must be confronted before she finds a way to save her stone family and their stories. This unique fantasy world offers both adventure and thoughtful contemplation about selfhood and story.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain
Zac Gorman
Nominated by: Robin

No one would have picked Thisby Thestoop to be the heroine of a great adventure. And yet, this foundling girl (whose only friend is a slime named Mingus), who lives in a dungeon, feeding and cleaning up after its monsters, saves a prince and princess. The perilous journey of the two very different girls, Thisby shy and grubby and Iphigenia beautiful and entitled, shows how a friendship can be made under the most challenging of circumstances, and the challenge of maintaining a friendship even when trust is broken. Witty, funny, and full of feeling, with memorable characters, both major and minor, this will appeal to gamers and fantasy fans of all stripes, especially those who are looking for real characters with whom they can sympathize and identify.

Sherry Early, Semicolon

Fiction Picture Books

Alma and How She Got Her Name
Juana Martinez-Neal
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Irene Latham

“Sofia was your grandmother,” her father began. “She loved books, poetry, jasmine flowers, and of course, me. She was the one who taught me how to read.”

“I love books and flowers...and you, too, Daddy!” I am Sofia. Are any of us happy with the names we are given? Alma Sofia Esperanza Jose Pura Candela is not. Her name is too long, she thinks. But after her father shares the history of her name, she will never feel the same about it again. We all have names, and this book is a wonderful opportunity for children to explore the origins of their names. It’s a brilliant walk through the lives of those who brought us to where we are, told with a beautiful rhythm and a lovely splash of pride in Alma’s family’s Latino culture.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Julián Is a Mermaid
Jessica Love
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Nicole

Jessica Love’s debut picture book can be read multiple ways. On the surface, the story is a celebration of young boy expressing his creativity and love of mermaids. There is also a message for tolerance for LGBTQ self-expression that children might not notice. What both adults and children will take away is the multigenerational love between abuela and grandson. Love walks the line between fantasy and reality with breathtaking gouache illustrations that capture the joy and whimsy of a child’s imagination.

Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

The Day War Came
Nicola Davies
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Ami Jones

The day war came there were flowers on the windowsill and my father sang my baby brother back to sleep.

When your child starts hard asking questions about things they see or hear on the news, this is the book you want to have on hand to help you find the words. Both people and locations in these illustrations could be anyone, anywhere, making it easier for children to relate. The spare text is from the perspective of the child, and adults' faces are often not even shown. Some horrors are hinted at, allowing adults to delve into them more or just let them pass for now (...then up a beach where shoes lay empty in the sand...). Just when it seems there is no room for hope, it comes from another child, and then other children. And that is, indeed, where our hope lies - that our children will grow to see a need, and to respond instinctively in the simplest ways. A sad but beautiful volume that deserves a place in every library.

Ami Jones, A Mom's Spare Time

The Day You Begin
Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Elisa

The Day You Begin has been widely used as a first week of school read aloud, and with good reason! This story about new beginnings makes a wonderful early read aloud, but is so much more than a book to start a school year. Jacqueline Woodson has written a beautiful story about believing in yourself, embracing your differences, and noticing in others connections that might have gone unseen. Rafael Lopez created the perfect images to capture this inspiring, vibrant, and gentle tale. The Day You Begin is a reminder that we can begin seeing with new eyes any day we choose, and with that choosing comes endless opportunities for happiness!

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

The Rabbit Listened
Cori Doerrfeld
Dial Books
Nominated by: Reno

The block structure that Taylor built in the opening pages of this picture book was simply astounding. Taylor had created something truly special and was basking in its awesomeness when the unthinkable happened and it all came crashing down. In the aftermath, a variety of animals approach Taylor, one by one, each offering different advice on how to handle the experience, such as talking about it or shouting in anger. None of those reactions appeals to Taylor, so each animal heads on its way. But when the rabbit approaches, it doesn’t offer anything more than its close company. The rabbit’s mere presence, and the quiet comfort it provides with no expectations, allows for Taylor to begin to express feelings of sadness, frustration, and even a chuckle or two at the whole ordeal. While this gentle story reflects emotions and experiences for young children, it also serves as a meaningful lesson for the adult caregivers who will read it. Sometimes, all we need to do is be there for our children.

Dawn Mooney, 5 Minutes for Books

The Rough Patch
Brian Lies
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Matt Forrest Esenwine

The Rough Patch is a story of loss, but celebrates the healing capacity of time, habits, and friendship. The simple text and rich illustrations reveal the depth and strength of human emotions, the importance of living in the moment, and, yes, the circle of life.

The opening spreads are joyous, vibrant, and luminous. Evan (the Fox) and his friend (the Dog) savor every moment of their full, shared lives. Their companionship, comfort, and wordless communication shine on the pages and will be deeply felt by those who share their own lives with dogs, cats, or other friends. The pain of Dog’s death is treated gently, but the wrenching loss is equally familiar. Fox's grief, anger, and eventual healing will resonate with readers of every age. Time passes, sun shines, and resuming old habits allow Fox’s heart to begin to heal, to gradually enjoy familiar joys. When a scrabbling, squirming possibility reaches out to him at the fair, he chooses to begin anew.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the Power of Picture Books

We Don't Eat Our Classmates
Ryan T. Higgins
Nominated by: Heidi G.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T. Higgins, hilariously portrays the heartwarming story of first day of school jitters. When Penelope shows up to school to realize that she's the only dinosaur, she promises that you'll never get eaten by a T-Rex. That's when the reader realizes trouble is on its way. The expressive illustrations paired with sparse and witty text makes for the perfect read aloud, and a great way to talk about how kids are feeling about going back to school.

Kirsti Call, ReFoReMo

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel
Mariah Marsden
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Nominated by: Wendy

Adapting a classic is no easy feat, but Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler succeeded marvelously with Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel. The committee loved how much of the story was told through art, with wordless spreads and sequences seamlessly flowing with the text of the original. “Seeing” the natural world surrounding Green Gables as Anne does (in a gorgeous pastel color palette) will make new readers fall in love with her and her surroundings and enchant those who already love the story.

Cecelia Larsen, Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Be Prepared
Vera Brosgol
First Second Books
Nominated by: Kimberley Moran

Socially awkward, self-conscious kids will rejoice to find they are not alone with Vera Brosgol's semi-autobiographical summer camp tale, Be Prepared. The misery is not over-the-top but instead presented with more complexities and even humor, While all the characters are drawn with great expression, perhaps none are as much as Vera herself, complete with over-sized glasses which accentuate one of her many insecurities and magnify her emotions all the better.

John Mutford, The Book Mine Set

Escape from Syria
Samya Kullab
Firefly Books Ltd.
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

Escape from Syria gives a very personalized account of the Syrian crisis with a balanced approach and art that is deceivingly simple. The topic is timely and while the scenes may be specific, the themes of fear, families, home, and loss are universal. Perhaps as a credit to the author's journalism background, any sentimentality comes across as genuine and unforced.

John Mutford, The Book Mine Set

Mr. Wolf's Class
Aron Nels Steinke
Nominated by: Amanda

It’s no wonder that Mr. Wolf’s fifth grade class feels so real: when he’s not illustrating award-winning comics, Aron Nels Steinke is an elementary school teacher. Charming details about each anthropomorphic character emerge as the story proceeds. Steinke manages to develop full-fledged, complex characters using simple illustrations and precious few words. The first of a series, readers of all ages will devour this delightfully authentic story of the first day of school, told from both teacher and student perspectives.

Maggi Rohde, Mama Librarian

The Cardboard Kingdom
Chad Sell
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Told in a series of short comics that elegantly weave together, The Cardboard Kingdom reveals the story of one neighbourhood, a neighbourhood where kids of all backgrounds and personalities can come together, and simple cardboard boxes can become knights and robots, heroes and villains. The Cardboard Kingdom is a fun comic, with a lot of heart, about the power of imagination and friendship. The Cardboard Kingdom touches on some heavy themes, but manages to stay light.

Christa Seeley, Women Write About Comics

The Tea Dragon Society
Katie O'Neill
Oni Press
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

Greta is training as a blacksmith—a dying art—when she rescues a tea dragon and discovers another tradition in danger of being lost: the care and tending of delicate little tea dragons, who grow tea leaves from their horns. Katie O’Neil’s enchanting graphic novel features an endearing and diverse cast of characters rendered in charming illustrations and a lush color palette. This is a story about facing your fears, discovering your purpose, and dedicating yourself to your calling. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself longing for your very own tea dragon by the end!

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

The Witch Boy
Molly Knox Ostertag
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Aster, a thirteen-year-old boy living in a secluded community with strict magical rules, longs to learn practices that are forbidden to boys. Rich, believable characters support this appealing tale of breaking free from traditional gender roles. Ostertag has created a fully-realized magical world that will leave middle-grade and teen readers clamoring for more.

Maggi Rohde, Mama Librarian

Young Adult

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation (Pantheon Graphic Library)
Anne Frank
Nominated by: Anamaria (bookstogether)

An intimate and immersive graphic novel adaptation, this is a striking way to revisit or introduce the essential piece of history that resonates so strongly to this day. Through Polonsky's artwork and Folman's adaptation, we're shown the Anne Frank whose imagination and dreams helped her get through years in hiding and the universal troubles of being a teen. Anne Frank's sly and sometimes cruel observations are contrasted with Polonsky's playful and detailed artwork of her words, and cleverly depict the dual nature many feel about people close to them.

Lexie Cenni, For the Sake of Reading

As the Crow Flies
Melanie Gillman
Iron Circus Comics
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

As the Crow Flies follows Charlie, a queer, black, Christian teenager, who finds herself at an all-white, feminist, Christian youth backpacking camp. This is a beautiful narrative, with stunning coloured pencil landscapes throughout which make it easy to feel like you are hiking alongside Charlie and the other campers. Charlie's experiences with discomfort and relief, alienation and friendship, faith and doubt, are universal and thought provoking.

Christa Seeley, Women Write About Comics

Grand Theft Horse
G. Neri
Lee & Low Books, Inc.
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

G. Neri’s nonfiction graphic novel Grand Theft Horse tells a true story that is almost too incredible to believe. This tale traces the ups, downs, and everything in between of one woman’s life as she hides her horse from ruthless thoroughbred owners intent on profit over animal wellbeing. True animal lovers, former horse girls, and anyone who enjoys a fantastic yarn will get pulled into the story, and the crusade – it’s engrossing and enjoyable!

Cecelia Larsen, Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Hey, Kiddo
Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Many readers will be familiar with Jarrett Krosoczka’s life story from his popular TED Talk. In his memoir, Hey Kiddo, he fills in the details with moody art and powerful scenes that show the heartbreak of growing up without his parents. Krosoczka’s portrait of his family manages to be honest, yet full of generosity and compassion. Fitting for a book about a young artist, incredible care is given to every detail of the art: even the color choices have sentimental significance. The limited color palette is especially effective in conveying Krosoczka’s emotions and the perspective that comes with time.

Elisabeth Ellington, The Dirigible Plum

On a Sunbeam
Tillie Walden
First Second Books
Nominated by: Jennifer_Miller_RaiseThemRighteous

Tillie Walden’s gorgeously-illustrated On A Sunbeam tells two stories, interwoven in a complex web of history, mythology, and geography. Walden’s dual narratives feature coming-of-age, love, growth, and families (lost and found), and LGBTQ+, nonbinary, and mute characters. The combination of astonishing art, loveable misfit crew, and literary excellence make this a book to savor.

Cecelia, Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Sebastian Kadlecik (creator), Kit Steinkellner (writer), Emma Steinkellner (artist), Valeria Tranier (translator)
Fanbase Press
Nominated by: Mel Schuit

Quince has something for everyone—romance, action, cultural touchpoints, a mentor you love to love, and a villain too complex to hate. The colorful illustrations are highly accessible to newer comic readers, and though the story originated as a webcomic, it’s seamlessly stitched together to create a memorable superhero story with a latinx heroine and a diversely colored cast of characters.

Mel Schuit, Let's Talk Picture Books

The Prince and the Dressmaker
Jen Wang
First Second Books
Nominated by: Jennifer Rummel

The Prince and the Dressmaker appeals to an exceptionally wide range of ages, and there are no books quite like it. Wang deftly maneuvers issues of classism, homophobia, and gender stereotypes to tell a story of friendship and trust, and urges readers to consider their own self worth. The illustrations are bright and feel authentic to the time period of the narrative.

Mel Schuit, Let's Talk Picture Books

Middle-Grade Fiction

Front Desk
Kelly Yang
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Brenda

Based on the author’s own childhood experiences, Front Desk is the story of ten-year-old Chinese immigrant Mia Tang. Mia lives in the California hotel that her parents manage, and she often staffs the front desk all by herself. Although her family seems to be stuck on the roller coaster of poverty, Mia never gives up. Front Desk tackles tough topics, but it does so in the context of a story that’s engaging and accessible to kids. Mia’s adventures are at times funny, at times poignant, and ultimately inspiring.

Beth Mitchell, Imaginary Friends

Harbor Me
Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Patricia Nozell

Six special needs teens find a safe harbor, thanks to their teacher who gives them space to connect. The prose is spare, evocative and accessible. Readers will soon become invested in these diverse characters. Their issues are timely. This short read is bound to make an impact, foster empathy and would be a great discussion starter.

Brenda Kahn, Prose and Kahn

Skylark and Wallcreeper
Anne O'Brien Carelli
Yellow Jacket
Nominated by: Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Partly set in Queens, NY during Superstorm Sandy, and partly in France during WWII, it’s the story of Lily, 12, and her grandmother, who is suffering from dementia. When Lily, 12, loses a pen that was special to her Granny, Lily embarks on a journey that will reveal the mystery of her Granny’s past. This survival story is fast paced and compelling, and the two time periods are thoughtfully constructed.

Debbie Tanner, The Book Search

The Doughnut Fix
Jessie Janowitz
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: jen

Tristan and his family have moved to Upstate New York to what might as well be the middle of nowhere. What he misses most are the doughnuts. When he finds out the town used to be famous for their chocolate cream doughnuts, Tristan sets out to buy the recipe and restart the local doughnut scene. It's about a young teen taking on an adult task and succeeding through trial and error as well as the scientific method and a little bit of adult guidance.The book also includes a very interesting look at friendship and family dynamics that is very funny at times.

Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
Stacy McAnulty
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Struck by lightning at a young age, Lucy is left with genius level math skills that have caused her grandmother to homeschool her since the age of 8. Now, her grandmother insists she must attend a year of middle school. Middle school is hard enough without having Pi threatening to take over your thoughts, using rituals to calm it and hiding your a math genius.This book is a mirror for all students who struggle to fit in and accept themselves and a window to all who know nothing about OCD, showing that friendship comes when we don’t expect it, and even when we think we know where we’re going in our life, the unexpected can be a wonderful thing.

Jill Lurie, The O.W.L.

The Orphan Band of Springdale
Anne Nesbet
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Mel

This book explores what life was like in the small town of Springdale, Maine town in 1941 on the eve of America’s entry into World War II. Sent to live with her strict grandmother, Gusta, 11, is a strong character who has real struggles with the town’s prejudices and her desire to belong.The author’s attention to detail allows the reader to visualize the setting and makes it come alive. The amount of research is evident in the description of school events, Gusta’s new glasses, and the turmoil with unions, alien registration, and family secrets.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond

The Parker Inheritance
Varian Johnson
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

Candace and Brandon are about the have the summer of their lives but not in the way they expected. The Parker Inheritance is part mystery part social activism. It weaves together a story of family dynamics, friendship, and the Civil Rights movement, showing the reader what it was like for African Americans living in the south at that time. The Parker Inheritance is told through alternating time lines of the present day and the 1950’s

Shannon Griffin, Picture Books to YA


Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship
Latham, Irene and Waters, Charles, illustrated by Qualls, Sean and Alko, Selina
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Linda Baie

Listen into this honest conversation written in verse between a Black Boy and a White Girl. They have to work together on a classroom project and imagine it will be too difficult if not impossible. But they talk, listen and learn, about each other, about racism, and about the power of letting go of stereotypes and working together. The reader's heart will soon listen closely as these two students wonder just how are we different and how are we the same.

Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree

H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z
Sydell Rosenberg
Penny Candy Books
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

In the words of late author Sydell Rosenberg's daughter, Amy Losak, who was instrumental in getting her mother's book published, the poems contained within are more than just well-constructed haiku: they are "miniature stories...gentle and gently humorous observant slices of life." And that is a perfect way of describing this lovely, touching, and fun collection. With 48 books nominated in the poetry category, any shortlisted title needed to be outstanding in substance, interest, and form - and H is for Haiku succeeds at all of these. From a cat dozing within the ring of its tail to a young girl pedaling her bike through falling autumn leaves, Rosenberg says much more in 17 syllables than most folks can in 17 pages.

Matt Forrest Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

In the Past: From Trilobites to Dinosaurs to Mammoths in More Than 500 Million Years
David Elliott
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Maggi Rohde

Elliott pays tribute to prehistoric creatures with succinct poems filled with subtle humor. Both the subject matter and the humor will entice kids to open this book. The poems will leave them laughing while the facts at the end will send them on to learn more about the creatures.

Bridget Wilson, What Is Bridget Reading?

Long Way Down
Reynolds, Jason
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Fifteen-year-old Will knows the rules of the street- don't cry, don't snitch, and get revenge. When his older brother Sean is shot and killed, Will believes it's his job to avenge the murder. On the way down in the elevator, he encounters the ghosts of a number of people- an uncle, a childhood friend, his father, and finally, his brother, Sean- who have all died as a result of gun violence. Jason Reynold's novel-in-verse perfectly captures the reality of so many urban adolescents, and ends with a question that is sure to get readers talking. Definitely a book that will turn kids onto poetry.

Carol Wilcox, Carol's Corner

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Lita Judge
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Rebecca Herzog

Mary's Monster is a gripping verse novel filled with imagery and emotion that draw readers into Mary Shelley's tragic life...and into her process for creating the most famous "creature" of British literature. Lita Judge's text perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of Mary's turbulent world and times. Her book is an empathic portrayal of an independent, imaginative teenager who defied tradition, suffered great personal losses, and wrote the world's first science fiction novel.

Elaine Magliaro, Wild Rose Reader

The Poet X
Acevedo, Elizabeth
Nominated by: sprite

Xiomara’s thoughts and feelings – secrets

reveal – an authentic voice a free verse story that grips hearts one poem at a time, page after page after page.

Anastasia Suen, #kidlit book of the day

Traveling the Blue Road: Poems of the Sea

Seagrass Press
Nominated by: Alex Baugh

In Traveling the Blue Road, Lee Bennett Hopkins invites readers to think of the sea not just as a wide expanse of water, but also as a road, a route along which travelers have journeyed for centuries. Arranged chronologically from the journey of Columbus and his crew in the late 15th century, to later journeys on slave ships, to the present-day journeys of refugees and itinerant fishermen, these 14 illustrated poems are written by poets including Margarita Engle, Marilyn Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Allan Wolf and Jane Yolen.

Collectively, these haunting poems encourage readers to reflect on both the promise and perils of sea journeys, to gain greater insight into the bravery and fears of the travelers, and to empathize with the willing, and most-especially, the unwilling, voyagers. Evoking many thought-provoking images, the poems in Traveling the Blue Road are targeted to the older end of the picture book range and are a wonderful resource for classrooms and homes, to be read and pondered as a set, or individually.

Patricia Nozell, Wander, Ponder, Write

Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction

Elementary Nonfiction

A Frog's Life
Irene Kelly
Holiday House
Nominated by: aquafortis

Written with engaging informational text and detailed scientific illustrations, this book will open readers’ eyes to the life cycle of frogs. The book uses a variety of species to teach readers about how a frog lives out its life. The well-written text explains aspects of frogs, such as how they breathe, eat, and lay eggs. The accurate illustrations depict frogs in their natural environments. A truly stunning nonfiction text that allows readers a glimpse into the world of a fascinating family of creatures.

Jennifer Dieleman, Picture Books 4 Learning

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker's Story
Joseph Bruchac
Albert Whitman & Company
Nominated by: Maggi Rohde

With moody, evocative art and straightforward text, this book is an unflinching and moving biography of Chester Nez, the last surviving member of the original twenty-nine Navajo code talkers. Born in 1921, he was sent to a boarding school run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs at the age of eight where he was assigned the name Chester. Nez joined the United States Marine Corps, just a few months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, as part of a special program to create an unbreakable code. The code talkers kept their work secret for decades, and only recently has the story of the vital work they did during World War II been told. A fascinating window into a little reported period of American History, Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code is an accessible introduction to a complex time period.

Elisa, Leopards and Dragons

Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible Alvin
Michelle Cusolito
Nominated by: rjs38

With engaging second-person text and detailed digital illustration, readers become Alvin pilots exploring the deep sea depths. Not only does one experience the anticipation and thrill of the journey going DOWN DOWN DOWN, but also mysteries about how scientists actually work are revealed page by page: How to see as the water turns black? How to breathe? How to go to the bathroom? Readers remain breathless through the dangers presented by rocky columns and poisonous, scalding jets. Complete with a glossary of the more challenging terms, this book leaves readers enchanted and inspired both by the deep oceans and by the scientists who explore them.

Irene Latham, Irene Latham

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor
Patricia Valdez; illustrated by Felicita Sala
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

From its title promising dragons, to the subtitle and from cover to cover, this picture book will capture the attention of many readers. Even children who normally shy away from non-fiction books will feel a spark of interest when presented with a biography about a dragon doctor! As an added bonus to the reader, Joan's exploits with lizards starts with her fascination for them as a child, when she drew, studied, and kept them as pets -- one day even getting a baby crocodile for her sweet sixteen! An inspiring character, Joan followed her passion and her strength and began a career as an assistant to a curator of reptiles and fish at London's Natural History Museum, becoming a scientist who cultivated "the museum's vast collections and published research papers on pit vipers and pancake tortoises." In addition, "she created exquisite models and drawings for the reptile exhibits." So many wonderful things exist in this book -- a strong, passionate woman, an intriguing subject, a friend to animals, a zoo occupation, STEM/STEAM and crocodiles, snakes, lizards and dragons! This wonderful book will win readers over with its kid appeal, claws down!

Lynne Marie, Literally Lynne Marie

Saving Fiona: The Story of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hippo
Thane Maynard
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Stormy

Saving Fiona is the story of the first premature baby hippo raised by humans. Thane Maynard, director of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, was there from day one and shares the journey with readers in this captivating story. Photos document each step of Fiona’s journey, from the time before she was born, when Hippo Cove was created to welcome her parents Bibi and Henry, to her harrowing journey with the medical setbacks any premature mammal might experience, and finally her reunification with her family in the water. #TeamFiona learned, along with the world, one day at a time, how to best care for a premature baby hippo. Fun facts are included throughout and concentrated in a final section of the text as well. #TeamFiona found that Fiona had a following and after reading this account, you’ll count yourself among them!

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

The True Tale of a Giantess: The Story of Anna Swan
Anne Renaud
Kids Can Press, Ltd
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

This is the story of Anna Swan, born in the year 1846 in Nova Scotia. At birth, Anna weighed 13lbs and at age 6, Anna was 5 feet 6 inches tall. At 17, when Anna stopped growing, she stood almost 7 feet, 11.5 inches tall and weighed over 180 pounds. Told in first person, this picture book biography captures Anna's world, which was primarily designed for the not-so-tall people. Fitting in was a literal challenge, and Anna had to find a place for herself. She found her happy place when she made friends at PT Barnum's. Soft, pastel-colored, mixed media illustrations capture the various hardships for this gentle giantess. Anna's journey will resonate with children who are learning how to fit in. An author’s note captures more details along with sepia-colored photographs of Anna at 17 and with her husband Martin Bates. True Tale of a Giantess captures the life of a little-known personality and highlights challenges that are very much relatable even today.

Reshama, Stacking Books

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
Chris Barton
Beach Lane Books
Nominated by: DWhite

Chris Barton’s text begs to be read aloud. Using alliteration and repetition, it reverberates with the big booming voice of former U. S. Congresswoman from Texas, Barbara Jordan. Ekua Holmes’ mixed media illustrations are as bright and bold as Barton’s text and perfectly capture the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the author’s note and a two-page spread timeline in the back matter, readers discover that Barbara Jordan —who retired early from public service because she had multiple sclerosis — died too young at 59. What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? is a wonderful choice for Black History Month, for Women’s History Month, and for all the months of the year.

Roberta Gibson, Wrapped in Foil

Middle Grade Nonfiction

Death Eaters: Meet Nature's Scavengers
Kelly Milner Halls
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Mrs. Shh

This sometimes gruesome but always fascinating book introduces readers to some of the lesser-known decomposers in the animal kingdom, plus more familiar scavengers. Rich with facts and research findings of what happens to animals after they die, Death Eaters gives readers a unique perspective on how the earth naturally recycles living forms. Paired with full-color photos and detailed descriptions of decomposition, readers will be introduced to a new aspect of science and the cycle of life in a respectful but engrossing fashion.

Jennifer Dieleman, Picture Books 4 Learning

Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends
Sarah Albee
National Geographic Children's Books
Nominated by: Jennifer W

Progressing in chronological order, author Sarah Albee explores the relations of people and dogs in the ancient world, middle ages, through modern times, and takes a peek at the future. To add interest, she features glimpses of famous dogs through history like Lewis and Clark's dog Seaman, for example. The illustrations are a combination of high-quality stock photographs, and art featuring dogs from a variety of times and places. The extensive back matter includes "A Note About the Research," which explains that many stories about dogs seen on the Internet may be exaggerated or fabricated. Albee includes a fun list of the words used in various languages to represent the sounds dogs make. As appropriate for a history book, there is also an extensive three-page "Bibliodography,” plus references for all the quotes. Dog Days of History will thrill both dog lovers and history buffs. It is a handy reference young readers are likely to return to again and again.

Roberta Gibson, Wrapped in Foil

Frenemies in the Family: Famous Brothers and Sisters Who Butted Heads and Had Each Other's Backs
Kathleen Krull
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennie

With sets of siblings spanning the centuries, Frenemies in the Family features the good, the bad, and the Gosselins. Kathleen Krull includes related information interspersed between each family’s chapter and Maple Lam’s illustrations add a touch of levity to some pretty serious situations, i.e. the cover art featuring feuding, murderous royals involved in a pillow fight. Some siblings embraced their relationship and the rivalries that resulted, while others denied the other’s existence altogether, like Edwin Booth (brother of John Wilkes Booth). One thing that can’t be denied is the page turning nature of this compilation of family dynamics that both kids and adults will pick up and have trouble putting down!

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Maya Lin: Thinking with Her Hands
Susan Goldman Rubin
Chronicle Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Organized by Lin's major architectural projects (beginning with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC), this biography engages readers first by introducing us to a shy, doesn't-quite-fit in “class-A nerd” before taking us on a journey through activism, cultural diversity and American history. Readers get a glimpse into the working life of an artist, including the inspiration behind each project, and the power of art to speak about issues that matter to the artist, and to the world. With strong, detailed writing and clean layout, including many family and professional photographs, this account is pleasing and accessible, and most of all, inspiring and empowering.

Irene Latham, Irene Latham

The Hyena Scientist (Scientists in the Field Series)
Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Maria Gianferrari

Did you know that even though they look more like dogs, hyenas are more closely related to cats? Or that spotted hyenas live in groups called clans where the females are in charge? Contrary to their portrayal in folklore and movies like The Lion King, spotted hyenas are not cowardly, skulking thieves but are actually skilled hunters, killing 60-95% of their food. The Hyena Scientist by Sy Montgomery, with photographs by Nic Bishop, takes us to Fisi Camp in Kenya, home to one of the longest continuously running field studies of any mammal in the world. While they might get a bad rap in popular media, hyenas are actually some of the weirdest and most interesting mammals in the animal kingdom. Readers are pulled into the compelling field work currently being done to learn more about hyenas, and at the same time learn about daily life in Fisi Camp and the various paths that the members of the team have taken to becoming scientists. With amazing close-up photography and vibrant text, The Hyena Scientist is sure to be a winner with animal lovers and budding scientists alike.

Elisa, Leopards and Dragons

The Ultimate Book of Sharks (National Geographic Kids)
Brian Skerry
National Geographic Children's Books
Nominated by: Greg Pattridge

No other creature captures readers’ imagination and fascination more than a shark. Humans have created numerous movies, tv shows, books, and other media on this cartilaginous fish in the past few decades; so what makes "The Ultimate book of Sharks" stand out from the shiver of shark media? For one thing, the photography captures these creatures in all their majesty. Photographs of a variety of sharks, from the feared great white to the gentle whale sharks, will certainly delight members of the Shark Week fandom. The author breaks the content down in sections ranging from shark anatomy and shark myths, to content on spectacular and unique sharks (most massive, speediest, funkiest and spookiest). A final chapter is a call to action for the reader to be a "shark defender". Throughout the book, author Brian Skerry intersperses "Skerry encounters," highlighting some of his own dive experiences and unique observations as a photojournalist specializing in marine wildlife. The Ultimate book of Sharks dispels myths, teaches new and interesting facts, and introduces unique shark species for shark enthusiasts. Readers of all ages can get their teeth into this book!

Reshama, Stacking Books

Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries
Ammi-Joan Paquette
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: alohajeanne

The first outstanding quality of this book is its ability to come off the page and into a child's life. In addition to reading about fascinating topics, presented in sets of three stories, (which contain two truths and one lie), the child is challenged to "discuss the stories with friends, family or teachers" and "to ask questions." There's even Talk It Out discussion questions and challenges following the texts. In a time when communication, both in person and online, can be challenging, this book proves a wonderful tool for learning and interacting. Each and every story is stocked with kid-appeal -- spooky caves, bat poop, prehistoric dentists, mummies, pharaohs, witches, a railway of the dead, a tin man, a haunted ship, cannibal rats and kingdoms -- and these are just a few. Full of food for thought and interest for curious readers, the stories are also presented in manageable sizes for those limited in attention span or reading time. It's no mystery to this reader why this book is an excellent choice to interest a child in history and get them reading, thinking and discussing.

Lynne Marie, Literally Lynne Marie

Junior High Nonfiction

Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything
Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

1968 was a difficult year for the United States, but it ended with at least one bright spot—the successful mission to orbit the moon. 50 years later, Sandler expertly reveals the true tale of Apollo 8 from many important angles: the science and technology behind the mission, the lives of the individuals involved in making it happen, and the cultural and historical relevance of both the mission itself and its most iconic image, the Earthrise photograph. The gorgeous design and absorbing storytelling combine to offer something for every reader.

Laurie Thompson, Laurie Ann Thompson

Boots on the Ground: America's War in Vietnam
Elizabeth Partridge
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Anne@HeadFullofBooks

A stirring account of the Vietnam War told in a mix of profiles of prominent Americans and memories of those who were there. Context and large black-and-white photographs are woven in, but the focus remains on the personal stories, creating a moving, compelling, and immediate look at the war.

Jennie Rothschild, Biblio File

Capsized!: The Forgotten Story of the SS Eastland Disaster
Patricia Sutton
Chicago Review Press
Nominated by: LBessick

Patricia Sutton explores why the Eastland disaster has been unknown for so long in a riveting, page-turning history for YA readers. Capsized! is told through firsthand accounts of responders and survivors of this Chicago River passenger ship tragedy. Archive photos give readers glimpses into the lives of the passengers and stand as reminders of forgotten history. A highly worthwhile read and exceptionally documented history.

Rebecca Aguilar, Mostly About Nonfiction

Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin
James L. Swanson
Scholastic Press
Nominated by: Helen Murdoch

Swanson has written another compelling narrative account of a heinous crime. Just as in his two previous assassination accounts, Swanson gives the reader both the before and after of King's assassination. While the book is not a full length biography of Martin Luther King Jr. Swanson does provide enough information to give the reader context and understanding as to why someone might want to kill the man. Using a plethora of sources (which are thoroughly documented at the end of the book), Swanson walks the reader through the days leading up to the assassination and the days following. The book takes the reader past the violence, past the funeral, past Ray's sentencing, followed by his ongoing efforts to prove his innocence and his escape attempts. The photographs provide a particularly powerful picture of events shared in the book. But after all is said and done, after the burial, and the sentencing, and everything else, one question remains: why did Ray kill Martin Luther King, Jr.? We will likely never know as Ray spent the remaining years of his life denying that he'd done it at all.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man
Tonya Bolden
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Stephanie Charlefour

Author Tonya Bolden believes there is more to reveal about one man known mostly for his autobiography of emancipation. She has written this illuminating, well-researched biography for YA readers about his character and contributions as a statesman, publisher and suffragist. A unique design feature of Facing Frederick is the use of famous daguerreotype photos of Douglass as focal points on the timeline of his life.

Rebecca Aguilar, Mostly About Nonfiction

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America
Gail Jarrow
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Author Gail Jarrow reflects on how far hoaxes can undermine trust in legitimate sources in this exceptional history about the 1938 radio broadcast of a Martian invasion. Hoax aficionados will find the well-designed book both informational and engrossing reading. A nifty graphic spread reveals the level of audience outrage from excerpts of letters, postcards and telegrams CBS received following the radio broadcast. Published complete with timeline, a “More to Explore” section, source notes, selected bibliography and index.

Rebecca Aguilar, Mostly About Nonfiction

The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (Young Readers Edition)
Sam Kean
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Alysa Stewart

This young reader’s edition of a 2010 title takes readers on a rollicking journey through the periodic table. In addition to the science of each element, Kean focuses on the personal stories of the scientists involved and the history of the element—including everything from what it’s been used for to the role it plays in current and historical pop culture.

Jennie Rothschild, Biblio File

Senior High Nonfiction

Bonnie and Clyde: The Making of a Legend
Karen Blumenthal
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: RebeccaGAguilar

Bonnie and Clyde became legends of the outlaw world. Even today their names are known and used--Blumenthal does an excellent job of giving as clear a picture as possible of what is known (or thought to be known) about Clyde and Bonnie and what led them to become outlaws. After reading about the shocking number of people they killed it’s understandable why these two became so famous, but it’s a sad commentary on American society is the fact that these two are still so famous yet their victims have been all but forgotten.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults)
Bryan Stevenson
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Publisher/ Author Submission

Based on his own experiences as a nonprofit lawyer defending people whom others have tossed aside and/or tried to forget about, Stevenson offers readers an in-depth look at our all-too-often dysfunctional and biased justice system. His flowing narrative allows us to get to know the individual clients, which drives home the often life-or-death nature of their various legal battles. This is a powerful, impactful, and enlightening book that has the power to transform the way this country thinks about justice, mercy, and compassion.

Laurie Thompson, Laurie Ann Thompson

The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler
John Hendrix
Nominated by: Becky L.

A heavily illustrated biography of German theologian and resistance figure Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Hendrix’s almost-graphic novel makes excellent use of color, portraying Bonhoeffer and his allies in blue, and Hitler and the Nazis in red, and the visuals add to the dizzying and terrifying changes in Germany as Hitler’s power grows. A fitting and appealing way to tell the story of a man willing to die for what is right.

Jennie Rothschild, Biblio File

The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century (Scholastic Focus)
Neal Bascomb
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Neal Bascomb tell the compelling tale of a group of World War I prisoners who plotted and executed an almost unbelievable escape from a German prison camp. The daring individuals who came together to set this escape into motion are briefly described along with their backgrounds, but the focus is on the circumstances that led up to the escape, the escape itself, and the aftermath. The book reads like a thriller, with near misses, plenty of setbacks, and failures detailed along the way. A fabulously told story that proves the adage: truth is stranger than fiction.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot
Winifred Conkling
Algonquin Young Readers
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Spanning almost 100 years, this book takes an unflinching and comprehensive look at the fight for (and against) women’s suffrage in the United States. Reading it evokes a wide and ever-changing range of emotions: outrage, shame, shock, awe, empowerment, and, ultimately, hope. Never once, however, does it evoke boredom. The compelling narrative, primary source material, photography, and rich backmatter make this book highly recommended reading for all genders.

Laurie Thompson, Laurie Ann Thompson

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide
Carol Anderson
Bloomsbury YA
Nominated by: Kelly Jensen

A sobering look at how the US’s laws and court decisions have systematically disenfranchised African-Americans. Bolden’s Young Reader’s Edition of Anderson’s adult title White Rage focuses not just on landmark court cases but also the smaller moments, putting them into the broader American context. It excels at making complicated legal and judicial proceedings clear and easy-to-understand, showing how these issues are still current, and not just stains on our past.

Jennie Rothschild, Biblio File

We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists

Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

Students in the newspaper and TV broadcasting classes at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida write about the shooting and the aftermath, from putting out a memorial issue shortly after the tragic events to covering the March for our Lives. Along the way, they deal with their own feelings about the shooting and wrestle with how to cover a story when they’re part of it. A moving and important collection of teen voices.

Jennie Rothschild, Biblio File

Young Adult Fiction

Darius the Great Is Not Okay
Adib Khorram
Dial Books
Nominated by: Adrienne Gillespie

Darius the Great is Not Okay is a contemplative, beautiful story about a boy more comfortable living in his geekdom than in his own skin. But when his family takes a trip to Iran, he discovers a friendship that helps him see the best parts of himself, even through a cloud of depression. Darius is a story with an incredible soul and beautiful writing. Perhaps most importantly, it shows what all the best YA books know--being a teen is about finding yourself through all of the noise that surrounds you.

Rachel Strolle, Rec-It Rachel

Girl Made of Stars
Ashley Herring Blake
HMH Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Stormy

Twins Mara and Owen have always been close, but when Owen allegedly rapes Hannah, his girlfriend and one of Mara’s best friends, Mara has to reconcile not only with the fact that her brother may have committed such a heinous act, but also with past trauma of her own. Mara’s journey to finding and speaking the truth is emotional and raw, exploring the cultural perception of both perpetrators and survivors of sexual violence. Equally beautiful and gut-wrenching, Girl Made of Stars aptly and skillfully examines the aftermath of sexual trauma with nuance and depth.

Stormy Campbell, Book.Blog.Bake.

Monday's Not Coming
Tiffany D Jackson
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Hayley Beale

Monday's Not Coming is a mindgame of a book in which Claudia goes back and forth between BEFORE her best friend, Monday, goes missing and AFTER-the present. Claudia's need to find her friend emphasizes the urgency of the book while highlighting a horrifying truth that many teens go missing everyday, and not all who are missing are searched for or found. A beautiful and haunting story that will impact readers long after finishing the book.

Stephanie Galvan Russell, Lispy Librarian

Ibi Zoboi
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: BarbPDL

Not a remake but a remix, Ibi Zoboi’s Pride scratches themes similar to Jane Austen’s classic and drops the needle right in the heart of Bushwick, building a powerful sense of place. As Zuri Benitez and her sisters meet the wealthy new neighbors and their handsome sons, gentrification threatens their Afro-Latinx neighborhood and family. Zuri learns hard truths about how much of who we are is where we’re from—because not only do we inhabit places, those places inhabit us. Buoyant despite the broken hearts and broken promises, Pride shows us poignantly the complicated relationship between growth and loss.

William Polking, polkingclassroom

Courtney Summers
Wednesday Books
Nominated by: Samantha

Sadie by Courtney Summers shines with an engaging dual narrative: one following Sadie, a girl desperate for answers and vengeance, and one following West, a podcaster uncovering Sadie’s story after the fact. Notable for its gritty voice, murder-mystery premise, and heart-racing plot, what makes Sadie so immersive is the relatability of Sadie's feelings of powerlessness and invisibility, as even West is initially reluctant to tell her story. Sadie's journey to find agency for herself is unforgettable.

Samantha Randolph, Young Adults Books Central

That's Not What Happened
Kody Keplinger
Nominated by: Laurie

That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger is a story about the people and the truths that survive a school shooting. Three years after the shooting, one of those survivors, Lee, is determined to reclaim the truth she feels has been hijacked, and she recruits her fellow survivors to join her cause. Told through a confessional narrative, That's Not What Happened unflinchingly explores the media sensationalization of mass shootings and the grief that remains once the media leaves. Keplinger captives readers with each of the survivors' personal truths, which Lee learns are not as simple as originally thought.

Haley Shaffer, Teachers Who Read

We'll Fly Away
Bryan Bliss
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Shannon

In the opening pages of We’ll Fly Away, Luke is incarcerated and writing a letter to Toby from death row. Not until the final devastating scene do we discover what Luke did and why he did it. Toby and Luke’s story of life in a dead-end town is tense, emotional, and suspenseful. Luke is a high school wrestler, and the wrestling scenes are especially well-crafted. The crumbling small town’s off-the-grid lifestyle provides a perfect backdrop for the palpable injustice in this realistic novel that never relinquishes the possibility of redemption.

Gary Anderson, What's Not Wrong?

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Dread Nation
Justina Ireland
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

In the 1880s, the world has been infested with shamblers -- or zombies as we'd call them. Jane McKee is a young black woman attending school to become an Attendant, protecting rich white women from shamblers. A series of events and betrayals lands her in the unregulated and unprotected West. Full of action, suspense and humor, but with an underlying critique of racism, sexism, and zealotry, Dread Nation gives us an #ownvoices re-imagined history that no one will want to put down.

Melissa Fox, The Book Nut

Mirage: A Novel
Somaiya Daud
Flatiron Books
Nominated by: kdh

When Amani is kidnapped by the Vathek, the cruel conquerors of her moon, she learns that she is to serve as the body double for the hated half-Vathek princess Maram, perhaps to be assassinated in her place. Daud builds a fascinating Moroccan-inspired futuristic world around this irresistible hook, one where old-world poetry and glittering palaces exist alongside robots and space travel. Danger haunts Amani's every step as she becomes caught up in a plan to overthrow the Vathek rulers, even as her relationship with Maram, once purely antagonistic, gradually deepens. *Mirage* tackles the real-world issue of the evils of colonization and combines it with a high-stakes plot, rich character relationships, and stellar world-building to create a story that teens won't soon forget.

Kimberly Francisco, Stacked Books

Not Even Bones (Market of Monsters)
Rebecca Schaeffer
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Shannon

Not Even Bones lives up to its hyped pitch as a cross between “Dexter” and “The Savage Song.” In a world where humans traffic in fresh body parts of unnatural species, Nita’s job is to dissect the bodies her mother brings her. When her mother brings home a live boy in a cage, however, Nita knows she has to save him.

Nita has the most villainous mother in YA lit: when crossed, her punishment is worse than death. Nita fights for her freedom, but a surprise twist at the end blows up the entire book, setting the stage for book two. With page turning action and ghastly description, Not Even Bones is a YA masterpiece of horror! Kudos to Rebecca Schaeffer for the BAM! Epic twist that will leave teen readers reeling.

Thomson McLeod, Young Adult Books-What We're Reading Now

Pitch Dark
Courtney Alameda
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Pixie

The premise of Pitch Dark is simple: a hacker terrorist takes control of the Conquistador, crashing the ship into the USS John Muir, a starship that has been lost in space for over four hundred years. The John Muir’s inhabitants had woken up from a 400 year stasis about twenty-two months before that. Laura is blamed for the crash because unfortunately she had been hacking the system at the same time as an ecoterrorist, making her the perfect scapegoat for the Smithson family, who are trying to sabotage Laura's family’s leadership (her mother is the captain). It's a fight for survival against the clock and monstrous creatures that kill with sound in the dark.

We loved the big ideas, the world-building, the excitement and creep-factor Alameda presented in this #ownvoices science fiction/horror novel. Her protagonist Laura is Latina and will connect with teen readers as they read about her and Tuck trying to save the John Muir and everyone aboard ship.

KaraM , Great Imaginations

Summer of Salt
Katrina Leno
Nominated by: Stormy

This is one for readers who love magic in the real world. It's a family story, with two very different twin sisters figuring out how they fit together as they get ready to leave the island where they've lived all their lives to go to different colleges. It is a story of women with magical talents. It is a murder mystery, with a most unusual victim. It is a very sweet teen lesbian love story. It is also a sensitive story about rape and mass hysteria. These threads all combine to maek a gripping page turner, that despite everything bad that happens, is very sweet and very magical.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Library

Tess of the Road
Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Caitlin

Set in the same world as the author's earlier Seraphina, Tess of the Road follows seventeen-year-old Tess as she casts off her hyper-critical family and heads out on the road with only a small dragon companion, intent on finding the self she lost three years before. The novel moves between the past, slowly revealing the events that traumatized a fourteen-year-old Tess, and the present, as she confronts her memories, rediscovers her own strength, and slowly transforms from an angry, unhappy girl to one at peace with her past and looking forward to her future.

Maureen Kearney, Confessions of a Bibliovore

This Mortal Coil
Emily Suvada
Simon Pulse
Nominated by: Dan P.

With a plot more twisty than a strand of DNA, and a terrifying apocalyptic world decimated by plague, This Mortal Coil keeps readers on the edge of their seats following Catarina Agatta, master gene hacker, as she races to code a cure with a soldier she doesn't trust. What if you could hack your own DNA? What if you could hack everyone's? Emily Suvada explores identity and free will in the best sci fi tradition in this fast-paced, mind-blowing adventure.

Kim Aippersbach, Dead Houseplants