2021 Cybils Finalists

Board Books

Animals Go Vroom!
Cushman, Abi
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Isabella K.

Following in the footsteps of Richard Scarry, in ANIMALS GO VROOM!, Cushman illustrates a world in which animals drive cars, ride bikes, and navigate cities, all in their own unique animalistic ways. Cut-outs on solid-color pages provide a teaser for the following pages in which animal sounds and mechanical sounds merge to form an engaging landscape for young readers to navigate. Humorous and surprising, this board book won’t be soon forgotten.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Big Bear, Little Bear
Schneider, Marine
Cameron Kids
Nominated by: Sam Richardson

A delightfully simple yet heartwarming read, Big Bear, Little Bear takes a look at the belongings of both a parent and child as they’re used throughout the day. While some items are identical, other selections are hilariously different. Big Bear’s home and Little Bear’s home are one and the same. Big Bear’s car is an automobile, while Little Bear’s car is Big Bear wearing a sling. Little Bear’s lovey is a stuffed animal, while Big Bear’s lovey is Little Bear. Schneider’s illustrative style is full of heavily contrasted, bold colors that will keep the eye of even the youngest readers. Children will appreciate the familiarity in the book while older audiences will appreciate the humor. It’s clever, cute, and short enough to read over and over again.

Sam Richardson, Little Cub Literacy

Caution! Road Signs Ahead
Buzzeo, Toni, illustrated by Birmingham, Chi
Rise x Penguin Workshop
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham

An engaging book which explains, in a simple fashion, the uses and purposes of signs, and introduces children to some of the most important, including stop signs, railroad crossing, school bus stop, and more! Kids can enjoy learning to recognize the signs page by page and then, if they would like, quiz themselves in the back of the book. Chi Birmingham's art is vivid and accurate. Cut-outs allow for easy page-turning.

Lynne Marie Pisano, Lynne Marie

Circle Under Berry
Higgins, Carter
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

Circle Under Berry is a deceptively simple book. Each page features brightly colored shapes shuffled around in relation to each other. Circle under berry, berry over square, etc. The unique combination of colors, shapes, and animals playfully introduces readers to patterns, classification, perception, and problem-solving. It is overflowing with possibility, discovery, and fun.

Aimee Smith, Keep a Book Out

Comparrotives (A Grammar Zoo Book)
Coat, Janik
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Becky L.

Filled with humor from the very first page (and Title!), Comparrotives, teaches toddlers about comparatives. Bright illustrations and novelty elements make this hilarious concept book even more fun. From messy to messier, noisy to noisier to happy and happier, this concept book cleverly makes comparatives a laugh-out-loud experience.

Kirsti Call, Picture Book Look

This Is Still Not A Book
Jullien, Jean
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

This is still not a book, you say? So what is this? It looks like a book...from the outside. But on the inside...what is it? A mousetrap? An elephant? A suitcase? Whatever it is, this is fun, fun, fun.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Turn Seek Find:Habitats
Newman, Ben
Nominated by: Kim Aippersbach

Little hands crave connection to their world through touch. Turn Seek Find: Habitats, a sturdy and oversized board book, will withstand endless readings. And those little hands will love to spin the wheel to choose new items and colors on each page. Growing minds will enjoy hunting for their chosen items in the variety of busy habitat illustrations. Follow along to explore The African Savannah to The Big City!

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Easy Readers

Chicken Little and the Big Bad Wolf (The Real Chicken Little)
Wedelich, Sam, illustrated by Wedelich, Sam
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Chicken Little may be called little but she's the smartest, most scientific chicken in the barnyard. At first, she's frightened of the big bad wolf, but when the other chickens in the barnyard choose flight over fight, brave Chicken Little researches the facts. Since chickens can't really fly, she tells the group they must stay home. Chicken Little takes things into her own hands and talks to the wolf. Is he truly big and bad? He tells her he tries to be good. He lets her know he's a vegetarian and doesn't eat meat so there's no harm that can happen to the chickens. Poor misunderstood and alone wolf has no friends and nowhere to go, so the chickens take him in as one of their family. They even throw a "pot cluck" dinner for him. A very important message of acceptance and including everyone is a lesson even the youngest children will understand. Whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, and funny, this little gem of a book is for every child and a must-have.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, Books by Pamela Thompson

Fox at Night (My First I Can Read)
Tabor, Corey R., illustrated by Tabor, Corey R.
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Kristen

Simple, repeating easy reader with all the things kids love. Darling illustrations, patterns for early reading, night-time characters and the fears that seem real to all little children. Very well done, with a lovely ending. Reminding us that the things in the night aren't all scary.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brook List

Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box, Too!: Ready-to-Read Graphics Level 3
Chang, Maggie P., illustrated by Chang, Maggie P.
Simon Spotlight
Nominated by: Katie Michols

Taiwanese – American Geraldine Pu loves her lunch box with a big personality and its own name – Biandang. Her grandma, Amah, fills the lunch box with curry and tofu which Geraldine enjoys until a boy teases her and says her food stinks. When others join in, Geraldine becomes embarrassed and asks Amah to make her a sandwich. The sandwich is a Chinese bao and the other students continue to make fun of her “weird” lunch. Eventually, she meets a Jamaican boy who has brought a fruit called “stinking toe.” They share and develop a friendship while enjoying their stinky lunches. This book does a great job of introducing different cultures, families, and foods. It provides a great starting point for discussions on inclusion, bullying, and friendship. The charming illustrations are filled with humor and children will enjoy reading the text in the speech bubbles. Mandarin and Taiwanese words are included with pronunciation and definitions. There’s also a recipe for pork bao. There is so much to love about Geraldine and her lunch box!

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Kitty and Dragon (Volume 1)
Hashimoto, Meika, illustrated by Reid, Gillian
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Kitty and Dragon is a winsome book containing three stories about friendship between a little kitty and a lonely, but friendly dragon. Kitty lives in a very noisy barn. All the animals make noise at night and Kitty can't get any sleep so she decides to look for a new place to live. She eventually finds a cave and a new friend. Dragon is happy for company and invites her to stay.

In the next two stories Kitty gets a cold and Dragon nurses her back to health. Then their roles are reversed. Kitty likes it very very tidy in the cave but Dragon is very messy. They couldn't be more opposite when it comes to mess vs. tidiness. Beginning readers will love these sweet stories and whimsical illustrations by Gillian Reid which capture Kitty's and Dragon's personalities and humor. Kitty and Dragon has the nostalgic look of older picture books and whimsy that will captivate young readers. Highly highly recommended for new readers and beginning chapter book readers grades 1 and 2. This is a perfect gift for any young reader and bound to become a favorite.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, Books by Pamela Thompson

See the Dog: Three Stories About a Cat
LaRochelle, David, illustrated by Wohnoutka, Mike
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Dog is sick so Cat steps in to take his place. Unfortunately, the bossy book expects Cat to do dog things which Cat is not too keen about. Cat is expected to dig, swim, fetch, and guard the sheep from a wolf. I wasn’t quite sure about this book until I shared it with young beginning readers. They couldn’t stop laughing at the hilarious illustrations and the predicaments the cat finds himself in. It is a book about being true to oneself but also the importance of helping out as best we can. This is one that children will read over and over again.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Yasmin the Librarian
Faruqi, Saadia, illustrated by Aly, Hatem
Picture Window Books
Nominated by: Jenna

Yasmin discovers science in this continuation of the Yasmin series. The pending science fair worries Yasmin because she is not sure what project she will present. In the true scientific process, plan, do study, act - Yasmine works on her project. Jasmin's father makes a suggestion from his own Science Fair days. When that project doesn't pan out for Jasmine, an accidental discovery presents just the right project for her Science Fair. As with all the books in the Jasmin series, author Saadia Faruqi and illustrator Hatem Aly have teamed up for a delightful read. The text is age-appropriate and relatable for readers. The illustrations are colorful and effortlessly show the diversity in Jasmin's world. The fun facts listed at the end of the book serve as conversation starters to allow readers to learn a little about Pakistan culture.

Pam Jones-Nill, Pam Jones-Nill Children's Author

Early Chapter Books

A Long Road on a Short Day
Schmidt, Gary D. and Stickney, Elizabeth, illustrated by Yelchin, Eugene
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Becky L.

I read this book before the Christmas holiday and it filled me with the holiday spirit. I re-read it for this blurb and I love this book today as much as I did when I originally read it.

Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney have captured the Christmas Spirit in a very comforting, pure, and relatable story. The idyllic illustrations by Eugene Yelchin bring readers into the story. The story follows Samuel and his father, looking to get milk to f as they work to trade a knife with community members for assorted other valuables. The trading continues as the storm rages on. Until Samuel's father finally trades for the item his mother wants most, a milk cow. Through snowstorms, cold weather, they accomplish their goal - all on a Long Road on a Short Day.

Pam Jones-Nill, Pam Jones-Nill Children's Author

Audrey L and Audrey W: Best Friends-ish: Book 1 (Audrey L & Audrey W, 1)
Higgins, Carter, illustrated by Mann, Jennifer K.
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

It’s hard for Audrey when a new Audrey joins their class and mixes things up. Now with final initials tacked on, Audrey W and Audrey L are new friends, navigating the tricky waters toward becoming better, maybe even best friends. While the idea is one we can probably all relate to in our personal elementary years, Carter Higgins gives the characters spunk, relatable fears, and lovable energy.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brooke List

Sydney and Taylor Explore the Whole Wide World
Davies, Jacqueline, illustrated by Hocking, Deborah
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Katie Michols

When two mismatched friends set off from their cozy burrow to explore “the whole wide world,” readers will eagerly join along on their adventure. Written in short chapters, Sydney, a contented skunk, and Taylor, a hedgehog with grand ideas, encounter a fierce dog, frogs who think the explorers are hilarious, and find themselves lost due to their poor map reading skills. Their perseverance leads them back to the comforts of home in this gentle and beautifully illustrated chapter book which is sure to become a classic.

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Too Small Tola
Atinuke, illustrated by Iwu, Onyinye
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham

Young Nigerian Tola lives with her brother and sister who call her "too small Tola" because she is the youngest. Each of the three short chapters shows how Tola's size doesn't prevent her from doing big things. A shopping trip with their grandmother becomes an adventure as they are asked by neighbors to bring back additional things and Tola worries how they will carry it all. But frequent snack and rest stops gives Tola the strength to finish her tasks and earns the admiration of her siblings. In the second chapter, Tola needs to collect the water they need from the local well but needs to stand up to a bully. When she stands her ground, the community comes together to support her. Finally, her mathematical abilities enable her to help the local tailor who has been injured, resulting in her earning money and the dress of her dreams. The short chapters are perfect for young readers who will enjoy learning about a new culture while seeing that family relationships are similar no matter where in the world you are and that you don't need to be big to make a difference

Claire Noland, A Field Trip Life

Yasmin the Scientist
Saadia Faruqi
Capstone Press
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

A very easy reader with a beautiful cultural angle. I loved learning a little about Yasmin's world, watching her struggle with the science fair (really, most of us do). Yasmin breaks down big jobs into simple pieces, showing that science is all around us. The Urdu words mixed in are fun, especially with the glossary at the end. Many of us are so used to seeing the occasional Spanish or French words in our texts - why not a little more understanding of our Pakistani neighbors? Great representation in a remarkably accessible format for young readers.

Brooke Freebairn, The Brook List

Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Ophie's Ghosts
Ireland, Justina
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

After a white mob kills her father and burns their home, Ophie and her mother leave the Jim Crow south of the 1920s for Pittsburgh and both find work at the huge home of a wealthy family. It is a house full of ghosts, and Ophie can see and communicate with them. One restless spirit becomes a friend, and Ophie sets out to uncover the mystery of her death. She finds a story of passion, racial prejudice, and, she begins to suspect, murder...and unwittingly she gives the ghost herself the power to take matters into her own (ghostly) hands. But a ghost with power is a danger to everyone around it....and things get scary. This a lovely immersive read, blending ghosts and a gripping murder mystery with the daily life of a very real and relatable girl dealing with the racist realities of her life, her grief over her father, her lost hope for an education, and her worries for her mother.

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, 1)
Alston, B. B.
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

This fast-paced, high-stakes story will delight readers as it entertains with wild and complicated magic (and yetis!) while offering myriad moral dilemmas and real-world social critique. Amari, a preteen Black girl, lives in the projects, and when her big brother Quinton goes missing the police assume he’s involved in illegal activities and don’t try hard to find him. Amari can't believe this, but soon discovers Quinton was hiding his work as a lead agent at the very secretive and selective Bureau of Supernatural Affairs (BSA), and he'd arranged to have Amari try for a place at the BSA school. She leaps at the opportunity, hoping to find her brother. She soon discovers that prejudice, class distinction, and bullies are just as present at the BSA as they are back home. With danger mounting, and with newfound powerful magic of her own, Amari won’t let anything stop her from finding her brother.

Jennifer Miller, Raise them Righteous

Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
Rivera, Kaela
Nominated by: MPFB

When Cece was seven, she got lost and Tzitzimitl, a criatura, one of the powerful spirits who roam the desert, brought her home. For this kindness, Tzitzimitl was attacked, as the villagers of Tierra del Sol believe that criaturas are evil and that only those that practice dark magic, like brujas, can control them. When Cece sets Tzitzimitl free, the villagers thought she cursed Cece. Years later, on the night of Noche de Muerte, when criaturas are released into the world, CeCe's older sister Juana is kidnapped by the powerful dark criatura El Sombrerón. In order to save her sister, Cece must enter the Bruja Fights, but only if she can find criaturas who are willing to align with her. Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls is a fast-paced story, inspired by stories the author's abuelo told her growing up. With its vivid Southwest setting, inclusion of Mexican folklore, and beautiful themes of family, love, friendship, sacrifice and the importance of kindness, Cece will instantly capture the reader's heart.

Brenda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library

Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom
Mandanna, Sangu
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: H Pacheco

When 12-year-old Kiki’s anxiety overwhelms her, she makes drawings of the Indian folklore-inspired world of Mysore. Then the demon god Mahishasura and his demon Asura spring to life, and Kiki must enter her sketchbook and the world she drew to help The Crows, kid rebels of her own invention, defeat Mahishasura. If she fails, Mahishasura will enter the real world and enslave the human race, but if she succeeds, the drawn world and the new friends she makes there will cease to exist. This is a fast-paced, exciting, and hugely imaginative adventure, with wonderful characters, and a heroine who, faced with a terrible choice, is determined to find a way to save everyone but must learn to trust herself and her own strengths in order to do so.

Valinora Troy, Valinora Troy

The Last Cuentista
Higuera, Donna Barba
Levine Querido
Nominated by: Elinor Isenberg

In this riveting science fiction story about a dystopian future, Petra Peña, a 12-year-old girl from New Mexico who wants to be a storyteller, must set out on a 380 year journey into space when Early is destroyed by a rogue comet. But instead of waking up from stasis a few hundred years later at the planet that will be her new home, with her parents and brother next to her, she wakes up to a dystopian nightmare--the original plans for the mission have been subverted by zealots determined to brainwash all remaining humanity into complete conformity. Only Petra retains any memories of Earth, and she is the last reservoir of its stories. This stunner of a book has big themes of familial love and loyalty, adaptability, resilience, finding your own voice and the power of storytelling throughout history. The vivid writing and compelling plot twists make it hard to put down!

Debbie Tanner, The Book Search

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy
Ursu, Anne
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Reshama

Marya is on fire with the injustice of life--everyone thinks her big brother will one day be a sorcerer, so he's taught to read and gets fine clothes while she cleans the chicken coop and takes care of the goat. Her only comfort is the village weaver, Madame Bandu, who teaches her of the symbols that women have hidden in their tapestries even as they tell men’s stories. When Marya finds herself ordered to the School for Troubled Girls, in a far-off castle, she’s caught in a mystery involving not just the generations of girls sent to the school, but the magical, and deadly, Dread that is plaguing the kingdom. This Eastern-European inspired fantasy is a lovely, immersive story of undaunted girls using brains and courage to smash magical patriarchies, skillfully showing how strict social roles are damaging for both boys and girls.

Katy Kramp, A Library Mama

Too Bright to See
Lukoff, Kyle
Dial Books
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Although middle school can be nerve-wracking and scary for anyone, for eleven-year-old Bug, try adding in a legitimately haunted house and a mysterious dead uncle to contend with, all while deciphering subjects like makeup, friendship, and gender identity. This emotionally rich novel delves into complex topics, such as loss, family, and queerness through the lens of its characters, allowing it to remain wholly accessible and entertaining to its target audience and beyond. The writing is perfect for fans of magical realism, utilizing its supernatural angle to tackle the deepest questions, drawing parallels to how we all can feel at odds with ourselves in a truly haunting way.

Elakya Thirumoorthy

Fiction Picture Books

Arlo Draws an Octopus
Mortensen, Lori, illustrated by Sayegh Jr., Rob
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Sam Richardson

When young Arlo sets out to draw one of his favorite animals, he becomes disappointed and defeated when no part of his drawing turns out as intended. Arlo’s frustration continues to grow until he crumples his drawing and tosses it, exclaiming he “hates drawing octopuses!” Determined not to litter, Arlo goes to pick up his drawing, only to have a chance encounter that changes his entire perspective. This all-too-relatable story promotes a growth mindset in young audiences, often quick to give up when something seems challenging. With great detail and texture in each illustrative spread, perfectly captured expressions on characters’ faces, and fun crayon art from Arlo that’s true to a child’s drawings, there’s as much to appreciate in the art as there is in the story itself.

Sam Richardson, Little Cub Literacy

Bodies Are Cool
Feder, Tyler, illustrated by Feder, Tyler
Dial Books
Nominated by: Aimee Smith

A truly inclusive book can be hard to find, but Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder is just that! All kinds of skin tones, hair types, clothing choices, abilities, and body shapes can be found within its pages. This book is a wonderful example of being a place children can find themselves and see people they love joyfully represented. Using repetitive, rhythmic text and inviting illustrations, this book will inspire body confidence in readers of all ages and have them chanting, "Bodies are cool!"

Aimee Smith, Keep a Book Out

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem
Gorman, Amanda, illustrated by Long, Loren
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

No one speaks to our world like young poet Amanda Gorman. In this picture book, Gorman celebrates the arrival of change in our country, with vibrant rhyme and alliteration. The words and pictures make you want to read this story over and over, to sing it, maybe even to shout it in the streets.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn
Hale, Shannon
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham have created yet another compelling read! This book might possibly be the cutest book ever written. With a pink kitten who thinks she's a unicorn where can you go wrong? Sparkly expressive illustrations enhance the humor and darling text. Themes of acceptance, friendship, and knowing who you are will evoke discussion long after you've finished reading this book.

Kirsti Call, Picture Book Look

Someone Builds the Dream
Wheeler, Lisa, illustrated by Long, Loren
Dial Books
Nominated by: Katie Michols

In rolling rhythm, Lisa Wheeler shows what it takes for homes, amusement parks, bridges, fountains, libraries, and more to come to life. Many people and their many hands and thoughts contribute to these wonderful structures and places. A nice glimpse of building-related occupations and the roles they play! A wonderful and inspiring book, with absolutely beautiful art by Loren Long.

Lynne Marie Pisano, Lynne Marie

The Midnight Fair
Sterer, Gideon, illustrated by Di Giorgio, Mariachiara
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

The mystery and magic of a traveling carnival merge with the delight of animals exploring it after dark in this brilliantly illustrated wordless picture book. The illustrations gradually reveal a luminous nighttime world of familiar woodland creatures. The colors are breathtaking, and details from every montage present a clear and touching narrative. This is a book to marvel over again and again.

Maggi Rohde, Books for Squids

Wang, Andrea, illustrated by Chin, Jason
Neal Porter Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

A stand-out picture book is one that transports your mind and heart through words and images. There could not be a more perfect pairing between this raw story and these gentle watercolors. Wang and Chin have both infused this book with personal and authentic pieces of themselves and their heritage. From Wang's touching story of a child of immigrants, to Chin's melding of western and Chinese watercolor brushes and techniques, this book is an honest look at how we can both love and feel deeply embarrassed of who we are and where we have come from. And whether it is heritage from another country and culture, poverty growing up, or the actions of parents that hauntingly tug at us, many children and adults can connect to these feelings of shame and healing.

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

King, Thomas, illustrated by Donovan, Natasha
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Reshama

Borders written by Thomas King and Illustrated by Natasha Donovan is a simple yet important story of identity, culture, survival, history and modern politics. It touches on how politics create problems for indigenous people like the blackfoot who have lived on the land long before borders were created. Beautiful artwork and text that explore themes of identity, justice, and belonging is what made this book a top choice for the judges.

Tiffany Sorenson, Provo Library Children's Book Blog

Mercado, Yehudi, illustrated by Mercado, Yehudi
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Greg Pattridge

Living in Texas, sports take on a life of their own. Concerned about his weight, Hudi's parents push him into sporty activities, even though he's terrible at them. Eventually Hudi finds a fit in baseball due to his imaginary mascot Chunky. Chunky cheers him on and off the field, supporting his dream of becoming a comedian. This inspiring body positive graphic novel is based on the author's life as a Mexican Jewish boy who is witty, funny, and ready to take on the world.

Jennifer Rummel, YA Book Nerd

Cranky Chicken
Battersby, Katherine, illustrated by Battersby, Katherine
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: GRgenius

Cranky Chicken is cranky until an unexpected friendship with a worm changes his outlook on life. Readers will enjoy this funny graphic novel for younger readers filled with the themes of friendship, emotions, and being yourself.

Jennifer Rummel, YA Book Nerd

Chanani, Nidhi, illustrated by Chanani, Nidhi
First Second Books
Nominated by: ChristaS

Jukebox is a story of family, courage, old vinyl records and even older times. When Shaneen’s father goes missing, Shaneen and Naz jump into an adventure, bonding together, gaining courage, their friendship giving Naz the courage to tell her family she is bi by the end of the story. Featuring a diverse set of characters, some interesting time periods, and many touching moments, this graphic novel was a standout among the panelists.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library

Measuring Up
LaMotte, Lily, illustrated by Xu, Ann
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte and illustrated by Ann Xu was chosen by the panelists because of its themes of identity, family, and belonging. Cooking is often a way to connect with others who are different than you. The main character is a new immigrant to the United States and is trying to understand the culture. She finds a way to be a part of her new culture by sharing something from her family.

Anne Wilson, News from Youth Services Category: Picks by Anne W.

Salt Magic
by Hope Larson; illustrated by Rebecca Mock
Margaret Ferguson Books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Salt Magic written by Hope Larson and illustrated by Rebecca Mock is a top choice for the panelists. The reader is drawn in by the cover and the story, which is reminiscent of a gothic romance. Set in the time just after World War I, there are themes of love, magic, loss, revenge, and protecting your family.

Anne Wilson, News from Youth Services Category: Picks by Anne W.

The Legend of Auntie Po
Khor, Shing Yin
Nominated by: Charlotte

Think you’ve heard all the American Tall Tales? You don’t know Auntie Po, the legend that could take on Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe, any day. A Chinese family serves up food for loggers in the American Northwest, but racism and anger threaten the family’s livelihood, but a legend provides inner strength and a fantasy escape. Incredible artwork and brilliant storytelling on a realistic and fantastic level make this a must-read chapter in American history.

Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It

Young Adult

Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre
Ball, Alverne, illustrated by Robinson, Stacey, Anderson, Reynaldo (Contributor), Yellow Robe, Colette (Contributor)
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

Setting the foundations for the Tulsa Race Massacre, Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street, and the Tulsa Race Massacre unveils the community of Greenwood and Black Wall Street and the events leading up to this event that was buried in American history for too long. A powerful graphic novel that illustrates the prosperity that Greenwood was achieving before the events in history took place. The end of the book then follows up with an essay at the end on the parallels between treatment of the Native Americans in the area as well will introduce readers to these events and send them away with an interest for more.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms
Frasier, Crystal, illustrated by Wise, Val, Jupiter, Oscar O. (Letterer)
Oni Press
Nominated by: Laura Gardner

Dating is hard enough in high school, but when you’re trans, it’s a whole new ball game: or cheerleading game! This story of a trans teen navigating high school experiences has incredible moments of self-advocacy and insight; great pacing and dialogue, and a main character you’ll be cheering on!

Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It

In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks
Brown, Don
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

In the Shadows of the Fallen Towers: The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks written and illustrated by Don Brown has a lot of information with different viewpoints of the days and months following the attacks using Brown's unique and emotional illustrations. The detailed information is presented as one of the most impactful days in history with lots of different viewpoints and unknown facts. Stories, an informative list of statistics about the people who died, citations, as well as a touching afterword made this one of the judges top picks.

Tiffany Sorenson, Provo Library Children's Book Blog

My Body in Pieces
Hébert, Marie-Noëlle, illustrated by Hébert, Marie-Noëlle, Tanaka, Shelley (Translator)
Groundwood Books
Nominated by: Reshama

My Body in Pieces written and illustrated by Marie-Noelle Hebert and translated by Shelley Tanaka draws the reader in through its beautifully hand-drawn, intimate illustrations detailing the main character's struggle with self-esteem and body image issues. This is an important addition to introduce to young people with its universal themes of growing up, dealing with family and peer pressure, and eventually figuring out how to accept yourself.

Anne Wilson, News from Youth Services Category: Picks by Anne W.

My Last Summer with Cass
Crilley, Mark, illustrated by Crilley, Mark
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kristen

Megan is excited to rejoin her childhood friend in New York City for a few weeks over the summer; she can't wait to create more art together. They spend the summer working on a project, but at the last moment Megan ruins everything - including their friendship. The gorgeous artwork adds to the beauty of this graphic novel about creating art and friendship spanning from childhood friends to teen years to beyond.

Jennifer Rummel, YA Book Nerd

Nubia: Real One (Nubia: Real One (2021))
McKinney, L.L., illustrated by Smith, Robyn, Smith, Robyn (Artist)
DC Comics
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Nubia: Real One written by L.L. McKinney and Illustrated by Robyn Smith was chosen by the panelists for the way it brilliantly tackles today's issues of racial justice, police brutality, bullying, and consent with sensitivity and honesty. The dialogue is fun and equally poignant and witty which is a nice balance to some of the more serious themes. Nubia is a powerful character that weaves themes of truth, love, and justice into the 21st century.

Tiffany Sorenson, Provo Library Children's Book Blog

The Girl from the Sea
Ostertag, Molly Knox
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

The Girl from the Sea is a queer romance that is also about selkies, friendship and environmental activism. An adorable and well drawn graphic novel that will also pull your heartstrings when it comes to friendship, family and love. Set by the seaside, the colors and style of the graphic novel bring the setting and characters to life, making this a strong choice for the panelists.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library


Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit
Smith, Colby Cedar
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Nominated by: Alyssa Colman

Call me Athena is an enchanting verse novel in multiple voices that captures the reader into the tumultuous time period of the 1930’s in Detroit as well as World War I. The different time periods and voices are woven together with lyrical and well-crafted verse. Part love story, part historical fiction, this verse novel is paced perfectly to reveal each character’s story.

Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche

Everywhere Blue
Fritz, Joanne Rossmassler
Holiday House
Nominated by: Chad Lucas

Everywhere Blue draws the reader into the complicated dynamics of family. When Maddie’s brother disappears, she is forced to grow up and see things in her life through a new lens. Musical imagery enhances the lyrical emotion of the poetry throughout this complex story.

Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche

Me (Moth)
McBride, Amber
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Laura Gardner

Me (Moth) is a profoundly lyrical YA verse novel that explores the complexities of grief and cultural identity. When Moth loses her family in a car accident, she becomes a shadow of her old self, unable to move on. It takes meeting another lost soul and encouraging him to pursue his passions for Moth to find her own way toward healing. This moving story is sure to stay with the reader long after they've turned the final page.

Nicole Hewitt, Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Red, White, and Whole
LaRocca, Rajani
Quill Tree Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

Indian mythology meets 80s pop music in Rajani LaRocca's historical novel in verse RED, WHITE, and WHOLE. As a first generation Indian American, Reha lives in two different worlds. This thirteen-year-old girl's worlds collide in the emotional verse as she faces the impact of her mother's leukemia.

Anastasia Suen, #kidlit Book of the Day

Snow Birds
Hall, Kirsten, illustrated by Desmond, Jenni
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Bridget Wilson

SNOW BIRDS is a beautifully written and illustrated poetry collection that deftly integrates lyrical poetry and wonderful information for a wide audience of readers, including parents who are reading aloud to their children. Panelists enjoyed the focus on a particular and varied group of birds, the high quality of the poetry—wonderful rhythm, rhyme, and inventive language—for readers and read-alouds, and the quiet, peaceful feel of the book as a whole. The book is appropriate for read-alouds in early childhood settings and for readers through at least 3rd grade.

Carol Grannick, Carol's Facebook

Fipps, Lisa
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Starfish, a novel-in-verse by Lisa Fipps, describes how Ellie, a fat pre-teen feels when she "starfishes" in her pool: "I starfish/ There's plenty of room / for/ each/ and/ every/ one of/ us..." Despite mean girls, she learns to love herself for who she is and who she is becoming. Each verse is its own poem and takes the reader into the pre-teen mind.

Rae Longest, Powerful Women Readers

You Don't Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves
Whitney, Diana (Editor)
Workman Publishing
Nominated by: Carol Coven Grannick

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE EVERYTHING is an illustrated poetry collection for young adults identifying as female and contains a wide variety of wonderful verse by many different voices. The poetry and illustrations address an immense cross section of young adult issues. Every reader will find at least some verses that address familiar experiences that help the reader feel “seen”. A much needed collection for 13 year olds and up, it offers a to-date unique and beautifully crafted collection that fills a great need in the YA genre and is a resource for many years in a young adult’s life.

Carol Grannick, Carol's facebook

Middle-Grade Fiction

A Place to Hang the Moon
Albus, Kate
Margaret Ferguson Books
Nominated by: AGW

It's 1940 and Anne , Edmund and Will have just lost the only family they have. With no one left to take care of them they join hundreds of other kids in England evacuating from the war into the country side. The hope is that they find a family that is willing to adopt them. Full of ups and downs, cruel tricks and mean people, they find happiness in the countryside library and librarian. Nora is everything they want in a mom, and she needs them just as much as they need her. Together they can find happiness and healing - because she things they hung the moon! A Place To Hang the Moon is full of heartbreak and hope for a better tomorrow. Fans of historical middle grade will cherish this long after they turn the last page!

Shannon Griffin, Magical Wonder of Books

Finding Junie Kim
Oh, Ellen
Nominated by: Laura Gardner

Like most middle schoolers Junie Kim just wants to fit in and stay under the radar. Keeping her head down has worked, until racist graffiti starts to appear all over her school. Now Junie is torn. Her friends want her to stand up, but she just wants to stay quiet. Then through a school assignment Junie interviews her grandparents about living through the Korean War as children. Learning about the courage and strength of her grandparents Junie finds her own courage to stand up and speak out.

Katie Bruechert, mrsb_reads

Flight of the Puffin
Braden, Ann
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Katie B

Ann Braden’s FLIGHT OF THE PUFFIN reminds readers that kindness and hope and love can literally save lives. If you need a good cry or need to believe in humanity and goodness again, this book will help.

Laura Gardner, librarianmsg

Korman, Gordon
Nominated by: Julie Williams

Michael, Link, and Dana, and the rest of their community are shocked when the school is vandalized with a swastika. Who would do such a thing? And it doesn't just happen once... it keeps happening. As the students at school try to make sense of the events ,they learn about their own family history. Dana is Jewish and the vandalism impacts her greatly and Link finds out his grandmother was rescued as a baby by being placed in a nunnery. The students decide to create an art project that will draw attention to what is going on and as a remembrance of the Holocaust. With the help of a YouTuber, their paper chain project goes viral. Can they create a chain with 6 million links? Can they figure out who the vandal was? And more importantly can they learn from the past to create a better future?

Julie Williams, Middle Grade is Lit

Many Points of Me
Gertler, Caroline
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Cliff Burke

Georgia Rosenbloom's father was a famous artist, particularly known for his "asterism" paintings. The abstract portraits, made using star patterns, depicted three subjects: a bird, Georgia's father, and Georgia's mother. Although her dad died before he made the planned fourth asterism painting, it is assumed it would have been of Georgia. Georgia, who's beginning to doubt her own artistic ability, isn't sure. And she NEEDS to be sure. Her hunt for proof leads to frustration with herself, her father, and her best friend, Theo, who Georgia sometimes thinks her father loved more than herself. Will her obsessive search for evidence of her father's love drive her away from those who care most about her? And what about her own supposed talent? Is Georgia really the great artist everyone expects her to be? As she works through her crippling grief, she comes to realize what—and who—really matters in her life. A poignant and ultimately hopeful story, MANY POINTS OF ME will resonate with anyone who's grappled with trying to find themselves again in the wake of great loss.

Susan Jensen, Bloggin' 'bout Books

Thanks a Lot, Universe
Lucas, Chad
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Joanne R. Fritz

Middle school is hard enough; feeling like you don't belong makes it even harder. Erza seems to have it all; he's on the basketball team and popular. Brian his friend is pulling away, and Ezra doesn't know why. Brian and his brother have lost everything they know and are now being placed into the foster care system. Brian takes matters into his own hands, and he and his brother run away. Erza has no choice but to help his friend, even if it means the kids at school find out he has a crush on Brian. A tale of taking leaps of faith and having friends who love and accept us for being who we truly are. A bittersweet tale that will have you cheering on Ezra and Brian and hoping they find their place world!

Shannon Griffin, Magical Wonder of Books

Violets Are Blue
Dee, Barbara
Nominated by: Haley Shaffer

Wren loves to use makeup to transform herself into fanciful creatures. When she's lost in painting her face, she doesn't have to think about the new family her father's creating without her, drama with her best friend, or the strange ways her mom has been behaving lately. With encouragement from a new friend, Wren joins the crew of the school musical as a makeup artist. While using her new skills makes her happy and helps her become more involved in school, her mom is becoming more and more distant. What is her mom hiding behind her locked bedroom door? Why is her mother's best friend so worried about her? What is going on? Just as Wren is fitting in better at school, her home life is falling apart. Can Wren help her mom get it together before she self-destructs? Or will the world implode once again? Poignant but hopeful, VIOLETS ARE BLUE is a relatable and touching novel about finding your true self even in the midst of life's struggles. Wren's plight will resonate with middle-graders who also struggle with anxiety and difficult situations at home.

Susan Jensen, Bloggin' 'bout Books

Elementary Nonfiction

Bartali's Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy's Secret Hero
Hoyt, Megan, illustrated by Bruno, Iacopo
Quill Tree Books
Nominated by: Julie Rowan-Zoch

Almost every child has experienced the thrill of riding a bike, feeling speed and exhilaration turn into freedom. Gino Bartali used his skill as a cyclist as a quiet part of the resistance movement during World War II. In Bartali’s Bicycle: The True Story of Gino Bartali, Italy’s Secret Hero, we are amazed and inspired by Bartali’s dedication and humility. Author Megan Hoyt’s prose leaps off the page and propels the book forward. Iacopo Bruno’s sepia-toned illustrations are coupled with extraordinary typography and book design to fine effect. Extensive sources and a timeline offer the opportunity to keep the learning moving.

Susan Dobrodt, Susan's Goodreads

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
Wallmark, Laurie, illustrated by Smart, Brooke
Abrams Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

Like an intriguing cipher, this picture book biography will grab your attention right away! Growing up, Elizabeth developed a love for poetry and a passion for foreign languages. Later, she joined a team looking for secret messages in Shakespeare’s plays. It’s on this project that she met and fell in love with William Friedman. They worked together to invent the techniques that are now considered the building blocks of modern cryptology. Throughout her life, Elizabeth employed her expert decoding skills to help catch a number of criminals and spies. While her work was labeled “Top Secret Ultra” for 35 years, it has now been declassified and we can see how she helped to end both WWI and WWII and saved thousands of lives. The watercolor and gouache illustrations incorporate many of Elizabeth’s inspiring quotes and strike a powerful balance between the feminine, maternal, and professional elements of her life. The back matter includes more to learn on the subject of codes and ciphers, a description of modern cryptography, a timeline, a bibliography and even an opportunity to take a crack at solving an actual encoded message.

Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

Mimic Makers: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature
Nordstrom, Kristen, illustrated by Boston, Paul
Nominated by: Claire Annette Noland

MIMIC MAKERS: Biomimicry Inventors Inspired by Nature offers an intriguing look at ten diverse inventors/innovators whose remarkable developments began through childlike observations and wonder. In some cases, it was actual childhood fascination that led to adult careers and inventions. Other profiles indicate that established adult experts retained a childlike perspective on nature that sparked curious investigations that challenged existing approaches to the built world. Among developments that can benefit young readers now and in their futures, these innovators represent architects, botanists, biologists and microbiologists, engineers (chemical, design, electrical,and materials), and zoologists. The opening spread poses questions about kingfishers who dive into water without splashing, why maple seeds twirl or whale’s flippers are bumpy, how a gecko can defy gravity to walk on walls and even ceilings. The term “mimic-makers” is defined as those who marvel at nature’s brilliance and then seek ways to incorporate/adapt Nature’s designs in new devices and machines that function better for humans. Their innovations have led to improvements in energy turbines, solar cells, medical equipment, safe and accessible drinking water, and other remarkably clever and practical developments. Both levels of text ( large font “big questions” and related expository text about the specific observer/invention) are engaging, especially in combination with colorful and high- energy illustrations that make applied science as exciting as nature itself. The author note and back matter provide added details, but also sound a challenge to young readers to observe closely now, and to never lose that fascination and curiosity that could inspire their own inventions to make life better for years to come, beginning today to pursue their inner mimic-makers.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

Sakamoto's Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory
Abery, Julie, illustrated by Sasaki, Chris
Kids Can Press, Ltd
Nominated by: Amber

Sakamoto's Swim Club: How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory is a pithy and poetic story of how a group of kids that science teacher Soichi Sakamoto found swimming in ditches in Maui were led to become Olympic swimmers in 1948. The story talks about how Sakamoto convinced the plantation foreman to allow the children to keep swimming if he trained them. Gradually learning better techniques and gaining momentum, this underdog team surprised everyone by becoming successful, and Julie Abery and Chris Sasaki work seamlessly as their own creative team. While the main text offers a very basic version of the story, perfect for picture book readers, the illustrations and the author's note at the back carry the rest of the narrative forward. Dynamic bird’s eye views of swimmers curving through plantations in their one-lane ditch, with roosters watching their strokes, and innovative paintings of the action keep readers turning the pages.

Genevieve Ford, Genevieve's Goodreads

The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship
Tomsic, Kim, illustrated by Hooper, Hadley
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Aimee Smith

The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship is a beautiful picture book depicting an extraordinary story of friendship between humans and elephants. It tells the story of how Lawrence and Francoise created a safe haven for a herd of lost and troubled elephants. It's true that home is where the heart is, and this group of rescued elephants found their home in the forests of Thula Thula; a sanctuary created by Lawrence and Francoise. When the elephants arrive at Thula Thula, they stomp and break the fences and destroy their temporary abode. Lawrence realizes that the herd is scared and angry. So he adapts to the situation and whispers to the herd leader, using soothing words to calm them down. Finally, slowly but surely, the herd starts trusting Lawrence and listening to his words. This gentle tale turns fascinating many years later when tragedy strikes. Beautifully illustrated, the watercolor images capture the mood, the serenity of Thula Thula. When you finish reading this book, you will wonder if this is indeed a true story! The author shares a little blurb on the back matter with actual pictures of these elephants, the events that unfolded and of the people involved.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered Secrets in the Rainforest
Lang, Heather, illustrated by Christy, Jana
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

“We had already been to the moon and back and nobody had been to the top of a tree” - At least not in the Amazon. So in the 1970s, young field biologist Margaret “Canopy Meg” Lowman decided to be the first pioneer. With Jana Christy’s magical illustrations and Heather Lang’s gentle prose, THE LEAF DETECTIVE discusses the magic nature held for little girl Meg; and addresses the misogyny she faced in college and as a female trailblazer in her field in a matter-of-fact way. Peppered with fun facts about rainforests (printed on leaves, of course), this picture book has enough variance of text and illustration to engage children across a broad age range. Lang presents trees and the rainforest canopy as the magnificent and misunderstood creatures they are, introducing the concepts of biodiversity, medicinal plants, and the scientific method in accessible language that will intrigue young readers. THE LEAF DETECTIVE is not just a story of scientific exploration and discovery, but a story of belief in oneself and investment in others.

Kelly Karsner-Clarke, Kidlit Underground

We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
Sorell, Traci, illustrated by Lessac, Frane
Nominated by: OKteacher

Native Nations are still here. Using children’s presentations as a backdrop, Traci Sorell takes readers on a journey through some of the awful things that Native peoples have experienced over the centuries since Europeans arrived on the North American continent. The U.S. Government’s treatment of Native Nations generally focused on forcing them to leave their lands and assimilate. Numerous broken treaties left indigenous peoples on reservations having been driven from their homes. While some helpful laws were passed during the Great Depression, things took a turn for the worse in the years following when the U.S. government decided to stop honoring treaty agreements with over a hundred Native Nations. While facing these and other challenges, Sorell emphasizes the fact that the Native Nations are still here, despite the efforts to wipe them out or force them to assimilate. Native Nations continue to stand up for their rights and their sovereignty. Sorell deftly includes a lot of information while sticking to her theme of survival and overcoming challenges. Lessac’s illustrations do an excellent job of highlighting some of the events that Sorell mentions in her text. The backmatter includes sources, a timeline, additional information about the illustrations, and an author’s note.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Middle-Grade Nonfiction

Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer
Sorell, Traci, illustrated by Donovan, Natasha
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Mary Duffy

Just like Mary stood out among her peers as the first Native American female engineer, this picture book biography stands out as a much needed addition to the STEM genre. In the 1920’s, Mary was a teenager who defied expectations and succeeded in the fields of math and science. She went on to become a teacher, an engineer for top-secret projects, and a trail blazer committed to helping the next generation of female American Indian engineers. Sorell, a member of the Cherokee Nation herself, specifically ties these successes to four deeply rooted Cherokee values: “gaining skills in all areas of life (both within and outside the classroom), working cooperatively with others, remaining humble when others recognize your talents, and helping ensure equal education and opportunity for all.” The period-specific illustrations help bring Mary to life, and include details of many of her tools, equations, and blueprints. Even though much of her work remains classified, young readers will be inspired by her example of persistence, service and humility.

Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing
Melander, Rochelle, illustrated by Ontiveros, Melina
Beaming Books
Nominated by: Sandy Brehl

Throughout history, activists, thinkers and ordinary people have picked up their pens and changed the world. Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers, and Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing by Rochelle Melander invites readers to engage in the world of words. Using thought-provoking quotations, cameos, and short biographies drawn from individuals of diverse backgrounds and life experience, this brightly illustrated book has a dual use as reference book and inspiration. The writing activities and prompts (Write to Know, Write Now, and Write to Create) included after each biography are clear and engaging. The section at the end of the book (Write to Change, Write to Write, Write to Revise, and Writers Read) offers writers a place to begin to move seamlessly from consumers of information to creators.

Susan Dobrodt, Susan's Goodreads

The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb (Scholastic Focus)
Fleming, Candace
Scholastic Focus
Nominated by: Heidi G.

In “The Curse of the Mummy: Uncovering Tutankhamun's Tomb”, author Candace Fleming weaves in the race to find hidden treasures of Egypt and the battle for their ownership with the wild stories behind the “curse” of the mummies. Read this book to find the REAL story behind the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. This narrative nonfiction title is superbly told and almost reads like a historical fiction novel. Candace Fleming keeps the reader's interest by walking us through the historical timeline of the discovery; but intersperses the narrative with conspiracies as they unfold. Every chapter follows with a breakout chapter highlighting these misinformed stories. For example, it is “widely” known that there was a curse etched on King Tut’s tomb. Or was it? Sensational newspapers told about the mummy’s curse that haunted the treasures that were taken from the tomb. What was really behind this curse? Read on to find out more! I enjoyed reading about Howard Carter the chief archeologist and his lifetime’s work behind the discovery. His relationship with Lord Carnarvon who funded the entire expedition was interesting to read. More importantly though I applaud the author for highlighting the Egyptian colonialism and British attitude towards the people of the land. Finally for many of us we travel in time through the black and white photographs taken from the discovery. I felt I was right there alongside Lord Carnarvon and Cater when they found King Tut’s mummy!

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
Yelchin, Eugene, illustrated by Yelchin, Eugene
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Christopher Helton

Take Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, but make it mid-century Soviet and make the main character funny, creative, and relatable; and add strong messages of self-esteem and self-discovery. You’ll get Newberry Award Winner Eugene Yelchin’s THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain. A teenager in 1970’s Leningrad, Yevgeny (Eugene) is desperate to discover his artistic talent. It’s the only way out of a very scary life behind the Iron Curtain - whose horrors are related in an age-appropriate way, that still pulls no punches. Fortunately for Generation X and later, Yevgeny steals his dad’s pencils and draws under his wisecracking grandmother’s table in between his much-loathed ballet classes. But along the way of finding his talents, Yevgeny learns a lot about truth, mysteries, creativity, and life, which will leave the reader in chills long after closing the book. With short chapters with visual interest on every page, this book will engage a reluctant reader.

Kelly Karsner-Clarke, Kidlit Underground

The World's Most Pointless Animals: Or are they?
Bunting, Philip
Happy Yak
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

A cheeky double voice is what makes The World’s Most Pointless Animals: Or Are They? simultaneously sound like a wildlife documentary and someone poking fun at the narrator. Phillip Bunting’s book waxes poetic about a series of animals that are perfectly adapted for their perfectly balanced ecosystems. This guide to everything from jellyfish and qokkas, leeches and naked mole rats, the axolotl and the kiwi bird, and it raves about how wonderful each creature is, but the panegyric is interrupted by crossings out that claim these creatures are all pointless. The second voice in the book makes fun of each creature’s features in turn, and even makes up fake scientific names like “wingus rattus” for pigeons or “annoyus maximus” for mosquitoes. This ironic repartee makes the lyricism of the book palatable and funny for all ages. The cartoon-style illustrations of each animal attract repeat viewings. A highly recommended read aloud or a coffee table book you can page through any time.

Genevieve Ford, Genevieve's Goodreads

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre
Weatherford, Carole Boston, illustrated by Cooper, Floyd
Carolrhoda Books
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

In the early 1900s, the discovery of oil lead to the rapid growth of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Despite rampant discrimination and legal segregation, the black community centered on Greenwood Avenue developed into a booming business district. Black Wall Street housed restaurants and grocery stores, a pool hall, a hospital, several libraries, and a separate school system. Two black-owned newspapers and doctors, lawyers, and businessmen called Greenwood home. Many white residents resented the success of the black community. This resentment grew until a spark caused it to erupt into violence on May 31 and June 1, 1921. An accusation of assault by a white girl against a black boy led to the boy’s imprisonment and a confrontation between a small group of armed blacks against a large mob of armed whites in front of the jail. Unable to get their hands on the black boy, the mob turned their attention to Greenwood. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed through looting and fire. In the end it’s estimated that 150-300 people died and 8000 people were left homeless. Local leaders did everything in their power to cover up their involvement and what came to be called the Tulsa Race Massacre wasn’t even taught in schools until the 2000s. This stunning book highlights the growth of Greenwood and its destruction. Weatherford’s beautiful writing is complimented gorgeously by Cooper’s amazing illustrations. The story is honestly told without becoming too graphic for the intended audience. A beautiful book that highlights an important event in United States history.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Welcome to Your Period!
Stynes, Yumi and Kang, Dr. Melissa, illustrated by Latham, Jenny
Walker Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham

It is not easy to approach a topic surrounded by subtlety and silence but one that is ubiquitous in the lives of uterus-owning humans. The two authors are steeped in legitimacy of expertise and authoring, combining to produce a user-friendly (by KIDS AND ADULTS!) text that can be read front-to-back, dipped into for specific purposes, and carried/discussed freely among and across generations. This blends actual letters (with commentary and questions) with informative text, illustrations that embrace the reality of diverse human bodies and identities, and direct language that consistently conveys empowerment, positivity, and embracing identity. It reached the high bar of: This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work (by Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand) in balancing conversational and academic language and style with confidence and commitment. I highly encourage everyone to read this, including grown adults of both/any gender. This straightforward insights to half the world's population is long overdue.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

High School Nonfiction

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition
Treuer, Anton
Levine Querido
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians but Were Afraid to Ask: This candid, conversational, illuminating text invites readers to ask questions and question assumptions about Native American culture, history, and lived experience. In an engaging Q-and-A format, Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer encourages teen readers to venture into a frank and informative dialogue about an expansive array of questions like “What is the real story about Columbus,” “What are kachinas,” and “What’s it like for Natives who aren’t part of a recognized tribe?” Treuer’s lively narrative voice unpacks sensitive topics with grace, and he provides a range of resources for further exploration.

Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen

In the Shadow of the Moon: America, Russia, and the Hidden History of the Space Race
Cherrix, Amy
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Great nonfiction books both answer questions and pose them. Amy Cherrix's In The Shadow of the Moon provides a fascinating account of the American and Soviet space programs in the context of their political rivalries. She focuses on two engineers, Wernher von Braun and Sergei Korolev, one a former SS officer and one a former prisoner of a Russian gulag, challenging readers to evaluate the decisions made by each government about what information to share and what to hide. Propaganda and technicalities are clearly explained as she follows the exciting developments and achievements of both programs so the readers can make their own judgements about what sacrifices are worthwhile.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Punching Bag
Ogle, Rex
Norton Young Readers
Nominated by: Jenna

Rex Ogle’s mother and stepfather physically and emotionally abused him when he was a child. In his second memoir, Punching Bag, he describes unimaginable incidents that are a terrible reality for far too many children. An alcoholic stepfather who continues the cycle of abuse that he experienced as a child himself. An unstable mother who is both victim and abuser. A younger brother who must be protected at all costs. A younger sister, Marisa, whom his mother lost in a late-term miscarriage after a particularly brutal beating. Yet Ogle’s message is ultimately one of hope. Thoughts of Marisa, who never got a chance at life, guide him through his most difficult days. As he writes in his author’s note, “I lived this, I survived. You survived your past too, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. We are both alive. We may have a few more scars than we’d like—inside or out—but we made it through. No matter how dark the past, or even the present, the sun will always come up tomorrow. There is hope.” He accordingly refers readers to appropriate resources and hotlines at the end of the book. Teens in similar situations are sure to relate to Ogle’s life story—and find reasons to carry on.

Jennifer Giberga, Introverted Reader

The Power of Style
Allaire, Christian
Annick Press
Nominated by: ChristaS

THE POWER OF STYLE: Vibrant. Colorful. Empowering. Inclusive. These are just a few of the words we used to describe this unique book. The Power of Style seamlessly pieces together history, culture, and fashion with themes of acceptance, body positivity, and social justice. The beautiful photographs are an invitation to explore and make the book approachable ... even for those who aren't fashionistas!

Terry Doherty, The Reading Tub

The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks: Adapted for Young People
Jeanne Theoharis, adapted by Brandy Colbert and Jeanne Theoharis
Beacon Press
Publisher/ Author Submission

If you think that Rosa Parks was an old lady with tired feet, read this book. In The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks: Young Readers’ Edition, the authors, Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert, illuminate this activist’s lifelong resistance to injustice. Eleven years before Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of the bus, she worked on bringing attention to the rape of Recy Taylor, a young Black mother in Abbeville, Alabama. Ten years after the Montgomery bus boycott, she began her career in Michigan’s Congressman John Conyers’s office. Between 1965 and her death in 2005, she rebelled against injustice including organizing against Detroit police violence, advocated for reparations to Black people for the injustices of slavery and segregation and called for US businesses to divest from the South African apartheid government. Mrs. Rosa Parks never tired of standing up for what was right. She trusted young people to do the same.

Julie Neitz Wielga , Partners in Literacy

Young Adult Fiction

A Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow
Namey, Laura Taylor
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jen at Introverted Reader

Lila Reyes always knew she’d become head baker at her family’s panadería, but then the Trifecta happened. The woman who taught her everything about cooking—her abuela—dies, her best friend upends their plans to move in together, and her boyfriend of three years breaks up with her. When her family becomes concerned for her mental health, they send her to England to spend the summer with family, hoping it will give her the chance to process and reset. However, Lila’s a Miami girl at heart, and swapping the hot beach for the chilly countryside initially sounds terrible. But that’s before finds an inn in need of some baking inspiration, a teashop clerk intent on playing tour guide, and a charming village that, while different from what she’s used to, feels a little like home. By fusing Lila’s two worlds into one unforgettable summer, author Laura Taylor Namey has crafted a stunning and fun novel of family, grief, and identity.

Christopher Helton, Plucked from the Stacks

Concrete Rose
Thomas, Angie
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Jenna

When seventeen-year-old Maverick “Mav” Carter discovers he is a father, he sees the life he has built for himself crumble before his eyes. Unprepared for life beyond high school, much less fatherhood, Maverick attempts to forge his own path forward regardless. Although hindered by relationship troubles, gang violence, and new responsibilities, he manages to discover meaning in even the bleakest of situations. A prequel to 2018’s The Hate U Give, author Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights from the perspective of a '90s teenager, painting a raw, vibrant, and heartfelt portrait of the lives of inner-city children.

Vidya Tiru, Lady in Read Writes

Firekeeper's Daughter
Boulley, Angeline
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

As Firekeeper’s Daughter opens, Daunis is making decisions about college. No matter what she decides, someone will be disappointed because Daunis’s family is complex. She is half white and half Ojibwe. From her white mother’s family, Daunis has access to a trust fund; from her deceased Ojibwe father’s family, Daunis is steeped in the traditions of a tribe that she cannot fully access because of what her birth certificate says and doesn’t say. Readers quickly become immersed in the complicated relationships of Daunis’s life: her school friends, local hockey players, three generations of both sides of her family, and older tribe members who are almost family. Boulley first unveils Daunis’s world, then slowly exposes the secrets and lies permeating what Daunis and readers have come to believe. Along the way, we become so invested in characters who are sometimes charming and sometimes mysterious that we are devastated when bad things happen to them. With this debut, Angeline Boulley delivers a provocative look at a culture underrepresented in contemporary fiction that evolves into a breathtaking thriller in the final hundred pages. Firekeeper’s Daughter is one of the rare books that transcends genre and provides a thoughtful, exciting, deeply-felt reading experience for both teens and adults.

Gary Anderson, What's Not Wrong?

In the Wild Light
Zentner, Jeff
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Becky L.

In the Wild Light is quintessential YA that examines the emotionally complex and rich lives of teens as they face a myriad of realistic issues including friendship, family, academic pressures and the search for self, with a dash of romance for good measure. Two teens, Delaney and Cash, are plucked from a life of abject poverty and given the chance of a lifetime to attend a prestigious boarding school. Cash and Delaney have been dealt every bad hand a teen could imagine: poverty, addiction, and absent or dead parents, though there also some great inter generational relationships presented as well. Hitting so many emotional beats, this is moving and authentic YA that appeals to teens, stretched their minds and hearts, and celebrates what it means to be a teen today in relatable ways.

Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian Toolbox

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
Lo, Malinda
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Robin Stevenson

Transporting readers back to 1950s San Francisco, Malinda Lo weaves a robust and thoughtful story about seventeen-year-old Lily Hu, whose world turns upside down when she learns about a lesbian bar known as the Telegraph Club. Her classmate Kathleen Miller invites her and she can’t stay away - even though a lesbian bar in the middle of Red-Scare paranoia is a dangerous place for a young Chinese-American girl to be found. This novel is so rich in detail that readers will lose themselves in the setting and really feel like they’re sitting around the tables at the club themselves. And though this novel tackles some difficult subject matter, Lily and Kath’s relationship is so sweet readers will be charmed as they develop from two nervous teenagers to two brave young women willing to be true to themselves, no matter the cost.

Christa Seeley, Christa's Books

The Girls I've Been
Sharpe, Tess
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

The Girls I’ve Been is a thrilling novel that follows Nora O’Malley - a daughter of a con artist living in a small town with her sister Lee after escaping the life her mother forced upon her. Everything seems fine until Nora, her girlfriend Iris, and her ex-boyfriend-turned-friend Wes suddenly become trapped in the middle of a bank robbery. Little do the robbers know, though, one of their hostages is more than they bargained for. Through flashbacks of memories, the reader is brought through Nora’s past life, and identities, and the life she so desperately attempted to forget. Nora is forced to face her relationships with not only Iris and Wes, but her mother and the life she had escaped from. With a twist in every chapter, The Girls I’ve Been will have you at the edge of your seat from beginning to end.

Jamie Yocum

Why We Fly
Jones, Kimberly and Segal, Gilly
Sourcebooks Fire
Nominated by: Haley Shaffer

Inspired by real events, Why We Fly shines a spotlight on the take a knee protests. Best friends Leni and Nelly are passionate about their cheerleading career. As they enter their senior year, Leni is laser-focused on leading the team to the Nationals, while Nelly has her sights set on a top college. But when the cheer team decides to take a knee to show solidarity with an NFL star and school alum, the two friends find themselves at odds after one is suspended and one is not. Their friendship and futures are in danger. Told in two perspectives, this story perfectly captures the challenges of high school, while exploring the struggle of young athletes who organize for a change.

Haley Shaffer, Teachers Who Read

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Bad Witch Burning
Lewis, Jessica
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Kim Baccellia

An entrancing story of magic and the danger it can bring. Katrell’s can’t make enough to support her mom by talking to the dead to pay the bills she turns to raising the dead. The unforeseen side effects of this decision change her life. The characters are well-developed and the decisions of the protagonist make you wish she’d do anything else, but leave you knowing she’s choosing the only choice for her.

Tria Bravo-Pallesen, Tria-saurus: Lover of Words

Iron Widow
Zhao, Xiran Jay
Penguin Teen
Nominated by: ChristaS

Iron Widow is an intense, entertaining, wild ride of a book set in a futuristic world with giant fighting robots, loosely based on the rise to power of the only female emperor of China. Zetian begins the book determined to get vengeance for her sister's death as a concubine-pilot: the robots who are humanity's only hope against alien attackers need to be piloted by a man and a woman, but the women usually die from the strain of the psychic bond. Zetian's will and her anger propel her through this world impossibly stacked against her, and the world will never be the same.

Kim Aippersbach, Dead Houseplants*

The City Beautiful
Polydoros, Aden
Inkyard Press
Nominated by: LGBTQ Reads

Set against the backdrop of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, The City Beautiful follows Alter, a young, queer, Jewish immigrant who is possessed by the dybbuk of his murdered best friend, Yakov. Alter must trust a dangerous former acquaintance to help him. Putting his feelings for his old friend aside, they work together to take down a serial killer. Jewish folklore, big city American 19th century culture, and Gothic horror vibes combine to make this a haunting and thrilling tale.

Kimberly Lynne, girlxoxo

The Gilded Ones
Forna, Namina
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jen at Introverted Reader

The Gilded Ones is a bold and defiant story of a young woman who smashes expectations. Deka is desperate to fit into her small community, where girls are required to prove their purity through blood, but when the time for her ritual arrives, she is revealed as powerfully impure. She is taken away to join the ranks of the alaki—female warriors tasked with defending their country from the Deathshrieks. This story starts off strong, with a fast-paced and well-structured plot and lots of exciting world building. The female characters are very well developed and their backstories are unveiled with compelling timing throughout the story. This was originally planned for publication in 2020 but how lucky we are to include it here in the 2021 list of finalists!

Jenna Ehler, Goodreads

The Mirror Season
McLemore, Anna-Marie
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Laura Gardner

A tale of discovery, healing, and powerful magic, The Mirror Season tells the story of a teenager named Ciela, who loses her family gift of baking enchanted pan dulce following her sexual assault. As she navigates her journey, the world changes around her: trees in the neighborhood mysteriously disappear, shards of mirrored glass haunt her every move, and a teenage boy named Lock suddenly appears who shares Ciela’s experience at the same party that night. Both must help each other understand and heal from their trauma in this effective and beautiful venture from author Anna-Marie McLemore.

Nithya Myneni, Goodreads

The Ones We're Meant to Find
He, Joan
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Grace Barker

In a world ruined by climate change, two sisters search for each other. Humankind is looking for a solution for the natural disasters ravaging the world, and Kasey is looking for her sister, Celia. Kasey is content with her life in the eco-city and conducting part of her life virtually to save resources. Celia on the other hand desired to be in the real world outside, and three months ago she disappeared after secretly taking a boat out to sea. As Kasey traces her sister's last steps, Kasey discovers Celia had secrets—just like her. Three years ago, Cee woke up on an abandoned island with no memories other than she must get back to her sister.

Grace Barker, Grace Gets Books

Rogerson, Margaret
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Jenna

In a world where the dead do not always rest peacefully, Artemisia is training to become a Gray Sister — a nun tasked with cleansing corpses to ensure their spirits will not rise again as violent monsters. When she was a child, Artemisia was possessed by a dangerous type of spirit called a revenant, and the trauma from her past still lingers. But when her convent is attacked by possessed soldiers, Artemisia may have no choice but to allow a revenant to possess her once more. She must become a vespertine, a priestess with the power to wield a revenant. Though dark and gritty, this novel has a surprising amount of heart and humor. It’s difficult not to fall in love with each of the characters and the friendships that bloom throughout this story, including one between Artemisia and her revenant. It’s also refreshing to see a young adult novel that prioritizes platonic relationships over romance.

Sarah Cook, sarah yael