2022 Cybils Finalists

Board Books

10 Little Tractors (10 Little Vehicles)
Bailey, Annie, illustrated by Harter, Jeff
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: JSJ

Ten little tractors have a busy day working, and when the day comes to an end, they all gather together to go to sleep.

This is a board book that does everything we ask for in a board book: It’s about little things that are, nevertheless, very strong…it's a counting book…it’s a bedtime read-aloud—10 Little Tractors is perfect for all the small folks who love things that move.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Animals Move (Big, Little Concepts, 3)
Whittingham, Jane
Pajama Press
Nominated by: Terry Doherty

Captivating photographs portrayed side-by-side compare animal movements to that of a child, encouraging readers to get up and move! Readers learn the proper names for baby animals and their adult counterparts. With simple sentences and such an engaging premise, this is a phenomenal introduction to nonfiction texts for the youngest audiences.

Sam Richardson, Little Cub Literacy

Be My Neighbor?
illustrated by Ultman, Suzy
Chronicle Books
Nominated by: Sam Richardson

Bright colors and whimsical art will entice readers inside this story shaped like a house. Follow the cat family as they go door-to-door in search of some cookie ingredients. Inside each new home young readers will delight in opening ovens, cupboards, and drawers, to see what each family keeps inside. How fun it is to explore each unique home! And through it all, neighborly warmth radiates outward!

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Hello, World! Garden Time
McDonald, Jill
Doubleday Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Hello, World! Garden Time is a wonderful first look at gardening---how seeds are planted and how they grow, the parts of plants, interactions of plants with earthworms and pollinators...everything a little person might like to know about growing plants.

It's a happy way to introduce the joy of gardening, the joy of the outdoors, with young children.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Look Twice: An Interactive Board Book Full of Surprises!
Ferri, Giuliano
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

From beehives to pigs, from flowers to lions, the illustrations in this simple board book provide plenty of opportunities for discoveries. In addition, dicuts on every page transform the familiar animals and landscapes in unexpected ways. Young learners will be engaged in finding the differences, bolstered by the straightforward text. This is a simple book for older toddlers who are learning to comprehend description in text.

Maggi Rohde, Goodreads: Maggi Rohde

Odd Birds: Meet Nature's Weirdest Flock
Gehl, Laura, illustrated by Lucas, Gareth
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

This engaging and educational board book introduces a fantastically unique selection of birds as well as their unique quirks.

These fun illustrations and accompanying facts and expansive backmatter make this a board book that will appeal to both toddlers and young readers/listeners, and even might inspire a chuckle or two. A wonderful way to introduce children to the wild and wonderful world of birds, with food for thought -- who is the odd one?

Lynne Marie Pisano, My Word Playground

The Hair Book
Yvette, LaTonya, illustrated by Jones, Amanda Jane
Union Square Kids
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Bold, fun illustrations showcase hair of all types: short, long, curly, straight, nonexistent and more! The hairstyles represented are inclusive and accurate. Little readers will enjoy identifying their own hair and that of friends and family as they flip through each page and examine their reflection on the mirror page. With highly contrasted imagery, this read grows with children from birth!

Sam Richardson, Little Cub Literacy

Easy Readers

Cornbread & Poppy (Cornbread and Poppy, 1)
Cordell, Matthew
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Reshama

This charming story follows a pair of mice as they make preparations for winter. Cornbread, a born planner, starts preparing for winter in advance, scouring for berries, buying cheese, and finding grains. His house is all set with food for winter. Poppy, on the other hand, is a procrastinator by nature. When winter arrives, Cornbread is ready and Poppy is not. A true friend, Cornbread joins Poppy in a search for food that leads them into a perilous mission on Holler Mountain. This sweet, funny exploration of friendship, cooperation, and fun holds a lot of appeal for young fans of animal adventures.

Nadia Pshonyak, (instagram) @nadiareads.sgf

Gigi and Ojiji (I Can Read Level 3)
Iwai, Melissa, illustrated by Iwai, Melissa
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

Gigi’s grandfather is coming from Japan to live with Gigi and her family. Gigi makes a picture to give Ojiisan at the airport, and she’s confused when he doesn’t open her present or give her a hug. Even more baffling, he doesn’t think Roscoe should be allowed inside the house! Gigi’s initial struggle with cultural differences blossoms into the discovery that she (and Roscoe) can help her grandfather learn new customs, too. Many young readers will relate to the book’s themes of navigating initial awkwardness with a relative and gradually getting to know each other better.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Reina Ramos Works It Out (I Can Read Level 2)
Otheguy, Emma, illustrated by Landazábal, Andrés
Nominated by: Charlotte

Reina Ramos's name means queen, and in this sweet story she demonstrates what it means to be a queen—and a friend. Reina and her classmates are each choosing a historical figure to represent in their class’s wax museum. Tension arises when both Reina and her bestie want to be Frida Kahlo. How will they decide who gets to dress up as their favorite painter? Reina’s struggle to find a solution to this thorny problem will resonate with many young readers. Emma Otheguy does a masterful job of incorporating information about a number of Latina figures that readers will want to learn even more about after this lively introduction from Reina and her classmates.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Tiny Tales: A Feast for Friends (I Can Read Comics Level 3)
Waldo, Steph, illustrated by Waldo, Steph
Nominated by: Patricia Tilton

Tiny, a snail, leaves her friends sleeping and goes looking for something to eat. Discovering a crab apple, she decides to harvest it and share it with her friends as a surprise. After several failed attempts to reach the fruit, her friends come to her aid. This early graphic reader offers readers not only a cute story about friendship, but also adorable characters and plenty of humor. In her efforts to keep her surprise a secret, Tiny confuses her friends by pretending she’s not doing anything. Thankfully their persistence assures that she gets the help she needs. A delightful addition to the series.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Ty's Travels: Lab Magic (My First I Can Read)
Lyons, Kelly Starling, illustrated by Mata, Niña
HarperCollins Childrens
Nominated by: Maggi Rohde

Brothers Ty and Corey share a love of science. Their mom takes them to the local museum where once they step through the doors they are scientists; however, Corey isn't old enough to go into the lab, so plans change. Ty gets the idea to create a lab at home with items they already have. The brothers’ enthusiasm for science is infectious as they help each other learn and explore new experiments. This appealing chapter book packs in a lot of brotherly love and fun for the reader and listener.

Shannon Griffin, Magical Wonder of Books

World of Reading: Mother Bruce Ballet Bruce: Level 1
Higgins, Ryan, illustrated by Higgins, Ryan
Nominated by: Becky L.

Continuing the popular Mother Bruce stories, Ballet Bruce is the tale of a lovably grumpy bear who finds himself in charge of some spirited young geese. This time, the geese—inspired by Swan Lake—want to attempt ballet. After succumbing to their sad goose eyes, Bruce attempts to help. First, the geese need ballet shoes. Then dance pants. And of course they need tutus. After several long, difficult trips to town involving replacement pants, flat tires, and detours, the geese have all they need to do ballet. But now they want to go for a ride! With delightfully humorous illustrations and understated text, Higgins creates another winning tale brimming with silliness and heart.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Early Chapter Books

Book Buddies: Marco Polo Brave Explorer
Lord, Cynthia, illustrated by Graegin, Stephanie
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Becky L.

Marco Polo, a small felt mouse, wants to go on adventures. But life as a Christmas ornament isn’t adventurous at all. After a librarian adds him to the book buddies program, he hopes that this will be his chance to have an adventure. It doesn’t look good, though, as parents discourage their children from borrowing him because he’s small and might get lost. Seth, a boy nervous about his first sleepover, brings Marco Polo along to help him be brave. Being snatched by a cat and dragged off to the cat’s secret stash proves to be more of an adventure than Marco Polo expected. An array of whimsical characters add interest and charm this delightful adventure for young readers who love stories about toys coming to life. Marco Polo makes for an appealing character who truly wants to help Seth while experiencing his own adventure.

Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian

Crimson Twill: Witch in the City
George, Kallie, illustrated by Sif, Birgitta
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Christopher Helton

Crimson Twill is a young witch, but you wouldn’t know by looking at her. She wears bright colored polka dots, a crimson hat with a bow to match her name, and gum boots. She giggles, skips, and plays like all children instead of cackling and creeping around like witches are supposed to do.

Crimson is excited when her mother announces they are going to New Wart City to shop at Broomingdale’s. After making plans to meet her mother later for the fashion show, Crimson sets off to explore on her own. She thinks she might find a new hat or a wand or even a broomstick, maybe even a pet cat? But events take one unexpected turn after another, to comic effect. Crimson Twill: Witch in the City is a captivating read with heart, friendship, bravery, and a strong female protagonist who dares to be different.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, What We're Reading Now

Frank and the Bad Surprise (Frank and the Puppy, 1)
Brockenbrough, Martha, illustrated by Lau, Jon
Levine Querido
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

Illustrations by Jon Lau capture the personality and mannerisms of Frank, a cat who is living the good life. He has a warm ray of sun to nap in, humans who love him, quiet times and plenty of Whiskies to eat. Then one day his dear humans bring home a box containing a yappy little puppy—a puppy who invades Frank’s naps, eats his Whiskies, and steals his dear humans' hearts. Bad turns to worse when Frank finds himself caged after a swat at the puppy. His hurt and outrage compel him to run away from home. Frank soon discovers the big, wide world is not as safe and wonderful as he had imagined. Maybe, just maybe, the puppy isn't so bad after all. This is a lovely early chapter book about fitting in, acceptance, being open to change, embracing found family, and love.

Pamela Thompson McLeod, What We're Reading Now

Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants
Quigley, Dawn, illustrated by Audibert, Tara
Nominated by: Katy K.

The latest installment of the Jo Jo Makoons series does a beautiful job of seamlessly integrating Ojibwe and Michif words and culture as Jojo prepares to travel from her familiar reservation to Wisconsin for a family wedding. She's heard that dairy is a pretty big deal there and anticipates getting cheese on everything. Jo Jo sometimes takes people’s remarks very literally, a la Amelia Bedelia, and she likes to show people when she's being "helpful" with her smiles and head tilts. Young readers will be enchanted by Jojo Makoons and her bear-ear hairstyle in this relatable tale about figuring out what it means to be fancy.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Leave It to Plum!
Phelan, Matt, illustrated by Phelan, Matt
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Kristen

Athensville Zoo is a scene of wild adventures, thanks to the fun characters in this hilarious early chapter book. Readers will root for Plum, a spunky young peacock, and his friends as they take on the zoo’s resident bully, a marsupial named Itch. Leave It To Plum has short, engaging chapters and vivid black-and-white illustrations that portray the zany creatures and zoo antics with just the right mix of hope, friendship, and laughter.

Shannon Griffin, Magical Wonder of Books

Little Olympians 4: Artemis, the Archer Goddess
By A.I. Newton, Illustrated by Anjan Sarkar
little bee books
Publisher/ Author Submission

Book 4 in the popular Little Olympians graphic novel series, this story follows Artemis and her quest to stand up for herself and make sure that she gets the credit she deserves. Artemis, an excellent archer, wins a competition against her brother, Apollo—but Hermes names Apollo as the winner in an article for the camp paper. Artemis confronts Hermes about the error, but he blows her off, saying Apollo’s personality and boasting make for a better story. Artemis is faced with a challenge: how to show the boys how it feels to be overlooked. Readers will be charmed by the delightful cast of characters who have a few things to learn about friendship, fairness, and standing up for what is right.

Nadia Pshonyak

The Weird Sisters: A Note, a Goat, and a Casserole (Weird Sisters Detective Agency, 1)
Smith, Mark David, illustrated by Rust, Kari
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: T.S. Davis

This debut tale in a new series about three mystery-solving sisters makes for a laugh-out-loud, can't-put-it-down kind of read. When the sisters move into the neighborhood and open their own pet emporium—complete with possums and fire ants—their first customer, Jessica, discovers a note near the door that seems to be a bit menacing, telling the sisters they should leave the neighborhood. But things are not at all as they seem. And the note's not the only unexpected development…This whimsical tale is full of wordplay and puns that will keep the reader guessing, right up to the end.

Ellen Zschunke, On the Shelf 4 Kids

Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

Children of the Quicksands
Traore, Efua
Chicken House
Nominated by: Kim Aippersbach

Simi's mother raised her in a protective bubble in Lagos, which did nothing to prepare her for a summer spent with her grandmother in a remote village, where the magic of the Yoruba gods and goddesses is real, and modern conveniences aren't. There she is confronted with a mystery of vanished children, an unhappy Goddess, and a lake of quicksand that sucks her into a magical bubble world where other children are trapped. She escapes, and begins to unravel the stories at the heart of the mystery, including her own family tragedy and her grandmother's connection to the Goddess who created the lake. The fantasy side of the story is compelling and distinctive--though there is very real danger, loss, and heartbreak, there is no larger-than-life villain here to be defeated, and Simi is no special Chosen One. Equally engrossing is the beautifully detailed real world story of a city girl adjusting to a rural way of life, who learns how to adapt and becomes a true member of a vibrant community. Truly a winning combination!

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Eden's Everdark
Strong, Karen
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller

This stunning and thoroughly engrossing horror adventure book immerses readers in a nightmare, with the horrific history of slavery adding depth to the already blood-chilling setting. When Eden meets her deceased mother’s family for the first time, they embrace her. But their island home has a dark side. Eden wanders into Everdark, a strange parallel world. There she is captured by the Witch of Everdark, who is determined to keep her as a daughter in a terrifying version of an opulent mansion that once belonged to slave owners. The characters, both living and dead, are wonderfully complex and mysterious. Readers will be fully invested in Eden’s attempts to escape Everdark by drawing both on her own magical heritage and her strength of character to break and heal intergenerational trauma.

Jolynn Asato, Literacyedprof

Fenris & Mott
van Eekhout, Greg
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

Mythological mayhem crashes into the real world, in the form of a wolf puppy, Fenris, who's about to unwittingly set Ragnarok in motion, and who's rescued by an ordinary girl, Mott. Now alongside her regular, very relatable, anxieties, Mott has a wolf puppy to defend, and Norse magic gone wild to deal with. Along with the fantastical danger the world is in, there's also extreme environmental danger. Mott wants to save both Fenris and the world, and the tension keeps building beautifully. It's funny and sweet as all get out (Fenris makes an adorable puppy), and it's also a page turner of a high stakes romp! An utterly delightful book, with thought-provoking real world seasoning!

Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Freddie vs. the Family Curse
Badua, Tracy
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Greg Pattridge

This supernatural caper about a boy who unleashes the spirit of his great uncle, responsible for the family curse, is full of heart and humor. Freddie’s many cringe-worthy antics and the loving, but often sarcastic, commentary of his family were both hilarious and relatable. At its core, this book celebrates Freddie’s Filipino-American family and does a beautiful job of substantively weaving in important themes of history, culture, community, and tradition into a madcap, magical adventure.

Jolynn Asato, Literacyedprof

The Clackity
Senf, Lora
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb

Unapologetically scary and occasionally stomach-turningly grotesque, The Clackity reads like a mash-up of old-school fairy tales and modern horror. The prose is musical, the plot keeps the pages turning, and the emotional honesty keeps it grounded even in an entirely fantastical setting. Featuring an episodic structure that’ll appeal to gaming fans, our heroine is tasked with traversing seven dangerous houses full of puzzles and traps, suspicious characters and unwelcome surprises–and all she’s got on her side is her knowledge of fairy tales, her tenacity, her techniques for keeping her panic attacks under control… and an entirely original animal companion that might prompt young readers to start making plans for their first tattoo.

Leila Roy, Bookshelves of Doom

The Marvellers (Marvellerverse, 1)
Clayton, Dhonielle, illustrated by Khatib, Khadijah
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: Jenna

Ella Durand has grown up near New Orleans in a magical family that practices the traditional arts of Conjure. Historically, though, Conjure has been considered somewhere between lesser and downright wicked by the rest of the magical community, the Marvellers. So when Ella enrolls in the Marveller’s magic school, the Arcanum Training Institute, her experience is both exciting and fraught. The Marveller’s world is filled with tradition and whimsy, including delightful foods, adorable creatures, steampunk/futuristic transportation, unique characters - and a villain that the adults refuse to believe is there. This is an engrossing read for any kid or would-be kid looking for a magical school to call their own.

Katy Kramp, A Library Mama

The Mirrorwood
Fagan, Deva
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sheila Ruth

A girl without a face stars in this cleverly reinventive fantasy tale that has roots in Sleeping Beauty. The story twists and turns with never a dull moment as Fable encounters imaginative riddles, illusions, and challenges on her quest to free the Mirrorwood from its demon-prince. The folks who support Fable along the way (including a girl intent on killing her, a normalized queer family, and a fantastic feline sidekick) elevate the story. With themes of finding your identity and recognizing the experiences of others, The Mirrorwood is a fairy tale adventure with plenty that will enchant young readers.

Jenna Grose, Falling Letters

Fiction Picture Books

Apple and Magnolia
Laura Gehl, illustrated by Patricia Metola
Westminster John Knox Press & Flyaway Books
Nominated by: Lisa Rogers

Despite others telling her that trees cannot be friends, Britta imagines a friendship between an apple tree and a magnolia tree. And when Magnola becomes ill, despite others giving a grim prognosis, she comes up with a plan to keep them connected over the long, cold winter. And although no one, except Grandma, believes trees can be friends, Britta learns the power of friendship in a most special way.

This book is lyrical, humorous, doubtful and hopeful all at the same time, with a wonderful nod toward hope and a foundation in friendship.

Lynne Marie Pisano, My Word Playground

Blackall, Sophie
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

A family of twelve children once grew up inside these farmhouse walls, but now it’s nothing more than peeling wallpaper and faded fabric scraps. Gorgeous, detailed illustrations and text written in verse give readers a glimpse inside the farmhouse walls, imagining what memories could have been made in the time the family lived there. Based on the author’s true experience of finding an abandoned farmhouse on her property, this read is full of nostalgia and love.

Sam Richardson, Little Cub Literacy

Finding Fire
Kline, Logan S., illustrated by Kline, Logan S.
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Heidi G.

After a foundation in the needs of a neanderthal family is laid, a young boy leads the reader on a journey to find fire through stunning, colorful and captivating illustrations. It's a journey of trials and tribulations, improvisations, failures and successes and unexpected surprises without even a word being said.

A fabulous book of persistence with a subtle message that if the need of someone else pulls you off your path, the blessings will find their way to you despite your altered course.

Lynne Marie Pisano, My Word Playground

How to Party Like a Snail
Hrab, Naseem, illustrated by Collier, Kelly
Owlkids Books
Nominated by: Nicole

Snail loves parties, especially the quiet parts. Making wishes, confetti, the moments before people yell SURPRISE!

But when sweet snail stops getting invited to parties he reflects that maybe his friends see him as more of a party pooper than a party animal. So, snail throws himself a pity party for one. He includes all his favorite quiet things: warm milk, lullabies, and being wrapped in a blanket burrito. The story doesn’t end there though! You’ll never guess what happens next.

Nicole Levesque, Bluestocking Thinking

Knight Owl
Denise, Christopher
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

Owl desperately wants to be a knight, but he's not sure he is up for the job. But then knights start disappearing and, he dares to apply. Off he goes to knight school, and, happily, he successfully becomes a knight and is assigned to be on Knight Night Watch. And it is here he faces his biggest challenge of all.

Such a gentle story, and yet such a powerful story, of courage and cleverness and overcoming obstacles, all told in a way that allows children to figure things out for themselves. You can't help but love Knight Owl.

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Nigel and the Moon
Eady, Antwan, illustrated by Zhang, Gracey
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Aimee Smith @keepabookout

Nigel is a dreamer, and he tells his dreams to the moon. During the day, however, at school while learning about careers, he is asked to speak his dreams aloud, and Nigel isn't ready. What if his wish to be a superhero isn't possible? In this gentle story of hopes and aspirations, dreams and reality blend to prove the adage that all things are possible if we wish them to be so.

Maggi Rohde, Goodreads: Maggi Rohde

Out of a Jar
Marcero, Deborah, illustrated by Marcero, Deborah
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Llewellyn doesn't like to feel sad or angry or embarrassed or lonely, and he comes up with a plan to deal with his feelings: he hides his feelings in a jar and puts them away so he won't be bothered with them.

It isn't long before he finds that he needs to hide not only the bad feelings, but also he has to hide feelings of excitement and joy, too. And then he has no more room for jars... A lovely little story that offers help in sorting out feelings for kids…and, maybe, for grownups, too. And who among us couldn't use a little more of that these days?

Deb Nance, Readerbuzz

Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Invisible: A Graphic Novel
Gonzalez, Christina Diaz, illustrated by Epstein, Gabriela
Nominated by: cheriee weichel

Five Latine students are thrown together because they all speak Spanish. What they know, and others (including the reader) learn is that they are not: they all have distinct experiences and cultures that make them different. Told in alternating viewpoints, they all work together to explain why they all ended up in their principal's office. Much of it is in Spanish (translated, for the non-Spanish speakers). An excellent graphic novel not just for the representation it provides, but because each of the five characters are sympathetic and interesting, and they work together to help a woman and child who are experiencing homelessness. Engaging and fun, it's an absolute delight to read.

Melissa Fox, The Book Nut

Little Monarchs
Case, Jonathan
Margaret Ferguson Books
Nominated by: jkeeler

Set 50 year in the future, Little Monarchs features Elvie, a 10 year old, and her caretaker Flora, who are among the few that can survive during daylight. Thanks to Flora, a biologist, who created an antidote that allows her and Elvie to be able to walk among the sun and survive for a few days following the source, monarch butterflies. Unfortunately the antidote only lasts a few days and cannot be mass produced, leading the main characters to following the patterns of butterflies. Between wonderful illustrations is a scientific journal aspect, that Elvie is constantly updating as they journey. Overall, the way Little Monarchs was written, the journal aspect, the stem conversations and the hope for conservation, protection, and the idea that well-being is not only for us but for all lead to a great graphic novel.

Jennifer Caynor

Shammas, Nadia and Alfageeh, Sara, illustrated by Alfageeh, Sara
Quill Tree Books
Nominated by: afrjes7547

A fantasy novel with roots in real-life issues of war, imperialism, and loyalty, Squire is the story of Aiza, who trains to become a knight while hiding her identity. Knighthood provides an escape from poverty but it isn't a magical answer, as Aiza's mentor tries to ingrain in her. Squire exposes the narratives that we are told, showing that history is written by the victors. The artwork is stunning and the story is powerful.

Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It

Swim Team
Christmas, Johnnie, illustrated by Christmas, Johnnie
Nominated by: Lucy K

An incredible story about Bree and why swimming is the last thing on her mind, especially when Bree and her father have just moved to a new state. When school begins, Bree is hoping to get one of the many electives on her must list, but she realizes that none of them are available to her. So Swim 101 it is. There is one big problem, Bree is afraid of water and she can’t swim. This graphic novel brings up relevant social issues while keeping the story relatable. It presents a history lesson to readers as well as to Bree when she learns that segregation plays a huge part in why so many Black individuals have struggled with swimming. Themes of friendship, determination, kindness, bullying, family expectations, and advocating for yourself spill out into the story line making the reader wish they too were a Manatee.

Jennifer Caynor

The Flamingo: A Graphic Novel Chapter Book
Random House Studio
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

In the nearly wordless graphic novel, The Flamingo, a little girl and her grandmother are spending time together until the little girl finds a flamingo feather and her grandmother unravels a story of fantasy from her own childhood that traverses the readers imagination. With beautiful illustrations, Guojing brings to life a story of love and joy, bringing together generations of imagination and tender moments of family.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library

The Woman in the Woods
Edited by Ashwin, Kate; McDonald, Kel; Pete, Alina
Iron Circus Comics
Nominated by: aquafortis

Native/indigenous authors have come together in The Woman in the Woods and other North American Stories to share a variety of stories passed down from their different cultures. Each tale has a different author/illustrator or duo and also involves different North American tribes from Metis, Ojibwe, Taino, Navajo, S'Kallam, Cree, Chickasaw, and Odawa. The stories range from trickster tales to nature stories and more. Each story was so unique and different that the reader wouldn't know what to expect coming up and the illustrations brought forth each story to life and matched the tone of each theme.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library

Wingbearer (Wingbearer, 1)
Liu, Marjorie, illustrated by Issakhanian, Teny
Quill Tree Books
Nominated by: Katy K.

Get lost in a world where magic meets adventure. Zuli lives in a sacred tree amongst the Wings, guardians of birds’ souls. The souls tell stories and talk about what they have seen in their life that make Zuli question what is really out there and what is she missing beyond the tree. When Zuli notices that birds are dying and as the tree that once bright life to these souls becomes dark, and the leaves not at all as lively as they used to be, something must be wrong. Wingbearer is a traditional hero's journey with a brilliant twist, set with a backdrop of gorgeous graphics to tell a story rich and vibrant. Follow Zuli as she enters a world full of mystical creatures and insight into who she really is.

Jennifer Caynor

Young Adult

Across a Field of Starlight: (A Graphic Novel)
Delliquanti, Blue
Random House Graphic
Nominated by: aquafortis

Lu and Fassen meet as children – one an orphan from a famous resistance movement, and the other from a secretive commune trying to evade the reach of the Ever-Blossoming Empire. Their experiences as budding nonbinary scientists, soldiers, medics, and young people trying to grapple with the world and maintain their friendship – are the close-up story against the backdrop of a science fiction epic. Blue Delliquanti’s art, a gorgeous, rainbow-palette of coziness, contrasts with the stakes of space and war, and mirrors the tension that the characters feel in keeping parts of their lives separate from their best friend. The Cybils panel loved that Delliquanti’s characters comprise a variety of racial and genderqueer identities, body shapes, but that that is never the point. Refreshingly, they just are, and we were drawn into this hopeful and imaginative future in part because of that.

Cecelia Larsen, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Huda F Are You?
Fahmy, Huda, illustrated by Fahmy, Huda
Dial Books
Nominated by: Eliza Blumenthal

Growing up in Dearborn Michigan, Huda Fahmy was surrounded by other Muslim girls, so that wasn't setting her apart from everyone else. She wasn't a gamer, or a fashionista, or an athlete, either. She was just... Huda. In her hilarious memoir, Huda F Are You?, Huda takes a deep dive into how she spent her teens becoming comfortable with being in her own skin. There are hilarious moments with her family and friends. Ultimately relatable as Huda goes through her teens figuring out who she is, we also see life from the perspective of a Muslim teen and her family.

Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It

M Is for Monster
Dutton, Talia
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: RaiseThemRighteous by Jennifer Miller

When Dr. Frances Ai's sister, Maura, dies unexpectedly, she works to bring her back to life. What comes back, however, is M, who looks like Maura, talks like Maura, but...isn't quite Maura. Dr. Ai says that if the resurrection didn't work right, she will put M under and try again, and M wants to keep living, so she pretends to "be" Maura. It's not quite right, and doesn't really go well at all. A very clever take on Frankenstein, one that is its own story while having echoes of the classic. It's a study on identity and self- awareness as well as on grief and letting go. Most of all, though, it's an exploration of what it means to be Human.

Melissa Fox, The Book Nut

Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese American
Gao, Laura, illustrated by Gao, Laura
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Deborah K

In Messy Roots, Laura tells her story an an immigrant from China to Texas. She discovers who she is as a queer person and the daughter of immigrants, and her voice comes through clearly with humor and honesty. The story explores internalized and systemic racism, and a glimpse into life as a person from Wuhan during COVID-19 gives readers a glimpse into the resurgence of anti-Asian sentiment in America.

Rosemary Kiladitis, Mom Read It

Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting
Neely, Kindra
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennifer Naughton

In Numb to This, Kindra Neely, a mass shooting survivor, shares a beautiful, poignant, and searing memoir of the years immediately after her traumatic experience at Umpqua Community College. The majority of Neely’s book focuses on the day of the shooting and what happened next: how she reacted in the short- and long-term, the impact of PTSD on her life, and the reality of a suicide attempt. The committee was impressed by how Neely narrated that aftermath with care and honesty. Numb to This will resonate with the anxieties of today’s teens, and its ultimately hopeful ending will have a positive impact on all its readers.

Cecelia Larsen, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

The Greatest Thing
Searle, Sarah Winifred
First Second Books
Nominated by: Max at Completely Full Bookshelf

The Greatest Thing is the story of Winifred as she navigates another year of school but this time without her best friends, navigating through making new friends, finding out who she is and dealing with the trials of being a teenager. Beautifully illustrated, Sarah Winifred Searles still manages to show the raw side of emotions as this book tackles many tough issues that are social/emotional as well as psychological. The reader's heart will be captured as the characters struggle and show their flaws, have misunderstandings and come back together.

Kristen Harvey, Mrs. Harvey's Library

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice
Smith, Tommie and Barnes, Derrick and Anyabwile, Dawud
Norton Young Readers
Nominated by: Cecelia of Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

As a graphic novel memoir, Victory. Stand! is a tight, focused narrative. The “present” is author Tommie Smith’s 1968 race for Olympic gold and the iconic podium moment; that is interspersed with flashbacks to Smith’s early childhood in Texas, his family’s move to California, and his own growing consciousness of the Civil Rights movement. It’s a gripping tale, made even more memorable by Dawud Anyabwile’s black and white linework, which provides a palpable sense of movement and focus. The committee thought the title’s art, readability, and interest to teens was unbeatable: anyone interested in history, Civil Rights, sports, the Olympics, and overcoming injustice would find something to enjoy in this book.

Cecelia Larsen, The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

Poetry Collections

At the Pond
Elliott, David, illustrated by Schimler-Safford, Amy
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Lisa Rogers

David Elliott adds a celebration of pond life to his collection of charming animal poetry in At The Pond. Following the arc of a day from morning to night, readers meet a variety of pond flora and fauna, ranging from the "delicate, diaphanous, dazzling" dragonfly, to the majestic heron. The word choices are often clever, with words hiding dual meanings. The untitled poems are a linguistic treat, filled with alliteration, assonance, internal rhyme, and vocabulary that will challenge some readers. Accompanied by enchanting mixed-media illustrations, this is a collection that will engage readers of all ages.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

Marshmallow Clouds: Two Poets at Play among Figures of Speech
Kooser, Ted and Wanek, Connie, illustrated by Jones, Richard
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Although this book is marketed by the publisher as a collection of poems celebrating unusual connections and imagery through the use of metaphor and simile, it is, in fact, a collection of fun, beautiful, and brilliant poetry that needs no thematic thread to pull the poems together. At once playful and thought-provoking, these poems show how simple, easy-to-access language can be used to spur a reader’s imagination and transport them to a new, surprising view of the world around them.

Matt Esenwine, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

My Name Is Jason. Mine Too.: Our Story. Our Way.
Reynolds, Jason and Griffin, Jason
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Nominated by: Kristen

This is so much more than simply a collection of poetry. This multimedia work of art with its graffiti-type paintings, ever-changing fonts, pages turned sideways and flip flopped immediately takes the reader through an authentic sensory experience. The exceptional poems are simultaneously intimately personal yet completely accessible - thoughtful, poignant, humourous while all sharing the struggles the two Jasons (Reynolds and Griffin) went through to become the successful artists and friends they are today. Stellar design.

Sheri Howard , Lobit Education Village Library

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water
Hannah-Jones, Nikole and Watson, Renée, illustrated by Smith, Nikkolas
Nominated by: Jenna

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water is a beautifully written and illustrated poetry collection that brims with emotion. Moving beyond the history of slavery to one of perseverance and hope, the poems in this collection recognize the contributions of Black Americans and place them squarely within the fabric of American history. Grandmother's story, told in verse, reminds readers that those who were kidnapped were humans thriving in their families and communities, with cultures to be celebrated. The poems that tell this story are real, informative, emotional, and inspiring.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

Zoobilations!: Animal Poems and Paintings
Florian, Douglas, illustrated by Florian, Douglas
Beach Lane Books
Nominated by: Reshama

Zoobilations: Animal Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian is a fun and zany introduction to animals like the antelope, elephant, giraffe, seagull, naked mole rat, hammerhead shark, flying fox, weasel, mandrill, centipede and millipede, and more. With playful and creative art that mimics children’s crayon drawings, Florian employs easy-to-read rhyming lines, unusual imagery, and clever, groan-worthy puns to engage young readers and listeners on each double-page spread of poem and picture. Accessible, but always delightfully slightly off-kilter, this collection is sure to be a kid-pleaser.

Sylvia Vardell , Poetry for Children

Novels in Verse

African Town
Waters, Charles and Latham, Irene
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Becky L.

In 1860, long after the U.S. outlawed the importation of enslaved laborers, 110 men, women and children from Africa were captured and brought to Mobile, Alabama aboard a ship called Clotilda. African Town is the story of the lives for fourteen of these enslaved people both before their capture, during their enslavement, and after their emancipation when they formed a community, named African Town, today known as Africatown. Of the fourteen characters each has a distinct voice, written in a specific poetic form or style allowing each their own shapes and tones in keeping with the artistic decisions the authors made, matching styles to characters. This ingenious novel is based on facts and the authors did their best to stay true to actual events.

Anne Bennett , My Head Is Full of Books

Applegate, Katherine, illustrated by Santoso, Charles
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Heidi G.

A wonderful “first verse novel” for young readers, Katherine Applegate’s newest book tells the tale of a sea otter whose life is upended when she meets a shark - and how she deals with the tumult and uncertainty the incident brings. The book is reminiscent of Aplegate’s “The One and Only Ivan” in that it lovingly and convincingly connects the reader to the animal hero of the story with simple yet beautiful language. Written in prosaic free verse, the book is an enjoyable read for kids as well as adults and should find a home in every classroom and library.

Matt Esenwine , Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme

Singing with Elephants
Engle, Margarita
Viking Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Gary Anderson

One of Margarita’s strongest recent books: accessible, poignant. Her poetry is beautiful - never over the head of her reader, powerful, moving, and vibrant. Every word she chose, the phrases she crafted, her unique imagery all show why Margarita is one of the best writers in this style. This book is a fine example of her talent. “There is no better home for emotions than a poem.” Great quote, and there is so much emotion in this book. It’s full of heartache and loss but also love. The story is as beautiful as the poetry.

Sheri Howard, Lobit Education Village Library

The Hope of Elephants
Hill, Amanda Rawson
Nominated by: Joanne R. Fritz

“Cancer visits my dad in all the odd years of my life.” This story is heartbreaking from page 2, but so relatable as twelve-year old Cass copes with her dad’s serious illness, her mom’s overbearing positivity, and her best friend’s support. Hill’s free verse poetry builds on Cass’s clear first-person voice and uses creative spacing for effect, along with concrete or shape poems, poems for two voices or dual points of view, italics for flashback scenes, and handwritten text for lists of pros and cons. Vivid characters, baseball metaphors, and powerful writing raise big questions about the meaning of life from an authentic child point of view, balancing deep sadness with true hopefulness.

Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children

Farid, Diana, illustrated by Goto, Kris
Cameron Kids
Nominated by: Melissa

Ava, a Persian-American teenager, lives to surf and loves to sing. But her mother wants her to be a doctor like herself, even though Ava faints at the side of blood. Her life seems to lift and crash down just like waves do as they near the shore. Often the verses are presented as concrete poems in the shape of waves and the comings and goings of life on the beach. Waves indeed form a theme for Ava’s life in Wave – Ava is surfing with friends -- Up! Ava's father is absent from her life -- down. Ava is asked to sing a solo -- Up! Ava's mom makes her volunteer at the hospital -- down. Ava meets a man at the hospital who introduces her to Rumi poems -- ride that wave! Phoenix, her best friend and fellow surfer, seems to be interested in her -- Up! Phoenix's cancer returns -- crash down. Ava wants to fix things but can't -- falling off the board. Ava finds love and acceptance after grief -- climbing back up. This beautiful novel-in-verse is a moving coming-of age story.

Anne Bennett, My Head Is Full of Books

Middle-Grade Fiction

Air: A Novel
Roe, Monica
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: JF

Twelve-year-old Emmie is a wheelchair athlete and wants nothing more than to someday own a chair that she can truly show off her skills with, one day maybe even competing in wheelchair motocross. Emmie and her best friend, Claire, put their business skills to work and are slowly raising the money, one wheelchair backpack at a time. When the opportunity comes to make her fundraising efforts public, Emmie is initially excited, knowing her dreams for the perfect wheelchair will come true much sooner, but she becomes increasingly more uncomfortable as it's made apparent that she is the "good cause" her school is raising money for. Emmie is forced to decide just how much of herself she is willing to give to gain access to the wheelchair of her dreams. Emmie is a spunky, confident main character who readers will love to root for and will have a blast following her story.

Amanda Sealey, A Patchwork of Books

Attack of the Black Rectangles
King, A. S.
Scholastic Press
Nominated by: Gary Anderson

Censorship is a hot topic this year and Amy Sarig King is tackling it with her new book The Attack of the Black Rectangles. It's about Mac, a middle schooler, who is surprised to find that his new reading teacher has censored the book their class is reading about the Holocaust by blacking out words related to women's anatomy. With support from his grandfather and his best friends, Mac takes his protest out into the community and finds more support than he ever dreamed. This is a wonderful story of friendship, hope and grace that will resonate with lots of readers. Don't miss it!

Debbie Tanner

Luqman-Dawson, Amina
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: LibraryMiranda

n this ambitious historical novel, an ensemble cast tells the story of a secret community in the Great Dismal Swamp built by formerly enslaved individuals. Homer, who escaped slavery, wants to go back and rescue his mother. Sanzi has grown up a wild and free child of the swamp, but wants to know what lies beyond its bounds. Nora is the daughter of the plantation owner; when she sees how her nanny is treated, she knows she has to create change. Anna, another young enslaved person on the plantation, has her own secret plans for becoming free. These young voices – and many more – twine together, circling the Freewater colony, as those within the community seek true freedom, and those who claim ownership of others seek to destroy it. A perfect read for children who love an immersive setting and complex plot, and for those who want to learn resistance stories in American History.

Elizabeth Carter

Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone
Keller, Tae
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: erinentrada

Middle school is often described as the years of adolescence to dread, and Jennifer Chan has every reason to dread her school days. The new girl in a small town, Jennifer not only believes in aliens but is also not afraid to talk about them to anyone who will listen. Mallory, her neighbor and classmate, encourages Jennifer to keep quiet about her seemingly odd beliefs in order to prevent the inevitable bullying that will follow. After Jennifer disappears, Mallory is forced to confront her own beliefs - not only about extraterrestrials, but also about what friendship really means and the lengths she's willing to go to protect her own. At times intense, Jennifer Chan is Not Alone confronts the aftereffects of bullying, while realistically portraying tween friendship. Tae Keller has created a story not simply of belief vs. unbelief, but one of understanding, compassion, and the complexity of hope in the unknown.

Amanda Sealey, A Patchwork of Books

Bajaj, Varsha
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Seth

Twelve-year-old Minni, the heroine of THIRST, lives in the poorest slum of Mumbai, India, in a shack with no indoor plumbing. Her crowded neighborhood is served by a communal tap, where residents must wait for hours to collect water to haul back to their homes. It's an arduous task that's made even more difficult by long lines, water shortages and theft of the precious liquid by the local mafia. When Minni is forced to leave school to work in an elegant high-rise where water flows freely with the magical twist of a knob, she's stunned to see just how different life is for the rich people in her city. She's even more surprised to discover her employer is a water mafia boss wanted by the police. Minni's family is counting on her wages, but her community needs water. Will bringing her boss to justice help? Or will it just lead to the loss of Minni's job and maybe even her life? Does Minni have the courage to find out? THIRST is a vivid, eye-opening read that helps readers understand the realities of living in extreme poverty in an intimate, personal way. Minni's empowering optimism provides an inspiring counterpoint to her grim living situation and her story teaches valuable lessons about the importance of hard work, education, friendship, and standing up to bullies. THIRST is a fast-paced, engrossing read that will resonate with readers young and old, helping all of us to appreciate the little luxuries we take for granted every day.

Susan Jensen, Bloggin About Books

Wishing Upon the Same Stars
Feldman, Jacquetta Nammar
HarperCollins Childrens
Nominated by: HeyStayAwesome

Wishing Upon the Same Stars is a story about finding common ground. When Yasmeen’s Arab family moves across the country, they experience culture shock as they discover that San Antonio Texas is very different from the Arab community they had in Detroit. This is a story about prejudice and mean girls as Yasmeen navigates friendships at her new school. When she befriends her Israeli Jewish neighbor, Ayelet, she knows her Palestinian father won’t approve. Ayelet’s father runs the Math Club, where Yasmeen finally feels like she belongs, but she thinks that she must keep her participation in the club as well as her friendship with Ayelet a secret. This story does a wonderful job of explaining the Israel/Palestine conflict in a way that children can understand. Through these two girls’ families, we get to see the conflict from both of their perspectives. This is such a heartwarming story of friendship and family and finding the good in people.

Emily Cook, History Book by Book

Standish, Ali
Nominated by: EmilyC

Yonder is a beautifully layered story about friendship, what it means to be a hero, coming of age, and realizing the world isn't as rosy as you'd once believed. Told in a non-linear timeline using flashbacks, you learn about the history of Danny’s friendship with Jack Bailey. Danny has looked up to Jack Bailey as a hero for years, ever since he rescued two children from drowning during the Great Flood of 1940. But in their small Appalachian town of Foggy Gap, Jack is an outcast, and when he disappears, no one seems to care but Danny. It takes Danny’s investigation to discover that there’s more to being a hero than what he imagined. This is a well-researched historical fiction that gives you a window into life on the American Homefront in the 1940s. With vivid characters and beautiful writing, this story is not to be missed!

Emily Cook, History Book by Book

Elementary Nonfiction

A Perfect Fit: How Lena “Lane” Bryant Changed the Shape of Fashion
Rockliff, Mara, illustrated by Martinez-Neal, Juana
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Emma @ Miss Print

A Perfect Fit is a children's picture book biography about Lena Bryant, founder of what would later become Lane Bryant clothing. But more than just being a story about the beginnings of a plus-size store, A Perfect Fit is an immigrant story, a story of acceptance, and a story of perseverance through extreme difficulty. With a focus on fame and fortune? No, with a focus on how we can help others. Mara Rockliff has expertly focused her story on important, hopeful, and inspiring aspects of a true fashion icon. Juana Martinez-Neal’s illustration style is a “perfect fit” for this stylish story. This eloquent depiction of Lena Bryant, a Jewish woman and a Lithuanian immigrant, leaves the reader captivated by her beauty and strength. Strength to leave everything and search for a dream in a foreign land. Strength to say no to a match that wasn't right. Strength to learn and grow and do new, hard things. Strength to start over, even when she was afraid. Strength to do things differently, if she could help others. Lena’s fortitude in the face of fear took her past transposing her name incorrectly when she nervously began at the bank, to a woman capable of providing clothing that celebrated women of all shapes and sizes, in a forward-thinking format ages ahead of her time. Lena Bryant’s story is a “perfect fit” for a nonfiction read of a pioneering woman that elementary children will easily admire.

Brooke Freebairn, thebrookelist

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky
Brew-Hammond, Nana Ekua, illustrated by Minter, Daniel
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: literacyedprof

While many of us probably know that jeans and other blues come from indigo, it is very likely that we’ve thought very little about the power and impact of blue as a dye in the fabric of our societies. With Blue: A History of the Color, Brew-Hammond explores the richness and value of collecting or creating blue dye, but also some of the societal impacts and even common idioms that have become part of our daily lives. The journey to understanding this unique, often tricky hue is complete with beautiful, inclusive images, bringing the history and color to life, side by side. A few examples of idioms or cultural uses are hard to forget. “Out of the blue" refers to something rare, or difficult to create, or our long-held royal/wealthy views of this rare color, which may be the reason for many of our "blue ribbon" traditions. And feeling "blue" or singing the "blues" bears connections to the grief or pains of slaves forced to grow/harvest indigo. These thought-provoking facets of this well-beloved color will leave children thinking about more than just their blue jeans.

Brooke Freebairn, thebrookelist

Good Eating: The Short Life of Krill
Matt Lilley Illustrated by Dan Tavis
Tilbury House
Publisher/ Author Submission

Ask most kids (and older) about krill, and they’ll say krill are a food source for whales. That produces a quick topic switch to whales, because whales are WAY more fun to talk about, right? I’d agree, until this book came along. From a surprisingly dramatic “egg” opening through all stages (scientifically labeled near each kid-friendly image), to multiple phases and adulthood, the shifts of location, perspective, and danger add interest and tension. Occasional clever puns are finessed into the brief and informative text. Readers (krill) are schooled (See? Pun!) in their importance as a keystone species, one that is constantly eatin’ while avoiding being eaten! If you also know that krill swim in massive schools, you’ll appreciate how both the author and illustrator managed to convey those huge populations while allowing a single krill to somehow be distinguished from the others. That’s the “you” in the narrative. Visually, that’s accomplished through placement on the page (during early life cycle stages) and using riveting eyes and a distinctive green belly, a krill consequence of eating so much chlorophyll-rich phytoplankton. The author addresses the reader as if they are this krill, the good-eater, green-bellied, eye-focused one. Each page holds remarkable, memorable facts about krill in brief, light text. A did-you-know quality abounds, such as adult krill: have 26 legs, molt (shed their shells) throughout life, look like bugs or shrimp but are neither, and (get this) can live up to TEN YEARS, if not eaten first! Backmatter adds even more fun facts, with readability to match the main text, including resources.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

If the World Were 100 Animals: A Visual Guide to Earth's Amazing Creatures
Smith, Miranda, illustrated by Cushley, Aaron
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Cindy Mitchell

“Pack age-appropriate lessons about world geography, history, biodiversity, anthropology and mathematics into a gorgeously-illustrated children’s book” may sound like a Herculean task. Fortunately for the kidlit world, author Miranda Smith and illustrator Aaron Cushley missed that memo. Each page spread boils the entire animal kingdom down into… well, 100 animals, sliced and diced in all sorts of cool ways we never thought of (94% of animals are insects, 91% of ocean animals have yet to be discovered, 53% of land animals live in Asia… the classifications and food for thought go on and on). Discussion questions in the backmatter gently encourage readers to reflect on how to be better friends to animals/stewards of the Earth. Brightly-colored, crisp visuals hold enough interest for cross-age appeal and something new to discover in repeat reads, making this book a great addition to both home and classroom libraries.

Kelly Krasner-Clarke, KidLitunderground

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion
Stocker, Shannon, illustrated by Holzwarth, Devon
Dial Books
Nominated by: Darshana Khiani

The illustrations of music, sound, and rhythm in this biography of a famous percussionist almost seem to boom in your ears as you read this; seeing sound through your eyes seems appropriate in this book about a deaf musician. Glennie had to relearn how to experience music after losing most of her hearing as a child, and then she had to teach a lot of people to judge her by her ability, not by her label. The story of Evelyn Glennie's career works both as a fascinating introduction to a talented performer (look up some of her work!) but also to the need to look past assumptions about someone's capabilities to see the individual with their unique perspective and skills.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

Marcel's Masterpiece: How a Toilet Shaped the History of Art
Mack, Jeff, illustrated by Mack, Jeff
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: Jonemac

What is art and who decides? This clever and playful introduction to Marcel Duchamp and the Dada movement will inspire discussion and creativity. When artist Marcel moves to America in 1915 he decides to leave painting behind and pursue ideas instead, like taking a urinal, turning it upside down, signing his name, and calling it art. These readymades are the heart of the Dada art movement and well known artists like Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso are mentioned for their own creations using this medium. The illustrations invite kids to have fun while learning about conceptual art and giggling at the toilet on a pedestal at a fancy art show. While perfect for art enthusiasts, the absurdity of a banana taped to a wall selling for $120,000 will certainly encourage a broader appeal and maybe even a trip to the museum to answer the question, what is art?

Stacy Putman, Stacy's Books

The Gardener of Alcatraz: A True Story
Bland Smith, Emma, illustrated by Ely, Jenn
Nominated by: Annette Bay Pimentel

In cinematic style, the story opens with a boat bobbing through San Francisco bay to deliver prisoner #AZ-578, Elliot Michener, convicted counterfeiter, to the toughest prison in America. The book manages to strike the perfect balance between telling a sympathetic story from Michener’s point of view without downplaying his crimes. It shows ways that he may have attempted to escape, then the turning point of his imprisonment when he chose to impress the warden by returning a key he had found instead of trying to see where the key fit. This led to him being chosen to work in garden plots on the island. With this new job, he soon forgot about his attempt to cobble together a floatation device to escape and instead focused on learning about plants and soils and techniques. He went above and beyond what was expected. Inspiring and realistic, this picture book naturally shifts from the steel greys of prison life to the flourishing gardens Michener learned to nurture. The back matter tells more about the prison and the rest of Michener’s productive life as a farmhand, then landscaper. A fascinating and timely fable of the benefits of hard work in the outdoors.

Genevieve Ford, @GenevieveFord1

Middle-Grade Nonfiction

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement
Joy, Angela, illustrated by Washington, Janelle
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Becky L.

Choosing Brave tells the true story of the murder of Emmett Till in the South in 1955, as seen through the eyes of his mother, Mamie. The book follows Emmett's life leading up to his fateful trip to the South and his tragic death. Mamie, determined to speak out about this injustice and spark the civil rights movement, transforms her pain and grief into bravery. Through powerful illustrations and a poignant narrative, Choosing Brave teaches young readers about the ongoing struggle for justice and equality. The authors tackle the heavy and serious topic of murder and injustice, making it both accessible and thought-provoking for readers. A must read for everyone!

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Citizen She! A Global Campaign for Women's Voting Rights
Caroline Stevan Illustrated by Elina Braslina
Publisher/ Author Submission

Citizen She is a middle grade book about the struggle for women’s rights. The book opens with a scene of a teacher granting the boys the right to make decisions in the classroom (such as what games to play, what to do during recess, and where to go on field trips) while ignoring the girls. The scene illustrates how a government might operate if women did not have the right to have a voice. This injustice, unfortunately, still occurs in some parts of the world even today. Citizen She! traces the history of women's fight for voting rights worldwide, asking questions such as "Why did women want to vote?" and "How did they fight for it?" The book explores the stories of various women who championed voting rights in different parts of the world. A visually interesting and colorful timeline perspective reveals which countries led the way in promoting women's participation in government, and which regions still deny women the right to vote. Finally, the author highlights the ongoing need for equal rights in areas such as salaries, positions of power, and established roles. Citizen She is a well-researched, engaging, and thought-provoking book that gives readers a snapshot view of the struggle for women's rights.

Reshama Deshmukh, Stacking Books

Crash from Outer Space: Unraveling the Mystery of Flying Saucers, Alien Beings, and Roswell (Scholastic Focus)
Fleming, Candace
Scholastic Focus
Nominated by: Kelly

Roswell, New Mexico has been the center of UFO and alien conspiracy theories for years, but how much of what we know is actually true. Candace Fleming walks us through the 1947 crash and its aftermath in real time so that we can see what the public knew when and how they were told. The book spans over 60 years, even including information from a 2021 government report. This fun and engaging book invites kids to dig deeper before accepting incomplete information or questionable sources and encourages keeping an open mind. This meticulously sourced book is sure to appeal to kids and help them navigate a fake news world.

Stacy Putman, Stacy's Books

Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life
Blackford, Cheryl
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Maria Marshall

On the hunt for a middle-grade biography that will leave an impression? Fossil Hunter: How Mary Anning Changed the Science of Prehistoric Life by Cheryl Blackford tells the story of a Victorian woman who defied the expectations of her time to play an important role in advancing the scientific understanding of prehistoric life. Mary Anning learned how to go fossil hunting as a young girl from her father along the beaches of Lyme Regis, England. It was a dangerous pursuit that required a great deal of skill. Despite facing poverty and a lack of recognition for her scientific contributions, Mary Anning found a way to dedicate her life to the discovery and preservation of fossils. Cheryl Blackford includes an assortment of appealing visual elements and utilizes a wide variety of resources to present the reader a clear and detailed picture of this influential female scientist.

Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers: A Tour of Your Useless Parts, Flaws, and Other Weird Bits
Poliquin, Rachel, illustrated by Hanmer, Clayton
Greystone Kids
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

Natural selection produces remarkable changes in organisms over unimaginably long periods of time. But it also leaves some messes behind in the form of disappearing organs, useless body parts, and glitches in the way that our bodies work. The Museum of Odd Body Leftovers is a compelling guide to some of the results of evolution that don’t seem to make sense. Why do people get goose bumps? Why do we have wisdom teeth that need pulling? What does an appendix do? Rachel Poliquin answers these questions and many more with lively prose and clear examples. Even reluctant readers will be enticed by Poliquin’s words and Clayton Hanmer’s humorous illustrations. By reading about various fun facts, many will learn something about the way that evolution works.

Karen Austin, Goodreads

High School Nonfiction

American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South (Medical Fiascoes)
Jarrow, Gail
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Subject matter and writing in this book will HOOK readers from cover to conclusion: "This vampire thrived in the warm summer climate... Invisible to its potential victims, it waited until one of them passed by. Undetected, it hitched a ride, burrowed in through the skin...and hid deep...[inside]... anchored by sharp, fang-like mouthparts." Paired with photographic images of zombie-like victims, the writing weaves an irresistible account of the murderer (hook worms), the pivotal scientist with a personality that undermined his efforts to eradicate these killers, other scientists and leaders who helped to achieve his goal, and a range of community responses that ranged from welcoming interventions to denying the need for them. STEM enthusiasts will find every element of that acronym embedded in these pages, with compelling text, scientific drawings, photographic examples, and data accounts of the dramatic changes wrought by this ubiquitous murderer and the steps taken to eliminate it from tropical and subtropical populations. Examples of engineering proposals to improve sanitation, especially in rural and impoverished areas, ranged from Rube Goldberg-ish complexity to simply convincing people to wear shoes. Social, economic, and political forces participated in the decades-long movement to educate doctors, government officials, schools, families, and church leaders. It's no spoiler to report significant success in this country, but several chapters also reveal ways in which other countries have and have not been able to accomplish the same levels. Conversations may be sparked about parallels to current patterns within science and variations in community responses. Readers of this engaging book will be eager to find more titles in the MEDICAL FIASCO series by Gail Jarrow.

Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the POWER of Picture Books

Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today
, Wong, Alice (Editor)
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jen at Introverted Reader

Disability Visibility, an anthology of essays curated by Alice Wong (adult version adapted for young adults) is the window and mirror that disabled people knew we needed, but didn’t dream to ask for. Authored by 17 diverse creators (wide range of visible/invisible disabilities, ages, and cultural backgrounds), this collection addresses many of the elephants in the sub-accessible room: Mixed feelings about one’s own disability/mobility aids/etc; different paths to self-actualization/self-esteem due to disability; beloved family and friends who consider disabled people an embarassment due to cultural or religious beliefs. Content warnings at the start of each chapter create a safe and mindful way to consume the age-appropriate unvarnished truths about life with disability.

Kelly Krasner-Clarke, KidLitunderground

Picturing a Nation: The Great Depression’s Finest Photographers Introduce America to Itself
Sandler, Martin W.
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Jenna @ Falling Letters

If the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” has any truth to it, then Picturing a Nation: The Great Depression’s Finest Photographers Introduce America to Itself by Martin W. Sandler has a lot to say. This stunning collection of 125 black and white and 16 color photographs paired with apt historical descriptions and quotes from photographers and historians is as enthralling as it is memorable. During this time, America was facing both the economic devastation of the Great Depression and the environmental distress of the Dust Bowl. In 1935, the Resettlement Administration, which was later renamed the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was created and given the task of providing aid to struggling farmers. Within the FSA, there was a group of 10 extremely talented photographers who traveled to the South, Midwest, West, and Northeast of the country on a mission to document the resiliency of a people and land facing desperate hardships. Like any piece of fine art, the composition of these images will immediately draw the attention of teens, adults, and photography enthusiasts and have a powerful impact on their view of the past and the present.

Mary Duffy, Just Read Journal

Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People
Magoon, Kekla
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Here is a movement inspired by bigoted state violence against their young people, rooted in local communities and expanded across the country, frequently misrepresented by major news outlets and faced with hypocrisy by White conservatives who did not accept that the rules for themselves should apply to Black activists. The story of the Black Panthers has a lot of relevance today, and Kekla Magoon's clear prose, well-chosen illustrations, and grasp of the history behind the movement, the personalities who formed the group, and the pressures against them (societal, personal, federal) make this a living story full of passion and heartbreak. She's clear on both the mistakes made by leaders (including their attitude towards women) and the incredible steps taken by the American government to stop their message. A great read.

Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken

The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life
Greenfield, Amy Butler
Random House Studio
Nominated by: Reshama

The Woman All Spies Fear, the biography of Elizebeth Smith Friedman, premier code breaker, grabs the reader by the lapels and leads them through the fascinating partnership between Elizebeth and William Friedman and their top-secret lives. From having to escape a possessive millionaire patron to building a revolutionary marriage to working on the war front and holding cryptography-themed dinner parties, the Friedmans battled antisemitism, sexism, and even paranoia from the CIA with dignity, humor, and panache. Laced with original activities perfect for teen cryptanalysts, this history is sure to please.

Genevieve Ford, @GenevieveFord1

Young Adult Fiction

All My Rage: A Novel
Tahir, Sabaa
Nominated by: Anne@HeadFullofBooks

Noor’s uncle saved her from a natural disaster when she was a child...and won’t let her forget it. She finds solace in planning her escape. Salahudin struggles with his parents’ health conditions and decisions. The responsibility of the motel Sal's mother ran now falls on his shoulders after she passes. Life pushes and pulls the two childhood friends in devastating ways. Sabaa Tahir deftly constructs believable alternating points of view, making the characters’ struggles feel personal and redeemable. The ending of the piece only makes readers want to start over to savor every detail. “All My Rage” explores Pakastani culture, the American Dream, and chosen family.

Hailey McKinney, Hailey McKinney on Goodreads

Confessions of an Alleged Good Girl
Goffney, Joya
Nominated by: Gina A.

Monique is dating Dom, who her preacher father wholly approves of, mainly because he doesn't know the two have attempted to have sex 29 times since they started dating 2 years ago. The attempts have all failed physically, specifically on Monique's side of things, and fed up with the lack of sex, Dom finally dumps her. Monique wants their breakup to be temporary and sets off for answers, finding out she has a condition called vaginismus. Vaginismus is the involuntary contracting of vaginal muscles - essentially, the body subconsciously shuts down when it's time to have sex. The good news is that there's physical and mental work that can be done to overcome the condition. The bad news for Monique is that it has to be done fully behind her parents' backs. Churchy girl Sasha and Monique's dad's 'bad boy' mentee Reggie become unlikely sidekicks in Monique's journey, and the trio become close as they spent time together trying to cure Monique. Monique learns to judge both herself and others less, and comes out of her shell with her new friends - and potential new crush? Joya Goffney's writing is so fun to read, even as it tackles the tough topics of Monique's condition and the complicated ties it has to her religious family. This book is not only sex-positive; it also empowers teens to feel comfortable learning more about their own relationships with their bodies. There is truly something for readers of all ages to gain from this read.

Gina Adams, Gina Adams on Goodreads

I Must Betray You
Sepetys, Ruta
Penguin USA
Nominated by: Deb Nance at Readerbuzz

Cristian Florescu is ready for a change. A big one. In “I Must Betray You,” readers get a glimpse into the home of a Romanian family in 1989. Turning on water to mute conversations, trading cigarettes for favors, never knowing if your friends or family are informants. Ruta Sepetys leaves breadcrumbs for readeirs to follow by engaging us with short chapters and informant reports. In one instance, we cheer for Cristian enjoying a Coca-Cola for the first time. On the next page, we're cursing whoever the unnamed informant is who reported an otherwise joyful moment. The novel shines by contrasting deep-rooted communist turmoil versus Romanian resilience.

Hailey McKinney, Hailey McKinney on Goodreads

Man o' War
McCarthy, Cory
Dutton Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: ChristaS

River McIntyre, a star swimmer in a small town in Ohio, thought their life was pretty stable, until one day during a field trip to the town’s marine life theme park, Sea Planet. There they meet Indigo, a happy and confident queer person, and in response they impulsively dive into an actual shark tank. After which River has to admit that maybe they don’t have everything figured out just yet. Man O’War is a deeply moving, often funny and brutally honest read that chronicles River’s attempts to figure out their gender and sexual orientation, all while battling obstacles like, internalized homophobia, gender dysphoria, and racism. It’s a journey of self discovery and it doesn’t shy away from just how messy that journey can be.

Christa Seeley, Christa Seeley on Goodreads

On the Subject of Unmentionable Things
Walton, Julia
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: RobT

No one knows that high school student Phoebe is also Pom, author of the popular sex information blog “Circle in the Square.” Phoebe is serious about her research and the importance of making sex education and sex information available and understandable to teens. Phoebe is also serious about keeping her identity secret. As for actual sex, Phoebe has no experience and is in no particular hurry to gain firsthand familiarity in that area. Pom’s nemesis is Lydia Brookhurst, a wealthy local socialite determined to discover and reveal who is behind the blog that she considers a threat to adolescent morality and the reputation of their town. This conflict between the need for Pom’s research-based information and Lydia’s narrow-minded posturing drives the plot of Julia Walton’s young adult novel On the Subject of Unmentionable Things. In the early part of the novel much of the battle takes place on Twitter, and the repartee between Pom and Lydia is fun to read as Pom out-clevers Lydia each time. On the Subject of Unmentionable Things emphasizes that talking about sex is healthy and important, and it also illustrates strategies for talking back to those who hypocritically preach about morality.

Gary Anderson, What's Not Wrong?

The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
Ferguson, Jen
Nominated by: Gary Anderson

Lou is Metis, an Indigenous Canadian. This story follows Lou through the summer after high school graduation. She spends it working in her family's ice cream shop with her best friend, a new ex-boyfriend, and an old friend who's back in town. There's no shortage of issues covered in this book. Lou's rapist biological father is out of prison and trying to contact her, and becoming increasingly threatening. Lou deals with racism and misogyny, and stereotypes against Indigenous people are confronted in this book. She's also white-passing, which adds another facet to her acceptance of her identity. She realizes over the course of the summer that she's on the asexual spectrum, and eventually feels demisexual is the term that best fits. Even as Lou grapples with all of this in one summer, no issue feels shoehorned in or inorganic. Debut author Jen Ferguson's writing has such an authentic feel, and this book encapsulates both the sharpness of female and teenage rage and the softness of loving your friends and family. It's truly both a bitter and sweet book that begs to be devoured.

Gina Adams, Gina Adams on Goodreads

This Is Why They Hate Us
Aceves, Aaron H.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jacob C.

Enrique “Quique” Luna has had a crush on Saleem practically since the moment they met—to the point it almost hurts. With Saleem off on family vacation for the summer, Quique sees a chance to quash the crush and finally find romance. Okay, so he’s not exactly out as bisexual. And yes, he struggles even talking to guys. Still, with the help of his best friend (and the only person he’s ever dated), Fabiola, he focuses on three potential targets: usually stoned jock Tyler Montana, confident class president Ziggy Jackson, and Manny Zuniga, whose tough exterior puts him in a category all by himself. With so many prospects, when will Quique even have time to think about Saleem? However, as his relationships entangle and unravel, Quique must also navigate his anxiety and identity while questioning whether someone else—or even three others—could ever replace Saleem. In this hilarious and heartfelt debut novel, Aaron H. Aceves perfectly captures the messiness of crushes, sex, and love.

Christopher Helton, Plucked from the Stacks

Young Adult Speculative Fiction

A Snake Falls to Earth
Little Badger, Darcie
Levine Querido
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Beyond our world lies the mirror world, populated by monsters, spirits, and animals that can take human form. In this mirror world Oli, a cottonmouth, is finding his way for the first time away from his family. His found family forms quickly to include the wolves, Reign and Risk, and a small silent gentle toad named Ami. When calamity strikes and one of Oli's friends is in deadly danger, he must take the treacherous journey to our world to seek a cure. Once here, he meets Nina. Nina, a Lipan teenager, has always believed in the old stories. She recognizes Oli for what he is and seeks to help him find a cure for his friend while coping with her own family crisis. This gorgeously layered story balances the old and the new, science and myth, family and foe into a unique tale for the ages.

Molly Mack, Silver Button Books

From Dust, a Flame
Podos, Rebecca
Balzer + Bray
Nominated by: Mistrunner

Rebecca Podos brings Jewish folklore to life in her captivating new mystery From Dust, a Flame. Podos skillfully develops a dynamic and compelling relationship between the protagonist, Hannah, and her brother, Gabe, who must uncover the family and cultural history their mother deliberately hid from them in order to break an intergenerational curse. The intricate plot progresses masterfully and Podos introduces an authentically rendered group of characters along the way. I particularly appreciated the layered mythologies, intergenerational conflict, and brilliant representations of Jewish and LGBTQ+ identities. From Dust, a Flame is a must-read for all fans of young adult speculative fiction.

Jennifer Miller, Raise Them Righteous

How To Succeed in Witchcraft
Brophy, Aislinn
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Christopher Helton

In their debut novel How to Succeed in Witchcraft, Aislinn Brophy crafts a magical world where Shay Johnson, a Black biracial witch, is working twice as hard to be a perfect student so she can achieve her goals of getting into a top tier licensing college. But when she gets wrangled into the school's play to help her earn a scholarship, she realizes that her enemy, Ana Alvarez, might not be her enemy after all. But worse still, Mr B., who's in charge of the play, might be using his connections to the scholarship to take advantage of Shay and the other scholarship winners who came before her. This story delves into issues surrounding race, classest systems, and diversity. Shay's story serves as a reminder that not all adults have your best interest at heart, but teens can turn to adults they trust when they get into trouble.

Jessie Maimone, The Library Coven

Little Thieves
Owen, Margaret
Henry Holt & Co.
Nominated by: ChristaS

Little Thieves is a loose retelling of “The Goose Girl” fairy tale – from the perspective of the maid who stole the princess’s identity. And that’s not all that Vanja has stolen. She plans to steal enough from the wealthy houses she visits to be able to flee the Blessed Empire, but everything conspires to stop her – the brutal Margrave coming back to his castle, a Prefect of the Godly Courts investigating the jewel heists, and especially a curse that will turn her into a jeweled statue if she can’t break it by the full moon. Set in a medieval world where same-gender relationships and transgender folks are not remarkable, this is a wonderfully woven page-turner where Vanja must learn to make friends and trust them to help her if she wants to survive.

Sondra Eklund, Sonderbooks

See You Yesterday
Solomon, Rachel Lynn
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Becky L.

Barrett Bloom hopes that college will be the fresh start she needs to recover and rise above her miserable high school experience. But after a disastrous first day, from unexpectedly being roommates with her high school BFF-turned-enemy to accidentally burning down a frat house, she finds herself walking up the next morning… only for it to be the very same morning. When she finds out that she isn’t the only student trapped in a time-loop, her physics 101 classmate Miles having been stuck in the same loop for months, the two embark on an exciting adventure to try and find their way to tomorrow. Hilarious, romantic, and full of heart, See You Yesterday is a story about growing up and the reassurance that no matter how embarrassing or unpleasant one’s past may be, there will always be a tomorrow waiting on the other side.

Sarah Yael

The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea
Oh, Axie
Feiwel & Friends
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

This gorgeous, gripping fantasy holds readers spellbound from the moment Mina jumps into the sea in hopes of saving her brother, Joon, and Shim Cheong, the girl he loves, from a watery death—or a fate worse than death. Mina’s impulsive decision sweeps her into a realm of menace and magic where a Sea God slumbers, spirits connive, and dragons cavort. With lush prose, satisfying romance, and perfectly interwoven notes of whimsy and suspense, Axie Oh’s brilliant reimagining of a classic Korean fairy tale explores themes of found family and true love—all kinds of true love. This wholly fresh take on the “chosen one” trope shows that even though you’re bound by the Red String of Fate, you still have agency.

Melissa Wiley, Here in the Bonny Glen

The Weight of Blood
Jackson, Tiffany D
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Rebecca J. Allen

Maddy Washington lives a hidden life in a small town until her peers learn her secret and puts her into a devastating spotlight that will have extreme consequences for everyone. Jackson crafts a thrilling homage to the classic horror story Carrie by Stephen King that will resonate with contemporary teens by adding elements of podcasts and tackling social justice themes like racism, colorism, sundown towns, and, just as in the original, bullying and family relationships. The twists and turns keep readers fully invested while making them think about the world that we live in and the heritage that continues to impact who we are and how we live, for good or ill. The mastery and skill necessary to craft such an updated homage to a classic horror tale while making it fully original and relevant to today's teen audiences puts this on the shortlist.

Karen Jensen, Teen Librarian Toolbox