cybils


This year, I was on the nominating panel for the Cybils in the YA Fiction category. It was an amazing experience. I read some fantastic books, and I discussed them with some wonderful people. Discussing and debating books with intelligent people like my co-panelists makes me feel smarter, and it sharpens my brain, and I love it. It makes me really think about the merits and appeal of the books I’ve read, rather than simply, did I love it or not, which, when I’m not at my best, is what my critical skills are reduced to. I had to be on top of my game to defend books that I loved and reject books that I didn’t feel deserved a place on our short list. I had to think, and I love thinking! I love it when critical thinking is demanded of me. And I love the Cybils.  Even though the short list we came up with isn’t my personal short list, I was forced to rethink some of my choices, and to either back off or come out with stronger arguments than ever. I believe that if you can’t defend your position, you either need to rethink your position or rethink your reasoning, and the Cybils force me to do that with books. Have I mentioned how much I love that?

A shout out to my fellow panelists:

Leila Roy of  Bookshelves of Doom
Rebecca Laney of Becky’s Book Reviews
Amanda Snow of A Patchwork of Books
Trisha Murakami of The Ya Ya Yas
Kate Fall of Author2Author
Abby Johnson of Abby (the) Librarian

They all rock, and their blogs are awesome. Add them to your must-read list if you haven’t already!

And now, what you’ve all been waiting for–the finalists! Out of all the nominees, the YA fiction panel (me and those mentioned above) chose seven books that will go on to be read by the judges. The finalists are:

Check out the lists for all categories, including blurbs from the panelists about why particular books were chosen:

Easy Readers
Fantasy & Science Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction MG/YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Poetry
Young Adult Fiction

I also wanted to mention a few favorites of mine that didn’t make our shortlist. I read a lot of great books for the Cybils, but these really stood out: I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, Opposite of Invisible by Liz Gallagher, The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti, The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith, Good Enough by Paula Yoo, How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan, and Everything You Want by Barbara Shoup. I loved a lot of the books on the list, though, and many are definitely worth reading.

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Sister Wife takes place in Unity, home to The Movement, a conservative religious group that lives apart from mainstream, modern society. It follows three very different girls coming of age in Unity, with the title referring to the fact that the community practices polygamy (referred to as “celestial marriage”), where young girls are married off to older men, whose other wives are their “sister wives.”

Celeste has grown up in Unity, but she is beginning to question the ways of The Movement as the day nears when she will be assigned to a husband. She is fifteen and doesn’t feel ready to be married, especially not to a man old enough to be her father. However, she also doesn’t feel ready to fight the traditions of her community, not when it will bring shame to the family she loves so dearly. 

Nanette, Celeste’s younger sister, is far more content with their way of life. She can’t wait until the Prophet assigns her to a husband. She can’t wait to be a sister wife, and a mother. She believes completely, with her whole heart, and can’t understand Celeste’s reluctance and doubts. 

Taviana is not from Unity, and her life before coming to the community was very, very different from the modest, religious way of things in the Movement. She feels safe in Unity, but she’s not dedicated to the lifestyle. 

Sister Wife is very much ripped from the headlines, and I don’t love that. Inspiration from the real world and the news, as Laura Wiess cites, is all well and good, but I feel like Shelley Hrdlitschka carried it too far for my taste. It also didn’t have much besides being ripped from the headlines. It was very much an issue book, and I am not a fan of the issue book. A skilled author can deal with an issue very well without actually writing an issue book. Shelley Hrdlitschka is not that author. A book can be about real people and life and what goes on and that can have issues in it, and that is a much better type of book. A book never has to be an issue book, but this was an issue book.

I liked, though, that it was relatively unbiased; it wasn’t a tirade against polygamy or an indoctrination. However, that balance felt a little forced with the alternating viewpoints. Three sides of the story were well represented, but the way it was written and structured felt almost unnecessary. I didn’t feel like we needed equal representation and first person narration from all three girls. Their voices were indistinct, and I often had to flip pages to see which girl’s point of view I was reading. Books don’t need to be democratic. I actually think a third person narration would have sufficed. I didn’t care enough about the individual characters to want all of them to tell the story.

I think that’s it, really; I was interested enough in this book, but I never really cared about any of it. I never once felt personally invested. Part of what a good book does is make the reader care, and Sister Wife never did that for me. 

It didn’t feel real, despite its foundation in real life and current events. It didn’t feel like something that was actually happening. It felt like a book, and great books don’t, if that makes any sense. Great books captivate the reader and sweep them away into the story. This book does not do that. It is not well-written enough to do that. It is sometimes boring, sometimes awkward, and only sometimes very readable. I did finish this book, and I enjoyed it well enough while reading, but it’s not something that I’d recommend very highly unless you have a particular interest in the issue at hand. 

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Leftovers chronicles the transformation of two best friends from kids to people who have done something. Something unforgivable, but, they believe, not for unforgivable reasons. We don’t know what when the book starts. All we know is that they are taking turns confessing on tape. They start with the backstory. They start with how they got to where they are, how they became people who could do what they did. 

Blair’s mother is all about image. She doesn’t care about Blair, and when they do see each other, it’s mostly in the company of other people who need to believe that their family is close. Blair’s father is having an affair. They are not the family they once were.

Ardith’s family is what it’s always been. Ardith’s house is the party house, full of drinking and sex and all sorts of things that wouldn’t go on in a place with normal parents. Ardith keeps padlocks on her door to keep out what goes on in the rest of her house. 

Blair and Ardith are best friends. They turn to each other when everyone else in their world fails them. The unfortunate circumstances and cruel people in their lives try to rip them apart, but their bond can’t be broken that easily; just changed, as they change, as does everything around them.

Leftovers is a very intense story. Horrible things happen to Blair and Ardith, and in the end, it’s simultaneously unsurprising and horrifying. Blair and Ardith are very real characters, and their story is disturbingly believable. Blair and Ardith are interesting to the reader, because, to me at least, they still managed to be sympathetic characters. They did something unforgivable, but they were also the victims in this story, in another way. As I read, I could not turn the pages fast enough (and thus have no idea what’s been going on in Chemistry for the past two days). It’s well-written, suspenseful, and kind of like watching two cars go toward each other, toward a head-on collision; you know something horrible is going to happen, but you can’t look away. The format of this novel is interesting, as Blair and Ardith alternate talking, sometimes talking in the present tense to the person they’re confessing to, and sometimes telling the story of what happened. Sometimes it’s in second person, too, which is an interesting effect with disastrous potential, but Laura Wiess pulls it off nicely. This is a powerful book that certainly lives up to the high standards set by Laura Wiess’s first novel, Such A Pretty Girl

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Kat is not afraid of being herself. She’s an artist, an athlete, a receptionist at her mom Abra’s midwifery, and does yoga in the hallways at school to center herself. Kat’s not “original” in that cliche, unoriginal way; she’s just herself, and that’s a little different from most people. Sure, she might have self-esteem issues sometimes (don’t we all?), and she pays a little too much attention to the popular crowd at school, but she’s still Kat, and that’s why I love her. 

Kat’s life is imperfect, just like anyone’s. She’s crushing on popular Manny Cruz(who seemed sleazy, but…wasn’t? I didn’t feel like his character made complete sense). She has some problems with her best friend, Christy. Her relationship with her mother isn’t great; Abra pays more attention to her clients than her children. Fact of Life #31 is about all aspects of Kat’s life (friends, school, guys, family–just life), but her relationship with her mother is the big one. 

In Fact of Life #31, Denise Vega takes on a lot. A lot of characters, a lot of issues, a lot of stuff happening in Kat’s life, just like the crazy-hectic lives of most teenagers (not in content but in volume of stuff we have to deal with). And she does it really well. I absolutely loved Kat, and most of the other characters. This was a funny, honest, well-written book that I really enjoyed reading. Kat’s quirky without being a stereotype, and while she has the same issues as a lot of teenagers, she’s unique enough to make reading about it through her eyes interesting. This is a solidly good book. 

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I Know It’s Over is not an issue book. It may seem odd that I feel the need to preface my review with this, but teen pregnancy is pretty much the premise of this book, and that definitely makes it sound like a typical issue book, and it’s not. Yes, the charcters deal with the issue, but it’s not about the “issue,” or the cold generalizations that implies; it’s about the people. It’s about something that could really happen to almost anyone, and about two people who do have to handle this problem, and an unplanned pregnancy at sixteen is a huge problem.

Nick and Sasha are over by the time Sasha tells Nick, on Christmas Eve, that she’s pregnant. While it lasted, though, it was a good relationship, and Nick’s still holding on to what he and Sasha had. Now, that’s difficult and impossible as he tries to let Sasha make her own decisions, but still can’t help but be involved. That’s not the whole story, though; part of this book is also flashbacks to the beginning and duration of Nick and Sasha’s relationship. 

This book isn’t just about Nick and his relationship with and feelings for Sasha, or how they deal with the pregnancy. It’s also about Nick’s whole life, including the issues he has with his friends and family. 

C.K. Kelly Martin’s debut novel is a believable, readable, intense, and captivating story. It’s layered and complex and scarily relatable. To the reader, it feels like a story about real people, people who could be your friends or siblings or neighbors, not a book about an issue or a book with a lesson to teach, and that is truly impressive. The author does an amazing job with Nick, her protagonist, painting a vivid portrait of him and his life, and also capturing his voice perfectly–and it’s a feat, the way a grown woman is able to capture the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy! Martin’s writing style is honest and perfect for this story and character. I Know It’s Over is very, very good, and highly recommended. I can’t wait to read this author’s next book.

Make sure to check out C.K. Kelly Martin’s guest post on Reviewer X.

signature(P.S.: Signature? Yes? No? Get a new one?)

When the story starts, it’s been a hundred years since the Cubs won the World Series, and five years since Ryan’s father died in an accident. It’s opening day, and the anniversary of her father’s death, and Ryan’s at Wrigley Field instead of in science class. Her father loved the Cubs.

Ryan is unable to get a ticket, but she meets a boy in her math class who she’s never spoken to before, and the two of them, despite being unable to get into the game, soak up the atmosphere together. It’s one afternoon, but it’s one afternoon that will change everything for Ryan.

The Comeback Season is, yes, a book about baseball. The atmosphere of the Cubs games and Chicago is so wonderfully captured and real and alive; it made me want to move to Chicago and watch baseball. I don’t like baseball, and I’m hoping to move to New York next year. Although perhaps I should be taking the two awesome books I’ve read recently that make me love Chicago (where I’ve never been) as signs from the universe or something. 

It didn’t take me long to be completely absorbed into this story, despite the odd choice of third person limited present-tense. It’s different, but it worked; it wasn’t long before I felt myself fall into the rhythm of it. It’s so present, which sounds weird for a book about a girl who is having trouble moving on to the future, but it most definitely works. And there is rhythm here, and style, and voice, and an eloquence that is just lovely and unique, much like the book itself. 

Ryan is a complex, believable, and likeable main character. Her relationship with Nick is very real–after their initial connection, it ranges from comfortable to painfully awkward, just like any budding teenage relationship. The Cubs brought them together, and baseball is very much a theme that weaves this whole book together, and I love it. It’s a very orignal idea, to take what is otherwise kind of a girly romantic book and use baseball as the backdrop for it, but it works. It’s a very effective metaphorical mirror to what is going on in Ryan’s life. 

Much like any Cubs game, The Comeback Season is both heartbreaking and hopeful. It’s a different sort of book, and it’s amazingly poignant, powerful, and, in the end, breathtaking. It’s both predictable and unexpected, simple and complex, about the past, the present, and the future. It’s courage and faith and disappointment and hope. It’s brilliant. I never expected to love a book about baseball, but I did, and I feel certain that Ryan’s comeback season will stick with me.

In this beautifully crafted piece of historical fiction, fifteen-year-old Ruby is forced to quit school and work to support her family after her father’s death when her mother is no longer able to do so.  She doesn’t have any skills that will help her (she never took typing or shorthand in school), so she takes a job at a meatpacking plant. It’s harsh work, but there are few options for a girl in Chicago in the early 1940s, and she doesn’t see a way out.

All that changes after Paulie Suelze, neighborhood legend and a boy her mother would die to see her with, is impressed with her dancing and directs her to the Starlight Dance Academy. There, Ruby can get paid for dancing all night, as long as her mother never finds out (her cover story is that she’s found work as a telephone operator). Despite what its name suggests, Starlight is a taxi dance hall, where girls like Ruby (taxi dancers) are paid ten cents a dance, and sometimes more for extracurricular activities with the men, which range from casual conversation over dinner to, well, you know.

Soon, Ruby is deep into the world of nighttime Chicago–the music, the clubs, the dancing, the drinking, the gambling–and having trouble reconciling who she’s forced to become with the innocent girl she used to be.

Ten Cents A Dance is gorgeous. The setting comes vividly to life, and I do mean vividly. I felt immersed in Ruby’s world, and 1940s Chicago is certainly a fascinating place to be. I do love a nice setting, and, wow, I honestly can’t think of a better book in terms of the very real sense of time and place and the culture and language that come with it (I loved the 1940s slang!). I can’t even describe how well Christine Fletcher pulled this off–for those words, you’ll need to read the book itself.

It’s not just the setting, though. The characters are very real, and their relationships rung true as well. Ruby is a wonderful heroine, and her character develops nicely over the course of the story. She comes out a different person at the end of it all, in some ways, as would anyone, but she’s still Ruby–just the way it should be. Very believable. Ruby is strong and spirited and I can’t imagine not loving her. Even the minor chracters were well-drawn, and I was quite intrigued by some of them (I’d love to look deeper into the life of Ozzie, who plays in the band at the Starlight, for example).

Ruby’s voice is authentic and a pleasure to read. Christine Fletcher is brilliant in her use of language, and she chose an excellent story to apply it to. I’d never heard of taxi dance halls before, but suffice to say I am plenty interested now and have been doing a bit of my own internet research on them and the culture of the time. I was completely hooked by this story, and not just the story, but also, almost independently, its setting.

Ruby’s visits to the black-and-tans (the clubs where all races are welcomed) also provide an interesting window into another aspect of this time and place. It’s certainly not any kind of an issue book, but I did enjoy the insight into the race relations of the time. I enjoyed all insights into the time and place, honestly. As much as all aspects of this book stand out, it’s the setting and Christine Fletcher’s vivid portrayal of it that really pushes it to over-the-top amazingly brilliant.

I adored the author’s previous book, Tallulah Falls, and expected this one to be amazing as well, and it was even better. They’re very different books, too, and I love Christine Fletcher’s versatility; I can’t wait to see what she writes in the future. She’s an incredibly talented author, and you will be far from sorry for picking up this book.

In six words: 1940s Chicago, great characters, absolutely brilliant.

If you want to know where I’ve been for the past few weeks, check out this post.

And now, for a reading update. I will probably review these titles fully soon, but I just wanted to mention some of the Cybils books I’ve read recently and share a few thoughts. All of these books are worth reading, if you need something to add to your holiday wishlist!

imageAmor and Summer Secrets was a light, fun read. I read it awhile ago (I guess it really doesn’t fall under the category of recent), and had loads of fun while doing so. I haven’t felt particularly compelled to pick up the next book in the series, though. It was an appropriate summer read, but not too memorable.

image The Death of Jayson Porter started out less than great for me–while Jayson certainly has reason to feel sorry for himself, characters who just whine about how much they hate life are not particularly interesting to me. It got to be a really intense read, though, and I ended up really liking it as we got to know Jayson better.

imageI quite enjoyed Everything You Want. It’s about a girl figuring out who she is and her place in the world after her family wins the lottery. It’s funny and real (despite the lottery winnings), and I loved the characters. I really liked Barbara Shoup’s writing style, too.

image Fact of Life #31 is not a particularly recent read, either, but I haven’t reviewed it yet. I loved Kat, and this was definitely an engaging story, certainly worth reading, but it didn’t quite wow me.

 

image Despite being fed up with How Not To Be Popular and its annoying main character after about 50 pages, I kept reading and was glad that I did. Maggie develops into a much more likeable character, and the story really started to grab me. I ended up loving the colorful cast of characters here, but it was certainly slow to get into.

image I loved Christine Fletcher’s first book, so it was no surprise to me that I completely fell in love with Ten Cents A Dance. I loved the premise, the setting, the characters, the writing–everything. It’s a wonderful historical fiction in a year that seems a little light on historical fiction.

The full lists of nominated books can now be found here. And now we have to, from all of those nominated titles (135 in YA fiction), come up with reasonable shortlists. Wish me luck!

Before I read this book, I already knew that Deb Caletti was amazing, but The Fortunes of Indigo Skye showed me just how brilliant and talented this author really is!

Indigo Skye is a waitress, and she loves her job. She loves forming personal relationships with the people who come regularly to Carrera’s (a group known as the Irregulars). She loves when she manages every table and order perfectly, like it was a dance someone choreographed. She loves her boyfriend, Trevor, and her family (her mom, her little sister, Bex, and her twin brother, Severin).  She’s about to graduate from high school, and she lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Her life is great, and she’s happy just the way it is.

And then, it changes. A new guy comes into Carrera’s, a guy who seems to have a lot of money. He rides a Vespa, and becomes known as Vespa Guy. He orders “just coffee,” and becomes something of a mystery to the Irregulars, who like to speculate on who he is. One day, Indigo sees a package of cigarettes in his jacket pocket, which really sets her off. She yells at him about killing himself, then talks to him about his life. Not that remarkable, really–except then, he leaves an envelope for her at the diner. It’s a mystery that she’s sure will be disappointing when she finally opens the envelope.

Disappointing? Think again: he’s left her a two-and-a-half million dollar tip.

That seems great at first, but money changes people. Indigo has been warned of it, but she doesn’t believe she will be changed by her sudden fortune. She was fortunate enough already. Once she gets over the shock, having that money is pretty great–or is it?

This book is seriously amazing. Deb Caletti is such a fantastic writer, and her characters! They’re just so real and awesome. All I can do with regard to this book is gush! The characters, and the relationships between them, are just so marvelous and honest and real and fascinating. The story, too, is very interesting, but there’s a lot more to this book than a rags-to-riches or money-doesn’t-buy-happiness story. There are real, big, fundamental truths here about life and humanity and love and family and so much more. All I can say is, read this book!

Here’s the full list of winners of the 2007 Cybils awards:

Fantasy/Sci Fi: The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (MG) and Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (YA)

Fiction Picture Book: The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington

Graphic Novel: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (MG) and The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar (YA)

Middle Grade Fiction: A Crooked Kind Of Perfect by Linda Urban

Non-Fiction: Tasting The Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat (MG/YA)  and Lightship by Brian Floca (Picture Book)

Poetry: This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman

Young Adult Fiction: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

I’ve not read all of those (and will never read the picture books or probably the graphic novels), but those I have read–A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Book of a Thousand Days, and Boy Toy–are great.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect wasn’t my favorite of the MG books (my favorite didn’t make the shortlist), but it totally deserved to win. It’s a fantastic book that will appeal to lots of different people, and, of course, appealing to the target audience is very important (and a big reason that my favorite wasn’t on the shortlist!), so I’m quite happy with this outcome. Big congratulations to Linda Urban!

Book of a Thousand Days is wonderful as well, and I do think it deserves to win. I was a little more iffy on this one, though–while I loved it, it wasn’t totally mind-blowing, just awesome. But maybe that’ just me, and, honestly, nothing that deserved the award more is coming to mind.

Boy Toy is really amazing, and I’m neither surprised nor disappointed with its winning the award.  It certainly did stand out among 2007 YA books, and although there are a few others that resonated more with me personally, I still thought this book was marvelous.

Sorry I haven’t been around much. New reviews are coming your way soon! But, for the moment, I just wanted to remind you all that the Cybils awards were announced yesterday! The winner for Middle Grade Fiction, the panel I was on, was A Crooked Kind Of Perfect by Linda Urban–a fantastic book that certainly deserved this award. You can check out the full list of winners at the Cybils Blog.

The rest of the Cybils shortlists are up (and have been for awhile, but I’m in the middle of finals, hence the infrequent posting).

Here’s the full Young Adult list, as seen on the Cybils website.

Parttimeindian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Little, Brown
Meet Junior, a skinny, teenage Spokane Indian with hydrocephalus, ugly glasses and too many teeth. He knows that to make his dreams come true, he has to go where no one in his tribe has gone before–a white high school outside the reservation. Sherman Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel comes at you with its chin up and fists flying. You’re guaranteed to fall in love with this scruffy underdog who fights off poverty and despair with goofy, self-deprecating humor and a heart the size of Montana.
–Eisha, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
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21mdyeg1ndl_aa_sl160__2 Billie Standish Was Here
by Nancy Crocker
Simon & Schuster
Summer 1968. Billie Standish is a young girl with a lot of heart and soul whose life is about to change forever when the rains come pouring down. Newly befriended by a neighbor, Miss Lydia, neither suspect how close danger lurks to young Billie–and it’s not danger from the rising storm waters threatening the town’s levee. Billie Standish is a story of friendship, courage, and devotion that will charm readers young and old as they fall in love with Billie’s world.
–Becky, Becky’s Book Reviews
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Boytoy Boy Toy
by Barry Lyga
Houghton Mifflin
Eighteen-year-old Josh Mendel can calculate batting averages and earned run averages in an instant, but coming to terms with his past has been impossible. Until, perhaps, now. Bypassing the tawdry and sensational, Barry Lyga takes a ripped-from-the-headlines plot (Teacher-Student Sex Scandal!) and explores the devastation it leaves behind. Told with intelligence and sensitivity, Boy Toy is a powerful story that may occasionally disturb, but ultimately captivate readers.
–Trisha, The YA YA YAs
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Offseason The Off Season
by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin
Farm girl and football player D.J. Schwenk’s refreshing voice and self-deprecating humor return in this continuation of her hilarious and occasionally heartbreaking coming-of-age story. Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s characters are authentic and fully realized, and the story perfectly captures the rhythms and conventions of life in a small, rural town. D.J.’s straightforward and endearing personality shines as she faces up to everyday adversity and struggles to find her voice.
–Anne, LibrariAnne
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Redglass Red Glass
by Laura Resau
Random
Sophie, an Arizona teenager full of insecurities and phobias, becomes the foster sister to an orphaned illegal immigrant boy. When the boy’s family is located in southern Mexico, Sophie goes along on the trek to return him, all the while hoping he’ll decide to come with her back to the U.S. As she journeys through Mexico and beyond, evocative settings and vivid characters immerse the reader in Sophie’s world. Sophie finds guardian angels along the way, and discovers inner strength.
–Stacy, Reading, Writing, and Chocolate
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Tips Tips on Having a Gay (ex)Boyfriend
by Carrie Jones
Flux
Tips is in many ways a typical high school story–loves lost and won; navigating the social minefields of a small town; figuring out who you are, measured against the way others see you. It depicts a week in the life of Belle, a high school senior who’s just been dumped by her “true love”–for another guy. Belle progresses through heartbreak to jealousy to anger, to genuine concern for Dylan (her ex), whose road will be much tougher than her own. And Belle’s gradual realization that she and Dylan weren’t meant to be opens her to new possibilities. Belle is a sweet and optimistic narrator with quirky but believable friends and family.
–Stacy, Reading, Writing, and Chocolate
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Wednesdaywars The Wednesday Wars
by Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion
Condemned to spend every Wednesday afternoon alone with a teacher he is sure hates him, Holling despairs. When two demon rats escape into the classroom walls, and Mrs. Barker brings out Shakespeare, Wednesdays seem to grow even worse. But despair has no place in this very funny and deeply moving book about 7th grade love, the Vietnam War, heroes, true friendship, and the power of giant rats.
–Charlotte, Charlotte’s Library
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I’m rather embarrassed, as a Young Adult book reviewer, to say I’ve only read one, BOY TOY. But that was fantastic! I’ll definitely be picking up the other titles as I get the chance, too. Congratulations to all of the authors!

I’d rather not have another 100-mile-long post, and I don’t know how to do that “behind the cut” thing, so here are links to each of the other lists:

Nonfiction Picture Books

MG and YA Nonfiction

Graphic Novels 

I haven’t read any of those, but the MG/YA Nonfiction list has a couple that look interesting to me. I’m sure they’re all wonderful, but picture books and graphic novels and most non-fiction (the exception being non-fiction with an actual narrative) aren’t my thing.

The rest of the Cybils finalists will be posted later today! I won’t have time to post them as soon as they come out, but you can check it out at the Cybils blog.

Unfortunately I fell asleep about half an hour before these were posted at the Cybils website. So a lot of you probably already know them.

Middle Grade Fiction: I was on the panel for this one, and we do have a rather long shortlist, but it was really hard to narrow down! We had some fantastic titles to choose from, and finding some that everyone could agree rocked enough to be on the shortlist was hard. So, without further ado, here are our eight finalists:

21npotazicl_aa_sl160_ A Crooked Kind of Perfect
by Linda Urban
Harcourt
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“I teach middle school, and sometimes I find that I have more choices for my readers who like edgy YA stories than I do for those kids who read well but aren’t quite ready for teenager issues. A Crooked Kind of Perfect is a perfect kind of book for those readers.”
Kate: Read her review

I want to talk about A Crooked Kind Of Perfect a little here. Kate’s review is right on. This really is a fantastic book. It wasn’t my very, very favorite–I don’t remember if it was anyone’s very favorite–but the thing about it was that all of us loved it, and finding a book that six different readers can agree is awesome is something really special.

21he6x6s4rl_aa_sl160__2 Cracker: The Best Dog In Vietnam
by Cynthia Kadohata
Atheneum
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“It’s a war story about a seventeen-year-old named Rick Hanski and his experiences as a dog handler toward the end of American involvement in Vietnam’s civil war. As he stumbles into the army, then into dog handling, then over to Vietnam, Rick grows into a man of integrity and purpose.”
Sherry, Semicolon: Read her review

21juvxxlhl_aa_sl160_ Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
by Lauren Tarshis
Dial
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“This was a very refreshing book and one I really feel middle school students can and will enjoy. It is great to read books that are written about abnormal children or kids that simply do not blend in with everyone else, yet are perfectly fine with that fact. So many stories are written about wanting to fit in and needing to gain social acceptance, yet this, shows the reader that being different can be perfect.”
Amanda, A Patchwork of Books:  http://apatchworkofbooks.blogspot.com/2007/11/emma-jean-lazarus-fell-out-of-tree.html

217qxm9880l_aa_sl160_ Leap of Faith
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense

“The writing in Leap of Faith was good; the plot always moved along smoothly and compelled me to keep reading. I needed to know that Abby was going to pull through and be okay. Leap of Faith was a  sweet, hopeful story that I’m very glad to have read.”
Miss Erin: Read her review

21keeve8bl_aa_sl160_ Leepike Ridge
by Nathan D. Wilson
Random House
Buy from Amazon | Buy from BookSense

“Leepike Ridge is a book for every kid (and every grown kid) who played in refrigerator boxes, caught critters in the woods, and floated down creeks on homemade rafts. It’s a fantastic story with a grand adventure, a heroic boy, bad guys that you love to hate, a loyal dog, and a hidden treasure. The fact that it’s beautifully written with magical, transporting descriptions is gravy.”
Kate: Read her review

I’m really sad I didn’t get to read Leepike Ridge! Everyone who did loved it.

21dz4uwqtcl_aa_sl160_ Louisiana’s Song
by Kerry Madden
Viking
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“In Gentle’s Holler, Kerry Madden introduced young readers to Olivia (better known as Livy Two) Weems, a twelve-year-old with a passion for books and music. Livy has eight siblings of various ages and temperaments, a sweet mama, and a starry-eyed daddy. Money’s tight — Daddy’s music fills the heart and ears more than it fills the pocketbook — but the Weems make do, and their household is always bursting with family, love, and music. Louisiana’s Song is a worthy sequel to Gentle’s Holler, and, unlike many middle books in trilogies, can stand on its own two feet. When Louise learns to do the same, Livy Two will cheer her on, and so will readers.”
Little Willow: Read her review

Louisiana’s Song is really fantastic, just like Gentle’s Holler. Kerry Madden is an amazing writer, capturing her characters and her setting beautifully.

21i3zcpybjl_aa_sl160_ Miss Spitfire
by Sarah Miller
Atheneum
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“This book is the story of Helen Keller’s teacher, Annie Sullivan, as she struggles to teach a girl who can neither hear, see, nor speak. She displays incredible strength and determination as she sacrifices herself completely for Helen. Almost everyone knows this story, but hearing it from the teacher’s point of view is a really unique insight. This delightful debut novel will keep you rooting for teacher and student right up until its triumphant ending.”
Miss Erin: Read her review

217i2v1xgl_aa_sl160_ Wild Girls
by Pat Murphy
Viking
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“Pat Murphy tells the story of two girls — the rule-following Joan (a.k.a. “Newt”), who just moved to California from Connecticut and has always written the kinds of stories she thought her teacher would like, and Sarah (a.k.a. “Fox”), who hangs out throwing rocks in the woods near the run-down house where she lives with her dad, a motorcycle-writer-guy who doesn’t fit the image of any dad Joan has ever known. Fox and Newt form the kind of bond that can only be forged in secret clearings and treehouses, and together, they weather the storms of family trauma and trying (or not) to fit in among their peers. More than anything, though, they learn about writing and about the power of story to help us see truth — especially when truth is different from the story that the grownups are dishing out.”
Kate: Read her review

Those books are all awesome (well, I didn’t get to read them all, but I trust my fellow panelists here). I can’t wait to see which one wins!

Many of you that are interested in my blog will probably also be interested in the Science Fiction and Fantasy shortlist. Their list is actually two lists of five, one for teen readers and one for middle grade readers. Here it is:

Teen/Young Adult:

21sig5vknl_aa_sl160_ Book of a Thousand Days
by Shannon Hale
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books
On her first day as a Lady’s maid, Dashti finds herself sealed in a tower for seven years with her Lady, who is being punished for
refusing to marry the Lord of a neighboring land. Tight plotting,
beautiful use of language and metaphor, and an engaging main
character make this book a standout.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

21s4hjsydxl_aa_sl160_ Incarceron
by Catherine Fisher
Hodder Children’s Books (UK)
No one has been in or out of Incarceron for over 150 years.  Now, a young man on the Inside thinks he’s found the way Out–and a young woman on the Outside thinks she may have found the way In.
Success will require going up against the Warden–and Incarceron
itself.  The strong writing and characterization, suspenseful
narrative, and creative world building brought this book to the top
of the pack.

Buy from Amazon UK | Buy from Booksense

21gcra7bl_aa_sl160_ Northlander (Tales of the Borderlands)
by Meg Burden
Brown Barn Books
Northlander is an engaging tale which shows how hatred is only
ignorance of the unknown.  Though Ellin’s gift of healing saves the Northlander king, she is  feared and imprisoned. This gripping tale is both emotionally moving and thought-provoking.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense (your local independent)

21eipplnmpl_aa_sl160_ Repossessed
by A. M. Jenkins
HarperCollins
Fast-paced and sharply funny, A.M. Jenkins’ story of Kiriel–the fallen angel whose name means “mirror of souls”–takes readers on a week-long ride in the body of an ordinary human boy. Philosophical in a religious sense, yet untethered from any churchy elements, this novel’s quirky appreciation of the mundane combines with a wisecracking, personable narrative voice to create a funny yet thought-provoking novel. (For mature readers)

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

21mtp6rhlml_aa_sl160_ Skin Hunger
by Kathleen Duey
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum
Take two divergent story threads and weave them into one of the year’s darkest novels. Add vivid characterization, a quest for knowledge beyond any cost, and magic that is repulsive but intriguing and you have Skin Hunger.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

Elementary/Middle Grade:

21l6lxcxzil_aa_sl160_ The Chaos King
by Laura Ruby
HarperCollins/Eos
The Richest Girl in the World and the son of gangster Sweetcheeks Grabowski have to find their way back to friendship, as compelling weirdness enters their lives again in the form of a giant squid, a super-annoying hotel heiress, an animated stone lion, and The Chaos King–a “Sid” punk with a serious art fetish. This fast-paced, stand-alone sequel is accessible to both middle grade and teen readers and is both funny and endearing.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

21hqfv6szgl_aa_sl160_ Into the Wild
by Sarah Beth Durst
Penguin/Razorbill
A long time ago, all fairy-tale characters fled from their stories seeking refuge from “The Wild,” a tangled, evil forest. Since then, Rapunzel has kept the forest under control with the help of her daughter Julie, but when it gets too powerful she is forced to depend on Julie to set aside her fears and doubts and defeat The Wild. Julie’s strong character is an inspiring example of duty, survival, and love.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

31byzmlpqhl_aa_sl160_ The Land of the Silver Apples
by Nancy Farmer
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books
Land of the Silver Apples has it all–adventure, fairies, old world gods, and an ancient world that is caught between belief in the Old Gods and Christianity. This stand-alone sequel will appeal to not only fans of Nancy Farmer but those who enjoy adventurous tales.

Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

21npc41dl_aa_sl160_ Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy
HarperCollins
When twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley’s mysterious uncle dies, he not only bequeaths her his house, but a sticky supernatural situation and a rather dashing skeleton detective named Skulduggery Pleasant. This smart novel is full of humor, action, and a real sense of danger–and has a sly wit that would appeal to a wide age range.
Buy from Amazon | Buy from Booksense

210k2xvdp1l_aa_sl160_ The True Meaning of Smekday
by Adam Rex
Disney/Hyperion
Nothing has been the same since the Boov invaded Earth and re-christened it Smekland. But things get even weirder when twelve-year-old Gratuity Tucci embarks on a journey to find her missing mother–accompanied by her cat (named Pig), a fugitive Boov (named J.Lo) and a slightly illegal hovercar–and realizes that there’s more at stake than just her mother’s whereabouts. A hilarious satire with a touching ending and spot-on illustrations by the author.

I’ve only read three of those (Book of a Thousand Days, Repossessed, and Into the Wild), and if the awesomeness of those titles is anything to go by, I really want to read the rest of that list!

I’ll also post the other shortlists released today, poetry and fiction picture books.

Poetry:

 Animal Poems
written by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village
written by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd and Trina Schart Hyman
Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
edited by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Poems in Black and White
written and illustrated by Kate Miller
This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness
written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Twist: Yoga Poems
written by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Julie Paschkis

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath
written by Stephanie Hemphill

Not being a big poetry reader, I haven’t read any of those, though I do think I have Your Own, Syliva somewhere, so I might read that. Anyway, I don’t want to make this post too long, so check the Cybils website for more info on those titles and the fiction picture book titles.

Fiction Picture Books:

Pssst!
by Adam Rex
Go to Bed, Monster!
written by Natasha Wing; illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
written by Janice N. Harrington; illustrated by Shelley Jackson
Leaves
by David Ezra Stein
Four Feet, Two Sandals
written by Karen Lynn William & Khadra Mohammad; illustrated by Doug Chayka
Knuffle Bunny Too
by Mo Willems

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy
by Oliver Jeffers No comments here, as I don’t read picture books, either.

Stay tuned for the next round of shortlists in a week, and then the winners on Valentine’s day!

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