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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Cybils, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Monday Morning Miscellany v.8

I haven't been posting much lately, but it's not because I haven't been busy.  Here's what I've been doing:


I'm a Round 2 Judge for Nonfiction -Early & Middle Grades. The finalists are listed below. A winner will be announced on February 14, 2015.  Stay tuned and check out the finalists in all the other categories on the Cybils site.  I can't discuss the books, but you are free to comment on your favorites.

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain
by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books
Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cat 
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Feathers: Not Just for Flying
by Melissa Stewart
Charlesbridge
Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey 
by Loree Griffin Burns
Millbrook Press
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press

I'm honored to be the 2015 Co-Chair of the ALA/ALSC Great Websites for Kids Committee.  If you've never taken advantage of this great resource, I urge you to check it out at http://gws.ala.org/.

The site is continually updated with new sites added and outdated sites deleted. Suggestions and comments are always welcome.  In December, we announced the seven newest sites to be added:

And last but not least,

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of the KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Each year, fellow librarian, Margo Tanenbaum and I, gather writers, illustrators, librarians and bloggers to highlight and celebrate and raise awareness of great books for young people that focus on women’s history.  This year's celebration kicks off in March. Please, stay in touch with us and support the inclusion of women's history in books for young readers! Follow our blog, KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month.

 You can also find us on:
 Below is a sneak preview of the authors and their books that will be featured this year.  


See? I told you I've been busy! Have a great week!  Let it start with a reminder from MLKDay.gov,
"Life's most persistent question is: What are you doing for others?" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And, oh yeah, it's Nonfiction Monday! Check it out.

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2. A Cybils Bookmark: THE LIVING, by MATT DE LA PEÑA

This book is a 2015 Cybils Award YA Speculative Fiction Finalist. This is a review by a finalist judge, so will focus solely on summary and leave out additional discussion. Thanks! I'm not a great traveler, I'll admit. When I get on an airplane,... Read the rest of this post

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3. A Cybils Bookmark: THE WINNER'S CURSE, by MARIE RUTKOSKI

I'd previously only read this author's middle-grade novels. Her debut with THE CABINET OF WONDERS, was a Cybs contender awhile back, and pretty amazing in terms of detail and overall WOW factor of new-things-per-page. I LOVED that novel, so when I... Read the rest of this post

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4. NF Book Challenge #1: When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses

I have been trying to keep up with good nonfiction for kids. So this year, I decided to try to participate in Alyson Beecher's Nonfiction Challenge. I certainly won't be able to read the number of NF books that she does, but my hope is 52 nonfiction books or one each week in 2015.

This week, after seeing it on the CYBILS Finalists for NF list, I decided it was time I read WHEN LUNCH FIGHTS BACK. I've seen lots of buzz about this book but hadn't sat down to read it.  And I'm glad I did.

The book is longer and more intense than I anticipated.  I think grades 4-7 are probably about right for it. It seems like a good match for readers who love the Scientist in the Field series.  There is lots to like about this book.   First of all, the premise of animal defenses is a good one and this one frames it in a unique way. Each chapter focuses on a way that an animal might defend itself. Then it goes into a story about an animal being attacked and using that defense. Following the story and photos, there is a section for each that gives us "The Science Behind the Story" and explains what is happening.  In most of these segments, there are quotes from or information about a scientist who studies the particular animal.   I love the combination of these components.

As I was reading, I realized what a great writing mentor this could be. There are different types of informational writing in each section and that comparison would make for an interesting mini lesson. The language and craft of the actual stories of animal defense are incredible and writers can learn lots from studying these short pieces of text.

In my quest to know more nonfiction authors, I realized I didn't recognize the author' name--Rebecca L. Johnson. But when I checked out her website, I realized that I do know some of her work and it is fabulous. She definitely writes for an older elementary/middle school audience. I will definitely keep my eye on her books from now on.


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5. Don't overlook these books!

I love the seven books my panel selected as the finalists for YA Speculative Fiction. I'm really proud of our shortlist as a representation of the best YA Spec Fic books of 2014. However, there are always the ones that got away, the ones that didn't quite make it. When seven people are deliberating, compromises have to be made, and sometimes, no matter how passionate you are about a book, you can't convince your fellow judges. Here are some of the 2014 Cybils nominees that I loved, but which didn't make the cut as finalists:


Divided We Fall Trilogy: Book 1: Divided We Fall
Trent Reedy

This is a frighteningly believable book about a near-future conflict between a state and the Federal Government, with the National Guard caught in the middle.  Exciting plot, credible and distinctive teen male voice, and well-developed protagonist.



Gwenda Bond

For anyone who has ever wanted to be Circus. Part mystery, part circus story, and a bit of magic, this story of a young wire walker trying to overcome her family's past and prove herself is dripping with atmosphere and loaded with teen appeal.



Love Is the Drug
Alaya Dawn Johnson

Federal agents investigating Washington DC prep school student Emily Bird may be more of a danger to her than the rapidly spreading global pandemic. An exciting thriller that shows the stark contrast between the power elite in Northwest DC and the working class in the Northeast, and the racism that exists in both.



Shadowfell #03: The Caller
Juliet Marillier

The conclusion of a terrific high fantasy series that started with Shadowfell. I've loved all the books in this series, but sadly I've been unsuccessful at convincing my fellow judges to shortlist any of them. With well developed characters, a page-turning plot, and themes of sacrifice and choice, this may be the best book of the trilogy.


The Girl from the Well
Rin Chupeco

A creepy paranormal horror story told from the point of view of a centuries-old ghost. With distinctive voice, an almost poetic writing style, and a strong dose of Japanese culture, The Girl from the Well has a lot of teen appeal. This one came very close to making the shortlist, but we had some concerns about the mentally ill being used in a stereotyped way for horror effect.



A Creature of Moonlight
Rebecca Hahn

As the daughter of a dragon and a princess, Marni is torn between two worlds, the wild and beautiful but dangerous forest, and the equally dangerous life at court. A beautifully lyrical, character-driven fantasy with a theme of choice and being true to yourself.

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6. Cybils Awards 2014 Finalists!

The 2014 Cybils Awards finalists have been announced! The Cybils Awards, now in our 9th year, recognize the best children's and YA books of the year as defined by our primary criteria: kid appeal and literary merit. We are an adjudicated award, and our judges are all bloggers specializing in children's and YA literature. Our lists are a great resource for anyone looking for the best children's and YA books. Here is the full finalist announcement.

I serve as a judge in the YA Speculative Fiction category, where I'm also Category Chair. I'm excited to share our seven excellent finalists!

by Leah Cypess
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Charlotte
From the moment Ileni stepped into a cave of assassins to teach magic and discover who killed her two predecessors, I was hooked. In DEATH SWORN, Ileni goes deep into a culture that values absolute obedience and killing for the greater good. Ileni herself is the novel's greatest assassin, a heroine who overcomes her fears and doubts, managing to hide that she's weak and easy prey. The intense tension between Ileni and her assassin protector Soren adds a touch of romance to the action, with a refreshing lack of anything resembling a love triangle. The theme of questioning authority and dogma will resonate with teens, as will Ileni's growing engagement with the world around her as she discovers that you can forge a new path for yourself after your dreams falter.
Allie Jones, In Bed With Books

by A.S. King
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Angie Manfredi
You don't need a dose of hallucinogenic bat to enjoy this trippy tale. A.S. King's capable writing weaves together three worlds: the past, where a young mother's suicide left her husband and daughter reeling, the present, in which the last days of high school close the door on that daughter's childhood, and the future, which is a nightmare existence in a patriarchal dystopia. Today, eighteen-year-old Glory O'Brien's smallest choices and revelations will affect all three worlds. They will clarify her past, determine her present and maybe - just maybe - change the future for everyone.

by John Corey Whaley
Atheneum
Nominated by: Mary McKenna Siddals
Travis Coates is a boy out of time. His body was dying of cancer, which led him to cryogenically preserve himself hoping for a cure. But 5 years later, a radical new procedure allows the doctors to place his perfectly good head onto another boy's body. Now he is literally out of time: he is woken up feeling like only a day has passed when in reality, the world has moved 5 years into the future without him. His friends have graduated, his girlfriend is engaged to another man, his best friend is content to stay in the closet and yet Travis is still stuck in high school. As Travis tries to keep his head on straight, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll cringe. Pun totally intended. Noggin by John Corey Whaley takes the typical questions of the teenage years – who am I? where do I fit in? – and kicks them up a notch with a brilliant speculative concept that combines biting humor with the perfect amount of angst and sorrow.

by Alexandra Duncan
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Kristen
Salvage is the epic journey of a girl severed from her community and exiled from the only life she’s ever known. The struggle to survive becomes a journey for self-actualization, as Ava loses everything and must find within herself the strength to start over and find her own way, not once, but over and over again. Rich details immerse the reader in each setting and culture, from a patriarchal, fundamentalist society in space, to a floating city in the Great Pacific Garbage Gyre, to a futuristic Mumbai. A dark skinned heroine leads a cast of characters diverse in race, culture, and class.
Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

by Matt De La Peña
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jen Robinson
What starts as a way for Shy to earn money to help his family back in a small town close to the San Diego/Mexico border turns out to be a horrific ride when the dreaded 'Big One' hits the West Coast. Added to the mix is a deadly disease that has killed not only Shy's grandmother, but others. The Living has a gripping plot featuring a Mexican-American protagonist and a cast of diverse characters. It starkly portrays racism and classism among the rich cruise patrons, and the greed that drives some in power to commit questionable acts. Sure to appeal to reluctant readers with its multi-layered characters and action-packed scenes, this novel nails the horror of being caught in a disaster and portrays the courage and strength that can come when people are faced with terrible odds.
Kim Baccellia, Si, se puede

by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
The Winner’s Curse is a world-building lover’s dream, with a rich setting and two distinct cultures free of stereotypes. Despite the unequal power dynamic between the two leads - Kestrel as a daughter of the conqueror and Arin as one of the conquered and enslaved - they find themselves drawn to each other, playing a game of emotional chess to get what they need even as the attraction builds. Rutkoski deals sensitively with class issues and the realities of slavery, allowing the romance to develop but ensuring her characters remain true to themselves and their own motivations. The action-packed second half, the moral ambiguity of the characters’ actions, and the intense romance make The Winner’s Curse highly appealing and a story readers will continue to think about long after the last page is turned.
Kimberly Francisco, STACKED

by Karen Healey
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Bibliovore
While We Run opens with Abdi Taalib singing a rendition of Here Comes the Sun - a hopeful, romantic song that directly contradicts his nightmare existence as a government prisoner and puppet. Soon he and Tegan (star of 2013's When We Wake) are on the run, not sure who to trust or what the right next step is. Abdi’s privileged, Somali upbringing may come in handy as they maneuver between the rebels and the installed regime. His ability to manipulate people could be just what they need. But no matter what they decide, lives will be lost.

Healey completely integrates a diverse set of characters into a world so real it seems like the reader is also barreling towards that future. The intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion are natural and the characters well-rounded and complete. Diversity isn't a plot device, it's part of each character's individual story. While We Run shows throws us into a world that has computers that look and act like paper, night vision contact lenses, legalized drugs, and the worldwide ability to use human waste as manure. But is it a better future?"
Kathy M Burnette, The Brain Lair

Here are the finalists for Elementary & Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, from the committee chaired by the awesome Charlotte of Charlotte's Library:

by N. D. Wilson
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Sarah Potvin
In the swampy mucks of Florida where sugar cane grows and football is king, Charlie’s family has moved to begin a new chapter in their lives. Pairing up with his cousin, “Cotton”, Charlie begins to learn about his new town, but soon Charlie and Cotton find that their carefree days playing football and running through the burning cane fields are coming to an end. There is something not quite alive--but not quite dead either--wreaking havoc in the flats. Old rivalries are tearing the town apart. The little jealousies, bitter musings, and grudges people have cradled in their hearts are taking over their whole souls. The monsters, bent on destruction, are using this for their own ends. Charlie soon finds himself in the role of reluctant hero tasked with bringing an end to the source of the monsters’ power. In Boys of Blur, N.D. Wilson tells a sweeping tale of family, friendship, community, and heroism with a diverse cast of characters and plenty of action.

by Kate Milford
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Tara
Milo Pine has grown up in Greenglass House, the beautiful old smugglers's inn his parents run. Everything in his life follows the same pattern from year to year, and that's just the way he likes it. But one snowy day at the beginning of winter vacation, a visitor unexpectedly arrives, and then another one, and another, setting into motion a chain of events that will change Milo's world forever.

Part puzzle, part mystery, Greenglass House is an enchanting and thoughtful story. Milo's conflicted feelings about his identity and the idea of growing up will resonate with reader. His growing friendship with Meddy and their adventures playing his father's forgotten RPG provide an emotional backbone to this strongly written story about finding out that you are more than you ever thought you could be.
Maureen Eichner, By Singing Light

by Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: Lwad
When Jed the squirrel is captured by a hawk, he manages to escape, but he is lost and far from home. Fortunately for him, Jed has good friends, TsTs and Chai, who are willing to put themselves at risk to come to his rescue. Then, the three friends discover a greater threat to their squirrel community than hawks and other predators. Can they return home in time to sound the warning, and can they persuade the busy, nut-gathering squirrel clan that their lives are in danger?

Nuts to You is a squirrel-y story. The squirrels talk to each other–--in squirrel. One of them has learned some English, and he tells the story to the author who writes it down for us. The moral is, “Save the trees,” for the sake of the squirrels and for humans, too. All of that–--the talking squirrels, the environmental message, the author inside the story—works together for a tale of friendship and adventure that is a cut above your usual talking animal story. At times poignant and at other times hilarious, Nuts to You will keep kids reading and laughing and perhaps looking for their own squirrel friend with whom to share a conversation and a peanut butter sandwich
Sherry Early, Semicolon

by Merrie Haskell
Katherine Tegen Books
Sand has lived all his thirteen years in view of the cursed castle surrounded by a thick hedge of poisoned thorns. But that doesn't prepare him for the morning when he wakes up inside the castle, among the ashes on the hearth. Everything in the castle is broken, including loaves of bread, items of clothing, and the giant anvil in the smithy. Everything is broken except the body of the princess whom Sand finds in the castle crypt. How to break this curse isn't obvious, and Sand is not a prince. In fact, he's never wanted to be anything but a blacksmith, and as he starts repairing the items in the castle, he discovers a gift for mending -- and healing. But waking the cursed princess is only the beginning. Trapped together inside the castle by the poisonous hedge of thorns, blacksmith's boy and princess must learn to work together to uncover the secrets of the past and break the curse.

The Castle Behind Thorns is a tale of enchantment, friendship, and forgiveness, a story of overcoming obstacles, mending what's broken, and finding one's place in the world. It will appeal to those who love fairy tales but appreciate stories where it can take much more than a simple kiss to break a spell.
Sondy Eklund, Sonderbooks

by Jason Fry
HarperCollins
Nominated by: Stephanie Whelan
Pirates! In Space! Twelve-year-old Tycho Hashoon and his twin sister Yana are actually privateers on their family’s ship, the Shadow Comet, licensed by the Jovian Union of the inhabited moons of Jupiter. Their older brother is, like Tycho and Yana, training to be captain of the ship someday. When Tycho earns a chance to lead a boarding party, disaster strikes. The Hashoons have to give up their hard-won prize and risk losing their letter of marque. Tycho and Yana’s efforts to uncover the truth take them from the Ceres Admiralty Court to seedy port hangouts and uninhabited regions of space.

The Hashoon family itself is as appealing as the space-faring premise. They are both loving and competitive, with an extended family all living, joking and squabbling together on board ship. Part space opera, part legal thriller, with a whole lot of very relatable family relationships, Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra is an exciting yarn that will hook kids with the adventure while leaving them with deeper thoughts on topics from siblings to slavery.
Katy Kramp, alibrarymama

by Paul Durham
HarperCollins
Nominated by: Ruth Compton
Welcome to the village Drowning. For centuries, the residents of Drowning have been warned not to venture into the dark, murky bogs that surround the village. After all, the bogs are home to the evil and terrifying Bog Nobblins – or so the legend goes. Rye O'Chanter has always believed Bog Nobblins were a thing of legend. No one has seen one and there has been no indication they even exist. That all changes when she has a horrific encounter with a single Bog Nobblin that forces Rye to realize the thing people fear most is real.

Now, Rye is tasked with convincing others the Bog Nobblin is a threat and the village needs help from a mysterious group of criminals known as the Luck Uglies. Luck Uglies, the first book in a trilogy, is a fantasy novel that has it all – magic, friendship, adventure, mysterious creatures, and secrets that need to be uncovered.
Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic

by Charis Cotter
Tundra
Nominated by: Reno
Rose sees ghosts and thinks she herself might be one, for no one seems to see or care about her. Polly desperately wants to see ghosts, or at least find respite from her busy, family-filled house. What neither expected was for the angry ghost of a third girl to interfere in the friendship they have made with each other through their shared attic wall.

Part mystery, part ghost story, this gripping and sometimes deeply poignant book will delight readers who love character-driven stories of friendship and family. Full of twists, both ghostly and otherwise, this is an utterly absorbing and beautifully written story.
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

I'd like to give a shoutout to my fellow judges, an amazing group of smart, hard working, passionate and dedicated book bloggers. It was a pure pleasure discussing books with you! Anyone looking for children's or YA book recommendations would do well to follow these blogs:
Now a second panel of judges in each category will choose one winner per category. Winners will be announced on February 14, so stay tuned!


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7. Cybils Finalists announced on January 1, 2015!



Over the last month or so, I have not had much time for my blog since I have been very busy reading over 100 titles as a first-stage judge in the Nonfiction for Early and Middle Grades category of the Cybils awards.  Growing up in the 1960's and 1970's, when there was a lack of attractive nonfiction books for kids, I found a special delight in reading so many fabulous nonfiction books for kids on every conceivable topic, from history, biography, astronomy, animals, archaeology, and much much more.  There is a book out there for every young reader, and for many it might be one of these excellent nonfiction titles.  A list of the seven titles picked as finalists follows, along with blurbs by the committee members:

by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Jenna G
While Ellis Island is frequently written about in literature for young people, few Americans are familiar with its West Coast equivalent, Angel Island, off the California coast, which processed about one million immigrants from Japan, China, and Korea at the beginning of the 20th century. Using original source documents, including memoirs, diaries, letters, and “wall poems” written directly on the walls of the facility, master nonfiction writer Russell Freedman brings the moving story of this little-known facility to life. The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs and includes extensive back matter.
Margo Tanenbaum, The Fourth Musketeer
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Christopher Leach
This book chronicles the efforts of Laurie Marker and the Cheetah Conservation Fund to save the endangered cheetahs of Namibia through unique collaborations with the local farmers. Like most Scientists in the Field titles, it includes the story of the main scientist’s life, involvement and viewpoints of locals, and stunning photographs. This is a perfect blend of inspiration and science, encouraging kids to dig deeper and think about a popular topic. A great book for strong middle-grade readers to enjoy on their own or to read together as a family or class.
Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library
by Melissa Stewart
Charlesbridge
Nominated by: laurapurdiesalas
This unique look at a bird’s most obvious characteristic, its feathers, compares the many different uses of feathers to familiar items like a blanket and an umbrella. The text is layered with simple, declarative sentences and more complex factual captions and statements. Stunning artwork creates a scrapbook effect out of illustrations, with a skillful use of shadows to create a three-dimensional effect. This lovely and useful book will catch the interest of preschool through early elementary students who will pore over the art, be drawn into the text, and possibly inspired to start their own nature notebooks.
Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library
by Loree Griffin Burns
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham
The Very Hungry Caterpillar gets a literary partner for older children in Handle With Care, which takes readers on a visual tour of a butterfly farm in Costa Rica to further explore the miracle of metamorphosis. Accurate but restrained text complements the crisp photos popping with color. Sometimes the photos are a single, detail-revealing close-up, while others use fascinating multiples & patterns: caterpillars in a bucket, pupae sorted into piles for shipping or lined up in neat rows. Generous use of white space keeps the focus trained on the miracle – the life cycle of butterflies. More than a simple documentary of the process, Handle With Care sets the understanding of metamorphosis in the larger context of our living, global ecosystem. It introduces the more challenging concept of the values and beliefs that drive the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge. Useful across several age levels, opportunities abound to enrich school curriculum in science as well as social studies. The title skillfully spotlights the larger message that, when handled with care, the earth and its inhabitants can flourish together.
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Tasha
Most school-aged children can tell you about Ruby Bridges. Far fewer, however, maybe almost none, know about Sylvia Mendez, and yet it was Mendez and her family who actually paved the way for desegregation in California in 1947, seven years before Brown vs. the Board of Education and over a decade before Ruby Bridges attended school in New Orleans. Duncan Tontiuh’s picture book, Separate is Never Equal, chronicles the story of Mendez vs. Westminster in a way that is understandable to very young children, and yet appealing to young adults. Tontiuh was born in Mexico City, and his desire “to create images that honor the past, but that address contemporary issues that affect people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border, ” is clearly reflected in his style, which draws heavily on the ancient Mixtec Indian tribe. End matter includes a note from the author, photographs of Sylvia, her parents, and the schools she attended, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. A book that should be read in every classroom!
Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission
Bats might seem a bit frightening, but they actually do all of us a huge favor. They eat about half their bodyweight in insects – roughly the equivalent of a thousand mosquitoes – each night! This means they help limit the spread of disease and protect crops. Little brown bats were once one of the most common bat species in North America, but a few years ago scientists noticed that the bats were behaving oddly and dying out in huge numbers each winter, struck down by a mystery killer.
Markle walks us carefully though the mystery, first by explaining the lifestyle of little brown bats and the important role they play in the ecosystem. Next she introduces us to a variety of scientists from different disciplines, all of whom are working together to solve the mystery and save the bats. With attractive layouts and amazing photographs, The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats neatly lays out the steps that scientists take to solve the problem – developing a set of hypotheses to investigate, collecting data in order to test each one, zeroing in on the culprit and finally proposing a range of possible solutions. This book is a wonderful introduction to problem solving for middle grade students, animal lovers, and budding scientists.
Elisa Bergslien, Leopards and Dragons
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission
If a good defense is the best offense, then When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca L. Johnson shows just how offensively awesome some animals and plants can be when it comes to protecting themselves from predators. The photography, which utilizes a combination of well-timed traditional and underwater photography, x-ray technology, and visuals captured with a scanning electron microscope, amplifies the reader’s understanding of how each animal employs its unique defenses. When Lunch Fights Back is an incredible highlights reel of gross facts about the techniques animals use to survive to fight another day. Johnson has created a compilation that will be stalked by kid-predators looking to devour the facts inside and fortunately, this book will not fight back. When Lunch Fights Back is well documented with source notes, photo acknowledgements, a selected bibliography, and a number of sources to continue to explore the topic further.
Ellen Zschunke, On The Shelf 4 Kids

For a complete list of the Cybils finalists in all 12 categories, please follow this link.  I know the second half of the committee has a hard time ahead of it choosing a winner from these 7 outstanding titles.

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8. 2014 CYBILS Finalists

The finalists for the 2014 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards were announced on the CYBILS website yesterday.  Here's the link in case you missed the announcement: http://www.cybils.com/2015/01/the-2014-finalists.html  The CYBILS honor both kid appeal and literary merit, so the books and apps that make it to the final round are wonderful additions to home, school and

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9. Cybils Poetry Finalists

It was hard keeping quiet about this amazing list of books. Here's what the round 1 judges, a lovely group of women to work with, chose to send along to the round 2 judges.

by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming is many things in one rich collection – memoir, history, biography – and lyrical, exquisite poetry. Events of the author’s personal and family history provide the framework for a series of individual poems. Woven throughout are key events of the Civil Rights journey and also personal effects of racism and discrimination. In this beautiful and powerful tapestry of verse, one hears the poignant reflections of Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, who kept on dreaming through tough times and good times and who keeps on writing in mesmerizing verse.

Blurb written by Nancy Bo Flood, The Pirate Tree: Social Justice and Children’s Literature

written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Anna Wadham

Dear Wandering Wildebeest’s poetry bounces with the impala and peeps like the meerkat. With childlike illustrations by Anna Wadham, Irene Latham takes us on a journey to the water hole of the African grasslands. Each poem is accompanied with factual information that will inform even the oldest readers.

To All the Beasts who Enter Here, there is word play with “Saw-scaled viper/ rubs, shrugs,/ sizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzles,” form experiments in Triptych for a Thirsty Giraffe, humor with “Dung Beetle lays eggs/ in elephant poop,” and even danger, “Siren-howls/ foul the air./ Vultures stick to task.” Children and adults alike will love the language and learning that wanders in this book along with the animals of the watering hole.

Blurb written by Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche

written by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Prolific anthologist Paul B. Janeczko brings the old and the new together in Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. The collection of 36 poems contains poems by classic poets such as Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost. Intermingled with these are poems by well known children’s poets including J. Patrick Lewis and X. J. Kennedy. Firefly July takes readers through the seasons beginning in spring and ending with winter. The poems take readers to different locations as well. Both city and country settings appear in the poems. As the subtitle states, the poems are short, but the images they evoke are almost tangible. Melissa Sweet’s mixed media illustrations are colorful, playful, imaginative, and whimsical. They draw readers into the poems. Firefly July is a stellar collection that will likely be a family favorite for years to come.

Blurb written by Bridget R. Wilson, What Is Bridget Reading?

written and illustrate by Jon J Muth

Inspired by his twins, Muth wrote a haiku book that doesn’t followe the often used three line, 5-7-5 syllable form. This made this title a stand out among other haiku books.
Readers take a seasonal journey from summer through spring by Koo the panda. (Thus the pun in the title: Hi Koo!) Beginning with a simple observation about the wind: /found!/ in my Coat pocket a missing button/ the wind’s surprise, to the last haiku: becoming quiet/ Zero sound/ only breath/ Muth offers to young readers a new way to experience haiku.The watercolor and ink drawings complement the text. The subtle alphabet theme adds another dimension to the book.
The author’s note at the book’s beginning sets the tone: “…haiku is like an instant captured in words–using sensory images. At its best, a haiku embodies a moment of emotion that reminds us that our own human nature is not separate from all of nature.”
This book of poetry will help readers to slow down to appreciate the small moments of nature and daily happenings.

Blurb written by Jone Rush MacCulloch, Check It Out

written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Who knew that among his many talents, Santa was an expert at writing haiku? In this collection of 25 poems using the 5-7-5 format, Raczka brings us Santa’s many observations, some about his job: “Wishes blowing in/from my overfilled mailbox–/December’s first storm” and others about the weather, the time of year, and Christmas preparations: “Clouds of reindeer breath/in the barn, steam rising from/my hot chocolate”. A fun read all at once, or one per day in anticipation of Christmas, some of the haiku work for winter in general as well: “Just after moonrise/I meet my tall, skinny twin–/’Good evening, shadow.'”

Blurb written by Kelly Ramsdell Fineman, Writing and Ruminating

written by J. Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon

Voices from the March is a historical novel in verse that focuses specifically on the momentous march on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. Six fictional characters (young and old, black and white) tell their tales on this historic day in cycles of linked poems alongside the perspectives of historic figures and other march participants for a rich tapestry of multiple points of view. It’s been 50 years since the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin became against the law. In this powerful work, Lewis and Lyon tackle issues of racial and social justice in 70 lyrical poems that reflect the perspectives of young people and adults struggling with taking action for positive change in peaceful ways. In addition, extensive and helpful back matter includes a guide to the fictional and historical voices, bibliography, index, and list of websites and related books.

Blurb written by Sylvia Vardell, Poetry for Children

written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Meilo So

In a series of free verse poems in English and Spanish, our most precious natural resource takes center stage. Water rolls, rises, slithers, hums, twists, plunges, slumbers and moves across the Earth in varied forms and places. Mora’s three-line poems are filled with imagery and emotion. “Water rises/ into soft fog,/ weaves down the street, strokes and old cat.” (In Spanish: “El agua sube/ formando suave neblina/ que ondula pro la calle, acacia a un gate viejo.”) The lyrical movement of water described in verse is accompanied by Meilo So’s gorgeous mixed-media illustrations highlighting 16 landscapes from Iceland, to China, to Mexico, the United States and more. Back matter includes an author’s note and information about the images in the book. A joyous, bilingual celebration, this collection brings water to life.

Blurb written by Tricia Stohr-Hunt, The Miss Rumphius Effect

Learn more about the Cybils and check out the other books send forward at 2014 Finalists.

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10. Starting the year off with a wee bit of squee!

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg

I woke up this morning all kinds of excited because I knew the Cybils shortlist announcements would be live by the time I peeled my eyelids open here on the West Coast, and I’ve been bursting at the seams to share our YA Fiction finalists with you. These books, THESE BOOKS, you guys. So incredibly good. I am thrilled with our list, which we curated via exhaustive and exhausting reading and spirited debate these past two months. Here it is: CYBILs 2014 Finalists: Young Adult Fiction.

Now the funny part: I’d been squeeing about this list on Twitter for a good ten minutes before I settled down to check out the other categories. Imagine my surprise when I got to the Early Reader shortlist and saw Inch and Roly there!

Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley2014 Finalists: Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books | Cybils Awards.

I’m beyond thrilled that Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare is an Easy Reader finalist. I mean, lookit that list! Mo Willems is there!* Among other fabulous folks. I’m so happy. Knowing the challenge of being on the other side of the list—the difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions you make as a Round 1 panelist, whittling hundreds of nominees down into a small number of finalists—I’m deeply honored and beyond excited. A hearty congratulations to all the finalists, all around! And thanks to all the panelists who poured weeks of labor into the curation process.

*At this time I would like to issue a formal apology to the post-NYE exhausted teens I may have awakened with my shrieking. Ahem.

The Easy Reader finalists:

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton
Clara and Clem Under the Sea by Ethan Long
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway
The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley Reader by Jennifer Morris
Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley :)
My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Book descriptions here.

The YA Fiction finalists:

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Book descriptions here.

To explore the shortlists in other categories, click here. You’ll probably want your library tab open before you begin. ;)

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11. Cybils Finalists Announced

The big New Year's event in the childlit blogosphere is the announcement of the Cybils Award finalists. I have two New England SCBWI colleagues on the Nonfiction for Elementary & Middle Grades list, Melissa Stewart and Loree Griffin Burnes. One of the books I read during my Cybils reading binge, The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern, made the Middle Grade Fiction list.

Congratulations to all the nominees and finalists. The winners will be announced Valentine's Day.

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12. Cybils books about Trans* people

Leelah Alcorn was a trans* teen who commited suicide this weekend. Her parents wouldn't accept her, her friends, either. She was alone with no support, and she killed herself. Her mother then posted on Facebook about how her son had been hit by a truck, implying it was a horrific accident. There is a beautiful hashtag right now, #RealLiveTransAdult to let trans* teens know that there is hope.

Four books about trans* people were nominated in the Cybils YA Nonfiction category this year. 4. That's tied with perennial favorite subjects of the Civil Rights Movement and WWII. I've read them and had reviews written on each of them, picking apart their merits and weaknesses, judging how they may or may not be award worthy. Some obviously compare against others, pitting themselves against each other in my judge-y reader's brain.

You know what? In light of this? Fuck that. I just can't pick them apart when the importance that they even exist is so painfully obvious today. None of them have fundamental flaws, they are all worthy of recommendation, and here they are:


Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition Katie Rain Hill. A college student when she wrote this, Katie tells her story of growing up in a body that didn't feel right--the body of a boy. She tells of her depression and pain and the sheer relief of discovering that transgender was a thing--there was a word for what she was and she wasn't alone. She details the process of coming out and transitioning, the support of her mother and the bullying at school, her advocacy work in Oklahoma, and starting college. A wonderful memoir.





Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen Arin Andrews. A high school senior, this is also a memoir of a trans* teen, detailing his life growing up, his depression and his problems at his very conservative Christian school, as well as coming out and transitioning. There is also the real heartbreak of falling in love and a painful breakup after his girlfriend goes to college. This one has a little more medical information than Rethinking Normal

I would read these two as a set, as Arin and Katie are both from the Tulsa area and had some very similar, and some very different experiences. They also used to date and their relationship (and messy breakup) is well-documented in both books so they can be a sort of he said/she said set. Having two (sometimes drastically different) takes on the relationship (including different versions of events and conversations) might be a very successful way to hand sell the set to teens who might not be otherwise interested in reading a trans* memoir.





Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Susan Kuklin. Kuklin interviewed several trans* teens for her book, editing their conversations down to a narrative in the teen's own voice. In the range of interviews and photographs, Kuklin captures a wide-range of trans* experiences and showcases the diversity within the trans* community. (Also, it's just a plain gorgeous book. I'm usually all about a smaller trim size for YA nonfiction, but yes, this is a book that can justify being larger.)





Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices Kirstin Cronn-Mills. Much like Beyond Magenta, this book focuses on several trans* narratives (although not exclusively young people) and the personal stories of trans* people. Interspersed are chapters to offer background and context--challenges faced by trans* people (covering topics such as legal, health, and social), trans* people in history, introduction to trans* issues, how trans* people and issues are viewed in different cultures, and more. It's hard to tell in the photo, but the cover is a shiny silver, making it a fuzzy mirror.









Books Provided by... my local library, with the exception of Transgender Lives, which was given to me at a publisher dinner with the author at ALA.

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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13. Eyes Wide Open

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines Paul Fleischman

Fleischman (who’s probably most known for his Newberry Prize winning Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices) offers a book about the real issues facing us environmentally while, at the same time, teaches teens how to evaluate their sources and be an informed consumer of news. It’s a really great call to action, pointing out how we need to change things, and maybe should have changed them yesterday.

I really liked the design of the book, but I think it would have worked even better in color.

The margins contain a lot of extra reading or watching for more information. It was a great way to recommend some great titles. I also really like what he chose--a good mix of books, articles, movies, and videos. Additionally, a lot of the things he chose are for adults, but are things teens could totally read and understand. It shows a respect for his audience that I really appreciate.

It also has excellent back matter and extensive endnotes--not only are all the sources documented, but many also give further information.

That said, there is a “how-to-think how-to manual” vibe to the book that grates a bit--it seemed condescending. I’m also wondering at who it’s aimed at--are teens no longer cynical about what they’re being told by THE MAN?

Fleischman’s writing often uses many of the same logical fallacies he warns readers against falling for. And, some of his points were interesting, but he didn’t have anything to back them up (like lack of food is what led to the Rwandan genocide and the crisis in Darfur. I think that’s an interesting argument to make, but the argument has to actually be made.)

Two things really irked me though--one is that he really hates think tanks (wonder if he feels the same way about the left wing environmental ones?) and paints them with such a brush that what he describes just doesn’t resemble what they are (and yes, this is personal, and yes, I know a lot about think tanks from the inside.) He tends to equate them with lobbyists (they’re not the same thing) and also all lobbyists are bad (what about the ones who lobby for the environment? According to Fleischman it doesn’t matter, because they’re not as well funded. Um, no. If you have a problem with the tactics, you have a problem with the tactics, if you have a problem with funding imbalance, that’s something else.) He also says that all talking heads on the news are PR flacks. Nope.

The other is the overblown hyperbole he resorts to. According to him, Foundations are a way for think tanks to hide where their money comes from and is the same thing as how drug cartels launder their money. Also, when talking about the psychological phenomenon of regression (trying to make the point that people would rather watch TV, play video games, care about a sports fandom or hang out on social media than face reality and learn about the world around them, which is problematic enough, but wait) he talks about how it regression causes childish reactions--his examples? Credit cards [note: not credit card debt, but credit cards in general] and tax revolts are childish reactions to wanting it now and not being able to save for the future or long term. And shootings are a crazy-people childish reaction to annoying people.*

And then my head exploded.

He makes some great points, but so much of it is undermined by his tone and writing, that it undoes everything that's right about this book.


Exact quotation: “With the daunting issues facing us, it’s easy to see the appeal of retreating to a childlike stage without responsibility. This is the defense mechanism regression. Where can you see it? Credit cards. You haven’t saved enough money but you really want something now? Go ahead and buy it anyway! Tax Revolts. Maturity demands looking beyond our narrow interests. Contributing to the public good from our private pockets causes some adults to throw tantrums. Shootings. Don’t like your boss/ex-wife/gum-chewing coworker? Blowing them away is a childish fantasy with such appeal that some mentally unstable people act it out.” p. 69


Book Provided by... my local library

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14. How I Discovered Poetry

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

How I Discovered Poetry Marilyn Nelson

Traveling Light (Smoky Hill AFB, Kansas, 1956)

In memory, Pudgy is just a tail
brushing my thighs as we surveyed the shelves
in the icebox. “Pudgy,” Daddy explained,
“went to live with a different family;
she’s fed and happy.” Lady welcomed us
to one Officer’s Housing, where she lived
under our unit. She was a good dog.
She seemed almost sad when we drove away
behind the moving van. And General
did have a knack for causing us trouble:
He dug up gardens, dragged whole clotheslines home.
“He’ll be happier with his new family,”
Daddy explains. We’ve been transferred again.
We stand numb as he gives away our toys.

This is a beautiful collection of unrhymed sonnets exploring life growing up on a series of military bases--a child of one of the few black officers. It explores so well the pain of growing up coupled with the pain of moving every few years, always saying goodbye, always trying to fit in with a new group of kids--sometimes made even harder by racial differences.

It’s a sparse book--only 50 sonnets--but packs a punch. Inevitably it will be compared to the other memoir-in-verse that came out this year, Brown Girl Dreaming, and I fear it will be overshadowed by it, which is sad, because this one is so good and so lovely.

It’s also wonderfully illustrated by Hadley Hooper in black-and-white drawings (maybe prints?) occasionally accented with muted goldenrod or blue.

Now, how do I feel about it as Cybils book? This one’s interesting… it’s a nomination in both YA nonfiction and in Poetry. I think it’s an outstanding choice, and strong contender for poetry, I do not think it’s a strong choice for YA Nonfiction. If nothing else, her author’s note states: “I prefer to call the girl in the poems ‘the Speaker,’ not ‘me.’ Although the poems describe a girl whose life is very much like mine, the incidents the poems describe are not entirely or exactly ‘memories.’ They are sometimes much enhanced by research and imagination.” So, a wonderful book that everyone should read, but not the right book for this award.

Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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15. Strike

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights Larry Brimmer

When I was growing up, my parents had a Boycott Grapes sign in our basement. I knew Cesar Chavez was a labor leader, but when I hear his name, my mind always goes to this:



Strike changed all that, really bringing to life the issues of migrant workers and how and why they unionized.

What Brimmer does really well is bring a lot of meat to the story--the divides between Filipino and Chicano workers, the politics involved in *which* union you joined (not all unions are created equal, which is a side of labor history we don’t see a lot, especially in children’s books.) I also like that Brimmer takes a hard warts-and-all look at Chavez and where he mis-stepped and where he succeeded and everything he accomplished.

To top it off, the design is just breathtakingly gorgeous. I would have gone for a smaller trim size, to make it more appealing to an older audience, but if you’re going to make it large, this is the way to do it. (Except a few of the pictures are too large, making them pixelated) There are several pull quotes which is great, and they’re presented in Spanish and English. On one hand, I like that they’re in both languages when this makes sense. But, why are non-Hispanic whites and Filipinos translated into Spanish instead of left in English or translated into Tagalog, respectively? This is especially troubling with quotations from the Filipino workers, because one of tensions was that many meetings were held in Spanish instead of English, leaving Filipino attendees in the dark and out of the loop.

Overall though, a fascinating and great book--one I’m really glad I read. I learned a ton about something I knew a little bit about. A great example of what nonfiction for teens can look like.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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16. Port Chicago 50

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights Steve Sheinkin

During WWII, the armed forces were still segregated. Black men who signed up were subjected to segregated mess halls (sometimes eating the cold leftovers of their white counterparts) and barracks, and given the most menial jobs. They were often treated even worse when they were off base.

In the Navy, black sailors were only allowed to be mess attendants when on a ship. They weren’t eligible for promotion. At California’s Port Chicago, they had to load ammunition onto ships. Only black sailors had to do this and they were not given any training on how to properly handle explosives. Their white commanding officers took bets on which Divisions could load the most, creating a hurried and unsafe atmosphere.

On July 17th, 1944, there was an explosion. A small one, then a big one. 320 men died (202 were black men loading ammunition.) Another 390 were injured (mostly due to flying glass when the shock wave blew out windows.) The 1200 foot pier was gone, as were the 2 battle ships being loaded. No one’s entirely sure what happened or why, because anyone who saw it was killed immediately.

On August 9th, the black sailors, some still recovering from their injuries, were told to go back to work loading ammunition. 258 (out of 328) refused, saying they would obey any order but that one. On August 11th, facing mutiny charges, 208 returned to work. The remaining 50 were charged.

The trail was a racist farce and all were found guilty, sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, followed by dishonorable discharge. In 1946 their sentences were commuted and eventually all were discharged with honorable conditions (which is better than dishonorable, but not honorable. You can get VA benefits, but not the GI Bill). In 1999, President Clinton pardoned one of the mutineers, but many did not want a pardon--they wanted their convictions overturned.

Today, all of them have passed on. All of them are still convicted of mutiny.

No one will be surprised to hear that once again Steve Sheinkin has written a riveting account of history. It is a great one for WWII or Black History projects, or anyone interested in injustice, legal dramas, or the armed forces. In true Sheinkin fashion, he pulls in many threads--American racism, the Navy and War Department’s unwillingness to challenge that status quo, the personal stories of many of the sailors involved, the story of what was actually happening, and the impact it had in larger society then and today.

One thing I found interesting--Thurgood Marshall is introduced as an NAACP lawyer, working throughout the war to help defend black armed service personnel from racist persecution and injustice. He watched the trial and foughtfor years to appeal. But, it never mentions what Marshall goes on to eventually do. (I mean, it’s not like we all grow up to be Supreme Court Justices.)

There are many photographs throughout the text (unfortunately, a few have been blown up too largely and are pixelated) and I love the trim size--even though it’s written a bit younger than younger than Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weaponor The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery, but the trim size should entice older readers to pick it up.

It’s a story that many have sadly forgotten, but Sheinkin’s powerful storytelling will hopefully tell this story to many more readers.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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17. Alice + Freda Forever

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.



Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis Alexis Coe

Man, I love Zest in general and when I heard they were doing a New Adult line, my thoughts were “huh? really?” because I wasn’t sure how it would fit. Then I saw that their first New Adult book was a historical true crime about 19th century lesbian murder in Memphis. Because, of course, it’s Zest and that’s how they roll and that’s why I love them.

Sadly, I did not love this book, as much as I wanted to. It’s exciting and compelling, but has some fatal flaws.

Alice and Freda were school friends. In the late 1800s, it was common for young women to form very intense friendships, hold hands, declare their love for each other. For Alice and Freda though, it went much deeper than mere “chumming.” They were actually in love, and Alice was going to pretend to be a man so they could get married and Alice would work to support the family. But when Freda’s sister discovered the plot, she forbade Freda to contact Alice again. She then told Alice’s family who agreed to keep the girls apart. Freda moved on, but Alice could not, would not. So Alice slit Freda’s throat in the middle of a street in broad daylight. A sensational murder trial followed, with Alice’s family pleading insanity, because what other explanation was there for same-sex love?

Coe tells this story very well. It’s gripping and readable, opening with the murder and then jumping back to detail their relationship. Their relationship had many issues, Freda was a flirt, Alice was jealous and possessive, and Freda had moved upriver from Memphis. She also does a great job explaining the trial and differences in the legal system between then and now and I love the way she subtly emphasizes that Alice’s family was rich (not mega rich, not high society, but definitely not poor) and white and how that changed things. How Alice’s Memphis was not the same Memphis many other people lived in. Overall the story is a great one to know about and I couldn't put it down--I read it one sitting.

But, it still had some problems.

For one, it kept referring to Eastern Tennessee like that’s where Memphis is. (Such as when Alice’s father hires two of the most prominent, expensive attorneys in Eastern Tennessee.) At one point it talks about “nearby Knoxville.” Um, look at a map. Memphis is as far West as you can get in Tennessee and Knoxville is 400 miles away. If something as basic as the location of Memphis is incorrect, what else is, too?

But, my major problem is that it’s illustrated. As I’ve said before I don’t agree with using drawings of historical photographs instead of the actual photographs. And this book even illustrates historical DOCUMENTS, like newspaper headline and articles, and the Register of Deaths. Worst of all, all of the letters between Alice and Freda are illustrated in handwriting. Not their handwriting, or even time-period authentic handwriting, and some of it is VERY hard to read. Yeesh, just type it out.

Some of the pictures are great and there’s no way there’s a photograph (my favorite is this stark on of Alice lying in her jail cell where she’s lightly sketched in white, surrounded by this heavy, dark grey) and that’s fine. BUT. Don’t illustrate a newspaper headline. Just use the original. And, if you’re going to use letters as part of your narrative and evidence, make sure they’re readable.

So, on the whole, this is not one I’ll be looking for on the award lists this year (sadly) and I’ll be very disappointed if it is on the lists, BUT, it is one I’ll recommend to readers and share widely.


Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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18. Because They Marched

I am a Cybils second round judge. I am currently reading the all the nominated books in a fun "armchair readalong" way with the first round judges. My reviews and opinions are strictly my own and do not reflect the work of the committee.

Because They Marched: The People's Campaign for Voting Rights That Changed America Russell Freedman

This title looks at the Selma voting rights Marches, culminating in the Selma to Montgomery march. It talks about Jim Crow, and the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. I greatly appreciated the epilogue that looks at how key provisions have recently been struck down, and what the means.
I am a huge Freedman fan and he consistently creates books that are beautiful and informative.

This one, however, falls short of expectations. For one, I’m not sure what Holiday House was thinking, but I’m used to Freedman’s books being printed on a heavy gloss paper and this one’s not. I’m surprised by how big of a difference this makes, but it does.

It does retain that classic Freedman style of lots of large photographs, but all the text is black-on-white and some of the more beautiful design that we’ve come to expect is missing.

Now that would be ok if the text was amazing, but it’s not. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s perfectly serviceable, but I’m used to finding his writing engrossing even when he’s covering topics I know well.

There is nothing wrong with this book per se, but there’s also not a lot right with it when you compare it to his other works, or even better treatments on the same subject (it’s going to be really hard to find a book on Selma that’s better than Marching for Freedom)

Overall, a resounding “meh” which is disappointing for someone like Freedman.



Book Provided by... my local library

Links to Amazon are an affiliate link. You can help support Biblio File by purchasing any item (not just the one linked to!) through these links. Read my full disclosure statement.

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19. CYBILS Nominations

The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (CYBILS) nominations are now open. Readers may nominate their favorite children's books and book apps for the 2014 CYBILS. To be eligible, books must be published between Oct. 16, 2013 and Oct. 15, 2014. Click for more information on how to nominate books.

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20. Josephine; The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

by Patricia Hruby Powell, pictures by Christian Robinson. Chronicle books, 2014. Review copy. This adorable 8" x 10" full color hardback book is a treasure trove of inspiration and information on the glorious life of Josephine Baker. Baker was born in a hard scrabble life in East St. Louis in 1906. Growing up with poverty, discrimination, race riots, and a family that loved ragtime music and

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21. Kidlitosphere News

I have not been staying on top of the Kidlitosphere Central news. I've been aware of it, just not passing it on in a timely manner.

As it turns out, this year's Kidlitcon is taking place today and tomorrow in Sacramento, California.  Those of us who aren't there can follow what's going on with the #kidlitcon hashtag on Twitter.

We have less than a week left to nominate this year's books for the Cybils Awards. You can already check out the books nominated to date. I'll be trying to read off the lists later this year.

I believe that I'm now caught up. For now.

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22. Piles o’ Books

If you, like me, missed Kidlitcon this past weekend, Leila has a delicious recap & link roundup for you at Bookshelves of Doom. I haven’t been since 2010, the Minneapolis gathering, and I had many a pang of longing as the tweets and FB updates came rolling in. But it was delightful to see so many of my blog-pals having what was clearly a Very Good Time.

One reason I couldn’t be there is because I was engaged to speak at SCBWI-San Diego on Saturday. (The other reason is because I have a hundred children and am therefore Always Broke. You know how it is.) I’m happy to say my SCBWI talk seemed to go over very well. The topic was Middle-Grade and Chapter Books, two categories of children’s publishing I can speak about with considerable enthusiasm. What’s more fun than speaking to a full house about your very favorite books? The crowd was wonderful, with really smart questions afterward. The only thing that could have made it more fun would have been having the Kidlitcon crowd there. :)

Sunday felt amazingly luxurious: nothing was required of me but to read. This was convenient, as the nominee tally in my CYBILs category is currently 100 novels, with more contenders coming in every day. Only two more days, guys, until the public nomination period closes. People are starting to compile lists of worthy books that haven’t yet been nominated; you can find links to those posts here.

Speaking of piles of books, the younger set and I finished The Boxcar Children over the weekend (it’s a mighty quick read) and today it fell upon to me choose the next readaloud. Sometimes I know EXACTLY what book I want to reach for next, and other times I have option paralysis. Today was the latter sort of occasion. I got Rose to go around the house with me, pulling likely candidates off shelves, and when we had a comfortable stack, I decided on a Jane-Rose-Beanie favorite, Rowan of Rin. Chapter one was well received. I’ve never read this one aloud before, and there’s always a risk—some great books just don’t make great readalouds. But so far, so good. So gripping!

readalouds

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23. Cybils Nomination Suggestions!

Wednesday is the last day for Cybils Awards nominations, and there are still eligible books that haven't been nominated that maybe should be considered. If you're looking for something to nominate, here are some suggestions that might jog your memory. See this post for information on eligibility and how to nominate.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction


Chasing Power
by Sarah Beth Durst
ISBN 978-0802737557

Published today (October 14), but still within the eligibility window.

Amazon link









The Truth Against the World
by Sarah Jamila Stevenson
ISBN 978-0738740584

Amazon link









Glory O'Brien's History of the Future
by A. S. King
ISBN 978-1478957775

Amazon link

Another book with an October 14 publication date.
William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back
by Ian Doescher
ISBN 978-1594747151
Amazon link

and

William Shakespeare's The Jedi Doth Return
by Ian Doescher
ISBN 978-1594747137
Amazon link

Sequels to last year's finalist, William Shakespeare's Star Wars



Mortal Gods
by Kendare Blake
ISBN 978-0765334442

Amazon link

Sequel to Antigoddess. Also published October 14, just within the eligibility window.







Circle of Stones
by Catherine Fisher
ISBN 978-0803738195

Amazon link










While We Run
by Karen Healey
ISBN 978-0316233828

Amazon link










The Slanted Worlds
by Catherine Fisher
ISBN 978-0803739703

Amazon link










Young Adult Fiction

Reality Boy
by A.S. King
ISBN 978-0316222709

Amazon link

This one came out just after last year's eligibility period. It was too late to be eligible last year, but it is eligible this year.







The Doubt Factory
by Paolo Bacigalupi
ISBN 978-0316220750

Amazon link

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Storm: The SYLO Chronicles #2
by D.J. MacHale
ISBN 978-1595146670

Amazon link



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24. Three by Zetta Elliott

The Magic Mirror by Zetta Elliott. Illustrations by Paul Melecky. Rosetta Press, 2014. Review copy. Kamara suffers from the mean words of a boy at school until her Gramma comforts her and shows her the ancient mirror kept in a back bedroom of her old house. Kamara willingly cleans Gramma's mirror and discovers a magical storytelling window into her own family history. Generations of brave,

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25. A day in the life of a first-round Cybils panelist

As soon as your category chair begins approving nominations, you’re on the library website, putting titles on hold like crazy. You’ll have barely two months to read dozens, maybe even hundreds (depending on your category), of books. The sooner they come rolling in from branches all across the county, the better.

I gave my branch librarians a heads-up to let them know I’d be reserving a tremendous lot of novels. Promised to stop in often to pick up new arrivals, so as not to overfill the hold shelves. “No worries,” they told me. “We’ll move ’em to the bottom shelf if we need to.” There’s an empty slice of shelf there, under the Last Name T-Z reserves.

I stopped by today expecting to find the P shelf squeezed full of my holds. Nope, although as usual P—, LYD (last name redacted) had a small handful of appealing titles awaiting her. I’m assuming she’s a she—Lydia? Lyddie? No idea, but for the eight years I’ve been glimpsing her reserve books next to ours (PETERSON, SCO) on the shelf, and when it comes to books we are clearly such kindred spirits that I’ve been tempted to leave her a note in one of them. Except that might seem a little creepy. Whereas blogging about it totally isn’t weird at all. Ahem. MOVING ON.

Okay, so I’m expecting a bunch of books but they aren’t on the P shelf, and they aren’t on the spillover bottom shelf either. I run my (okay, Scott’s; I lose things) library card under the scanner next to the shelves, and it says I have 16 titles ready for pickup. I’m just about to track down a librarian when I spot the cardboard box on the floor.

Aha. Now we’re talking.

cybilsbox

I just love my librarians. :)

P.S. Nominations close tomorrow. Here’s the link! 

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