In the fall of 2013, when I was not a Cybils judge, I joined the Armchair Cybils hosted by Amy at Hope is the Word, and had a lot of fun trying to read as many nominees as I could in all of four different categories. Unsurprisingly, since over 100 books are nominated in most categories, I hadn’t read many of the finalists when they came out, and started all over again trying to read those. I’m sad to say that I ran out of oomph before I got to the teen speculative fiction – many of the 2013 finalists are still on my want to read list.
This year, I figured that reading the round 1 books just in the category where I was a judge would be enough. Now that that’s done, I’m going to see how many of the Cybils finalists I can read – at least in the categories that my kids and I most enjoy reading. Those would be Fiction Picture Books, Easy Readers, Nonfiction for Early and Middle Grades, Graphic Novels (both age ranges), and Teen Speculative Fiction. If I get through the Easy Readers with my daughter, I’ll maybe move on to the Early Chapter Books… but I might be getting ahead of myself! I’ve checked out some of the teen books and graphic novels, but am just now finishing up reading the last of my new Christmas books.
I have read all of the picture books, though! Here’s a look at them:
Brimsby’s Hats by Andrew Prahin. Simon & Shuster, 2014.
If you’re looking for a feel-good picture book about friendship and the power of kindness, this is about as perfect as you can get. Brimsby loves to make hats while drinking tea and talking with his best friend – but when his best friend decides to go to sea, Brimsby is the one who’s left adrift. It takes some flailing for him to make new friends. The illustrations are both clean-lined and full of details that my daughter delighted in discovering.
Here Comes the Easter Cat by Deborah Underwood. Dial Books, 2014.
I reviewed this one back in September in Six (mostly) Silly Picture Books – it was a huge hit at our house, and I’m so happy to see it on the list.
Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty. Little, Brown Books 2014.
This beautiful but heartbreaking book tells the story of a young African-American boy whose father is suddenly missing for unexplained reasons. After saying the things he still needs his father for, his father’s advice on life and wishes for his better future are included. It’s illustrated with beautiful oil paintings, and the afterword explains how the author’s world was upended when his father, who was his primary caretaker, was incarcerated, and how for many children missing fathers are a fact of life. This is the only book I didn’t read to my children. I offered it to my daughter one night, and she picked Brimsby’s Hats instead. I read it to myself after she fell asleep, and found myself crying with huge snotty sobs such that I don’t know that I could get through reading it aloud. That leaves me feeling really conflicted about it. On the one hand, do I want my own children to worry about their father disappearing? But on the other hand, this is a sad and mostly ignored reality for many children, and it’s handled in a sensitive and respectful way.
Maple by Lori Nichols. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.
Maple is a young girl named after a tree. Her parents also planted a maple tree for her when she was grown, and Maple has grown up with her tree as a friend. Now the family is about to get larger – and Maple knows just what to introduce the new sibling to. This weaving together of nature and family life reminded me a little of last year’s Sophie’s Squash.
Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton. Candlewick, 2014.
Gorgeous, silly, great for story time, with a nice underlying message – no wonder this made the shortlist. I reviewed it at the end of December in Three More Silly Picture Books.
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett. Simon & Schuster, 2014.
A beautiful wordless picture book: a girl sees a bicycle in a shop window, and works doing chores for a neighbor for a year to save up for it. But when she finally has enough money, the bicycle is gone. The bicycle’s bright green stands out in contrast to the soft browns and blacks of the rest of the illustrations. This one also made me sniffly, but in a sweet and happy way. Both of my children also enjoyed it, but I don’t think they quite got why I was so touched by it.
This Is a Moose by Richard T. Morris. Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2014.
Wowzers! I nominated this one myself! I’ve never had a book I nominated make it to the shortlist before, and I’m tickled pink. Here’s my review in 5 + 1 Picture Books. I have to say I’m glad not to be a round 2 judge, with this excellent list of books to pick just one from!
Have you read any of these? And would you pick one as your favorite?