The Cybils Award winners were announced yesterday! So many good books – some I’ve read already and some to add to the TBR! I’m so happy that Nevermoor: the Trials of Morrigan Crow won in my Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category! And also very excited that the Middle Grade Realistic Fiction book that I nominated, The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, won in that category!
Meanwhile, I’ve been reading some finalists in other categories since they were announced. I’d already read several of the finalists in the Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novel category:
- The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag (the final winner! and it looks like I never reviewed it, though I liked it a lot.)
- Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
- The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Here are the remaining finalists:
Anne of Green Gables: a Graphic Novel by Mariah Marsden and Brenna Thummler. Andrews McMeel, 2017.
The classic story is brought back in ink and watercolors, with beautiful landscapes and people whose round, one-color eyes reminded me of the classic Li’l Orphan Annie comics. It goes through the major events of the book perfectly, though it might help to be familiar with the book already, as I am. I did notice some small disparities with the book in things like dress colors, and the date on Matthew’s gravestone, which should be around 1880 or 1881, not 1918, when Anne’s youngest daughter is older than Anne in this book. I enjoyed it anyway, but my daughter, still a little young to read the original Anne, got halfway through and decided it was too boring to continue. I’m hoping her opinion will change in a few years.
Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab, Jackie Roche and Mike Freiheit. Firefly, 2017.
This powerful graphic novel is written by a journalist who spent years working with Syrian refugees. The story here is about a fictional girl, Amina, who lives through the war breaking out in Aleppo, trying to survive with her family as refugees in Lebanon as conditions both there and in Syria worsen. We know from vignettes early on, recurring through the book, that the family does eventually make it to Toronto. Still, there are lots of hardships along the way, family members lost, debt incurred, and things like a 13-year-old friend being married off to “keep her safe”. The full-color illustrations hide some but not all of the horror here, so it’s definitely one for more mature students. We have it in the teen zone in my library, though Amina isn’t yet a teen at the beginning of the story. Though the story is certainly valuable, I couldn’t interest either of my children in reading it.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell et al. Knopf, 2018.
Chad Sell joins with friends to tell the stories of the diverse kids in a neighborhood as they play together one glorious summer. The art is bright and digital-looking, and spreads show both the reality and the fantastic world of the kids’ imagination – lakes that are really wading pools, mountains made out of sofa cushions, and so on. There is so much diversity here, of gender and gender conformity, race, and personality – our first character, the Sorceress, is a boy who feels more powerful dressed up as the evil sorceress, for example, while a girl who has trouble fitting into the meek, quiet box her grandmother tells her to finds comfort in a Hulk-like imaginary character. The adventures are lots of fun, and the underlying message of acceptance for who people really are works very well. I lost count of how many times my daughter read it, and I enjoyed it lots myself.
Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke. Scholastic, 2018.
Mr. Wolf is a new teacher, probably modeled on the author, who is himself a teacher. Though all the characters in his classroom are anthropomorphized animals, they have clearly diverse names and family situations. Each of the students gets a full page of their going to bed and getting ready for the first day of school, so we get to know all of them a little bit. The ones that stuck out to me most were Margot, the new bunny student – she and her dad have just moved in the night before school starts. Penny, a pig, has a baby sister who’s keeping her up at night. Her exhaustion causes quite an alarming situation for Mr. Wolf. Aziza, a duck wearing a headscarf, really has trouble focusing on her own work with all the distraction of a group table. I’d thought going in that we might have something like last year’s finalist The Big Bad Fox, but he doesn’t seem to have any actual predatory behavior. What he does have are multiple times where he congratulates himself on a problem well solved, only to have the picture show us a dissatisfied student. This first book really only covered the first day of school because of trying to introduce so many characters, but I’m hoping the second book, Mystery Club, starring Aziza and her friends, will be able to go a little deeper. That’s out at the end of February, and my daughter is already asking for it.
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