Dear readers, I had grand plans at the beginning of January. I was going to read and review all the Cybils finalists in my favorite other categories, share my thoughts on some lovely books that authors or publisher kindly sent me, do a short summary of the roughly two dozen books that I read and took notes on last year but never wrote full reviews up, plus do my regular end-of-year posts of analyzing my reading and doing a favorites list.
Then I got a cold that turned into bronchitis, helped unpack my daughter’s school library after a move, and noticed that our roof is leaking. Now it’s just going to take a while to dig myself out of all the backlog, especially since my brain is still not wanting to concentrate.
The 2021 Cybils Award winners were announced yesterday. I am very happy that the winner of this category, Measuring Up by Lily Lamotte and Ann Xu, is one that I had already read and loved. Here are the other finalists I’ve read so far:
Borders by Thomas King and Natasha Donovan. Little, Brown, 2021. ISBN 978-0316593069 Read from library copy.
This is a fascinating and meditative piece, set as a memory of when the (fictional) narrator was 12. He has grown up on the Blackfoot reservation in Canada, and as the story begins, his mother has decided that the two of them will go visit his older sister in Salt Lake City. But crossing a border requires declaring citizenship, and our narrator’s mother is determined only to claim her citizenship as Blackfoot – even if this winds up with them being stuck in between border checkpoints. Though we see the child’s impatience, there’s also a lot of respect for the mother, determined not to let modern borders and ignorance define who she is. The art looks both digital and brush-like, in the amber and turquoise of a long-ago summer.
Chunky by Yehudi Mercado. Katherine Tegen Books, 2021. ISBN 978-0062972781 Read from library copy.
Hispanic-Jewish Hudi’s parents are tired of taking off work to have doctors tell them that he’s overweight. Instead, they decided to enroll him in one sport after another, hoping to find one that sticks. And even if he never does, he still finds a way to put his signature touch of humor on everything, especially with the help of Chunky, a drawing come to life that’s acting as his personal cheerleader. The story is fast-moving and hilarious, with rounded lines and bright retro colors and a solid message of body positivity and being true to yourself.
Jukebox by Nidhi Chainani. First Second, 2021. ISBN 978-1250156372 Read from library copy.
Shaheen has gotten tired of her father’s obsession with old vinyl records, but when he disappears, his favorite record store is the first place she and her cousin Tannaz check. The store is oddly empty and dark when it should be open – but when they break in, they discover a stack of records and a large, glowing jukebox – one Shaheen knows her dad dreamed of owning. And when it plays, it pulls them into a major performance of the song they’re hearing, taking them on a tour through a century of musical history. But even as they’re enjoying the explorations, the travel gets harder and harder. Will they be able to find Shaheen’s dad in time? This has appealing, rounded art, but while I enjoyed it, it was sadly the only one my daughter didn’t finish reading.
Salt Magic by Hope Larson. Illustrations by Rebecca Mock. Margaret Ferguson Books, 2021. ISBN 9780823450503 Read from library copy.
It’s just after World War I, and 12-year-old Vonciel has been waiting for her brother to come back from war. She’s very disappointed when he immediately marries his childhood sweetheart and has no time for swimming with her anymore. She’d hoped he’d fall in love with an exotic nurse in France. But when a beautiful and exotic woman turns up in town looking for him, the woman, Greda, turns out to be a witch with revenge in mind. And since Vonciel’s the only one who really believes in the curse, she’ll have to be the one to break it. The illustrations are watercolor and ink, with the style giving a sense of classic cartoons like Tintin. I first noticed Vonciel’s many expressions, mostly along the outrage to horror spectrum – delightful! But the fashions and the landscapes are also beautifully rendered. This is a captivating adventure.
Still to go from this list – Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby and The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor. I have heard good things about both of these books and am really looking forward to reading them!