Jan 1, 2016

Congratulations: 2016 Cybils Award Finalists


In my opinion there is no better way to celebrate the arrival of 2016 than to check out the lists of amazing finalists in every category of the CYBILS AWARDS. 

Let's start with the penultimate seven titles in the picture book category. I've had to keep my lip zipped about these titles for almost two weeks, and anyone who knows me personally will realize that meant pain and suffering on my part!

Now, officially, I can celebrate the titles our panel  selected: (listed alp[habetically by title)

by John Rocco
Nominated by: Adrienne
When the relentless snow brings a boy’s world to a halt, he discovers a way to both enjoy it and provide relief to his family and neighbors. John Rocco’s Blizzard produces four feet of snow and is still warm on the inside as it unites family. Proving how fast a blizzard shuts things down and also how long the recovery process takes, our young main character’s first person voice relays the varied emotions that accompany the flurry, engaging readers personally. With a lovely balance between dialogue and storyline, interaction from family and neighbors, and wonder-filled thoughts of a boy on a mission, Blizzard creates a relatable experience — even for those who never see snow! Featuring an incredible use of white space in the overwhelming amounts of snow and delightful details such as a snow-infused timeline and a snow-tracked map of the rescue, Rocco has created a complete work of art.
Blurb by Carrie Charley Brown, ReFoReMo- Reading for Research
by Melanie Watt
Publisher/ Author Submission
Bug in a Vacuum is a rare and valuable picture book. On one level, it is the humorous story of a bug who is sucked into a vacuum and struggles to come to terms with its situation. Watt overlays this narrative with a presentation of the Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief, as well as a secondary story mirroring the household dog’s own loss of his beloved toy. The muted, mixed media illustrations merge the complex narratives seamlessly to tell a rich, multilayered story. It has much to offer children of all ages — and I do mean all. The witty commentary and illustrations of the bug, rife with wordplay and humorous visual metaphors, propel the story above and beyond the grief and loss references, creating a bibliotherapy text that succeeds on its own literary and artistic merits. Readers will engage with the bug’s dilemma, the dog’s subtext, and breathe sighs of relief at their satisfying conclusions. This quirky offering by the author of Scaredy Squirrel possesses a darker vibe and fills 96 pages, but will absolutely inspire laughter, thoughtful discussion and meaningful questions, and draw children in for multiple readings.
Maggi Rohde, Mama Librarian
by Sean Taylor
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Anamaria (bookstogether)
Beware, inhabitants of the night! Hoot Owl is flying in search of a meal! Everyone knows owls are wise. But as well as being wise, Hoot Owl is a Master of Disguise. One after another, Hoot Owl devises disguises designed to fool his prey. Sean Taylor’s intentionally purple prose begs to be read aloud. Jean Jullien’s bold, expressive illustrations provide the perfect accompaniment to Hoot Owl’s dramatic plans. Kids from preschool to elementary age will enjoy seeing through Hoot Owl’s self-proclaimed cleverness, staying engaged (and giggling) throughout.
Sondra Eklund, Sonderbooks
by Muon Van
Creston Books
Nominated by: Katy Manck
The combination of lyrical verse, gorgeous illustration and timeless themes pulls readers deeply into the hearts, lives, and loves of a particular family in a mountainside fishing village half a world away. Comfort shifts to concern as a sea storm rises, revealed in the artwork of a fantastically talented pet cricket. Shifting perspectives and warm, earthy scenes make the story safely familiar though the art is rendered with Asian style and detail. In a Village by the Sea uses a cumulative and nesting text to create musical verse and repetitive themes that touch something in readers of any age. It’s a story that is both richly specific and lovingly universal, with enough visual detail and depth of character to invite countless satisfying rereads.
by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Anne Marie Pace
Matt de la Peña delivers a great cross-generational experience on an ordinary bus ride. CJ doesn’t want to wait in the rain, doesn’t want to ride the bus, and does not want to venture across town like he does every Sunday after church. He longs for what others have until Nana opens her gentle, very unique worldview that includes trees that drink from straws, a blind man that sees with his ears (and nose) and CJ, himself, who embraces the discovery that the true smell of “freedom,” is one that simply finds magic, beauty, and fun in the diverse spectrum of people he meets everywhere. The energy of the words marry the vibrancy and color of Christian Robinson’s illustrations. This book is one that will leave all readers embracing the delicious moments in life.
by Meg Medina
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: CindyRodriguez
When Mia’s “faraway” grandmother comes to live with her familia in the United States, what should be a happy arrangement presents struggles for both Mia and her Abuela. Mia can’t speak Spanish and her grandmother no habla ingles. How can Abuela tell Mia about her home where wild parrots roost in mango trees and how can Mia tell Abuela about her accomplishments in running and art? Mia is inspired by a red feather tucked in her grandmother’s suitcase to buy a parrot, and suddenly both Mia and Abuela find their “mouths are full of things to say.” With vivid writing and expressive illustrations, this is a story that will “toca su corazon,” touch your heart.
Debbie Nance, Readerbuzz
by JonArno Lawson
Groundwood Books
Nominated by: Hannah DeCamp
On a wonder-inspiring walk around the city with her father, a young girl gathers wildflowers that tenaciously grow in the cracks of the sidewalk. She uses them to lovingly bedeck the people and animals she passes, unlocking a colorful world from the drab urban grey. JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith have created a gorgeous wordless journey that uses perspective and pacing brilliantly to give readers a kid’s-eye view of the world–a world where poetry is found in the tiniest, most ordinary details. This one is perfect for quiet contemplative reading and provoking visual storytelling.
Hannah DeCamp, Hannah DeCamp
Congratulations to each and every finalist. Know that we all admired your work deeply and are proud to see it celebrated in this way.
This narrowing/selection process was both delightful and painful, since the current and upcoming flood of award nominees, honorees, and winners will make it clear that this year's bumper crop of outstanding kid lit offered a long list of worthy titles to consider.  All seven of us on the panel agreed on these as our finalists, and yet we each had other titles that were personal favorites, too. 
Please note that each blurb-writer-panelist above includes an active link to her blog site and I encourage you to check out each and every one. If you follow my blog it means you appreciate learning about amazing books for young readers, so I urge you to subscribe to their posts, too. In the weeks and months ahead we'll all be posting further reviews and notes about fiction picture books-- and more.
Now I'll get busy reading and writing about 2015 AND 2016 picture books, waiting anxiously  to see which of these remarkable finalists will be named by the finalists panel as the WINNER of the category. 
Whew, that is one tough decision.

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