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January 2010 Archives


The 2009 Cybils Shortlists

Posted by Jen Robinson on January 11, 2010 at 6:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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Cybils2009-150px.gifOn Thursday, Pam focused on three Cybils picture book finalists for her Thursday Three. Today I'd like to talk a bit more about the Cybils finalists in general, and why I think that they're such a great resource for parents, teachers, and librarians.

The Cybils are an annual series of book awards given by children's and young adult book bloggers. Now in their fourth year, the Cybils were started by Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold with a dual purpose:

"1. Reward the children's and young adult authors (and illustrators, let's not forget them) whose books combine the highest literary merit and "kid appeal." What's that mean? If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussel sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we're thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We're yummy and nutritious.

2. Foster a sense of community among bloggers who write about children's and YA literature, highlight our best reviewers (and shamelessly promote their blogs) and provide a forum for the similarly obsessed."

The Cybils award process is quite an undertaking. Each year, children's book fans nominate titles in a variety of categories ranging from picture books to young adult fiction and nonfiction. This year, 939 books were nominated across the different categories. Anyone who likes can nominate titles (one per category).

Once the nominations close, two rounds of judging ensue for each category. The judges are drawn from children's book bloggers, including authors and reviewers, people who immerse themselves year-round in their respective categories. Nearly 140 bloggers are involved in this volunteer-run effort. Many authors and publishers help by providing review copies, though panelists also buy, borrow, and share titles.

In each category, the first team of panelists weeds down the nominated titles to a shortlist of five to seven titles. Then a second panel selects a winner from that shortlist. This year, there are a total of 72 shortlist titles spread across a dozen sub-categories. The winners will be announced on February 14th (and we'll be sure to share the news here at Booklights).

This year, in addition to being the Literacy Evangelist for the Cybils (read: person who jumps up and down and tells people how great the Cybils are), I'm a second round judge for the Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction category. I'm currently reading my way through the seven shortlisted titles. I know from my experience in past years that selecting the best of the best will be a difficult task. That's because, honestly, every title that makes it onto the shortlists is amazing.

And that's why I'm telling you about the Cybils shortlists at Booklights. Where else can you find recommended titles, guaranteed to have both literary quality and kid appeal, helpfully grouped by age range and genre? There are thousands of children's and young adult books published every year. What the Cybils process does is start with those thousands, and then use an open nomination process to narrow down to roughly 1000 nominated titles, and then us a well-thought-out judging process to get the list down further to a few dozen recommendations. And although I'll be taking my round two judging seriously, my personal belief is that the most valuable thing that comes out of the Cybils are these shortlists. Are you looking for high-quality nonfiction picture books? Look here. Are you looking for middle grade graphic novels? Here you go. The Cybils shortlists are an excellent resource for anyone looking to match books to kids.

Here are the links to this year's Cybils shortlists (the Easy Reader and Short Chapter Books and Graphic Novels categories each are broken into two sub-lists, by age range):

Easy Readers & Short Chapter Books
Fantasy & Science Fiction (Middle Grade)
Fantasy & Science Fiction (Young Adult)
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction Middle Grade/YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

And here are links to printable versions of the shortlists from last year and the year before (each link opens a PDF file).

I hope that you'll find the Cybils shortlists a useful resource. I know I do.


Thursday Three: Cybil Finalists

Posted by Pam on January 7, 2010 at 12:38 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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For the past few months, I've been working as a Cybils panelist to find the best picture books that combine literary value with a kid-friendly appeal. On January 1, 2010 Fiction Picture Book finalists were revealed - along with the finalists from all of the Cybils categories. Taking off on Susan's post on the upcoming Caldecott awards, I'm starting my focus on all of the Cybils winners with the ones more likely - in my opinion - also bring home Caldecott silver or gold.

The Lion & the Mouse
by Jerry Pinkney
The Lion & the MouseGorgeous. Jerry Pinkney has to win the Caldecott for this stunning book. Has to. The wordless book - unless you count the owl sounds and mouse squeaks - allows the reader to fill in the Aesop's fable of the mighty lion who releases a mouse, to find that the tiny creature comes back another day to save him. But by making the story wordless, it removes the arrogance of the lion and the meekness of the mouse, allowing a greater depth of interpretation. This spectacular book breathes new life to an old tale. And I must mention again, gorgeous.

All the World
by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee
All the WorldThe Lion & the Mouse is likely to find company on the Caldecott list with this enchanting book. The poetic text is simple, taking a multicultural family through a day that focuses on their connection with each other, with friends and neighbors, and the world around them. The sentiment is lovely and is made more so by the detailed illustrations and breathtaking panoramas. This title encourages repeat readings to expand on the stories contained in the pictures, and the beauty contained in the message.

The Curious Garden
by Peter Brown
The Curious GardenDon't rule out this title for the Caldecott list, with it's amazing artwork that takes a dark, smoggy urban area to a green, bright lushness. In the story, Liam discovers a little bit of greenery in a gray, bleak city and decides to care for it. He nurtures the struggling plants into a thriving, growing garden which creeps into the city and transforms the buildings and people. If the book is about the value of nature and the environment, it is also about the possibilities in each of us to affect change for the better.

Links to books in this post are affiliate links for the Amazon Associates program, for which the site may receive a referral fee.


Favorite Caldecott and Newbery Medal Books

Posted by Susan on January 6, 2010 at 12:00 AM in AwardsRecommendations
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January is a month of wild speculation in the children's literature world. With the ALA Youth Media Awards on the verge of being announced, everyone is trying to guess what books will win this year's Caldecott and Newbery medals. The answer will come on January 18 at an early morning press conference held by the Association of Library Service to Children (a division of the American Library Association).

Lion and Mouse.jpgWho will walk away the winners this year? After receiving 5 Caldecott honors, will Jerry Pinkney finally earn the Caldecott medal for The Lion and the Mouse? Will Jacqueline Kelly earn the Newbery medal for her debut novel, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate?

While we wait anxiously with the potential winners to find out whose telephone will ring on January 18, here are a few things we know for certain:

The winning books, whichever ones they happen to be, will be completely sold out within hours of the announcement. They will be purchased by nearly every school, library and bookstore (with a children's department) in the country. With very few exceptions, they will never go out of print.

The winners receive a phone call from the entire 15 member committees shortly before the official announcement at the press conference. If the ALA Midwinter meeting is on the East Coast (this year it's in Boston), a winner who lives in California can expect to get a phone call around 3 a.m. I love hearing the stories that authors and illustrators tell about when they got "the call."

I'm curious to know which past winners are your favorites. Since so many schools and libraries buy the winning books, you may have read more than you realize.

Here are my favorite Caldecott winners. This list changes every time I put it together:.

Hugo Cabret.jpg2008: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
2007: Flotsam by David Wiesner
2005: Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes
2004: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
2002: The Three Pigs by David Wiesner
1996: Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
1994: Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say
1992: Tuesday by David Wiesner
1991: Black and White by David Macaulay
1986: The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
1980: Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney; text: Donald Hall
1968: Drummer Hoff illustrated by Ed Emberley; text: adapted by Barbara Emberley
1965: May I Bring a Friend? illustrated by Beni Montresor; text: Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
1964: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
1955: Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper, illustrated by Marcia Brown; text: translated from Charles Perrault by Marcia Brown
1954: Madeline's Rescue by Ludwig Bemelmans
1943: The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
1942: Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

The list of all the Caldecott medal books is here and the full list including both medal and honor books is here.

I'm more of a picture book person (as you can probably tell from the list above) but I do have several favorite Newbery medal winners.

Graveyard Book.jpg2009: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2008: Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz
2007: The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
2002: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
1999: Holes by Louis Sachar
1984: Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary
1982: A Visit to William Blake's Inn by Nancy Willard
1979: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
1978: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
1972: Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
1968: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
1949: King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
1945: Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
1944: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

The list of all the Newbery medal books is here and the full list including both medal and honor books is here.

Be sure to tune in on January 18 via Twitter and/or a live webcast to find out this year's winners.

Want to find out more about how the winners are selected.? ALSC has put together a great list of answers to frequently asked questions about the awards.

What are your favorite Caldecott and Newbery medal books and why? Have you ever tried (successfully or unsuccessfully) to read all the winners? Got any predictions for this year? I'd love to hear about it.


An Appreciation for National Ambassador Jon Scieszka

Posted by Jen Robinson on January 4, 2010 at 6:00 AM in Authors and IllustratorsLiteracy News
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Tomorrow, January 5th, the new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will be announced by the Library of Congress. The official National Ambassador site explains: "The position of National Ambassador for Young People's Literature was created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people's literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people... The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the Children's Book Council (CBC), and Every Child a Reader, the CBC foundation, are the administrators of the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature initiative." As you might imagine, I was thrilled when this position was first announced two years ago.

JenwithJonScieszka.jpgToday, Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading are hosting a virtual celebration of our outgoing (first) National Ambassador Jon Scieszka. They asked for blog posts honoring Scieszka, saying: "The "Thank You Jon Scieszka" post can be a review of one of his books, your reflections on his work as ambassador, a personal story around one of his books or author visits, something connected to Guys Read...anything Jon Scieszka."

I have previously reviewed one of Scieszka's books (Smash! Crash! (Trucktown)) on my blog, and recapped one of his bookstore events during his term as Ambassador (see a photo of me with Jon Scieszka above). I just mentioned one of Scieszka's articles, written as Ambassador, in my most recent Literacy 'Lights from the Kidlitosphere post, among many other mentions over the past two years.

knucklehead.jpgI also loved Scieszka's memoir, Knucklehead (though I didn't review it, because I listened to it on audiobook, but you can read a great review at A Fuse #8 Production). I think that his Trucktown series cries out "make reading FUN" with every new book. All in all, I'm a huge fan not only of Scieszka's books, but of his tireless efforts to promote reading, especially among boys and reluctant readers.

Before he was appointed National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, Scieszka founded Guys Read, a website dedicated to helping boys learn to enjoy reading. Here's his brief statement on boys and reading (much of which he carried over to his work as Ambassador), edited slightly for formatting:

"Boys often have to read books they don't really like. They don't get to choose what they want to read. And what they do like to read, people often tell them is not really reading. We can help boys read by:

  • Letting them choose what they read.
  • Expanding our definition of "reading" to include: nonfiction; graphic novels, comics, comic strips; humor; and magazines, newspapers, online text (edited for formatting)
  • Getting boys to recommend reading they do like to other boys.
  • Providing boys with male role models for reading in school and at home.

Great ideas, all! A big part of what Guys Read provides is lists of boy-friendly books and audiobooks, broken up into entertaining categories like "Outer space, but without aliens" and "At least one explosion". But there are also recommended resources, options for starting a Guys Read field office, downloadable bookmarks and bookplates, and more.

Guys Read is a great resource, and I'm glad that it will be continuing. But I personally think that Jon Scieszka has done even more for kids (especially boys) and reading during his tenure as Ambassador. You can read his platform here. He visited 33 states and 274 schools, libraries, bookstores, conferences, and festivals in the past two years (per the Huffington Post article). He engaged thousands and thousands of children, and their parents, during that time. He spent the past two years encouraging people to let kids choose what they want to read, provide adult reading role models, expand our definition of what constitutes "real" reading, stop vilifying other types of media like television, and take ACTION to prmote literacy. The amount of energy this must have taken is truly breathtaking.

The committee members who chose Jon Scieszka to be our first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature chose well. They picked someone dynamic and talented, with a kid-friendly sense of humor and an unquenchable enthusiasm for connecting kids with books. I can't wait to hear who the 2010-2011 selection committee chooses for our next National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He or she will have big shoes to fill. Thanks, Mr. Scieszka. You did a great job!

Updated to add: you can find links to many more posts in honor of Mr. Scieszka in this post at A Year of Reading.


2000-2009: What Were the BEST Picture Books?

Posted by Ann on January 2, 2010 at 12:08 PM in Picture BooksRecommendations
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My "job" at Booklights was originally supposed to be writing an end-of-the-month wrap-up. So as December ended, I thought about responding to this month's posts OR writing an end-of-the-YEAR (well, since April when Booklights began!) summary. I have spent the past few days re-reading our posts, clicking on the wonderful links, and reflecting on the great suggestions for bringing children and books together.

Decisions, decisions......I could easily do my "job" and summarize our December posts. For example, I could suggest that you heed Pam's and Jen's and Terry's advice to provide children with a model of at least one grown-up who enjoys reading a good book. If I took that route, I could mention how wonderful the conversations we have with children about our own reading tend to be.

Or, just as the media always does at this time of the year, I could certainly go back to the "Best of 2009," and re-direct you to some of the Booklights highlights. Should I do that, I'd need to talk more about Gina's September 22 Show and Tale, Susan's August 19 posting about reading the classics, Susan T.'s November 17 suggestions that started us talking about gift books, and Jen's Growing a Book Worm series that began on November 2.

But, I have been influenced by the hype about the end of the decade. We tend to want to think back over the last 10 years and how those years have changed our lives. From international events, to political activities, to the impact of cell phones and electronics, reflection on these years makes for lively discussion.

So how about thinking about the best picture books that were published over the past decade? What were your favorites? What were the favorites of your children who were born during the decade or as the last millennium ended?

To prompt your thoughts on the questions, you might want to return to the Booklights posts where we listed some of our favorites. Pam included How to Heal a Broken Wing, Susan mentioned Zen Shorts, and Jen listed Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.....all published in the last decade. And my list of favorites? Unfortunately, they were all published pre-2000!

So this month I resolve to come up with a list of the Ten Best Picture Books from the last decade. At this point, I suspect it will likely include Ian Falconer's Olivia, David Wiesner's The Three Pigs, Jack Prelutsky's If Not for the Cat, and Jerry Pinkney's The Lion and the Mouse.

Let me know what you'd like to see included!

Happy Reading and Happy New Year, Ann

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