Category Archives: cybils

Cybil Winners 2016

Here is a full list of the Cybil Winners of 2016! I was a judge last year and enjoyed it immensely. Here are some overlaps with other youth awards that have happened.


The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz won for audiobook, it was also a Newbery Honor book this year.


Giant Squid by Candance Fleming won for elementary non-fiction, it was also a Sibert Honor this year.


Ghost by Jason Reynolds won for middle grade fiction (which was my category last year).


Sachiko by Caren Stelson won for middle grade non-fiction, it was also a Sibert Honor like Giant Squid.


March : book three by John Lewis won for young adult graphic novel. I won’t even try and tell you everything else it won this year, there are too many.



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Footer Davis Probably is Crazy


This is the last book to be reviewed from the Cybils Awards finalists. I’m not going to say much about it because I didn’t read it. What I did read, I hated. He was talking about his mother’s mental illness as though it was a disease he was going to “catch” and since there aren’t a lot of juvenile books about mental illness I didn’t like that this one was portraying inaccurate information. So I stopped. Perhaps had I read on it would’ve gotten better. After all, the round 1 judges chose it to go on to the final round for a reason. But I do not personally recommend it.

Other Cybils Award Finalists

Blackthorn Key – winner!

Book Scavenger

Blackbird Fly

Listen, Slowly

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Listen, Slowly


We’re getting down to the ones I’m hesitant about. I wouldn’t say I hated this book but I definitely didn’t like it. For the most part, the audio book reader was the only thing that kept me going with it. Oh, and the fact that I had to read it in order to judge it. I feel bad because her first book, Inside Out & Back Again, was apparently very good. It won the National Book Award and Newbery Honor in 2011.

Listen, Slowly is another immigrant story, like Blackbird Fly, about a complaining teenager. I cannot explain to you how much I disliked the main character, Mai. “I would be so pleasant if other people’s needs didn’t keep squashing mine.” Her need is to be on the beach in Laguna. Other people’s needs are surgeries for a cleft pallet and closure for a spouse’s death. Much less important than her need for a tan.

“Ba says everyone suffers from something at some point.” She says this while getting a face mask. I’m not sure pimples is what Ba meant. I dislike her so much I think it made me dislike the book. I did really like what her dad said at the end, it would make great discussion. “I’ve never been able to answer that: why does one human being have too much and another human cling to life in desperation?” I’m not sure I like how it actually ends though, Mai trying to get something herself for doing something good for Ut. Can’t she just do something nice without getting something?

Unlike Book Scavenger, Mai’s parents are very high and mighty sounding but she also sounds spoiled and self righteous so it’s not surprising.  It’s also very girl-centric. T zone? Do boys even know what that is? So I’m not sure it’d be as accessible to all middle grade readers. If you need a middle grade novel to read, pick up the Cybils winner, Blackthorn Key, instead.

2016 Reading Challenge: a book about a culture you’re unfamiliar with AND a book that takes place on an island


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Blackbird Fly


The third book in my Cybils Award posts (winner! & book 2Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly is about a girl named Apple who wants to fit in. She’s of Filipino descent and moved to Louisiana with her mom when she was little.  Immigrant stories are a common thing now and sometimes it’s done well and sometimes its not as easy to relate for those who don’t have that experience. I think this book does a good job with it because it also adds in other stories that are easy for middle grade readers to relate to. For example, feeling left out, liking boys, making friends, etc.

I like that things that Apple wants herself are shown in other characters to be just as debilitating and not a cure all. i.e. she wanted a new costume to make her fit in but Heleena (an outcast) had a brand new costume and still didn’t fit in. Sometimes I feel like she throws things in that she doesn’t revisit just to add diversity or conflict, “I wondered what it was like to have a complete family.” Although she talks about her dad it’s mainly about music and her need for a guitar and not because she feels a hole in her family.

Anyway, I enjoyed this book but it’s about middle way down on my list. Good, but not memorable.


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Book Scavenger

If I were putting my Cybils books in order of winner to worst it would start with Blackthorn Key (the winner!) and move down to Book Scavenger. I will continue the reviews of the last 3 books in this order of winner to worst in the next few days.


Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was a great read. It starts out with a very complicated explanation of how the Book Scavenger game is played. I almost gave up right then, so it makes me worried that middle grade readers might as well. After reading Book Scavenger and talking to my fellow judges we did determine that it was a lot like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. Those who like that book will also like this book. I liked the boy / girl friendship between James & Emily and the relationship with her brother, Matthew. I also liked the way the parents were portrayed. In a lot of children’s books the parents are either not present or seem like idiots. It was also about a love of books and I love books! However, you may also need to have a love of puzzles. People who don’t love puzzles, may not like or finish this book. Which is unfortunate. But those who do like it will be excited to hear that there’s a book 2 in the works! (Coming January 2017)


2016 Reading Challenge: a book from the library



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Blackthorn Key


Let me tell you all about Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands, the Cybils Award WINNER! I had it in my mind that this book should be the winner even before we had our delegating chat.

I loved this book so much. Here’s a quick summary via Goodreads.

“London, 1665. Fourteen-year-old Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to master apothecary Benedict Blackthorn. In Blackthorn’s shop, Christopher learns the delicate secrets of transforming simple ingredients into powerful medicines, potions and weapons… Helped by his best friend, Tom, Christopher must decipher his master’s clues, following a trail of deceit towards an unearthly secret with the power to tear the world apart.”

I read this book in tandem with another one of the book choices and in doing so it seriously highlighted the differences between our time and 1665 London. In our time, teenagers are rude to their parents and self centered. At least, in my opinion, based on one of the books I was reading. I won’t say which one because I am not a rude teenager (anymore). All Christopher wants to do is please his master! Even when he hits him! I think some middle grade readers may need a bit more information as far as the historical situation goes (not all of them may know Thomas Cromwell or the time period) but it can still be understood that traitors are bad so it’s not a big issue. I like that the book feels complete but somewhat open ended with the disappearance of a main antagonist. The characters are nicely fleshed out but there are a lot of them in the guild. I felt like sometimes they were called by their last names or different titles and there were just a fair amount of people to remember so that might also be hard. I also think because of the scientific experiments and potions, along with Christopher’s age, this could also easily be considered a YA crossover book.


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