Friday, January 1, 2010

Cybils shortlist!

Oh, yeah. Not only is it New Year's Day, but it's Cybils Shortlist Day! We've been working hard on your Middle Grade Fiction Shortlist, so I hope you enjoy! And, of course, check out the rest of the 2009 Cybils shortlists. These books combine literary merit with kid appeal, so they make a great resource for readers' advisory.

Captain Nobody
by Dean Pitchford
Putnam Juvenile
Nominated by: Dawn Mooney
Even though he's smart and capable, Newt is the neglected younger brother of a high school football star, mostly content with sliding through the cracks of life.  Then a couple of events--his older brother ends up in a coma the night of the Big Game and Newt is forced to improvise a Halloween costume--coincide to spur the creation of a new superhero: Captain Nobody. Newt finds that he feels different when in his costume: stronger, more outgoing, more able to handle...well, everything (within reason, of course) that's thrown his way. Hilarious, fun, and completely charming, this is one superhero that the world can't do without.
--Melissa Fox
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: melissa
Anderson has taken the historical facts of the American Revolution and given us a new perspective. Chains is told through the eyes of Isabel, a slave girl. Sold after her master dies, Isabel is thrust into the middle of the war where both sides claim they want what is best for her. She passes along messages to the Loyalists only to learn that the only one she can trust to help her gain her freedom is herself. Anderson has presented a story that with the proper foundation can be read, enjoyed and understood by the youngest to the oldest middle-grade student. War is always a tough topic but the details were intricately woven into Isabel's life.  It can be read as a stand-alone book and yet Anderson has left it open enough for a sequel.
--Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

Anything But Typical
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Pam W Coughlan
There is much to love in Nora Raleigh Baskin's Anything But Typical. The writing--in particular the narrative voice--feels so genuine: vulnerable and heartfelt; simple yet beautiful. Almost poetic. The book stars Jason Blake, an autistic hero, who loves to write stories and participate in online forums.  When his parents surprise him with a trip to the Storyboard writing convention, you might think he'd be happy instead of terrified.  But for Jason the thought of meeting his online friend, PhoenixBird, in real life causes nothing but anxiety.  Everyone has moments of insecurity and doubt, and to see these reflected so honestly in Jason feels more than right.
--Becky Laney

Heart of a Shepherd
by Rosanne Parry
Random House Children's Books
Nominated by: jone
Twelve-year-old Ignatius Alderman discovers the "heart of a shepherd" as he helps his grandparents take care of the family ranch when his father is deployed to Iraq. Nicknamed "Brother," Ignatius is the youngest of five brothers, named for St. Ignatius, and searching for his own gifts, talents and career path. He's not sure that ranching or military service, the two traditions that dominate his family, are truly his gifts.  And although he learns to live up to his responsibilities, it will take a major crisis for Brother to find his own right road to maturity.

The book is rather quiet, the pacing slow and deliberate, like Brother himself. Even when the crisis comes, it sneaks up on the reader rather than announcing itself with trumpets.  In addition to its coming-of-age theme, Heart of a Shepherd also has lots of little details about ranching life and rural Oregon and the life of a soldier in Iraq and even about chess.  These will capture the young reader who's interested in any of those subjects and make him pay attention to the larger themes in the book.  This debut novel by author Roseanne Parry is a treat to be savored.
--Sherry Early

All The Broken Pieces
by Ann Burg
Nominated by: Laurie Schneider
Matt Pin is haunted by his memories of Vietnam. He was born a bui doi, the dust of life -- son of an American GI and Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War.  He was airlifted out of Vietnam at ten years old, leaving behind his mother and brother.  Through the course of this verse novel, Matt is forced to come to terms with his with his horrifying past and his American present. 

The spare, poetic format of the story allows the reader to feel like they have entered Matt's head and heart. All the Broken Pieces is a gorgeous novel that captures the emotional and physical rubble left in the aftermath of a war. The free verse is incredibly well-written and not a single word is used when it isn't necessary.  This powerful novel will satisfy even the most anti-poetry readers but many of the verses will remain in the heart and mind of the reader for days afterward.
--Sarah Mulhern

Operation Yes
by Sara Lewis Holmes
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Laura Purdie Salas
Operation Yes is a story that revolves around cousins Bo and Gari. Bo's father is in charge of a military base in the south and GariĆ¢'s mother is deployed to Afghanistan; so Gari must relocate from Seattle to live with her cousin.  They are both in the same sixth grade class and their teacher teaches in a box about the importance of life outside the box.  What makes this story a standout is how kids can overcome tough times and show adults what they are capable of when they work together.
--Kyle Kimmal
Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, The
by Barbara O'Connor
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Nominated by: Augusta Scattergood
Popeye is dreading the boring summer that stretches out before him...until Elvis arrives in a broken-down motor home and the two boys start exploring the back woods, investigating the mysterious Yoo-Hoo boats that come floating down the creek.  Barbara O'Connor's book manages to be laugh-out-loud funny and still deal with more serious subject matter without veering into Depressing.  This is a rather quiet book for anyone who's been bored and dreams of having small adventures.
--Abby Johnson