Winners of the 2012 Cybils awards announced, plus a review of the titles I’ve read

February 27, 2013

The books that have won Cybils Awards were announced a few weeks ago and I wanted to share with you two of the winning books that I can personally recommend. In case you’re not familiar with the Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards), they’re kind of like the People’s Choice Awards for books. The winning books are selected from hundreds of nominations by book bloggers, and they always have some wonderful recommendations.

I have read the following two YA books (which are available at the Blount County Public Library) and can HIGHLY recommend both of them. I’m afraid to do a review because I don’t want to give away any spoilers or plot twists. I don’t even want to tell you if they even have plot twists or spoilers! Maybe one of them does and one of them doesn’t…I’m being purposefully obtuse. I just know that I really enjoyed them. Plot synopses are taken from the Cybils Awards website.

My very favorite book was:
 

The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy
By Jennifer A. Nielsen
Scholastic
Winner of a Cybil Award in the Fantasy & Science Fiction category

The Plot:

Sage is taken from his orphanage along with three other boys and thrust into an attempt to save the kingdom from impending war. If he loses, it’s certain death, but Sage is very reluctant to win, since the prize at the end means becoming someone’s pawn and living a lie for the rest of his life. The detailed world Nielsen creates is full of life, populated with mystery, twists and turns, and engaging and complex characters. Readers don’t know who to trust, while Sage knows he can trust no one, especially not Connor, the man who stole them away and has aspirations of his own. Sage’s voice is perfection, reading like a medieval Sherlock Holmes. Unreliable and snarky, Sage keeps his observations, assets, and motivations to himself until he knows he can benefit. Readers can’t help but cheer for him, even as he struggles to come to grips with the ups and downs of a fate he doesn’t desire.

Note: I liked this so much that I’ve already purchased the second book in the series, The Runaway King.

The other book I loved was:

Seraphina
By Rachel Hartman
Random House Books for Young Readers
Winner of a Cybil Award in the Fantasy & Science Fiction category

Seraphina is a genre-blending fantasy that dazzled us all. Dragons, a murder mystery, family secrets, and a love story–there is something here for everyone, even those who aren’t regular high fantasy readers. We were hooked by the mystery and intrigue of dragons and conspiracies as well as the fascinating and intricate world building. Seraphina is a complex and appealing heroine. She’s fiery and vulnerable and gifted and brave. Her love of music is a refreshing thread throughout the story as is a fairly surprising mystery. Seraphina’s transformation throughout the novel was inspiring and wonderful to follow. With beautiful writing and tight pacing, Seraphina kept us turning the pages, eager to follow the heroine and learn more about the strong ensemble cast. We’re sure readers will find a lot to love in this highly original dragon story.

Here are three of the winning books for younger children. I’ve put in a purchase request for these three books at the Blount County Public Library so they should be available soon. I can’t wait to read these with my daughters!

A Home for Bird
By Philip C. Stead
Roaring Brook
Winner of a Cybil Award in the Fiction Picture Books category

A Home for Bird is a character-driven story about a frog named Vernon who sets off on a perilous journey to help his silent friend find home and happiness. Vernon is a loyal protagonist with whom preschoolers will easily relate. A Home for Bird offers an engaging read-aloud experience, with ample opportunity for audience participation, and a narrative with both subtle humor and charm. Stead’s vibrant and fluid illustrations are a perfect match to the story, and will have young listeners clamoring for parents, teachers, and/or librarians to “read it again!”

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
By Alicia Potter, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Winner of a Cybil Award in the Nonfiction Picture Books category

Who could forget the endearing face of a panda bear like the one on the cover of Mrs. Harkness and the Panda? It is more difficult to remember, however, who brought the first panda bear to America. In 1934, when the story starts, only a few people even knew pandas existed. Mrs. Harkness, a young New York dress designer, seemed to be the least-likely person to go to far-off China to look for one. Yet when her husband dies during an attempt to find a panda, off she goes on the adventure of a lifetime to fulfill his quest.

Reading this book is an adventure of its own. It delves into China with rich colors, using actual Chinese writing on the paper in the background of the illustrations, photographs of Chinese coins, and even including some well-placed Chinese words. Each page and each reading reveals new discoveries.

The story of a young woman heading off into the unknown is one of bravery and perseverance that is sure to appeal to a wide range of readers. Mrs. Harkness would be perfect to introduce a geography or history lesson about China. Although it is a biography, this book is also likely to stimulate conversations about animal conservation, particularly discussions about endangered animals and how our views of how to care for rare animals have changed. It is truly a memorable and inspiring book.

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse
By Frank Viva
Toon Books
Winner of a Cybil Award in the Easy Readers category

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is a modern-day rendition of the “Are we there yet?” story. A mouse and a boy travel by boat to Antarctica, all the while seeing fun and interesting things. Alas, Mouse just wants to get there, and then, once there, wants to go back home. The story is told in graphic novel format through speech bubbles and gorgeous illustration. While a fun read for children of all ages, the writing works perfectly for children just beginning their adventure as readers. There are plenty of decodable words, many sight words and lots of opportunity for the pictures to help out when the words are unfamiliar. There is a limited amount of text on each page and the font chosen is big and clear. A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse is the perfect trip to take with a new reader. Enjoy!

The rest of the Cybils Award winners can be seen here. I suggest you check them out and start adding titles to your To Read list!

Entry filed under: Books, Reviews. Tags: .

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