Friday, January 1, 2010

Cybils Shortlists: I Am Grumpy

I can't help it, I'm grumpy about the number of my favorite books that didn't make the Cybils shortlists. I'm anticipatorily grumpy about the favorites that won't make the Newbery and Printz lists. It makes me want to make up my own thing where I choose my favorite books in each genre and tell you why they're so good...

...oh, right. That's my blog.

So while I'm very excited about starting the process of Cybils judging (I'm a judge for middle-grade/YA non-fiction, which is why you won't hear a word about that category here), I'm going to go ahead and write one-sentence reviews for the nominated books that I really, really wish had been in some of the categories.

Middle Grade Science Fiction/Fantasy
When You Reach Me, a time-travel-involving novel set beautifully in the New York of 1978-1979 that is probably one of the best books I've read in years.

Any Which Wall, a delightfully playful book about old-fashioned magic--what do YOU picture when I say someone is "the worst pirate in the world"?

The Magician's Elephant, a slight and fascinating dream-like novel that made me feel like I was back in Paris; "I intended only lilies" is one of my favorite lines of the year.

Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy
Shadowed Summer, which I would not have called SF/F at all because I pretty much believe in ghosts, and is a must-read for people who know middle-schoolers.

Fiction Picture Books
I don't really know the field that well this year, but I'm saddened by the absence of

Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated), which is an impeccably written and illustrated funny fairy tale, even if it isn't quite right for either Newbery or Caldecott.

Middle-Grade Fiction
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z, a satisfyingly rich school story.

Young Adult Fiction
Going Bovine: trying to make sense of this entertaining road-trip story made me feel smarter than I am.

What I Saw and How I Lied: this absolutely splendid noir coming-of-age book was one of my favorites of "last" year, and I would recommend it unhesitatingly to everyone from my mom to my hipster friends.

I really, really pared that list down, and didn't include books that I thought were really good if I could maybe see how they didn't quite make the cut. And especially in the YA Fiction category, there were many books that I'm pretty sure I would have included in this list if I'd actually, you know, gotten around to reading them yet.

I never know quite what I want the Cybils books to be. I mean, on the one hand, I look to them to maybe recognize some books that aren't going to win the Newbery for one reason or another but "what they do, they do perfectly". On the other hand, if they DON'T include what is clearly... to me... the best book of the year, even if it probably WILL get other recognition--well, I wonder.

Now, I don't mean to criticize the first-round Cybils judges, even when I don't quite understand, but in the spirit of We Love Books, let's recognize the ones that aren't there. What books were you hoping to see on the list? What is, perhaps, a surprise omission--even if it isn't your favorite?


Wendy said...

My list here is pretty darn white (only supporting characters of color, and I think all the authors are white). Others have some must-read takes on this issue: and

Two of the books here also have LGBT themes--I'm not sure how many of the shortlisted books do.

BrunhildeCrow said...

I heartily concur about WHEN YOU REACH ME and WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED. And your other middle grade picks had me logging in to get them on ILL. However, we must part ways on GOING BOVINE. A adored the first half, which made me laugh out loud heartily and embarrassingly in public. But the second half made me feel quite the moron!

susan said...


Glad to see your comments at Black-Eyed Susan's. Now I have a new blog to read.

LaurieA-B said...

I just looked at the Cybils lists and was interested to see the book we just started reading aloud at bedtime last night: The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken. Otherwise, while I think the books you mention are worthy, I was interested/excited to see a number of books that I haven't read and some I haven't heard of yet. If a book that Some People are expecting to win the Newbery Award does not win, that MIGHT mean a new good book to read that didn't get a lot of buzz. We'll see.

My Cybils nominee for nonfiction picture book did not make the shortlist, so I will mention it: Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie by Robbin Gourley. It's wonderful.

Wendy said...

Well, I think that except for When You Reach Me and maybe What I Saw and How I Lied (which did, of course, win the NBA last year), these ARE books that aren't being buzzed that much. And that's why I was sorry not to see them on the list.

Ms. Yingling said...

I am so excited to get Gianna Z to read, since my children run cross country, and I had a leaf project in high school. I have trouble with all lists because they don't represent what MY students want to read, and I try so hard to gear what I buy to what is asked for. I liked When You Reach Me, but it would not circulate well. Really enjoyed your blog!

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

I'm sorry you were disappointed by the Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy list--I was on that panel! I also liked Gianna Z (I was not on that panel!), and I love your idea of recognizing the books that we wish had made it onto the shortlists. I would have loved to see Crossing Stones by Helen Frost on the YA list.

teacherninja said...

I love what Ms. Yingling said. It's not about the lists, or the books, but the students.

Unknown said...

Anamaria, I wasn't so much disappointed by what's ON the list and what's not on it! I would love to have been a fly on the wall of your virtual discussion, but I know you guys put tons of thought into it.