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My take on being a final Cybils judge

This year I was on the second round of Cybils judging. I got to help decide which MG fantasy/Sci-fi book was the best of 2011. I was able to read some amazing, awesome books. Trust me, it was hard to decide which was the best. And the one that I totally fell in love with was one I would have never read unless it was pointed out to me. Another reason why you should never say never. That's one thing I LOVE about the Cybils. I'm exposed to so many great books! The hardest part of this all was not saying anything for two months. And if you know me, I have a huge mouth when it comes to telling everyone how much I love a book! So now that the winners have been announced, I can speak!

I thought I'd give my spill on the finalist books, which were all great in their own ways!

2011 Finalists
Fantasy & Science Fiction (Middle Grade)

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd
by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Monica Edinger

I totally LOVED this book. It's about a thirteen-year-old boy who's mother is slowly dying of cancer and the yew tree that becomes a 'monster'. What I loved? The way this book handled the whole grieving process the boy goes through. The monster has some tales he tells to the boy that aren't all black or white. Loved it. The boy also ends up confronting his deepest fear at the end. A total must read book!

by Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Katie Ahearn

What can I say? This is another book I totally LOVED. **Can you see how hard it was to narrow down these books to the top book of the year?** I loved the protagonist who's multicultural and also adopted. The breadcrumbs are like clues throughout the story that the protagonist needs to follow in order to get to her lost friend. Not only is this a fantasy but the book deals with some fifth grade issues such as how it might not be so cool to hang with someone of the opposite sex without being labeled an 'item'. How the author deals with the subject of adoption is right on the mark. My own son is ten years old and in the fifth grade. This year he's also been asking lots of questions about his birthparents. Loved how the author weaves in the fairy tales too. Another must read book.

Dragon Castle
by Joseph Bruchac
Nominated by: April Conant

This story alternates between two different POV. There's Prince Rashko who's not too happy when his parents just take off and leave him right when Baron Temny and his army of invaders show up. It seems no one can help him as his older brother is bewitched by the beautiful Princess Poteshenie who has one nasty cat. This story draws on Slovakian folktales and later the two POV combine together. Interesting twists and turns throughout, this book has total boy appeal.

by Matthew J. Kirby
Nominated by: Betsy Bird

This book has total boy appeal. My ten year old loved the cover and wanted to take the book away from me even before I'd finished! Always a good sign! What I loved had to be how the author was able to build tension and paranoia in this story of a princess stuck with others as they wait for her king father. Someone betrayed them and clues are scattered throughout. This book is LIGHTNING THIEF meets Norse Mythology. A great read for those who love strong protagonists and a thrilling story.

April Conant

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale
by Carmen Agra Deedy
Nominated by: Monica Edinger


When I first heard that a book with talking animals was a finalist, I was thinking at the time--Just great. I usually don't care for books where animals are the protagonists. But once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down.
I fell in love with this story that is set during Dickens's time in England. As a matter of fact Charles Dickens plays a minor role in this story. He has a huge writer's block and can't figure out how to start his one book GREAT EXPECTATIONS. He observes the coming and goings of the inn and can't help but think there's something more to the buck tooth mouse and cat.
Enter a cat that loves cheese and a mouse that can read/write plus a mystery on what is happening to the Cheshire cheese and you have one humorous, adorable tale that is sure to worm itself into your heart. I swear at the end of this story, I held the book close to my heart and couldn't stop smiling. I loved it that much! Great writing, with very engaging characters and setting. A must read!

The Inquisitor's Apprentice
by Chris Moriarty
Nominated by: Laura Wadley

I really loved the whole premise of this story. Sacha is recruited to be an apprentice. What's unique about this is he's Jewish and can sense witches. There's also historical characters like Thomas Edison who develops his own witch finder machine that will put people like Sacha out of a job. I'd say this book almost has a steampunk feel to it. Plus it also does a great job of addressing the whole them vs. us as Americans idea. My own great-grandparents dealt with discrimination and prejudice being Mexican-Americans. The unique twist of this book makes it a must read.

Tuesdays at the Castle
by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

What's not to love about this recent Jessica Day George book? The castle in this story is one of the main characters as it changes on whim. Kind of like the castle in Harry Potter but with more personality. The adventures of Princess Celie as she tries to get the castle to help her save the kingdom are engaging. Even my 10 year old son was fascinated with Celie's adventures and wanted to read more.

I want to thank the publishers who send me copies of these books to read! I just donated them to my local library. The librarians there want to thank the Cybils and the publishers too! I love to share with libraries as they mean so much to me. I also want to thank the amazing Sheila Ruth, who asked if I'd like to do the second round this time. She's beyond amazing. She rocks big time. And thanks to all the other panelists. Another thing I love about the Cybils is I get to meet some many great bloggers, librarians, and authors. Rock on Cybils!


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sheila Ruth
Feb. 15th, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks! That's really nice of you. And thank you for serving on the panel, and for your hard work and insightful comments. Great reviews! I've only read one of these (Icefall) but now I want to read the rest!
Feb. 15th, 2012 03:33 am (UTC)
Thanks so much for letting me be a part of this. I totally love the Cybils!
Feb. 15th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
A lot of great sounding stories. So many good books. So little time to read. I can see how hard it would be to choose a winner.
Feb. 15th, 2012 03:34 am (UTC)
It really was hard to choose. So many great books and like you said too little time!
Feb. 19th, 2012 01:15 pm (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed the books we first round panelists picked for you! I'm glad I didn't have to chose between them!
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )