Friday, January 2, 2015

Cybils Finalists announced on January 1, 2015!



Over the last month or so, I have not had much time for my blog since I have been very busy reading over 100 titles as a first-stage judge in the Nonfiction for Early and Middle Grades category of the Cybils awards.  Growing up in the 1960's and 1970's, when there was a lack of attractive nonfiction books for kids, I found a special delight in reading so many fabulous nonfiction books for kids on every conceivable topic, from history, biography, astronomy, animals, archaeology, and much much more.  There is a book out there for every young reader, and for many it might be one of these excellent nonfiction titles.  A list of the seven titles picked as finalists follows, along with blurbs by the committee members:

by Russell Freedman
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Jenna G
While Ellis Island is frequently written about in literature for young people, few Americans are familiar with its West Coast equivalent, Angel Island, off the California coast, which processed about one million immigrants from Japan, China, and Korea at the beginning of the 20th century. Using original source documents, including memoirs, diaries, letters, and “wall poems” written directly on the walls of the facility, master nonfiction writer Russell Freedman brings the moving story of this little-known facility to life. The book is abundantly illustrated with archival photographs and includes extensive back matter.
Margo Tanenbaum, The Fourth Musketeer
by Sy Montgomery
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: Christopher Leach
This book chronicles the efforts of Laurie Marker and the Cheetah Conservation Fund to save the endangered cheetahs of Namibia through unique collaborations with the local farmers. Like most Scientists in the Field titles, it includes the story of the main scientist’s life, involvement and viewpoints of locals, and stunning photographs. This is a perfect blend of inspiration and science, encouraging kids to dig deeper and think about a popular topic. A great book for strong middle-grade readers to enjoy on their own or to read together as a family or class.
Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library
by Melissa Stewart
Charlesbridge
Nominated by: laurapurdiesalas
This unique look at a bird’s most obvious characteristic, its feathers, compares the many different uses of feathers to familiar items like a blanket and an umbrella. The text is layered with simple, declarative sentences and more complex factual captions and statements. Stunning artwork creates a scrapbook effect out of illustrations, with a skillful use of shadows to create a three-dimensional effect. This lovely and useful book will catch the interest of preschool through early elementary students who will pore over the art, be drawn into the text, and possibly inspired to start their own nature notebooks.
Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library
by Loree Griffin Burns
Millbrook Press
Nominated by: Beth Mitcham
The Very Hungry Caterpillar gets a literary partner for older children in Handle With Care, which takes readers on a visual tour of a butterfly farm in Costa Rica to further explore the miracle of metamorphosis. Accurate but restrained text complements the crisp photos popping with color. Sometimes the photos are a single, detail-revealing close-up, while others use fascinating multiples & patterns: caterpillars in a bucket, pupae sorted into piles for shipping or lined up in neat rows. Generous use of white space keeps the focus trained on the miracle – the life cycle of butterflies. More than a simple documentary of the process, Handle With Care sets the understanding of metamorphosis in the larger context of our living, global ecosystem. It introduces the more challenging concept of the values and beliefs that drive the acquisition and application of scientific knowledge. Useful across several age levels, opportunities abound to enrich school curriculum in science as well as social studies. The title skillfully spotlights the larger message that, when handled with care, the earth and its inhabitants can flourish together.
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Tasha
Most school-aged children can tell you about Ruby Bridges. Far fewer, however, maybe almost none, know about Sylvia Mendez, and yet it was Mendez and her family who actually paved the way for desegregation in California in 1947, seven years before Brown vs. the Board of Education and over a decade before Ruby Bridges attended school in New Orleans. Duncan Tontiuh’s picture book, Separate is Never Equal, chronicles the story of Mendez vs. Westminster in a way that is understandable to very young children, and yet appealing to young adults. Tontiuh was born in Mexico City, and his desire “to create images that honor the past, but that address contemporary issues that affect people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border, ” is clearly reflected in his style, which draws heavily on the ancient Mixtec Indian tribe. End matter includes a note from the author, photographs of Sylvia, her parents, and the schools she attended, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. A book that should be read in every classroom!
Carol Wilcox, Carol’s Corner
by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission
Bats might seem a bit frightening, but they actually do all of us a huge favor. They eat about half their bodyweight in insects – roughly the equivalent of a thousand mosquitoes – each night! This means they help limit the spread of disease and protect crops. Little brown bats were once one of the most common bat species in North America, but a few years ago scientists noticed that the bats were behaving oddly and dying out in huge numbers each winter, struck down by a mystery killer.
Markle walks us carefully though the mystery, first by explaining the lifestyle of little brown bats and the important role they play in the ecosystem. Next she introduces us to a variety of scientists from different disciplines, all of whom are working together to solve the mystery and save the bats. With attractive layouts and amazing photographs, The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats neatly lays out the steps that scientists take to solve the problem – developing a set of hypotheses to investigate, collecting data in order to test each one, zeroing in on the culprit and finally proposing a range of possible solutions. This book is a wonderful introduction to problem solving for middle grade students, animal lovers, and budding scientists.
Elisa Bergslien, Leopards and Dragons
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission
If a good defense is the best offense, then When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses by Rebecca L. Johnson shows just how offensively awesome some animals and plants can be when it comes to protecting themselves from predators. The photography, which utilizes a combination of well-timed traditional and underwater photography, x-ray technology, and visuals captured with a scanning electron microscope, amplifies the reader’s understanding of how each animal employs its unique defenses. When Lunch Fights Back is an incredible highlights reel of gross facts about the techniques animals use to survive to fight another day. Johnson has created a compilation that will be stalked by kid-predators looking to devour the facts inside and fortunately, this book will not fight back. When Lunch Fights Back is well documented with source notes, photo acknowledgements, a selected bibliography, and a number of sources to continue to explore the topic further.
Ellen Zschunke, On The Shelf 4 Kids

For a complete list of the Cybils finalists in all 12 categories, please follow this link.  I know the second half of the committee has a hard time ahead of it choosing a winner from these 7 outstanding titles.

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