Cybils Finalists!

Be sure to check out the shortlists for the Cybil Awards today!  I had an amazing time working with the Middle Grades nominating committee and I am so proud of our short list!  Now I will wait on the edge of my seat to see what the judges choose as a winner.  It’s going to be a doozy of a contest, because all of the books on our shortlist are just so amazing!  In fact, even choosing a shortlist from the almost 130 books nominated felt like an impossible task at some points.  :)

Thanks to Melissa, Alysa, Matt, Mary, Kim, and Sherry!     We did a great job!

Best of Cybils Middle Grade Round-up!

Let me tell you, I am so proud of the job my panel has done.  It is harder than you can imagine to whittle down 129 nominees to one shortlist!  Obviously, we all have our favorites that just can’t make the cut.  For some reason, the judges just don’t want a shortlist of 50 books.  ;)  In all seriousness, though, we all have our favorites!  We decided to do a round-up, on our individual blogs, of our favorites from the Cybils middle grade nominees.  (Some of these could make the shortlist, but obviously they all can’t).


Tennyson by Lesley M. M. Blume- My review

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- My review and a post about using it as my first read-aloud of the year.

Aloha Crossing by Pamela Bauer Mueller- My review

Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass- My review

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- My review

Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee- My review

Meeting Miss 405 by Lois Peterson- My review

Six Innings by James Preller- My review

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth-My review

These were Cybils nominees for Middle Grade Fiction, but they obviously all can’t make to to the shortlist of finalists that will be announced on January 1st. I liked several books that my fellow committee members didn’t care for, and vice-versa. Hopefully you will enjoy some of my selections that didn’t make the shortlist!

Sherry’s list
Matt’s list
Alysa’s list
Kim’s list
Mary’s list

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes is the second book in the Moxy Maxwell series.  Moxy is a funny kid, always scheming to get out of her “boring” chores and work, like the summer reading she has to do in the first book.  In her latest adventure, she has promised her mother that her Christmas thank-you cards will be completed on the day after Christmas.  Of course, she made this promise at Easter (when last year’s Christmas thank-yous were finished.  You see the problem?).  What she didn’t know then was that she and her twin brother would be visiting their father, a big mover and shaker, in Hollywood two days after Christmas!  Obviously, Moxy has much better things to do than write thank-you cards- packing, planning what to wear to the big New Year’s Eve bash, and figuring out how to get “discovered” while in Hollywood are just a few of those things.

All hope seems lost.  Until Moxy has a  genius idea; she will write one generic thank-you letter and photocopy it on her stepfather’s brand new copier!  Ok, so technically no one is allowed to touch her stepfather’s new copier, but Moxy is sure no one will mind once she explains her genius idea.

As you can imagine, nothing works out as planned for Moxy.  But you can’t help but laugh at her antics and the situations she gets into!  This is a great book for those who loved the first Moxy story and for reluctant intermediate readers.


*This review reflects my opinion and not those of the Cybils Middle Grade panel as a whole.

Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass

I have been a huge fan of Wendy Mass since I first read A Mango-Shaped Space a few years ago.  When I saw that Mass’ newest middle grade novel was nominated for a Cybil, I was looking forward to reading it.  While November is always a hectic month as a teacher (convention, report cards, Thanksgiving, conferences, Election Day, and too many days off), I made sure that Cybil reading didn’t fall by the wayside.  Boy am I glad I picked this one up!

Every Soul A Star is about three very different tweens.  Ally, Bree, and Jack are brought together by one of nature’s most phenomenal acts- a total solar eclipse.  RIght off the bat, I love that Mass has written this story from three different points of view in first person.  More importantly, she succeeded in making each kid’s voice distinct and realistic – a tall order for any author!

The three main characters are very different but realistic.  I felt like I knew all three, like that could be in my class.  Ally has lived at the Moon Shadow campground for almost her whole life and is a science geek (and proud of it!).  She is passionate about nature and space, but her life at Moon Shadow is sheltered and she is naive in the ways of the tween world. Bree is beautiful, popular,  and wants to be a model when she grows up. She reminded me a bit of the main characters in the oh-so-popular The Clique novels.   Jack is a bit overweight, a loner, and loves drawing and reading science fiction, when he isn’t practicing lucid dreaming as an escape from his life. The book alternates between these three points-of-view.  I loved having the chance to view a gorgeous location like the Moon Shadow through three completely different sets of eyes, each with their own bias and perspective.  And Mass’ descriptions of the campground and the eclipse are stunning and breathtaking.

This is a book that will make kids think, but without being preachy or heavy-handed.  I think every kid will identify in some way with one of the three main characters and will enjoy the transformation each one goes through.  And if anyone can read this book without becoming fascinated by solar eclipses, I would love to meet them!  What a fascinating topic that very few tweens ever have a chance to think about and even fewer get to experience!  I wouldn’t be surprised to find that Mass has turned more than a few reluctant citizen scientists into amateur astronomers!

Without a doubt, this is one of my favorite books of the year.  I can’t wait to booktalk this and see how my kids react. Mass has crafted a fascinating story that will resonate with tweens.  


*This review reflects my opinion and not those of the Cybils Middle Grade panel as a whole.

Books, Books, and More Books!

I am fairly certain that my mailperson and USP delivery person hate me.


It might have something to do with the copious amount of books that land in my doorstep each day.  

I am currently buried beneath Cybils nominations, trying to dig my way out.

Hey, who doesn’t love living under a pile of books?  The hardest part is choosing what to read next!

Finder’s Magic by C.M. Fleming

 Finder’s Magic is a historical fiction novel set in early-20th century Atlanta.  Though the cover does not make it obvious that this is historical fiction, one can tell upon reading no more than the first paragraph.  While historical fiction can be a hard sell for most of my students, I think this novel will hook them.  The intrigue, suspense, action, and murder all come together in a very engaging story that I think girls and boys alike will enjoy.

In December of 1911, Hank McCord is almost twelve years old.  He and his Ma work at the mill, in Atlanta, Georgia, despite the health dangers.  Hank’s Pa is dead and the two of them have no other means of making a living.  It’s not too bad for Hank, and they do what they must to survive.  Until the day that Hank witnesses the murder of his best friend, 16-year old Jeb.  Two of the mill bosses beat Jeb to death as they accuse him of turning them in for their “operation”.  When they discover that Hank has witnessed their crime, they set off to kill him, too.

As he escapes, Hank falls in with a young Negro boy named Calvin.  Though neither of them particularly likes the other at first, fate forces them to work together.  Calvin introduces Hank to Miz Mancala, whom he calls a finder and the white folks call a witch.  The old blind woman seems ancient to the boys but is also exceptionally wise.  Together, the three of them manage to avoid the men who killed Jeb, the Ku Klux Klan, and try to avoid certain death at the hands of one or both.  

I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book, but boy am I glad that I did!  C.M. Fleming has woven a gripping adventure story that will pull kids in.  Who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned murder story?  At the same time, the reader feels like they are a part of 1911 Atlanta, where whites and blacks are still suffering, despite the Civil War’s end almost 40 years before.  I do think some kids might be initially put off by the dialect, but the voice that Fleming uses is perfect and captures Hank perfectly.  Plus, the language is beautiful, with gorgeous similes and metaphors woven into the story.

 I can see this being an interesting companion read for Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains. Despite the difference in time period, both deal with the repercussions of slavery. While Anderson’s book deals with early America, Fleming’s story bookends the era. Great for discussion (literature circles, perhaps?), I could see students really learning about slavery from both books, which delve deeper than the typical textbook.

*The opinions expressed here are my own, and do not represent the opinion of the Cybils panel as a whole. 

Don’t Forget to Nominate!

Nominations for the third annual Children’ s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards (the Cybils) CLOSE TODAY!  Have you nominated your favorite book published between January 1, 2008 and October 15, 2008?  You only have a few hours left!

This year, awards will be given in nine categories (Easy Readers, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fiction Picture Books, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade Novels, Non-Fiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books, Non-Fiction Picture Books, Poetry, Young Adult Novels). Anyone can nominate books in these categories (one nomination per person per category). Nominated titles must be published between January 1st and October 15th of this year, and the books must be in English (or bilingual, where one of the languages is English). To nominate titles, visit the Cybils blog before the end of Wednesday!

There is a separate post available for each category – simply nominate by commenting on those individual posts.


I am beyond thrilled to be a panelist for the 2008 Cybils Middle Grade Fiction panel! Check out the announcement on the Cybils blog.

Not familiar with the Cybils? For newcomers, Cybils stands for The Children’s and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards, and they are the only book awards of any sort from the blogging community.

Still curious?

1. Nominations open to the public on Oct. 1 at Anyone 13 or older – authors and publishers included – may nominate a book!

2. In order to be eligible, books must be published in English between Jan. 1 and Oct. 15.

3. The books will go through two rounds of judging. Finalists are announced Jan. 1. Winners are announced Feb. 14.

The Cybils are a fantastic award and I am honored to be a part of the middle grade panel. Get ready to start nominating!


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