Happy Cybils Day!

Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day, too.  ;)

Today is the day the kidlitosphere has been waiting for with bated breath……today we learn the winners of the Cybils!  Without further ado, I want to introduce the winner of the middle grade fiction panel….

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

A huge thank you to my own panel!  I think we did a pretty awesome job of coming up with a fantastic shortlist.  ;)

Middle Grade Fiction Panelists

Sherry Early, Semicolon
Melissa Fox, Book Nut
Abby Johnson, Abby the Librarian
Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader
Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews
Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

And me!!

And a huge thank you to the judges!  I have no idea how you managed to narrow down out choices to just one book, but you did an awesome job!

Middle Grade Fiction Judges

Kimberly Baker, Wagging Tales
Stacy Dillon, Welcome to my Tweendom
Monica Edinger, Educating Alice
Kerry Millar, Shelf Elf
David Elzey, Excelsior File

It is an absolute pleasure being a part of the Cybils.  I’ve been very fortunate in that I have been a panelist for the last two years.  It has opened my eyes to reading more critically while also looking for kid appeal.  It’s an overwhelming, fantastic, fun job that I absolutely adore.  Thanks to everyone at the Cybils!

For a list of all the winners, be sure to check out the announcement post at the Cybils blog!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

To give you an idea of the popularity of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, let me tell you about the release of the book in my classroom. Scholastic Book Clubs ran a promotion where students could preorder the book and it would arrive on the release date with a free Wimpy Kid bookmark. When I offered this option to my class, 44 of them ordered the book! They paid with checks, bills, coins, you name it- everyone wanted a copy of the book. Then they proceeded to ask me 100 times per day if the books had arrived yet. When the box came (specially decorated with Wimpy Kid drawings), they were ecstatic! Needless to say, Jeff Kinney is practically a god in the eyes of my 6th graders and that has not changed since the release of the first Wimpy Kid book.

Due to my overwhelming amounts of Cybil reading, I did not get around to Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days until this weekend. I was thrilled when the middle grade panel was informed that Kinney’s latest book was being moved to our category. Now I had an excuse to read it!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days does not disappoint. It is just as funny as the first books in the series and had me laughing out loud over and over. Kinney is an expert on the voice of middle school boys. He gets in their heads better than almost any other author. One of my favorite parts of the book was when Greg’s mom starts a book club for the neighborhood boys.

When the boys bring copies of their favorite books (comics, nonfiction, etc), Mrs. Heffley tells them they aren’t real books and then brings out her favorites- Little Women, The Yearling, Old Yeller, and Anne of Green Gables. Obviously, the boys are horrified.

The are the exact same types of books our teachers are always pushing us to read at school.  They have a program where if you read a “classic” in your free time, they reward you with a sticker of a hamburger or something like that.

I don’t know who they think they’re fooling.  You can get a sheet of a hundred stickers down at the arts-and-crafts store for fifty cents.

And Greg’s definition of a “classic” sounds pretty much the same as my sixth graders’s definitions…

I’m not really sure what makes a book a “classic” to begin with, but I think it has to be at least fifty years old and some person or animal has to die at the end.

I admit, I was cracking up there!

Greg is spending the summer at home in this book because his parents can’t afford to go on vacation this year.  Of course, he ends up getting in more than enough scrapes.  But the best part is when he ends up with a dog.  Gosh knows I can sympathize with the sometimes annoying aspects of having a dog!  Greg is also getting older and that comes out a few times in the story.  He is in love with a high school girl, instead of a middle school girl, which is like a whole new world.  However, anyone who is familiar with Greg knows that nothing ever works out the way he planned it to.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days was not my favorite of the WImpy Kid books, but it does not disappoint. I laughed out loud more than a few times and my students laughed even more than I did. Definitely recommended for any fans of the Wimpy Kid series!

*Cybils nominee

*Personal copy

The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

Finn Garret is slowly becoming invisible.  Ever since his dad died on a flight home, Finn’s been turning whiter and whiter.  He figures that soon he will disappear all together.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up The Last Invisible Boy. An initial flip through the book gives the appearance of a Wimpy Kid read-alike.  However, within a few pages the reader knows they are dealing with a very different book here.  This is not a humorous, light-hearted book like many of the illustrated novels out there today.  And that’s a good thing.  Finn is telling his story, with his own illustrations, and his voice is spot-on for a twelve year old boy.  It’s bittersweet, angry at times, and will even bring tears to your eyes.

I loved the voice in this story.  Finn writes like most of my 6th graders.  He goes off on tangents at times, at others writes very dryly, and then WHAM!  Out of nowhere he hits you with an amazing and powerful few pages.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to passing it on to some of my 6th graders.  I think it will appeal to boys and girls alike.

 

*Review copy courtesy of publisher

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Aubrey is alone, but no one can find out. She goes about her day pretending that her mother hasn’t abandoned her without warning.  She puts on disguises to go food shopping and doesn’t answer the phone.  Eleven years old, she is dealing with issues far beyond her young age.

The best word to describe Love, Aubrey is bittersweet. Aubrey’s father and younger sister died in a car crash and her mother shut down after losing them.  Now, she has left Aubrey without warning.  When Aubrey’s grandmother shows up and offers to take her back to Vermont to live, Aubrey isn’t sure she wants to go.  Starting over is never easy and life hasn’t been good to Aubrey lately.  But as she settles slowly into a new life, she gains a best friend and supportive family.  However, she still doesn’t know how to deal with her own grief and confusion.  Aubrey writes letters to an imaginary friend, keeping her close to her baby sister,Savannah, and helping her deal with her feelings. Supported by her grandmother, new friends and school counselor, Aubrey learns to move on and build a new life.  And when her mother comes back into her life, she is able to make the difficult choice presented to her- stay in Vermont or move back home with Mom in Virginia.

Love, Aubrey is a book I couldn’t put down.  It easily could have been overdone and miserable; instead, LaFleur has crafted a powerful story about grief and loss.  At times funny, heartbreaking, and poignant, Love, Aubrey is a phenomenal story.  I found myself racing through the book, stopping only wipe tears from my eyes or to get more tissues.  A perfect novel for middle grade readers, this is also a story adults and teens will enjoy.  I already have a handful of students who have read the book and all of them commented that they couldn’t put it down.  And they loved it as much as I did!

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

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