Category Archive:Cybil Awards

I’ve read and enjoyed other books by prolific children’s author Avi, but none were remotely like this horror story of a boy named Tony who sees ghosts or maybe zombies (although they are never called that), lots of them. It’s certainly not for everyone. If you don’t like horror and occultic elements, you’ll want to skip this story. But if you’re a fan of Hitchcock movies and paranormal fantasy, School of the Dead fits right into the Halloween genre and the Halloween season.

Twelve year old Tony has a weird uncle, Great Uncle Charlie, the kind of guy everyone asks about, saying, “What’s the deal with him anyway? How come Uncle Charlie is so weird?” The answer: “Every family has a weird uncle.” When Uncle Charlie moves in with Tony and his parents, however, Tony finds out that Uncle Charlie is really a great guy, lots of fun. And when Uncle Charlie dies, Tony is devastated. The only thing that Tony looks forward to is his transfer to Penda School, the school in San Francisco that Uncle Charlie graduated from and recommended to Tony.

From the time that Tony enters Penda School, things get really weird. No spoilers, but the plot involves voodoo, haunted corridors, secret rooms, zombie-like creatures, and soul-snatching. And it all takes place on and around Halloween. Again, it’s pretty creepy, and Tony has a hard time deciding whom to trust—or whether there’s anyone he can trust. His parents are suitably, for a scary story, useless and oblivious. In fact, all of the adults in the story are either part of the evil weirdness or else ineffectual and unhelpful.

The story is well written, as would be expected in the hands of such a veteran author, and Tony is a frustrating but understandable character who does all the things the reader would tell him not to do in a horror novel. He opens the door he shouldn’t open, drops the flashlight, shuts himself up in dark places, listens to the bad guys, fails to trust the good guys, etc. etc. But as the narrative progresses, he seems less stupid and more just trapped in an overwhelmingly evil place with an entire contingent of soul-sucking monsters.

Read it only if you’re immune to horror-induced nightmares.

The 2016 Cybils nominations are now live!

What are Cybils?
The Cybils awards are given each year by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles. Nominations open to the public on October 1st.

What are the categories?
An award will be given in each of the following categories:
Audiobooks
Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books/Board Books
Graphic Novels
Middle-Grade Fiction
Middle-Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction
Juvenile/Elementary Nonfiction
Poetry
Young Adult Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction

Why do I (and why should you) care?
Well, every year thousands of new books for young adults and children are published in English in the United States and Canada. Some of those books are really good, but many are not. Sorting out the good from the bad and the ugly takes time and energy that most of us don’t have. The Cybils help, along with other awards like the Newbery, Caldecott and the National Book Awards, to highlight some of the best children’s books of the year, including some that might otherwise be missed in the rush. And I get to be on the judging panel this year for Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction to choose a shortlist which will be the basis for the award given in that category. (So be sure to nominate your favorite “Middle Grade Speculative Fiction” books so that I and the committee I’m working with have all the best books to read and choose from.)

More important information about Cybils:
Be sure to check out the category descriptions. If you don’t know where the book should go, please read through the descriptions to help you decide. If you’re still not quite sure, make your best guess, and the Cybils organizers can straighten things out behind the scenes.

Take a minute to check out the rules for nominating. The big one: the book needs to be published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016. Also you can nominate only ONE book per CATEGORY per PERSON. No exceptions. The form will kick you back if you try to nominate more than one book (or if someone else has already nominated the book).

If you have any other questions, check out the FAQ page.

Follow this link to nominate your favorite books in all categories. You have until October 15th.

The short lists of finalists in all of the Cybils categories came out on January 1st, and although I would love to read all of them, I thought 13 books from the finalist lists was a good goal. These are the ones that I haven’t already read that caught my interest:

1. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bergman. Middle Grade Fiction finalist.

2. Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy by Susan Vaught. Middle Grade Fiction finalist.

3. In a Village by the Sea by Muon Van. Fiction Picture Book finalist.

4. Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson. Fiction Picture Book finalist.

5. Mars Evacuees by Sophia McDougall. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

6. The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

7. The Fog Diver by Joel Ross. Middle Grade Speculative Fiction finalist.

8. One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul. Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction finalist.

9. Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner. Early Chapter Book finalist.

10. Big Bad Detective Agency by Bruce Hale. Early Chapter Book finalist.

11. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone. Young Adult Fiction finalist.

12. The Six by Mark Alpert. Young Adult Speculative Fiction finalist.

13. House Arrest by K.A. Holt. Poetry finalist.

Among the others that I have read, I recommend:

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson.
Courage & Defiance: Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in World War II Denmark by Deborah Hopkinson.
Give Me Wings: How a Choir of Former Slaves Took on the World by Kathy Lowing.
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka.
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin.
Tommy: The Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson.

Do you need a suggestion for a book to nominate for the Cybils in the category of Elementary and Middle Grade Nonfiction? Nominations are open through October 15th, and anyone can nominate a book, as long as the book was published between October 15, 2014 and October 15, 2015. And here’s a link to the nomination form.

The following books are a few titles that haven’t been nominated yet that I’ve either read or heard good things about. I would like very much to get my hands on the ones I haven’t read.

Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan. Amistad, January 2015.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden by Kevin DeYoung. Crossway, August 2015.

Fur, Fins, and Feathers: Abraham Dee Bartlett and the Invention of the Modern Zoo by Cassandra Maxwell. Eerdmans, August 2015. NOMINATED.

Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests by Sneed B. Collard III. Bucking Horse Books, December 2014.

Whale Trails, Before and Now by Lesa Cline-Ransome. Henry Holt, January 2015.

Ira’s Shakespeare Dream by Glenda Armand. Lee & Low, August 2105.

The House That Jane Built: A Story About Jane Addams by Tanya Lee Stone. Henry Holt, June 2015.

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch. Candlewick, September 2015.

Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr. Reformation Heritage Books, June 2015. NOMINATED>

Abe Lincoln: His Wit and Wisdom from A-Z by Alan Schroeder. Holiday House, January 2015.

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews by Kathleen Benson. Clarion, January 2015. NOMINATED

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown. Roaring Brook Press, October 13, 2015.

The Fantastic Ferris Wheel: The Story of Inventor George Ferris by Betsy Harvey Kraft. Henry Holt, October 13, 2015.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine by Laurie Hallmark. Preston Books, October 13, 2015. NOMINATED

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs by Lisa Schnell. Charlesbridge, April 2015.

The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins by Sandra Markle. Hillbrook, October 1, 2015. NOMINATED

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton. Eerdmans, April 2015. NOMINATED

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford. Albert Whitman, February 2015. NOMINATED

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner. HarperCollins, January 2015.

What’s IN

North, Norse mythology, Northerness

“I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky. I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described, except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale and remote.” ~C.S. Lewis

Thrones and Bones: Frostborn by Lou Anders.
Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen.
Odin’s Ravens by K.L. Armstrong and M.A. Marr.
The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell.
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson. (Beowulf)
Winterfrost by Michelle Houts.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus.
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee. (Based on The Snow Queen)

Library setting:

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ~Jorge Luis Borges

Shouldn’t You Be In School? (All the Wrong Questions) by Lemony Snicket.
The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.
The Ninja Librarians: The Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey.
Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood.
House of Secrets: Battle of the Beasts by Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini.

Trains/steampunk/alternate history North America setting:

“To some, ‘steampunk’ is a catchall term, a concept in search of a visual identity. To me, it’s essentially the intersection of technology and romance. ~Jake von Slatt
“The restlessness and the longing, like the longing that is in the whistle of a faraway train. Except that the longing isn’t really in the whistle—-it is in you.” ~Meindert DeJong

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson.
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz.
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey.
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove.
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel.

Father-quest (Protagonist goes in search of his/her long lost father):

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader: No. I am your father. ~Star Wars

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagen.
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel.
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin.
The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.
The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove.
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.
Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos.
The Last Wild by Piers Torday.
League of Seven by Alan Gratz.
He Laughed with His Other Mouths (A Pals in Peril Tale) by M.T. Anderson.
Oliver and the Seawigs by Philllip Reeve.

Superheroes (inside-out):

“No matter how many times you manage to save the world, it always manages to get back in jeopardy again.” ~Craig T. Nelson, The Incredibles.

Dangerous by Shannon Hale.
Minion By John David Anderson.
Almost Super by Marion Jensen.
The Flying Burgowski by Gretchen K.Wing.

Ghost Stories:

Now it is the time of night
That the graves, all gaping wide,
Every one lets forth his sprite
In the church-way paths to glide. ~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter.
Lockwood & Co., Book 2 The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.
Grave Images by Jenny Goebel.
The Secret at Haney Field: A Baseball Mystery by R. M. Clark.
Plus a couple of others that feature a ghost, but it would be a spoiler to tell which ones.

Fierce Female Fighters (FFF!)

Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school.
And though she be but little, she is fierce. ~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Horizon by Jenn Reese.
The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy.
The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson.
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.
Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson.
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz.
Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz.

Robots and automatons (particularly robotic servants):

“In the twenty-first century, the robot will take the place which slave labor occupied in ancient civilizations.” ~Nikola Tesla

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel.
The Winter of the Robots by Kurtis Scaletta.
Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by John Scieszcka.
Horizon by Jenn Reese.
Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth.
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz.
How to Survive Middle School & Monster Bots by Ron Bates.
The Lost Planet by Rachel Searles.

Into the Woods: Plant Attack!

I have no fear,
Nor no one should;
The woods are just trees,
The trees are just wood. ~Red Riding Hood, Into the Woods

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
Dreamwood by Heather Mackey.
The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell.
The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell.
Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood.
Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson.
Wildwood Imperium by Colin Meloy.
The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White.
In Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins, the trees actually get attacked instead of the other way around.

Zombies!

“I’m obsessed with zombies. I like watching zombie movies and I read zombie books.” ~Kevin Bacon

My Zombie Hamster by Havelock McCreely.
Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass.
The Zombie Chasers #6: Zombies of the Caribbean by John Kloepfer.
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson.

Under the Sea: Shark Attack!

“I don’t like the idea of being eaten by a shark. I like to swim in the ocean, and I think much more about sharks than anyone should.” ~David Duchovny, star of X-Files.

The Shark Whisperer by Ellen Prager.
Horizon by Jenn Reese.
Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.
Oliver and the Seawigs by Philllip Reeve.
The 26-Story Treehouse by Andy Griffiths.

Magic School (Hogwarts, we love you! Bring on the tests!)

“Whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
~J.K. Rowling

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani.
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.
The Shark Whisperer by Ellen Prager.
Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe.
Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby.
Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson.
The Ability: Mindscape by M.M. Vaughan.
Death’s Academy by Michael Bast.
School of Charm by Lisa Ann Scott.

Moral Ambiguity (What is Evil? What is Good?)

“There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.” ~Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

The School for Good and Evil: A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani.
Blue Sea Burning (The Chronicles of Egg) by Geoff Rodkey.
Minion By John David Anderson.
Almost Super by Marion Jensen.
Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood.
Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby.
Loot by Jude Watson.
Sparkers by Eleanor Glewwe.
The Iron Trial by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.
Dark Lord: School’s Out by Jamie Thomson.

Popular historical characters: King Tutankhamen, Thomas Edison (villain), Nikola Tesla (hero or crazy).

What’s Out:
Vampires. I read about some blood-sucking valravens, but nary a vampire.
Fairies. There was a weird demonic looking fairy in one book and a drill sergeant fairy in another, but traditional Victorian fairies seem to be mostly passé.
Dragons. I read about a couple of dragons, but that was all.

What popular themes and motifs did I miss? What middle grade speculative fiction books of 2014 that fit into one of the above categories did I forget?

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
These books are also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

In reading for the Cybils, I could not resist awarding my own special prizes:

The Jabberwocky Meets Rocky Horror on the Farm Weirdness Award:
Fat & Bones and Other Stories by Larissa Theule. Illustrations by Adam S. Doyle.

Best Speculative Fiction with a British Flair:
The Children of the King by Sonya Hartnett.

The Extremely Annoying Unfinished Novel Award:
Shipwreck Island by S.A. Bodeen.

The Harry Potter Readalike Fan Fiction Prize:
Iron Trial (Magisterium) by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Best Mouse Story:
The Orphan and the Mouse by Martha Freeman.

Best Squirrel Story:
Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins.

Best Superhero Fiction:
Almost Super by Marion Jensen.

Caldecott Artist’s Award for Best Speculative Fiction Picture Book:
Aviary Wonders Inc. Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual by Kate Samworth.

Best Ghost Story:
Lockwood & Co: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud.

Heisman Trophy for Beowulf Meets Football:
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson.

Best Comedic Speculative Fiction:
The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy.

Best Time Travel:
Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder.

Best Moon-Based Science Fiction/Murder Mystery:
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs.

Agatha Christie Award for Mystery in an Isolated Inn:
Greenglass House by Kate Milford.

Best Space Aliens:
Ambassador by William Alexander.

The Princess Zelda Cloud City Video Game Fiction Award:
Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull.

I am a collector of aphorisms, a gatherer of proverbs, and a dispenser of words of wisdom.

If we could all remember and act upon these kidlit maxims, the world would be a better place, or at least a more innocent and childlike place.

1. “Just because doing the right thing can be prickly, that doesn’t make it any less right.” ~Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner.

2. “Our goal was never to live; our goal is to love. It is the goal of all truly noble men and women. Give all that can be given. Give even your life itself.” ~Empire of Bones by N.D. Wilson.

3. “Cowards live for the sake of living, but for heroes, life is a weapon, a thing to be spent, a gift to be given to the weak and the lost and the weary, even to the foolish and the cowardly.” ~Empire of Bones by N.D. Wilson.

4. “[O]nly a coward would rather defenestrate a helpless old man than face me in a fair fight.” ~The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw by Christopher Healy.

5. “Maybe normal’s not so bad.” ~Minion by John David Anderson.

6. “Never sit down at the negotiating table with cannibals, lest you find yourself on the menu.” ~Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly.

7. “[L]ife is neither fair nor kind.” ~Always Emily by Michaela MacColl.

8. “In this game of life
your family is the court
and the ball is your heart.
No matter how good you are,
no matter how down you get,
always leave
your heart
on the court.” ~The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

9. “If I tell you, you’ll just forget at some critical point. If you figure it out for yourself, you’ll always remember.” ~The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell.

10. “The only cage that a grudge creates is around the holder of that grudge.” ~The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell.

11. “Bravery isn’t measured by size. It’s measured by heart.” ~Mouseheart by Lisa Fielder.

12. “A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ’em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.” ~The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.

13. “Don’t confuse what you do with who you are. . . [T]here’s no shame in humble work.” ~The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.

14. “Stay right with your brothers. Stay right with the Lord. Hit like thunder, and run like the devil’s nightmare.” ~Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson.

15. “It’s never too late to make a better decision.” ~The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.

16. “Everything takes as long as you’ve got.” ~The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.

17. “[M]ost situations don’t require my input.” ~The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage.

18. “You can’t buy a friend, that’s for sure. You have to be one.” ~Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, The Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions by Lenore Look.

19. “No lamb for the lazy wolf.” ~Frostborn by Lou Anders.

20. “If there’s one thing more stressful than being attacked by ravenous ghost-rats, it’s finding that you’re going to a fancy party and you haven’t got a thing to wear.” ~Lockwood & Co.: The Whispering Skull.

21. “Angry and grumpy.
Jealous and grumpy.
Selfish and grumpy.
Worried and grumpy.
Sad and grumpy.
Grumpy is like ketchup—it goes with a lot of things.”
~Wisher Dreamer Liar by Charise Mericle Harper.

22. “Just because something is true, it doesn’t mean you want to know about it.” ~Wisher Dreamer Liar by Charise Mericle Harper.

23. “[T]ragedy is not glamorous. . . . Tragedy is ugly and tangled, stupid and confusing.” ~We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

24. “Be a little kinder than you have to.” ~We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

25. “In searching for the truth, be ready for the unexpected. Change alone is unchanging.” ~Heraklietos of Ephesos in The Ninja Librarians: Accidental Keyhand by Jen Swann Downey.

26. “Do not, however tempting it might be, poke sticks at sleeping grifters.” Cabinet of Curiosities, Emma Trevayne.

27. “Bring your brain to the party.” ~The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell.

28. “Do it like you mean it!” ~Little Green Men at the the Mercury Inn by Greg Leitich Smith.

29. “Failure is just as valuable as success, if you figure out what caused the failure.” ~Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka.

30. “Together, we’re strong. Strong enough to fight, and strong enough to win.” ~Horizon by Jenn Reese.

31. “Iron resolve. Ferocious courage. And a healthy dose of insanity. That’s what makes a superhero. Not some amazing power.” ~Almost Super by Marion Jensen.

32. “It’s not your power that makes you super. It’s what you do with that power.” ~Almost Super by Marion Jensen.

33. “An empty food dish means chaos.” ~Fat & Bones and Other Stories by Larissa Theule.

34. Q: “Is there really a cure?”
A: “For every very blessed ill there is being a cure.”
~Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George.

35. “You must be putting on your shoes like a very man, and going forth!” ~Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George.

36. “If you’re going to do it, don’t do it stupid.” ~Loot by Jude Watson.

37. “If you think nothing can go wrong, you’d better think again.” ~Loot by Jude Watson.

38. “Never cheat, but be able to spot a cheater.” ~Loot by Jude Watson.

39. “Life isn’t fair. It never has been and it never will be. You can sit back and moan about its unfairness while the witches roll across the countryside, or you can pick yourself up and get on with it.” ~Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson.

40. “You get to decide who you want to be. No one else.” ~Pennyroyal Academy by M.A. Larson.

41. “Let love heal you.” ~The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little.

42. “One’s nature is largely a product of habit.” ~The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler.

43. “It is always better to ask a question than to answer one.” ~Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket.

44. “You should only snap your fingers if you do it well. It’s the same for surgery, or driving a forklift.” ~Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket.

45. “If you’ve never had buttermilk and you’re curious what it tastes like, good for you and don’t be.” ~Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket.

46. “The treachery of the world will continue no matter how much you worry about it.” ~Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket.

47. “Everyone needs a moment on the diving board, before jumping into the depths below.” ~Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket.

48. “Don’t be dazzled. Pay attention. Use your knowledge of the enemy.” ~Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins.

49. “Sometimes the thing to do is invite your adversary for cake and lemonade, and see if they can become your friend.” ~Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins.

50. “But when you are Team Squirrel, and the other team is Team Hawk, this is not a good idea. Because as far as the hawk is concerned, you are the cake. And also the lemonade.” ~Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins. (See also #6.)

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
Some of these books are also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Book One of The Quantum League is a spies and robbers story encapsulated in magical abilities to manipulate matter and pseudo-physics and topped with double-crosses and triple agents and lots of anguished decisions about whom to trust and whom to betray.

When Ben goes to science camp at the college where his mother is a newly hired professor, he soon realizes that this camp is unlike any other he has ever attended. The camp director, Dr. Hughes, gives lectures in quantum physics, and then there’s a demonstration that makes Ben doubt his senses. The kids at this camp are learning to actuate, to actually manipulate matter and energy with their minds.

As if that’s not enough to take in, it turns out that there are “bad guys” out there who want to use the ability to actuate for evil, and “good guys” who are wiring to protect the world from the bad guys. However, when the so-called good guys kidnap Ben and cut him off from his family, Ben is not so sure who’s good and who’s bad.

Spell Robbers is a pretty good beginning to a series that will appeal to kids who are interested in science and adventure mixed with magic. Just remember that it’s only the first book in a series. According to his website, Mr. Kirby doesn’t know when the second book in the series will be finished and published. It sounds like it might be a long wait.

The book would be good to recommend to fans of John David Anderson (Minion and Sidekicked), Jeramey Kraatz’s Cloak Society, or Geeks, Girls and Secret Identities by Mike Jung.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.


When Tristan accidentally falls into a shark tank, the sharks, instead of attacking him, seem to be trying to communicate with him. Then when Tristan gets to go to sea camp in the Florida Keys, he learns that he may be specially gifted in communicating with ocean creatures. And his gifts are in demand as he joins a top secret project to protect endangered marine life.

I am not liking this book.

p. 16- Parents are told, politely but firmly, to leave without seeing the camp, when they bring their 12 year old child to a summer sea camp that he and they have never seen before. The mom is a bit over-protective, so this dismissal of the parents wouldn’t be quite so much of a problem were it not for the subsequent events.

p. 48- The children at sea camp are required to swear to keep “everything you see and do here at camp a secret.”

p. 60- The camp directors give the minors under their care a drug (“an amazing substance found in a particular type of algae” that the camp directors hide in the kids’ water bottles) that alters their bodies without informed consent, indeed without any consent. The kids are a little startled when they are told about the drug, after the fact, but they are fine with this water doping because the effect on their bodies is “cool”.

Throughout the book, the author keeps referring to “the teens” when at least two of the kids are twelve years old, not teens.

p. 173- The bad guys plan to dump three of the older teens into the ocean as shark bait because the teens were snooping around their boat. But they’re going to wait until they find the wrecked ship that they are looking for under the ocean. If these bad guys are so bad that they are willing to commit murder, why are they waiting?

If you prefer your marine biology studies embedded in story form, you might like this mystery/adventure. The sea camp kids are recruited to join an undercover group of “sea spies” who use their special abilities to communicate and bond with sea creatures for the purpose of gathering evidence on bad guys who are exploiting the resources of the ocean and harming the creatures that live there. It’s a good premise, and if you can get past the problems that I already enumerated, you might enjoy The Shark Whisperer.

You especially might enjoy it if you’re interested in marine biology because there really are a lot of cool facts about marine life incorporated into the story. However, it’s sometimes hard to tell where fiction diverges from fact. And then there’s the fact that in the story twelve year olds are drugged without their consent, and nobody has a problem with this unauthorized medication. Yeah, I couldn’t get past that.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.

Not for the usual picture book crowd of preschoolers and early readers, Aviary Wonders is beautiful, funny, and carries a good message without beating it into the ground. The lavishly illustrated book is the work of a fine artist. But to whom would I recommend it?

Artists.
Bird-lovers.
Environmentalists.
Fan of steampunk sci-fi and robotics?
Teens.
Maybe middle schoolers.
Definitely adults who fall into the first three categories.

I just don’t know if that’s going to be a wide enough audience to make the book a success, which is a shame. It ought to be seriously considered for the Caldecott Award because the illustrations are gorgeous. The book also shows, in a quirky way, what the world might be like if all or most of the bird species become endangered or extinct. What if people had to build their own birds out of metal and rubber and silk and other materials in order to have the experience of seeing a bird in flight or hearing a bird song?

Aviary Wonders shows, doesn’t tell, the lesson that God’s creations are unique and valuable and can never be completely replicated by man. The book doesn’t mention God or creation, but that’s the message I got as a Christian who cares about our responsibility to steward and care for the world and its amazing diversity of plant and animal life. I didn’t know this fact about passenger pigeons, until reading this book led me to look it up:

“The passenger pigeon or wild pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) is an extinct North American bird. Named after the French word passager for “passing by”, it was once the most abundant bird in North America, and possibly the world. It accounted for more than a quarter of all birds in North America. The species lived in enormous migratory flocks until the early 20th century, when hunting and habitat destruction led to its demise.” Wikipedia, Passenger pigeon.

Anyway, I recommend the book, but it may be a hard sell. At least, take a look at it in the bookstore. It’s lovely. It’s also odd and different in a world that values tried and true and formula.

Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book cover here to go to Amazon and buy something, I receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.
This book is also nominated for a Cybil Award, but the views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect or determine the judging panel’s opinions.