Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalists

We had a list of 129 books nominated for the Middle Grade FIction Cybil Award. Of the 129, I managed to read 93. We discussed and chose favorites and changed our minds and listed more favorites and eliminated titles for various and sundry reasons and finally came up with a list of five finalists. Although these are not all my favorites, they are all excellent children’s fiction from 2008. I can recommend them all, and I wish you happy reading in 2009.

Alvin Ho
written by Lenore Look
Schwartz and Wade Books

Alvin Ho is brave (as long as he has his Personal Disaster Kit), a gentleman (in training), a good friend (but NOT to girls), and an interesting kid (who doesn’t talk in public). It’s just that he’s allergic to everything: girls, substitute teachers, airplanes, escalators … and anything else that’s even remotely scary (like leaving the house). However, he loves explosions, his dog Lucy, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, Aquaman, King V, and all the superheroes in the world. The illustrations are unique and flavorful, and so is the Ho family. A book that everyone — from the
struggling second-grade reader through to the adults who know that struggling second-grade reader — will fall in love with.

Diamond Willow
written by Helen Frost
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux

Helen Frost tells the story of Willow, a young girl living in a remote Alaskan town. When Willow gets her first chance to mush the family dogs, everything
changes. Told in a series of diamond-shaped poems, with sporadic prose every few chapters, Frost has woven a beautiful coming-of-age story fraught with realism and magic. Braiding the stories of Willow, her family, the dogs, and her family’s ancestors, the story is simple and
middle-grade students will easily connect with Willow and her family. The deeper themes of love, respect for nature, and being yourself are carved into the poems, just like the diamond willow stick can be carved.

Every Soul a Star
written by Wendy Mass
Little, Brown

Three middle school students are brought together along with thousands of eclipse-chasers to witness a rare full solar eclipse. Told in the three voices of Ally, Bree and Jack, the alternating narrations are beautifully written and increasingly weave together. Ally (short for Alpha) and her family own the Moon Shadow campground, and have been preparing for their eclipse-chasing guests for years. Bree’s parents have bought the Moon Shadow and are dragging
her from city life to try running a campground. Jack is along for the ride as his science teacher’s assistant in an amateur astronomy experiment they plan to run during the eclipse. Every Soul a
Star offers three humorous and insightful journeys of self-discovery mixed with an intriguing dose of astronomy lessons.

Shooting the Moon
written by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Atheneum

Both the characters and the setting are fully fleshed out and believable in this Vietnam era novel. Born and raised in a career army family, 12-year-old Jamie explores her changing feelings as her brother enlists in the army and is sent far away to fight. While offering no easy answers, this is a thought-provoking page-turner that will have lots of appeal for kids.

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling Books

This story has Ted and Kat searching for a cousin who disappears from the London Eye Ferris wheel. The two siblings must work together to solve the mystery. What’s unique about this tale is how Ted’s Asberger’s doesn’t stand in the way of him being active in solving his cousin’s disappearance. The portrayal of Ted is a refreshing change from stereotypical characters in some books.

If you compare this list to the committee members’ individual favorites, you’ll see that we had a wide-ranging discussion and a lot of very good books from which to choose. I’d suggest you start with these five and then go on to the finalists in other categories and the committee favorites if you’re looking for some great children’s books from 2008.

Finalists in other categories:
Easy Readers
Fantasy and Science FIction
Fiction Picture Books
Nonfiction Picture Books
Poetry
Graphic Novels
Young Adult FIction

More Cybils Favorites:
Semicolon: 12 Best Children’s Fiction Books I Read in 2008
Semicolon: 12 Best Young Adult Fiction Books I Read in 2008
Melissa’s Book Nut list of Cybils favorites.
2009 ACPL Mock Newbery Nominees.
The Reading Zone: Best of Cybils
All of the Cybils Nominees with links to panelists’ reviews.

3 thoughts on “Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalists

  1. Now I have some more titles to read. How do I miss things? By the way, the Christmas exchange package arrived safely and I was thrilled. Proper thanks on the way, but wanted you to know that the mails did not disappoint. What great titles!

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