I am excited to share that Cybils 2016 (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) finalists have been announced! From October to December, I served on a panel of five judges who read through the 100+ nominees in the middle grade fiction category. I had a great time discussing books with Karen, Sarah, Mindy, and Ryan. We had a lot of strong books to choose from this year. Without further ado, here are the middle grade finalists and a few of my thoughts on each:
Slackerby Gordon Korman – Slacker is Korman in his element, writing a hilarious tale about Cameron, who just wants to play video games. He creates a fake school club (the Positive Action Group) to convince his parents that he’s participating in extracurricular activities. His plan backfires as other students become interested in joining the club. I grew up reading old editions of the Macdonald Hall books, so it felt a little strange for me to read a Korman book where kids are playing PC games and using cell phones. Regardless of the time period, Slacker is classic Korman.
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan – Check out my Family Reads post on this one.
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson – A humorous yet moving story about three students who plan a special day for their favourite teacher, who has an aggressive form of cancer. Narrated in alternating chapters from the perspectives of the three boys, the reader learns about the friendship between the boys and why Ms. Bixby was such an important teacher to each of them.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III – Jimmy McLean, a Lakota boy, undertakes a road trip with his grandfather. They visit historical locations with connection to Crazy Horse. As they travel, Jimmy’s grandfather tells him stories about Crazy Horse (which sometimes differ from the official White versions of the history). This is a great story about an important Indigenous historical figure, grandson-grandfather relationships, Indigenous identity, and American history.
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand – I would have loved this book as a kid. Finley has depression and anxiety, but she doesn’t know that. When she has to spend the summer at her grandparents house with a bunch of family she’s never met, she takes to writing fantasy stories about the woods around the home. What’s the story behind the burned out home in the forest? Some Kind of Happiness deals beautifully with the struggles of mental illness that some children face.
Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm – My first impression of this book was “historical fiction for kids as it should be”. Set in 1934 Key West, Florida, money is short and Beans Curry (marbles champion) wants to help his mother out. He strikes up a working deal with a local smuggler. What could go wrong? A fun tale with a unique setting.
Ghostby Jason Reynolds – I have never been a reader of ‘sports book’, but here is a book that will appeal to sports fan and non-fans alike – even if the feature sport is track. Ghosts is a story about a kid finding something he loves doing, and learning how to push himself and be better. This is the first book I’ve read by Reynolds. Now I can see his appeal!
You can read more about each book in blurbs written by my fellow panelists on the Cybils website. The awards process will now move onto round two, where another group of judges will select a single winner from this shortlist. Winners will be announced on February 14. I think these are all excellent books and I’m glad I didn’t have to choose just one! There are 12 other categories (including picture books, young adult, and audiobooks) so be sure to check those out too.
Busy weekend! I feel like my theme for this Read-a-thon was ‘late for everything.’ 😛 Lots of great things have been happening in October, but I will appreciate some breathing time in November. I ended up reading for 5 hours and 15 minutes. I lost three planned hours of reading to socializing of all things. I go to the pub maybe four times a year and of course one of those times had to fall on Read-a-thon night. The occasion was a friend’s going away party, as they’re moving to Arctic, so I didn’t really want to skip that.
Which hour was most daunting for you? I didn’t feel ‘daunted’, per se, but I planned to read all through hour eleven and that plan fell out the window in favour of watching hockey.
Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?The Slacker by Gordon Korman made for a relatively quick and fun read. A good book for when you need a ‘break’.
Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next season? I didn’t participate too much this time, so I can’t say if anything needs to be improved.
What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? This kind of ties in to the above question. I don’t know how well it worked, but I think it probably took some stress/expectations by eliminating cheerleading. I signed up to cheerlead in the past and it was a bit frustrating going from blog to blog of people who signed up but weren’t actually participating. I had more fun cheering for people who were visible and actively participating on Twitter.
How many books did you read? I read 50% of one book, 90% of another, and 10% of a third. I guess that makes one and a half!
What were the names of the books you read?The Witches of New York, The Slacker, and When Friendship Followed Me Home
Which book did you enjoy most?The Witches of New York
Which did you enjoy least? The two middle grades are so far on par with each other – nothing amazing, but nothing unenjoyable.
How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Very likely! I don’t have any plans, though I suppose it could be early to tell. I hope I will be less busy next time and able to read for 10+ hours.
Three hours into the Read-a-thon, I’m finally filling out the introductory survey.
What fine part of the world are you reading from today? – Winnipeg, Canada. It’s a fine foggy day for reading.
Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? – I’m currently reading The Witches of new York, which I love. I expect it will be hard for any of the other books to beat this.
Which snack are you most looking forward to? – Salt and vinegar Crispers. I’ve had a hankering for them this past week.
Tell us a little something about yourself! – I’m currently in the process of applying to MLIS programs.
If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? I’m taking this one more casually than the last one. There’s been a lot of flux in work-related stuff, so I just want to have a fun day of reading and socializing.
Good morning! Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon kicks off in about 15 minutes. I scheduled this post last night – have I woken up in time? You’ll have to nag me on Twitter if I haven’t posted there yet 😛 I’ll be updating this post a few times throughout the day, but I’ll be most active on Twitter. I do have a few distractions tomorrow – tutoring, a book event at the public library (going to hear Jen Sookfong Lee discuss The Conjoined!) and a farewell party. I have packed my bags and set out my clothes to minimize prep time for the outings.
Last night I prepped my reading stack and my munching stack, two stacks that are of almost equal importance when read-a-thoning. I’ve prepared a YA/MG sandwich. I’m focusing on MG fiction for the Cybils, but I’ve thrown in two YAs in case I feel like mixing things up: a book that my Dad and I are doing for Family Reads (Every Hidden Thing) and a book that has to go back to the library soon (Like a River Glorious). I’ll also probably be finishing up The Witches of New York, as I don’t think I’ll have time tonight.
As for food, I’ve planned two out of three meals (figuring out lunch always disrupts my schedule, even when I’m not trying to read all day…). I’ve got muesli, fruit and yogurt ready for breakfast and I’ve discussed ordering in pizza with my family. I’ve tucked my non-perishable snacks under my reading table – pumpkin seeds, candy corn, and salt and vinegar Crispers. I haven’t eaten those in years but I had a craving.
My goal for this year is 8 hours of reading. Are you participating in the Read-a-thon?
This monthly hop is designed to engage a group of people who love everything that has to do with children’s literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers!
For the October KidLit Blog Hop, I thought I’d review the reading I’ve done and plan to do for the Cybils this month. Public nominations closed on October 15. I went through the nominees list and noted which books my public library has (total: 28).
Read So Far
My Life with the Liars by Caella Carter – A strange book about a young girl who is rescued from a cult. I’m not sure who this would appeal to.
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm – A fun story set in a time and place with which I was unfamiliar (Key West in the 1930s). I feel like this book should exemplify middle grade historical fiction.
All Rise for the Honourable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor – Although I had to suspend my disbelief at the story’s premise, I came to appreciate its greater significance as a tale about a kid whose family can be found in a correctional centre. I like children’s books that include adult perspectives. Plus Perry is an easily lovable character.
OCDanielby Wesley King – The protagonist of King’s novel struggles with OCD but doesn’t know it. This book offers a realistic portrayal of how kids can experience mental illness. The murder mystery and football plot lines were unexpected but mostly fun.
I’m currently reading Slackerby Gordon Korman. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher read aloud from his books to us. I adored Radio FifthGrade, I Want to Go Home, and the MacDonald Hall Books. I remember being disappointed when he began publishing ‘serious’ disaster stories such as Island, but I enjoyed that as well. Slacker sounds to me to be ‘classic’ Korman, and it’s off to a good start. Though it feels a bit strange reading one of his novels set in the present day!
I have the following books currently signed out from the library. Thanksgiving and a road trip interrupted my progress, but this Saturday is Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-Thon – a perfect opportunity to get through a stack of middle grade fiction!
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
Makoons by Louise Erdrich
The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby
The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Be sure to check out this master post for a list of other participants in the October KidLit Blog Hop. Have you read any great children’s lit recently?
The second annual and likely final NerdCon: Stories took place this past weekend in Minneapolis. I drove down to attend with my sister and my best friend. We had a lot of fun when we made the trip last year.
What is NerdCon? NerdCon began as an experiment. It tends to defy description. This is probably a large factor in its failure, failure being here defined as not financially stable enough to support itself. Hank Green has made a couplevideos about this. The simplest way to define the con’s purpose might be “to celebrate stories”. I’ve seen a few posts that somehow pinned down why those who attended in 2015 loved it and would attend again. I’ve also seen just as well-reasoned posts about why people wouldn’t attend again. I fell somewhere between the two camps. I initially went 60% for the conference and 40% for the trip (visit a big city, attend a Sia concert, do some shopping despite the exchange rate…). After attending NerdCon for the second time, though, I am now more excited about it than I was before I went. I am now a bit bummed that it won’t happen again.
My travelling companions and I spent much of our not-at-NerdCon time discussing why NerdCon didn’t take off like it should have/might have/deserved to. I’m sure we didn’t come up with any great insights beyond what Hank and others have already noted. If there was a way to make NerdCon a success (i.e. sell enough tickets to be financially stable), then I would be happy to become involved in making that work. I think for now all I can do is share my experience as best as I can. Without further ado:
4 Reasons Why I Loved NerdCon: Stories
Being in a crowd of like minded people. I find it so refreshing and exciting and uplifting to find myself in a that kind of crowd – to see the hive of activity and ideas (that seem to live only in my computer) come to life.
Frank, open, caring, and normalizing discussions about mental health. From Amanda MacGregor‘s informative presentation on mental health in YA to John Green’s talk on creativity and OCD, talk about mental illness and destroying stigmas was front and centre for me in a way I’d never experienced before.
David the ASL interpreter. The entertaining moments he created at both NerdCons may have been a ‘you had to be there’ kind of thing. However, I think anyone can appreciate his performance of “It’s Raining Men.” I wasn’t even there for this and it’s my favourite part of the con.
There’s something for everyone. ‘Stories’ doesn’t just mean books. The con included panels, workshops, and community-led programming on podcasts, gaming, oral storytelling, and more. This also applies to the variety of guests. Although there weren’t many names with which I was familiar, I appreciated hearing from people with different experience. Another attendee may have had a totally different yet just as enjoyable weekend as me.
After attending NerdCon for the second time, I’m more excited about it now than I ever was before. I feel like the conference is being shuttered just as it might start to gain momentum (I know that’s not the case; I understand there are many good reasons as to why it can’t continue.) It’s an unfortunate situation. In the end, I’m so glad I got to attend for the two years I did. I’d love to read your thoughts on NerdCon: Stories if you attended. Link me up in the comments!
Today nominations open for the Cybils Awards. The Cybils are the Children’s and Young Adult Blogger’s Literary Awards. The award “aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal”. I don’t usually follow awards, but I appreciate the Cybils because, as a fan of middle-grade and as an aspiring children’s librarian, it’s one that’s actually relevant to my interests.
I’ve nominated books in the past, but this year I’m stepping up my involvement. I’m excited to have been selected as a panelist for the middle grade fiction category. This means I will be part of the first round group that goes through all nominees for that category and creates a shortlist of five to seven books from which the round two judges will select a winner. There are a number of reasons why I’m excited to take on this role: I look forward to helping find books that deserve the spotlight, discovering some great books I might have missed otherwise, becoming more involved with the MG/YA book blogging community, and learning more about the genre alongside seasoned pros. My fellow panelists are librarians who have been blogging about books a lot longer than I have. Be sure to check out their blogs.
At the start of this post, I mentioned nominations open today. They remain open until 15 October. Anyone can nominate a book (one nomination per category). There are 11 categories, ranging from board books to young adult fiction to audiobooks. Nominated books must be 1) published in Canada or the USA, 2) between 16 October 2015 and 15 October 2016, and 3) written in English. Books don’t need multiple nominations to make the cut. If you nominate it, it will be considered! You can find out more at the Cybil Awards website.
Have you read any books this year that you think are worth nominating?