10 (Really Good) Books That Didn’t Make Our Cybils Shortlist

I know this is a bit late. And things have moved on to awards season (yes, I am avidly reading Heavy Medal and I squeed — and put a bunch of books on hold! — when Battle of the Books announced their line-up). But when I sat down to do this month’s list, I realized that here was an opportunity to highlight some of my favorites (ones that were really good, even if they weren’t perfect) that we didn’t all agree on. (They are roughly in the order of excellence. In my opinion, anyway.)

1. The Vengekeep Prophecies, by Brian Farrey: “There’s so much to love in this book. Jax is a terrific character: a bookish kid (I love that he’s wearing glasses. I know it’s a little thing, but I do love it.), an unwilling hero, and yet he finds a way to outsmart the more Savvy characters and Save the Day.”

2. The Real Boy, by Anne Ursu: “This was a lovely, lyrical book; Ursu is a magnificent, quiet writer. She knows how to evoke a feeling and a place — the forest is dark and magical and calming.”

3. Parched, by Melanie Crowder: “That said, the writing was gorgeous. And I have to give Crowder props for setting a dystopia book in an African-feeling setting.” I think out of all the ones I read, this one I had the worst initial reaction to, but I can’t stop thinking about.

4. How to Catch a Bogle, by Catherine Jinks: “[T]he combination of a clever take on the paranormal and the plucky character of Birdie was enough of a combination for me to fall head over heels for this one.”

5. Pi in the Sky, by Wendy Mass: “I really enjoyed Joss’s learning of evolutionary science. And physics and chemistry as well. And I thought Mass was clever to frame it as a fantastical adventure. It made the science less… boring.”

6. The Year of Shadows, by Claire Legrand: “Olivia was dark and grumpy and prickly and perfect for a ghost story. Additionally, I loved the musical setting for this — the concert hall, the strains of orchestral music (it needs a soundtrack!) running through the story; in the endnote, Legrand talks about choosing pieces to fit the mood of Olivia’s life, and being familiar with many of the pieces, I think she did fabulously.”

7. The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle, by Christopher Healy: “How will the League of Princes handle this? Well, much like they do in the first book: with of silliness, laughs, luck, and heart. Yeah, sure, this is more of the same as the first book, but why mess with a good thing?”

8. Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman: “I enjoy Gaiman’s stuff normally, but I really do think I prefer his whimsical works for younger kids.”

9. Neptune Project, by Polly Holyoke: ” I’ve read books about exploring the ocean as an option for when global warming takes over and turns this planet into one gigantic mass of water, and I’ve read books that deal with genetic mutation of people (and I think I’ve read one that combines the two in some search for Atlantis, now that I think about it), but this one struck me as unique.”

10. Magic Marks the Spot, by Caroline Carlson: “There’s more to this book — magic and treasure and an Enchantress and a Wicked Parent — but really, what I loved most about this book was that Hilary set out to be a pirate and succeeded ON HER OWN TERMS.”

There you have it. For other favorites that didn’t make the shortlist check out the post at the Cybils website.

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