It’s been hard keeping this a secret, but now I can share the goods! Here are the Middle Grade Fiction Finalists for the 2007 Cybils. Comments after each title are my personal thoughts. I was one of seven panelists who whittled a list of 75 nominated books down to the eight you see below. For the official blurbs and links to more reviews, please go to the Cybils site and see ALL the results for categories posted so far.
A Crooked Kind of Perfect
by Linda Urban
If you read my review this fall, you already know how much I love this book. The voice of 10-year-old Zoe Elias is one of the greatest voices I’ve ever read in a middle grade novel. She’s strong and funny and insecure and so, so lovable. This is a story with heart — lots of it. And the central message about perfection and just giving life your best shot is one that kids need to hear.
Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam
by Cynthia Kadohata
“Is Mrs. Messner crying over there??” One of my students was worried while I was finishing up this title during our lunchtime silent reading session. Cracker is a tear-jerker and a fantastic dog story, for sure, but more than that, it’s a story about loyalty and about rising to the occasion. I was SO happy this one made the finalist list. My full review is here.
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree
by Lauren Tarshis
Emma Jean isn’t a typical kid. She’s analytical, detached from her classmates, and going through life with more smarts than heart until she decides to reach out to a fellow 7th grader. That changes everything and launches Emma Jean into a journey that might as well be to the North Pole; it takes her so far from her comfort level. Again, voice made this book magical. My full review is here.
Leap of Faith
Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
This was one of the last Cybils titles to show up at my door, but I’m so, so glad I read it. Leap of Faith stands out for a few reasons. It deals with religion, which isn’t often tackled in MG literature without being overly preachy, or on the other side of the coin, overly cynical. Leap of Faith strikes a perfect balance with a story that it funny, real, hopeful, and uplifting without ever feeling contrived. It’s fun to read and kid-friendly, too — a great, great book.
Despite some difficulties getting this title, those of us who were able to find copies loved it and argued it onto the finalist list. I reviewed it right after I read it, so I’ll point you to my original thoughts, when I was still lost in the world of underground caves, lost treasures, and a wonderfully heroic main character. This one is a fantastic ride.
Louisiana’s Song is the sequel to Gentle’s Holler, which I haven’t read, so I was a great test of whether this book could really stand on its own. It does. It stands tall and strong as the mountains in which the story is set. Louisiana’s Song is beautiful and real, with a huge family of characters who make you want to move right in. This is a book filled with longing, as the outspoken Livy Two wishes for her father’s quicker recovery from the accident that caused his brain injury. It’s also a book filled with hope and thankfulness — for morning dew, fairy houses, and the love of family. It’s beautifully written and an absolute joy to read.
Miss Spitfire takes a new look at the Helen Keller story, through the eyes of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. As I discussed in my review this fall, Sarah Miller does an incredible job taking us inside the mind of the teacher who committed herself so fiercely to giving Helen the gift of language. This is a surefire hit for Helen Keller fans and for anyone who loves a good story, well told.
The Wild Girls
There were several books in my pile of Cybils nominees that struck me more personally than most, and this was one of them. I really wish the main characters in this book were real because I’m longing to go hang out in the woods with them and write stories and catch salamanders. This book is transporting and empowering and wonderful. You can read my full review here if you’d like to hear me gush some more.
A big, BIG, congratulations to the authors on our finalists’ list — and to all the authors whose books were nominated. Over the past two months, you’ve filled my brain and my house with marvelous stories and characters I love enough to invite to dinner. Thanks for sharing your stories with us all. And many, many thanks to those publishers who were able to provide review copies to make our job as panelists easier.
To the judges for Middle Grade Fiction – Happy reading because you’re going to LOVE these titles. And good luck – because I can’t imagine having to pick just one.