Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Cybils Fiction Picture Books and Board Book Finalists -- With Tips for Writers

Happy New Year! Thank you for your support of my book reviews and my blog!

We’ve reached the end of this year’s deliberations for Round 1 in the fiction picture book and board book category for the Cybils Awards and it’s time to announce the winners! [For the official announcement and lists of finalists, check here.]

I am so appreciative that authors, illustrators and publishers trusted me to evaluate the extensive work that went into creating their books. It truly was an honour. The process of discussing amazing texts and illustrations with the other panelists was enlightening, inspiring, challenging and a lot of fun. It was excruciatingly difficult to winnow down our many favourites to come up with a shortlist for the final round of judging. (Unfortunately, some nominated books could not be evaluated by all of our team members because we weren’t able to track them down if we didn’t receive review copies, so we had to exclude them.)

As a teacher:

The process of choosing finalists made me more aware of the many stories that are available to share with my students. I now have my own list of books from 2017 that are “must reads” to introduce different topics in the classroom or would be just a lot of fun to enjoy with my students. (In case you are wondering, the review copies I received for evaluating these books will be donated to my classroom, my school, my school’s family learning centre and my local public library.) I love the knowledge I have gained and my increased ability to recommend some great books to families or teachers with particular interests or needs.

As a writer:

I’ve learned so much from reading and thinking about these books! Here are three key learnings:

1) Many stories start off strong, but falter when it comes to the ending. Writers, pay more attention to your endings. Endings that are emotionally strong or offer a big surprise for the reader linger with readers.

2) Despite much of the advice we get as writers to be subtle about morals or being “preachy,” some rule-breaking writers straightforwardly state their message, but are able to weave it into the story effectively so it doesn’t sound overly didactic. This was really interesting.

3) Layers rule! The books I liked best all had different levels of interpretation and were fun to read for both children and adults. Humor plus a deeper level of meaning and a story that doesn’t overwhelm with words is a winning combination. Stories with a more serious tone stand out when they have a strong voice, authentic or specific details and amazing illustrations.

In no particular order, here are the shortlists for my panel:


After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) written and illustrated by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook Press)

Baabwaa and Wooliam written by David Elliott and illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Walker Books)

Escargot written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Sydney Hanson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Flowers for Sarajevo written by John McCutcheon and illustrated by Kristy Caldwell (Peachtree)

Big Cat, Little Cat written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper (Roaring Brook Press)

Creepy Pair of Underwear! written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster)

The Book of Mistakes written and illustrated by Corinna Luyken (Dial Books)


Circle, Triangle, Elephant: A Book of Shapes and Surprises written by Kenji Oikawa and illustrated by Mayuko Takeuc (Phaidon)

Hair written and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli (Candlewick)

One Happy Tiger written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner (Tiger Tales)

When Your Lion Needs a Bath written by Susanna Leonard Hill and illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (Little Simon)

Changing Faces: Meet Happy Bear written by Nathan Thoms and illustrated by Carles Ballesteros (Harry N Abrams)

Bears are Big written by Douglas Florian and illustrated by Barbara Bakos (little bee books)

Peek-a-Moo written and illustrated by Nina Laden (Chronicle Books)

1 comment:

  1. Great seeing the finalists. And even more, I found it interesting what you learned from reading the choices. Happy New Year!


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