2 Cybils Shortlist, Middle Grade SciFi/Fantasy

I wasn’t really looking forward to either of these books but ended up enjoying both, though one more than the other…

I really loved The Dungeoneers. Some of the characters were really complex and that’s something I like in middle grade fiction. The good guy was a bad guy who maybe was also a good guy except he wasn’t. And, that was hard. I hope I can read the next one in the series. Someone remind me…

Mars Evacuees was the book I was saving for last because I wasn’t enthusiastic about it at all. I don’t really like “space fiction” all that much. (Don’t hold it against me, y’all.) And, true to form, TW liked this one more than I did. Something about the tone didn’t feel like it was middle grade. TW disagreed. I don’t know — it took me a long, long time to care at all about any of the characters and the ones I cared most about were not the “Mars Evacuees.”

The Fog Diver

My expectations for The Fog Diver were low. Another post-apocalyptic/middlegrade/ya/adventure book. Ho hum? OK not ho hum, because I LIKE this genre but still… turns out, this was one of the better ones.

Really clever cultural references gone wrong, gone very very wrong. Likable characters. A plot that moved fairly quickly. Mostly it was the cultural references that got me.

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Off-topic but not really: I’m considering not doing the Cybils Challenge next year. Or ever again. It’s not that I don’t love these books, I do. But, so many of them are series’ books and I just can’t keep up with the series’ while also reading a bunch of newly introduced series. When I try, I find myself reading nothing but YA and Middle Grade fiction/scifi/fantasy. I need to find some sort of balance. So… stay tuned, this may be the last full shortlist challenge I attempt. Figures, since odds are high that I’m not going to successfully complete it, for the first time – ever.

Four Graphic Novels

Lion of Rora was the graphic novel that I expected to like the least. Turns out, it was pretty darn good. Well drawn and well written.

I also really enjoyed Secret Coders #1 but was so annoyed when it ended. I understand cliffhangers but geez, really? You couldn’t give us just a tiny bit more??? Oy. (Also, those birds are kind of creepy.)

Ms Marvel was excellent, as expected.

And, the big winner for me was The Marvels. This was really well done. All graphic novel in the beginning and then text at the end. Beautiful. Also, sad.

Cuckoo Song

I’ve read some pretty weird books because of the Cybils Shortlist but this might have been one of the weirdest.

Cuckoo Song is dark, complex, deeply troubling in places and downright weird in others. TW didn’t finish it because it weirded her out. And, it’s middle grade. I would love to find some middle grade kids who have read this so that I can hear their take.

7 Cybil Picture Books

I reserved these with the intention of reading at least some of them to JMP and SquishyFace when they were here and… I didn’t read them a single book. Not one. Gasp. What is the world coming too? Boo!

Oh well, some of them were really really great and they were all good.

My favorites:

Mango, Abuela, and Me – loved it. Such a great story. I’ll read this to the boys, some day.
Last Stop on Market Street – perfection.
Sidwalk Flowers – awwwww. How cute was that?

Really liked these:

Blizzard – though I wouldn’t want to give JMP any ideas about heading out for food after a blizzard, lol.
Bug in a Vacuum – hah. Totally amusing.
In a Village By the Sea – I loved the illustrations.

Good ones:

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise – loved the illustrations, the story not quite as much.

2 Cybils Non-Fiction

There was a time when I never quit a Cybils book but this year, I’ve quit two. The most recent, Symphony for the City of the Dead was… I just couldn’t read it. I tried, I really did. TW read the whole thing, and I give her props for that. I cannot imagine any kid reading this who didn’t have to. (Unless he/she had some great fondness for Russian history or Shostakovich, I guess.) Ugh.

Thankfully, Bayard Rustin: Invisible Activist was better. In fact, it was excellent. Everyone should read this one.

Three Graphic Novels

Let’s see… which graphic novels (all Cybils shortlisters) did I read? Oh yea…

Courtney Crumrin: Volume 7 … hated it. Didn’t finish it. At first, I thought it was because I’m way behind on this series, (I think the last one I read was 4), but based on the reviews — a whole lot of series fans just didn’t like this one. I’m glad it wasn’t just me.

Next, Dragons Beware!. I love Claudette and her friends. Absolutely love them.

Last, but not least, Baba Yaga’s Assistant was really good. I didn’t expect much from it, I’m not a very big Baba Yaga fan, so this really exceeded expectations.

The Six

The Six was a good Cybils choice. Computers scary. Computers taking over the world. Computers saving the world. People becoming computers.

Should it ever be an option, I do not want my brain transferred to a really big (though really kind of cool) computerized/brain-driven robot, kthnxbai.

Also, I need to read the sequel. Sooner rather than later.

The Walls Around Us

Here’s a Cybils shortlister that I didn’t love. I didn’t hate it, but it just didn’t grab me the way I had hoped. From the reviews of The Walls Around Us, I might be the only person who didn’t just absolutely love it.

It’s dark, it’s ghost story-like, it’s beautifully written — it just didn’t work for me. It might, however, work for you. Try it and let me know.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Thank goodness for the Cybil Awards. Slasher Girls & Monster Boys is something I probably never would have picked up on my own. I like horror, but I don’t read a lot of YA horror and I certainly don’t read short story YA horror. If they’re all like this, I should change that.

This is some of the best storytelling and the best writing, PERIOD. Read it.