Sunday, January 1, 2017

Announcing the 2016 Cybils Fiction Picture Book and Board Book Shortlists!

I'm so proud of these Cybils Fiction Picture Book and Board Book Shortlists; you'd think I'd written and illustrated all these books myself. 

Between the seven of us panelists, we read and considered 1,716 books, which is 97% of the nominated books. Somehow, we managed to agree on our favorite fiction picture books and our favorite board books. We did all of this in less than two months. Pretty amazing work. 

Huge thanks go to Jennifer Wharton of Jean Little Library, Kirstine Call of Reading for Research, Sue Morris of Kid Lit Reviews, Ami Jones of A Mom's Spare Time, and Kate Unger of Mom's Radius.

And, now, the shortlists. Watch for the winners which will be announced on Valentine's Day.

The 2016 Cybils Fiction Picture Book Shortlist

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: 

"Once upon a time there was a hungry lion" the book begins, and then lists all the other adorable animals surrounding him. Oh wait, that's not quite right. Let's try listing those animals again. And again. And... where did everybody go? Surprise! Of course the lion didn't eat them all! It's a party! Um....they're going to eat the cake, right? Well....maybe not....

There are quite a few "a hungry animal is going to eat you, no, wait, it's just a party" books, but this one stands out with its triple-twist and giggle-worthy ending. Cummins' bright, colorful illustrations feature an adorable assortment of animals - and a stoic lion with a glare that fits his naughty personality perfectly. Cummins has a perfect sense of timing as she plays out the joke and surprises readers on every page. A Hungry Lion will keep your storytime audience and classes laughing hysterically as they request multiple readings so they can catch every detail.

Jennifer Wharton
Jean Little Library

Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: 

Filled with lyrical language and vivid verbs, this book reads like poetry.  The story of Gus and Ida touches on death and friendship in a peaceful and hopeful way. The illustrations add depth and power to the well chosen words. The unmistakable bond between Ida and Gus creates an emotional resonance that stays with you long after you’ve read it.  You’re reminded that those you’ve lost are right there with with you.  Always.
Kirstine Call

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel
Chronicle Books 
Nominated by: 

“The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . .”
When you see a cat, what do you see? A child sees a cute calico cat and wants to pet the kitty. But a mouse sees a large black cat with yellow crazed eyes, large pointed teeth, and long sharp claws ready to pounce. It is all a matter of perspective in Brendan Wenzel’s debut. He gives children twelve animals' visions of the cat.  The beautiful images will have children thinking about size and perspective, giving them a new view of their world.
Sue Morris

One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom and Brendan Wenzel 
Nominated by: 
"One day in the leaves
of the eucalyptus tree
hung a scare in the air
where no eye could see,

when along skipped a boy
with a whirly-twirly toy,
to the shade of the eucalyptus, 
eucalyptus tree."

Are your toes tapping? There's a definite rhythm going that makes this book a natural read-aloud. Children can of course see the snake peeking out of the eucalyptus tree, and that snake gobbles up that boy with the whirly-twirly toy. The boy keeps calm and immediately hatches a plan, convincing the snake to swallow more and more adorably illustrated creatures, until he is finally so full, them all out. Early literacy skills, a feeling of empowerment, fun illustrations, science and social studies extensions, and just plain fun make this a well-rounded addition to the list.

Ami Jones

The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: 
The Night Gardener is a magical book. A small town is forever changed by the works of the Night Gardener, a mysterious man who creates new topiaries out of the local trees each night. One little boy, William, is impacted a bit more. One night after celebrating with the neighbors late into the night, William comes upon the Night Gardener and gets to help him create many creations in the local park. Though the trees only last until fall, the community is never the same again. And a small gift from the Night Gardener inspires William for a life time.

The text in this book is fairly minimal, with no more than a few sentences per two-page spread. The illustrations begin in muted tones with only the topiaries in color. But as the story progresses and the people in the neighborhood are impacted by the Night Gardener's sculptures, they begin to appear in color as well. By the end of the book, the whole town is in full color, appearing as vibrant and alive as the people of the town. This book is perfect for kids ages 4-8.

Kate Unger

There’s a Bear on My Chair written and illustrated by Ross Collins
Nosy Crow 
Publisher/ Author Submission

"There's a bear on my chair!"
On my chair!
I declare! A bear on my chair!

A mouse arrives home and discovers an enormous polar bear is sitting on his chair. How far will the mouse go to remove that bear from his chair? 

There's a Bear on My Chair is a exuberant tale filled with surprising rhyme and unexpected plot twists and wild mouse mood swings. This is a book children will ask to hear over and over again, with side benefits: you will love reading it over and over, and it will soon be a book children will find they can read solo. 

Dare to ensnare this rare and extraordinaire bear-chair affair, There's a Bear on My Chair. 

Deb Nance

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev and Taeeun Yoo
Simon and Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Nominated by: 

When one little boy and his tiny pet elephant try to participate in Pet Club Day, they are met with a sign that says: Strictly No Elephants. Despite their sadness, they push forward together and ultimately travel from the realization that they do not fit in that club, to a joyful accomplishment and a place  where they can celebrate their differences with friends. This well-written and aptly-illustrated book conveys the sadness and sweet success often found in the process of finding true friends and subtly suggests the meaning of friendship. 

Lynne Marie

The 2016 Cybils Board Book Shortlist

Dinosaur Dance! by Sandra Boynton

Little Simon

Nominated by: 

Filled with pitch perfect rhymes and onomatopoeia, Dinosaur Dance waltzes from one page to the next with daring illustrations and colorful dinosaurs.  The words are fun to say and create a rhythm that encourages small children to dance with the dinosaurs.  Reading this board book provides the ideal environment for learning, laughing, and of course, dancing.

Kirstine Call

Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi


Publisher/ Author Submission

Look, a donut! Or is it? Unfold the (sturdily constructed) flap, and you find those are actually the curves of a lounging cat. A green apples becomes two crocodiles, and so on, in this playful counting book.

The counting part of it is almost an extra. The real fun comes in learning to look at each shape differently, and in guessing what else it might be. Adults may remember similar photo games in magazines like National Geographic for Kids, or in the back pages of Reader's Digest. The pages are easily manipulated by little hands, and while younger readers will enjoy marveling at the transformation, older children can be led in games of, "What else could this shape be?"

Ami Jones

Follow the Yarn: A Book of Colors by Emily Sper
Jump Press
Nominated by: 

Follow the Yarn is a creative new take on the basic color board book. Each page shows yarn of a different color being unraveled by a cat, and the featured color is written in big, bold, color appropriate text. On each subsequent page, the previous colors are still displayed in what creates a fun web of colors by the end of the book. The yarns crisscross each other, so toddlers will enjoy following each color's yarn to the end. The last page, white, is stunning with the colors contrasted against a black background. This book will make the task of teaching colors a delightful experience for both parents and children.

Kate Unger

Cuauhtémoc: Shapes – Formas: A Bilingual Book of Shapes by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein
Lil' Libros
Nominated by: 

What in the world is Cuauhtémoc? And what is it doing in a child's board book? 

The charm of this little board book is the surprising variety of learning the author and illustrator have included in twenty-two pages. Cuauhtémoc is a beautifully illustrated book that introduces the youngest of our future readers to shapes. But that's not all: it also names the shapes in both English and Spanish. And this book has still more: it focuses on one of the most neglected groups in children’s literature, indigenous American culture. You can find this all in a package that is perfect for 0-2 year olds, with simple text and large bright pictures. Cuauhtémoc is a wonderful book for your baby or your library system.

Deb Nance

Cityblock by Christopher Franceschelli and Peskimo
Harry N. Abrams
Nominated by: 

Your little one will have fun while learning as he/she travels through a generic city in this quality board book with engaging lift flaps and cut page turns via a variety of city transportation methods. Fabulous city destinations await, including a museum, a carousel, a sports stadium and more! And that is not all – in this “big city – all you can eat city,” there are many cultural treats to discover. This fabulous book slices up the essence of a big city in manageable bites, just perfect for a little one’s mind to chew on. Chock full of art to enjoy, words to learn, details to savor and most importantly, it’s a city block little ones will want to revisit again and again. 

Lynne Marie, 

What is the Sunday SalonImagine some university library's vast reading room. It's filled with people--students and faculty and strangers who've wandered in. They're seated at great oaken desks, books piled all around them,and they're all feverishly reading and jotting notes in their leather-bound journals as they go. Later they'll mill around the open dictionaries and compare their thoughts on the afternoon's literary intake....That's what happens at the Sunday Salon, except it's all virtual. Every Sunday the bloggers participating in that week's Salon get together--at their separate desks, in their own particular time zones--and read. And blog about their reading. And comment on one another's blogs. Think of it as an informal, weekly, mini read-a-thon, an excuse to put aside one's earthly responsibilities and fall into a good book. Click here to join the Salon.

The Sunday Post is a meme hosted by Kimba at Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It's a chance to share news and recap the past week.

Mailbox Monday was created by Marcia at The Printed Page. We share books that we found in our mailboxes last week. 
 It is now being hosted here.

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews in which you can share the books you've acquired.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is where we share what we read this past week, what we hope to read this week…. and anything in between!  This is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well… you never know where that next “must read” book will come from! I love being a part of this and I hope you do too! It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now being hosted at The Book Date.


  1. So excited to see the Shortlist announced! It was tough to narrow it down, but we worked together and did it! XOXO to all my fellow panelists!

  2. Good job! These look great. They All Saw a Cat was that rare book that I took a look at in the bookstore and immediately plunked down full price for because I knew I had to have it in my classroom. Reading it to my middle schoolers, it was so interesting how long it took them to realize what was going on with the perspectives.

    1. They All Saw a Cat went over big with the PreK-2 crowd at my school library, too.

  3. fantastic! I'm intrigued by the Night Gardener. so when is the winner announced? how do you choose? And happy New Year Deb!

    1. The Night Gardener is a beautiful and mysterious story. Maybe you will get to read it.

      The winner will be announced on Valentine's Day. There is a panel of judges who have started reading and thinking about these finalists today.

      Happy New Year, Emma!

  4. Wow. How many books you read! What a lot of work you have done. That makes these nominations even more precious. Are the lists out for teen books, too?

    1. Yes, all the lists are out. I should add the links for those lists, too.

  5. I'm so impressed by all of this reading. I've read some of these and have added more to my list. I actually wasn't so fond of Ada, Always. I liked the illustrations, but I found something contrary about people mourning for a bear in a zoo all the while polar bears in the wild are starving and being pushed towards extinction because of climate change. Sigh.

  6. Thank you for sharing these! They All Saw a Cat and The Night Gardener were two of my favorites this year. Adding Ida, Always to my Must Read list!

  7. It's awesome that there is a separate category now for board books - definitely much needed! I do miss being a part of the Cybils Round 2 Panel of Judges this year - the only year I've missed since 2012. :( I did borrow a few of these shortlisted titles now from the library - and looking forward to reading them.

  8. Great choice! I will buy some of them, I'm a collector of good childrens books. Sad, that "The night Gardener" isn't translated in German, but maybe it still comes out?


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