CYBILS 2013 Finalists Are Announced

If you are sad to see the Nerdy Book Awards end, you can get excited about the next round of book announcements.  Yesterday, Anne Levy, Cybils Editor-in-Chief, released the full list of finalists for each category.   Today, I am sharing what books ended up on the Easy Readers and Early Chapter Book lists.  I love discovering new books for students in first to third grades.  Check out this great list of finalists...

2013 Finalists: Easy Readers

A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems (Disney Hyperion)

Joe and Sparky Go to School by Jamie Michalak (Candlewick Press)

Love Is in the Air (Penguin Young Readers, L2) by Jonathan Fenske (Penguin)

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books)

The Meanest Birthday Girl by Josh Schneider (Clarion Books)

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf  by Dosh Archer (Albert Whitman & Company)

2013 Finalists: Early Chapter Books

Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxin Mutants by Ursula Vernon (Dial)

Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales) by James Preller (Feiwel & Friends)

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Franklin School Friends) by Claudia Mills (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux)

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay (Albert Whitman & Company)

The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems by Lauren Myracle (Dutton Juvenile)

Violet Mackerel's Natural Habitat by Anna Branford (Atheneum)

As a Round 2 Judge for the Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books Panel, I am excited with these choices and I am ready to dive into the books above.  Read along and see which ones you would select as winners. 

Books for Younger Readers for Summer - Early Reader/Early Chapter Books

Often I find it easy to pile on full-length Middle Grade novels onto my "TBR" pile for summer reading.  However, finding books for 1st to 3rd graders can be a bit more challenging.  Here are three new releases to check out this summer with young readers.

Dodsworth in Tokyo
Author/Illustrator: Tim Egan
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin (April 16, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
With trips to New York, Paris, London, and Rome under their belts, Dodsworth and the duck head for Japan: “The plane glided over Mount Fuji. Tokyo sparkled in the distance. Dodsworth was a little nervous.” Dodsworth has good reason to be nervous—the duck bumps into a rickshaw, falls into a koi pond (he can’t swim), and knocks over a tray of wagashi! Readers will love the slapstick humor and the odd-couple friendship between Dodsworth and the duck. Four engaging chapters of short sentences, clean design, and gem-like little paintings of the Land of the Rising Sun make it easy for early readers to enjoy the journey.

Quick thoughts:
 Dodsworth and Duck are on the go again and this time to Tokyo.  This four chapter story takes readers on a journey to the Land of the Rising Sun.  How will the adventurous Duck deal with a culture that respects order?  Will Dodsworth survive Duck's exuberance in returning a little girl's kendama (toy)? Will Tokyo ever be the same?  Another fun travel adventure with the odd couple of Dodsworth and Duck.

The Meanest Birthday Girl
Author/Illustrator: Josh Schneider
Publisher: Clarion (May 7, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
It’s Dana’s birthday, so she can do what she likes. And what Dana likes to do is pinch. And call people names. And steal her classmates’ desserts. You probably know a kid like Dana. What can stop her from being so mean? In this story, it’s not what you might expect. Because sometimes, it takes a little creativity (and possibly a very large pet) to change a mean kid’s ways. Five short chapters with comical full-color illustrations offer a fresh, fun take on bullying and birthdays (and pet elephants).

Quick thoughts:
Schneider won the Geisel in 2012 for Tales for Very Picky Eaters.  His newest book is told in 5 chapters and helps young readers think about the consequences for mean behaviors.  Dana's behavior is less than nice, but a friend gives her a birthday present that soon has her re-thinking all of those actions.  Large elephants with brightly colored toe nails take on new significance in this story about learning appropriate behaviors. Loved the twist at the end. 

Pete the Cat: Pete at the Beach
Creator: James Dean
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 21, 2013)

Description from GoodReads:
Pete and his mom and brother go to the beach! Pete has lots of fun collecting shells and building a sand castle. But he's very, very hot . . . and he isn't sure he wants to go in the water. The water looks scary! When his brother Bob offers to give him a surfing lesson, will Pete give it a try?

Rock and roll with Pete in this brand-new story about everyone's favorite groovy cat, perfect for beginning readers!

Quick thoughts:
Pete the Cat fans will love this early reader with simple sentences.  Pete, his mother, and his brother head out to the beach for a day of fun.  Pete must learn to work through his fear of the water if he is going to have some excitement with his brother while at the beach.  Emergent readers will share in Pete the Cat's enthusiasm for conquering his fears and learning a new skill.

Look for each of these books at your local library or independent bookstore.  Happy reading!

Favorite Miscellaneous Books of 2012

Since I am still reading a few last Middle Grade and YA novels, I decided to do a miscellaneous favorites post before my Middle Grade and YA posts.  I limited all of the titles to ones that were released in 2012. 

Early Readers and Chapter Books

Sadie and Ratz by Sonya Hartnett; Illustrated by Ann James (Candlewick Press) - This early chapter book is filled with humor and sibling challenges that are oh so real.  Not always easy to find in a bookstore, this was a favorite title of mine that needs more attention. 

Bink & Gollie: Two For One by Kate DiCamillo & Alison McGhee; Illustrated by Tony Fucile (Candlewick Press) - See my write up over on the Nerdy Book Club post here.

Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell (Candlewick Press) - An early reader that seemed to get over looked.  A story of friendship and humor.  This one had me laughing out loud. 

Lulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst; Illustrated by Lane Smith (Simon & Schuster) - Rarely does a sequel or companion novel live up to the first book, but this sequel is as enjoyable if not more than the first one.  Definitely one of my choices for a read aloud in 1st or 2nd grade classes.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms! by Kate Messner; Illustrated by Brian Floca (Scholastic) - Hop on over to my Nerdy Book Club post for my comments on this one.


October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman (Candlewick Press) - This novel in verse is a touching tribute to Matthew Shepard.  A powerful book comprised of 68 poems with additional endnotes and resources. (For YA audiences)

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle - Written in free verse, this book takes a look at a young girl living in Cuba at the beginning of the 1900's.  Readers experience Fefa's life through lyrical prose and visual storytelling. 

A Poem as Big as New York City: Little Kids Write About the Big Apple by Teachers Writers Collaborative; Illustrated by Masha D'yans (Universe) - This book inspired me to take on a poetry art project this year with two groups of students.  Children's poems combine to bring New York City to life.

UnBeeLievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings by Douglas Florian (Beach Lane Books) - Bee poems, bee facts and bee paintings combine together to bring new understanding to the life of Honeybees. 

Graphic Novels

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel (Graphix) - Magical cardboard takes on a "Twilight Zone" feel in this graphic novel.  Creepy and fascinating with a message.

Drama by Raina Telgemeir (Graphix) - Telgemeir's humor and ability to celebrate the day to day stuff in the lives of tweens to young teens is remarkable. DRAMA focuses more on the behind the scenes folks of the Drama club rather than the characters with starring roles.

Hades: Lord of the Dead (Olympians #4) by George O'Connor (First Second) - The fourth book in the Olympians focuses not only on Hades but also Persephone and Demeter.  O'Connor's Greek/Geek notes at the end add additional insight to the various volumes in this series.

Book Trailer for Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch (Amulet) - A strong female character who is also an Orthodox Jewish heroine? I had my doubts when I picked up the first book, but Deutsch won me over.  He continues to impress me with this follow-up as Mirka has some lessons to learn and some problems to solve that won't happen quickly and will require thought. 

Prince of the Elves (Amulet Vol. 5) by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix) - I love this series and this may be the best one yet. The ending was certainly a cliff-hanger and left me wanting more. The series continues to build and the characters continue to face hard choices and the consequences that follow.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke (First Second) - In the second book in the series, Zita must learn to come to terms with public attention and her role in everything and what happens when you let someone else step in. 

Bird and Squirrel On the Run by James Burks (Graphix) - The odd couple is resurrected in this graphic novel about an industrious squirrel and an irresponsible Bird. Students love Burks books.  Hope to see more of this odd couple.

Squish #4: Captain Disaster by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm (Random House) - I love Babymouse, but adore Squish.  In each book, I think I come to appreciate this loveable amoeba even more.  Also, there are some great messages that can be used as discussion starters in classes.

So what were some of your favorite books this year?

Nerdy Book Club Guest Post

Today I have a special guest post on the Nerdy Book Club Blog where I share a list my top 10 Early Readers.  However, have you ever tried to limit yourself to just 10 titles for 1st to 3rd graders?  It wasn't easy.  As a result, I am posting 10 more titles here.   For those of you working with 1st to 3rd Graders, here are 10 more book choices that are sure to be hits with your kiddos.

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner - Move over Clementine, Judy, and Ramona - there is a new 3rd grader in town and her name is Marty.  I love Messner's early Middle Grade series.  Marty McGuire Digs Worms comes out on April 1st. 

Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee - I love Bink & Gollie and book two will be here in time for the summer.  Yay!

Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm - I have 1st graders all the way up to 5th graders reading this series.  Who doesn't love Babymouse?  She rocks!

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst; Illustrated by Lane Smith - There is only one book with Lulu but it sure is a good one.  I love all of the alternate ending choices.

Araminta Spookie by Angie Sage - Araminta lives in a big house, a castle of sorts along with her aunt and uncle, and a ghost, and quite a few more unusual things.  Just the right spookie fun for an early chapter book series.

Dinkin’ Dings by Guy Bass; Illustrated by Pete Williamson - Dinkin' is afraid of...well pretty much everything.  But it doesn't stop Dinkin' and the Frightening Things from having to save their neighborhood on a regular basis.  Lots of laughs with some scary things too.

Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate; Illustrated by Brian Biggs - Roscoe is one of my favorite first graders. 

Zac Power by H.I. Larry - For kids who enjoy things like Spy Kids, Zac Power is the perfect read.  Lots of adventure and cool gadgets can be found in these stories.

Down Girl and Sit by Lucy Nolan; Illustrated by Mike Reed - The world from the perspective of dogs.  Pretty humorous.

Gabby and Gator by James Burks - This would be cool as a series but I am happy for at least one story of Gabby and Gator.  This is another one that appeals from 1st to 5th grade.

Happy Reading...and be sure to stop by the Nerdy Book Club.

Book Review: Spunky Tells All

Author: Ann Cameron
Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Read Alone: Grades 2nd to 4th
Read Aloud: Grades 1st to 3rd
Source: Purchased
Fiction* Animal Narration * Early Chapter Book

Description from GoodReads:
Spunky the dog would be happy to share all of his secrets, if only his human family spoke his language. But no matter how hard he tries to talk, it's all "yerf!" to them. Through a series of unfortunate miscommunications, his family decides that Spunky wants a friend--specifically, a cat. Spunky can't imagine anything worse than having to share his family, especially Huey and Julian, with the snobby  Balinese Fiona. But when headstrong Fiona keeps getting into trouble and it's up to Spunky to save her, he is astonished to find that being her protector has given his life new purpose and meaning.

"Every dog needs boy or a girl.  Huey is my boy, and I love him.  I protect him. I think about 
him even in my dreams." - p. 12

My thoughts on the book:
I confess.  I am actually a cat fan. I have a deep-seated fear of most dogs.  However, I fell in love with the cover of this book, and it came recommended by John Schu (@mrschureads).  Though I may not be a dog fan, I have many students who love dogs, and I had a feeling they might just like this one.

Ann Cameron has created a loveable character in Spunky, the family pet dog.  By utilizing Spunky as narrator for the story, the reader gets a unique perspective on life as a dog (ancient dog customs, importance of smell, and how dogs communicate in dreams).  Spunky also provides unique observations of the various family members and his relationships with each one of them.  When the family decides to adopt a new kitten, life in the Bates household becomes even more entertaining.  The dialogue between Spunky, and Fiona, the cat, was particularly funny.  Fiona might see herself as more important than Spunky, but she soon learns how important her canine family member is to her well-being.    

Writing for children in the reading range between early readers and middle grade novels is difficult.  Maintaining a balance between a well told story and the use of limited vocabulary creates unique challenges.  Cameron has met the demands of this age group by providing a story that is enjoyable, flows well, and allows students transitioning to chapter books to find reading success.  

Classroom teachers looking for chapter books to read aloud to first through third graders would find a win in Spunky Tells All.   It would also make for a great addition to both classroom and school libraries in the transitional book section.  I look forward to sharing this one with my second graders when I return to school next week.

Who is Ann Cameron?  Find out more on her website: or on MacMillian's author page:

Who is Lauren Castillo? Find out more on her website: or on her blog: