Monday, February 15, 2010

And The Cybil Winners Are

The 2009 Cybils winners were announced yesterday.


Sunday, January 03, 2010

Speaking Of Being Late

I am also late mentioning that the Cybils short lists have been announced. There are many titles and authors on these lists that I haven't heard about. For me, that's the point of the Cybils. I like to think it's a rogue award that doesn't feel a responsibility to honor the books that everyone else is honoring or everyone else is talking about.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Less Canoodling, More Dogging

It is Cybil season, and while I am not cybilizing, myself, I am fondly recalling days when I was. Thus, when I stumbled upon Bloodhound: Beka Cooper, Book Two by Tamora Pierce, I jumped right on it because I liked the first book in the series, Terrier, which was nominated for a Cybil...oh, I don't know. Back the year I was a panelist for scifi/fantasy.

The Beka Cooper books have a lot of things going against them as far as I'm concerned--made up worlds and words and names and societies. (No fairies or dragons so far, thank God.) What makes them so very readable for me is that they are police procedurals. Beka and her companions are "dogs," her society's equivalent of police officers, with crimes to solve. In this world, the dogs and the rats (or criminals) are sometimes not that different. But you see that in police procedurals of all kinds.

Bloodhound wasn't as strong a book for me as Terrier for two reasons: 1. Beka is given a love interest, and 2. I noticed a lot more attention to details.

The love interest seemed like a diversion that took away from the plot. Yes, we don't know if the love interest is a good guy or a bad guy but that wasn't enough to keep me from wondering when we were going to get away from Dale touching Beka here and there so we could move back to the story.

That story also kept stopping so we could get descriptions of clothing and jewelry--how many earrings this guy wore in his right earlobe versus how many and what kind he wore in his left, what kind of brocade was on this or that tunic. Sure, detail enriches a piece of writing, but there is a tipping point after which the reader is just buried in the stuff.

We also got more talk about who was sleeping with whom than I think we needed. I didn't think it supported the story or moved it along. Okay, this is a world that is cool with sex. I got that early on. I wanted to move on to the crime!!

Now, I was also a little put off by a bit of discussion of gender issues, as in some talk on the place of women. I like a world where women crack skulls and no one talks about whether or not they should be doing it. But evidently these Beka Cooper books are part of an extended world that Pierce has created, and in this world's future things will be different for women. Pierce discusses the "Cult of the Gentle Mother" in an interview at The Torch Online.

Clearly, I found this outing with Beka a little disappointing, but not so much so that I won't be looking for Mastiff, the final book in this trilogy, which will come out sometime next year.

Bloodhound has been nominated for a Cybil this year.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009


We're in the midst of the Cybil nomination period. You have four more days.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

And Our Final Winner Is...

The last Cybils nominee I'll be discussing this year is Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki with graphics by Steve Rolston, winner in the YA category.

Emiko was one of the two finalists that most clearly dealt with a teenage character and was also a complete novel. How very interesting that the other book that fits that description, Skim, was also written by Tamaki. The books, both published the same year, are very similar, right down to including a secondary lesbian character. But while Skim could be said to deal with generalized teenage angst, Emiko Superstar's main character is much more outer directed. She discovers a new interest--performance art--and pursues it. I think the character evolves far more than the main character in Skim does. In the event that you like to see main characters evolve.

It was definitely interesting to see an author take what was close to being the same basic outline and treat it quite differently.

Another interesting point about this book--it was published by Minx, which just ceased publication (I was going to say "went belly up," but that's so inelegant) in January.

So that, folks, is all she's writing on Cybils 2008. Enough is enough, wouldn't you say?

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Not All Graphic Novels Are For Kids

Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa is a very impressive work, the story of a father trying to deny his child's impending death. However, in spite of its appearance among the YA graphic novel finalists for the 2008 Cybils, I don't see how it can possibly be classified as YA. The story portrays an adult father going through various stages of grief over losing his young child. That's not a traditional YA theme. On a most superficial level, it doesn't even include any teen characters.

That doesn't mean the book isn't good.

Life is "simple and sweet" for Louis, Lise, and young Joachim until they notice three shadowy figures outside their farm. The figures, it turns out, bring death, and they are bringing it for Joachim. Lise wants to enjoy the time she has left with her son, but Louis takes his boy and runs. He's determined to save his child from death.

Sounds grim, doesn't it? Well, it is. But what it's not is maudlin. This isn't a manipulative weeper, trying to impress us because it's about death. I don't know if it's the supernatural element or the graphic format or just good story telling (through both text and art work, in this case), but Pedrosa treats his material as...oh, I don't know...maybe...literature? While many books about death, particularly a child's death, do little more than make readers feel badly, as if being able to move them to tears is an indication of the author's skill, Three Shadows seems to me to be an attempt to actually understand a life event through art.

Pedrosa is an experienced author of band dessinées, and his work in Three Shadows is very sophisticated. This is an excellent, adult work, and would make a great addition to a library collection of adult graphic novels.

Pedrosa has some interesting things to say about comics, which he holds in high regard:

"But in the past few years in France, as soon as a book of bande dessinée is something other than the 46-page color hardcover format I described, the book gets called a roman graphique, borrowing from the US term of graphic novel. I don’t know who the clever marketing whiz was that came up with the idea, but it’s clearly designed to lend a stamp of cultural approval by associating with novels, i.e. with “serious” literature for real readers, those with brains...

...Yet these “graphic novels,” as the term is used in France, owe nothing to the novel or to literature. They are pure, and often beautiful, comic books: the language they use, regardless of how inventive the forms used may be, is the language of comics. That’s what gives these creative works their power, and that’s what explains the very distinctive pleasure that their readers take in the process."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Learning You're Related To Fairies Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing

Okay, folks, it's time to talk about the Cybils YA graphic novel finalists I didn't cover during Cybil season.

Today we will begin with The Good Neighbors: Kin by Holly Black with graphics by Ted Naifeh. This is the first book by Black I've had a chance to read. I've seen the movie made from her Spiderwick Chronicles, and I saw her moderate a panel discussion at Readercon last year. My impression is that she's interested in fairies as subject matter, and sure enough, The Good Neighbors has fairies. Mysterious, possibly evil fairies. My guess is probably evil.

Rue is an angst-ridden teenager whose mother is missing and whose father appears to be depressed. That's kind of ho-hum for YA, but then she starts seeing creatures other people don't see. This doesn't make her feel any better. Neither does finding out that she's connected to these beings through her missing mother. And then there's the creepy grandfather.

The Good Neighbors: Kin includes a couple of either classic or stereotypical YA situations: the child who learns a secret about a parent and the child who learns there is something special about herself. Kin is the first book in The Good Neighbors serial, and I can't say a great deal happens in it. Rue is miserable and finds out all these secrets about her family and herself and then the book ends.

Ted Naifeh's artwork for this book was some of the most attractive I've seen in the graphic novels I read this past year.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

A Winning Fairy Tale Variation

I happened to read Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale with graphics by Nathan Hale, winner of the Cybil award for elementary/middle grade graphic novel, right after reading Shannon Hale's adult novel, Austenland. I was struck by how similar they were.

Okay, Austenland is a light romance about a twenty-first century woman off at a Jane Austen theme park to work out her Pride and Prejudice fantasy and Rapunzel's Revenge is a reworking of Rapunzel set in the American west of the late nineteenth century. But they're both feminist-tinged reworkings of what I think of as traditionally girly fairy tales/fantasies. One involves a woman meeting a man who is initially unpleasant but turns out to be a real catch and the other involves a woman being saved by a man who turns out to be a real catch. Hale gives these two stories a contemporary mid-section, but she doesn't change the fairy tale ending.

In the case of Rapunzel's Revenge, Rapunzel isn't a passive figure who is saved by a man as she is in the original fairy tale, at least as it's commonly known. She saves herself, she saves others, and she still gets a very positive ending. Actually, this scenario of a female overcoming adversity could almost be described as our new, twenty-first century fairy tale, especially when, as here, all comes out well in the end.

Rapunzel's Revenge has more going for it than just girl power because it plays with more than just the Rapunzel story. Jack and the Beanstalk and that golden egg laying goose tale I've never been a hundred percent clear about both enter the scene. We have the Old West equivalent of an evil witch here, one who uses spells to enslave others. I wondered if there were more fairy tale twists that I wasn't getting. For instance, Rapunzel saves a golden haired child who is kidnapped and keeps complaining about having to eat sticky gruel. Is she supposed to be Goldilocks?

It doesn't matter, though, because there is a basic story in Rapunzel's Revenge that readers can enjoy even if they've never even heard of Rapunzel, herself. And while I've dwelled on the female interest in the fairy tales Shannon Hale deals with, Rapunzel's Revenge is not just for girls. Rapunzel's male sidekick gives boys someone to identify with, too.

Rapunzel is a first-person narrator in this case, so when we see narrative boxes in this graphic novel, they are used for her to tell us things in her voice. Nonetheless, the story is still carried primarily by graphics and dialogue.

Rapunzel's Revenge is the kind of graphic novel I particularly like--a real, complete story.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Something To Share With The Young Ones

There's a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales, Retold by Zoe B. Alley and illustrated by R.W. Alley, is another of the Cybils finalists for elementary/middle grade book in the graphic novels category. It's a graphic charmer, though I don't know that I'd call it a novel. It's more of a collection, as its subtitle suggests.

In this book, five "wolf" stories are linked together--The Three Little Pigs, The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood---You get the idea. The same wolf moves from story to story, always getting the worst of any situation he finds himself in. The retelling of these stories is witty (the sheep in The Boy Who Cried Wolf keep up a running commentary on their young shepherd, for instance.) The book is the size of a picture book, meaning the panels are large, which should be a help for young readers.

A couple of quibbles--There's a lot of narrative in the panels. The images aren't left to tell the story. They often end up illustrating narrative instead. And, oddly enough, there are often dialogue tags. Instead of using a dialogue balloon above a character to indicate he's talking, dialogue will sometimes appear in a circle or a square with quotation marks and a tag, as in "Give it your best shot," said Blake. It's almost as if the author and illustrator weren't interested in creating a "true" graphic novel type of work but more of a traditional picture book in panels.

And that's okay. The book is entertaining and attractive, whatever it is.

Last fall someone commenting here raised the question of whether or not graphic novels could be read aloud. I think adults reading with one or two children could make There's a Wolf at the Door work as a read aloud, particularly if they stuck to just one tale at a time.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

An Edgy Tale Of Little Outcasts

Superficially, Jellaby, a Cybils nominee for elementary/middle grade graphic novel by Kean Soo, is a traditional story of the unhappy, isolated child who bonds with some kind of similar outcast. This particular story has considerably more edge, though, in large part because our protagonist, Portia, isn't a stereotypically sympathetic child. Sure she is a fatherless child who has nightmares. But she can be plenty demanding and argumentative, especially regarding Jason, the other class misfit, who you'd expect her to buddy up with.

Those eyebrows...that mouth...This girl is drawn in such a way that makes it clear that she's comfortable putting up a fight.

One night after a bad dream, Portia finds a purple creature out in her yard. Feeling pretty confident that the thing isn't going to eat her (I'm so glad she's the kind of kid smart enough to realize that's a possibility), she takes him in. He's sort of her special pet, one that is a bit nicer than she is and encourages her to help out Jason when he's attacked by bullies.

And so our three outsiders are brought together and end up on a journey to learn Jellaby's origins. Portia's nightmares about her missing father suggest they might learn something about him, too.

This is a graphic novel that does a good job of combining its graphics and text. The story is shown totally through images and dialogue. I didn't see any boxes of narrative.

It is, however, a serial. There isn't anything remotely like a complete storyline here. That's not a drawback for those who enjoy serials, but it does mean that it's hard to make any kind of comment on the quality of the overall work because the entire work isn't here.

What is here in this first volume is engaging and easy to read for elementary and younger middle grade readers.

The second book in the serial, Jellaby in the City, will be published in April.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

What About Those Cybils?

I paid dearly for my good time at Bank Square Books on Saturday with a full day of home-related work on Sunday. So I am forty-eight hours late with my Huzzah! The Cybils Winners Have Been Announced! post.

In the category I was judging, graphic novels, the winners were:

Elementary/Middle Grade: Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, with graphics by Nathan Hale

Young Adult: Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, with graphics by Steve Rolston.

I have been what I would call uncharacteristically silent about the Cybil finalists these last six weeks. That was because we were asked not to blog about the finalists. (I forgot about this rule and managed to get a post up about Chiggers before a reminder went out.) This was killing me because I feel the Cybils' biggest asset is that the blogger panelists and judges can bring nominees into a salon-like book conversation. All kinds of titles can be discussed and brought to readers' attention. The finalists, in particular, deserved to be part of all that buzz. I very much fear that in our polarized winner/loser culture, talking about the finalists after the winner has been announced is going to make many of them seem like also rans.

They most definitely are not. A specific group of people came to an agreement on one particular title among the five that they were allowed to choose from. Another group of people might have very well agreed upon another.

Once you get down to only five books, all the titles are worthy of attention. So you'll be hearing about them here in the days to come.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Cybils Finalists

The Cybils finalists have have been announced. Here's my particular interest, the graphic novels category.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cybils Easy Readers

Nominations closed for the Cybils last week. A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers is one of the nominees in the new Easy Reader category. Anastasia Suen provided a list of all the Easy Reader Nominees as of last Tuesday.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Three Reasons To Get Excited For Cybil Season

You have one week left to nominate a favorite book for a Cybil. Here are three reasons why you should.

Reason 3: It's Free

No, I'm not making some kind of joke. Some book awards require a nomination fee. The National Book Award for instance, requires a $125 entry fee as well as a contribution of $1,000 from the publisher toward a promotion campaign if the book becomes a finalist. Some state awards (I'm not talking about the state readers' choice awards for children's books) also require a nomination fee.

I don't mean to suggest that there's anything wrong in requiring a nomination fee. There are expenses involved with running an award program, and, since many thousands of books are published every year, the fee probably helps keep the number of books in contention at a manageable level. Or nearly so. But I do think that the fee has an impact on awards. Of course a publisher that has to come up with $125 for every book it nominates for the National Book Award isn't going to nominate every book it published. Anyone can nominate a title for the Connecticut Book Award, but I don't think I have any fans who are so enthusiastic that they'd want to come up with $50 or $75 to do so. (There was a sliding fee determined by the number of copies published, two years ago, anyway.). So I'm guessing that people who want to use their money wisely, look at their books and decide what has the best shot of winning. That decision may be made on the basis of the book's quality or it may be made on the basis of the book's quality and its similarity to books that won the award in the past.

That's what I'd do, anyway.

So for a lot of book awards, the winner is not necessarily the best book of the year, but the best book that was nominated.

Reason 2: It's Your Chance To Influence An Award

You know all that talk about mavericks and outsiders we've been hearing lately? Well, that's sort of what the Cybils are because readers--any readers--have a hand in the decision making. Remember Reason 3, which you should have just read. Any book award is given to the best book of those nominated. You have a chance to nominate a brilliant book that the professionals haven't noticed.

Reason 1: It Gets Book Titles Out In Front Of Readers

Books disappear very rapidly from the public consciousness. Even award winning books. Within a month or two of the Newbery and Caldecott announcements, I see people on listservs starting to speculate about the next year's winners. This year's winner is so yesterday. It's time to go on to the next big thing.

Bloggers are the judges who make decisions about your nominations. And what do bloggers do? They blog. Unlike other book awards where decisions are made behind closed doors (not that there's anything wrong with that), the Cybils panelists and judges are allowed to talk about what they're reading. That means that nominated titles from back as far as January can get some attention again. The attention is good for the books, and it's good for you readers.

While only one book can win, there are thousands of good books out there. During Cybil Season, you'll get a chance to read about them. And one of the books you--and thousands of others--read about could be a book you nominated.


Monday, October 06, 2008

At Last It Can Be Told

I'm going to be a judge again for the Cybils! I'll be a Round II judge for the graphic novel category. Graphic novels--very hip and happenin' as one of my cousins likes to say. (Of other things.)

I think I've been very plain here that I can become obsessive when I get interested in something. I've felt obsession coming on ever since Kelly asked me back in September if I'd throw my lot in with the graphic novel folks. I don't believe my work for the Cybils will actually begin until after Christmas. But this fall I plan to be reading graphic novels and reading about graphic novels to get myself prepared for the rigors of judging.

You'll be hearing more about this, believe me.

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Spread The Love Around

You still have nine days to nominate your favorite books of 2008 for a Cybil award, the children's and young adult bloggers' literary award.

I was just over at the nominting site to see how things are going. The Fantasy and Science Fiction category already has more nominations than we dealt with when I was on the panel during the first year. YA and middle grade fiction already have serious numbers of nominations, too.

But I'm surprised to see that Graphic Novels is a little slow collecting titles. Some of the nominations are duplicates or for books published in 2007, so ineligible this year. This is a genre that I thought had really taken off in recent years, so I expected to see a lot more nominations.

And what about Easy Readers? This is a new category for the Cybils. We need to support the Cybilistas' willingness to promote books for this age group by nominating titles.

Here's the thing about nominating books in a category that doesn't have a lot of titles--your nomination won't have a lot of competition. The chances of your title winning are better with fewer titles to compete with.

So if you've been thinking that nominating a book wasn't worth the effort because nothing you like ever wins, you need to think again. Get over to the Cybils' site and throw your favorite title in the ring.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Three Robbers Nominated For A Cybil!

I was getting ready to send an e-mail to a bunch of relatives to try to hit someone up to nominate A Girl, a Boy, and Three Robbers for a Cybil. But someone already nominated it! And on the first day! And I didn't have to ask her to do it!

Seriously, all I needed was the nomination to make me happy. I'm very low maintenance.

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Cybil Nominations Now Open

The fifteen-day nomination period for the Cybils starts today. I'll be judging one category, but the announcement hasn't been made at their site yet, so I'll just sit on that news for a bit. Sort of.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Panelists And Judges For Newest Cybils Category

I've already talked about how happy I am with the new Easy Readers category for this year's Cybils. The Cybils folk have announced the organizer for said category and the panelists and judges.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Exciting Cybils News

There's been lots of Cybils news this past week because they're getting the ball rolling for 2008. In my humble opinion, the most exciting Cybils news by far is the addition of a new Easy Reader category. I have gone on at great length about how I think books for younger readers don't get the attention they deserve. A Cybil is just the thing to show respect for books for new readers.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Kidlit Goings-On--Cybils Interview

Kelly Herold and Anne Boles Levy are interviewed at Cynsations regarding their involvement with The Cybils.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

And The Cybil Goes To...

The Cybil winners were announced today. As with so very many awards, I haven't read a single one of them. I've been interested in The Professor's Daughter for a while, though, and The True Meaning of Smekday looks right up my alley.


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Cybils Announcement

The Cybils folks announced the short lists for four categories yesterday. I was particularly interested in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Finalists, since I served on that panel last year. Notice that panel did two lists, one for YA and one for elementary/middle grade. This makes a great deal of sense given that science fiction and fantasy cover all those ages yet you probably shouldn't be trying to compare a book for eight year olds to a book for sixteen year olds. Plus it means the panel could bring twice the number of books to our attention.

Another really positive thing about the Cybils: No entry fees. I'm hearing about more and more awards that require entry fees, some of them quite hefty. Before Christmas I heard about one that required a $175 entry fee. The National Book Awards only ask for $125, for crying out loud. And that's the National Book Award.

Hefty entry fees have got to narrow the field. With the Cybils, the field is wide open. One more good thing that can be said about Cybilization.


Friday, September 14, 2007

This Is Killing Me, Killing Me

The Cybillers are getting started pulling together panelists and judges for this year's Cybils Award. I had a great time serving on the Fantasy and SciFi Panel last year. For a hardcore reader to have a serious excuse to read intensely at all times of the day and night and to receive books--sometimes by the armful--delivered to her door is just incredible. On top of that, I had my Cybil friends to e-mail with about books. Really, I was living the life God meant me to live. I'm sure of it.

I think the Cybils are going to become an important award because 1. the nominations come from the public, and 2. bloggers can write about any of the books, not just the finalists, while they're under consideration, thus giving needed publicity to books and authors. It is truly a unique award.

Though I loved being part of the Cybils and I think they're important, I'm going to force myself to pass on getting involved with them this year because I need to pay more attention to work this fall and winter than I did last year. Not only did I blow off everything while Cybilizing, it took me a month and a half to get myself back into anything remotely like a work mode.

But if you're a blogger who would love to read for a greater good, this is a wonderful opportunity. Look into it.

Actually, my Cybils experience did help me get The Durand Cousins off the ground, even though I wasn't working on it that much during December. What happened was that I was reading all that scifi and fantasy so I'm sort of in scifi/fantasy mode. I'm simmering in it. The Durand Cousins has a science fiction element, and I needed an initial starting point for one thread to make everything work. I'm thinking and thinking about this, I don't know what I'm going to do. But, remember, scifi and fantasy was my life just then.

So one day I'm riding in the car, in a scifi/fantasy fog, when all of a sudden an idea springs fully formed into my mind. I realize that I can use the basic premise of a book I tried to write right after I got out of college. And I did use it. Only time will tell if it worked, but it made it possible for me to procede with this project.

Another great moment in Gail's Cybils experience

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Doesn't This Defeat The Purpose?

The Quills Awards, which were supposed to be a people's choice award, are taking power from the people. In the past, the public was presented with five book nominees in nineteen categories and got to vote on favorites. This year, librarians and booksellers will do the voting on all but one category, Book of the Year.

So I don't really see what the point of having the Quills Awards is now.

The awards never took off. Maybe the public didn't like the choices they were given. (Sort of like what often happens during presidential elections.) It will be interesting to see what happens with the Cybils in a few years. That award works in a directly opposite way. Instead of the award administrators choosing a few titles for the public to vote on, the public chooses a lot of titles for the administrators to vote on.

Thanks to bookshelves of doom for the link.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Cybils Press

I just finished reading the March/April issue of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Bulletin, and what did I find on the very last, meaning external, page? An article by Susan Salzman Raab called Welcoming the Cybils Awards.