5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees

Rebecca J Allen, CYBILS, YA speculative fictionMy last post shone a spotlight on Five Must-Read books from the CYBILS 2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees. But there was too much awesome to fit in just one post. If you love fantasy, science fiction and magical realism as much as I do, you’ll love these books too!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – In the present day, magic is all but extinct and magicians are trapped in a Manhattan by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that strips them of their powers and often their lives, if they try to leave the city. Magicians are hunted by the Order, the group that created the Brink and is trying to rid the world of magicians. To find out how to defeat the Order and free her kind, Esta must use her unique ability to manipulate time to travel back to 1902 and steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order before it is destroyed, dooming modern-day magicians to a hopeless future. But when the Order closes in, Esta risks losing not only her magic but also her way back to her own time.
I loved the world – early 1900’s plus magic!, the action, and the fight for magic played out through time.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – One of our favorite superheroes gets a new origin story. A ship is bombed just past the border hiding her home, the secret island of the Amazons, from the human world. Diana rescues a survivor, breaking the prohibition against bringing mortals to the island and risking her own exile. The survivor Aila is the Warbringer, a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about a world war. Diana and Aila are determined to keep that from happening. They battle enemies – both mortal and divine – as they try to stem the tide of war. I loved Diana as a female, kickass superhero, intense action scenes, surprising bad guys and the twisty plot.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.
– Amazon
The Sorias are the saints of Bicho Raro, a family who can bring darkness out of the pilgrims that come to them for help. But it takes more than just one miracle for pilgrims to overcome their darkness, and therein lies the challenge. The Sorias are a fascinating cast: a girl without feelings, a pirate radio D.J., and the saint who can perform miracles for everyone but himself. The pilgrims are equally fascinating, each struggling to overcome the surprising symptoms of the thing that haunts them. When a saint is forced to confront his own darkness, his life as well as the lives of his family are all suddenly on the line. I loved the strange and interesting cast of characters, the glimpses of pilgrims wrestling inner demons – struggles anyone can all relate to, and the author’s understated and dry humor .
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Shadowhouse Falls by Daniel Jose Older – *This is Book 2 Shadowshaper series and contains spoilers for Book 1.* Graffiti comes to life,  animated by magic and the spirits of the dead in Shadowshaper, book 1 of the series. Shadowhouse Falls, takes the art-turned-magic up a notch by expanding the magical weapons to chalk drawings – if the bad guys are on your trail and there’s no time to paint – and rap music – if the bad guys arrive while there’s a mic in your hand and a good base guitar backing you up. Will someone please make this series into a movie? Sierra found her powers in Shadowshaper. But with ancient enemies trying to recruit Sierra or take her down if they can’t, and the police keeping a close eye on her and her friends, not the bad guys, the conflict is goes up a notch. Sierra needs to build the strength of her own magic as well as that of her team to meet the forces aligning against them.  I loved the art brought to life to do battle, the vivid portrayal of Sierra’s Brooklyn community and the fiercely loyal group of friends that teams up with the Sierra.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy – Strange gravity fluctuations in space near Earth have NASA searching for new teen members of their Interworlds Agency (IA) program. Candidates are tested not only on advanced math and astrophysics, but also on their reactions to behavioral problems where the “right” solutions are anything but clear. The competition for spots in the program is intense and some candidates are willing to play dirty.

The story follows Rosa, an astrophysics prodigy, and Eddie, a brilliant boy with a troubled past, as they undergo the rigors of the selection process and finally find out why the IA needs new recruits. I loved how these two very different teens approached NASA’s strange tests, the bond that developed between them, and the speculation about types of threats Earth could face in the future.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

I’m still reading CYBILS speculative fiction nominees as speedily as I can and may hope to have one more post of recommendations. But until then, I wish you an magical, inter-galactic, revolutionary, adventure-filled holiday season! May the biggest challenges you face be those on the printed page, and may the tugs on your heart be the most genuine of the real world.

If you missed it, check out my first post on must-read CYBILS YA spec fic nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Behind the Scenes: My Experience as a Cybils Judge

This winter, I was able to serve as a judge for the Cybils, an award for children’s and young adult authors and illustrators. Established by bloggers, the Cybils recognize work that combines literary merit with popular appeal.

I’d been following the Cybils for a few years, and knew that it was a well-respected award. I’m a book blogger, too, at Kid Book List, and when I saw the call for judges, I thought I’d give it a try. I hoped it would be a good opportunity to discover some great books and meet new people in the kid lit community.

It was both of those in spades. I was chosen to be a second-round judge in the Poetry category. Lucky me! I am a big fan of novels in verse and kid poetry anthologies.

Anyone can nominate books for consideration in any of the categories; the only requirements are that they have been published in the United States or Canada in the year under consideration. Each Cybils category has first round readers who go through all of the nominated books. They narrow the nominations to a group of five to seven finalists for the second-round readers, who then choose a winner.

That’s where the fun began for me. We had a fantastic and incredibly diverse set of finalists in the Poetry category, which made our task both exciting and difficult. Our finalists were:

BOOKED by Newbery Award winner Kwame Alexander, a middle grade novel in verse about a soccer-obsessed boy whose parents are separating;

FRESH DELICIOUS, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, an upbeat and colorful poetry anthology for the preschool and early elementary set, celebrating the joys of the farmer’s market;

GARVEY’S CHOICE by Nikki Grimes, a spare and lovely middle grade novel in verse told from the perspective of an overweight boy who struggles to win his athletic father’s approval;

GUESS WHO, HAIKU, written by Deanna Caswell and illustrated by Bob Shea, an adorable picture book in poem form centered on a barnyard;

THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY by Laura Shovan, a middle grade novel in verse told from a remarkable eighteen perspectives and in an array of poetic forms, about the last year of a school that will be torn down;

TO STAY ALIVE: MARY ANN GRAVES AND THE TRAGIC STORY OF THE DONNER PARTY by Skila Brown, a young adult historical in gorgeous and unflinching verse;

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES: POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS, written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad, a beautiful anthology for early elementary readers that celebrates the garden through the seasons.

Once the finalists were in, we got to work. First we gathered the books from the library (or our bookshelves!), and a few that we couldn’t get in time were sent from the publisher. Our reading load was lighter than the first round’s, and I was able to get it done in the time we needed without too much trouble.

The great sweep of books in this category made it challenging to compare them, but after some email discussion, we decided that Laura Shovan’s THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY was “the most appealing in its diversity, its capturing of the emotional lives of children on the brink of adolescence, and its poetic acrobatics.” See here for our write-up about why we chose it, and to read about the winners in all of the categories.

You can find out more about the Cybils here. If you’re interested in nominating a book, the deadline is generally in October. And if you want to apply to be a judge, the application is due in September. Follow the Cybils account on Twitter to make sure not to miss any announcements.

I’m so glad I was able to participate in the Cybils process. I discovered some fantastic books, analyzed what makes for a successful book of poetry for children, and met other dedicated readers of poetry and novels in verse.

Katharine Manning is a middle grade writer who spends her lunch hours reading poetry. She blogs here and at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors. You can also find her on her websiteTwitter, and Instagram

2016 Cybils Awards

The window to nominate YOUR

Favorite Children’s and Young Adult

books for prestigious Cybils Awards is open

now through October 15th!


screen-shot-2016-10-03-at-8-14-08-pmWhat are Cybils Awards?

The first Cybils Awards were presented in February 2007. If you are really sharp, you probably just figured out that makes this year the 10th anniversary for Cybils! 10 points to your favorite Hogwart’s house for being a genius!

Yay! Congrats, Cybils!

Cybils Awards are given by the KidLit blogging community each year to the best books in the following categories.

This year, we have FOUR Winged Pen members who have been selected as second round panelists. We are honored and very excited to be able to choose the best of the best this year! During the first round, panelists read the books that are nominated by the public. They pick a handful of books to nominate for the second round. During the second round, judges select a WINNER in each category.

We’d like to introduce ourselves, the category we are judging, and give you a hint about what we’re looking for in the Best Book of 2016.

Rebecca Allen: I’m excited to be reading Middle-Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction. Truth is stranger than fiction so give me all the stuff too crazy to put in a novel! I’d love to find some books that make great learning opportunities for kids both inside and outside the classroom, and some narrative non-fiction. For a list of MG/YA Non-fiction books published this year that would make awesome Cybil nominees, take a look at this post by Kelly on Stacked Books. Nominate away!

Sussu Leclerc: Two thumbs up for the Cybils Literary Award. This idea comes from people like me, by bloggers, by lovers of books. How wonderful! And you must share the books you’ve enjoyed for a chance to get them nominated. In my opinion, each book is a garden that deserves to be explored. I will be looking especialy for books that talk about Peace, art and Diversity. Non-fiction has been my first love in the path to writing. And who doesn’t use non-fiction books as a base for their stories? I’m proud to be part of the world of writers who not only write books, but also think sharing and communicating with their readers is important. I have been doing it for twenty years. I will be judging Middle Grade/Young Adult Non-fiction with Rebecca this year. I hope to help some fantastic books to shine to the world. Thank you to the Cybils’ team for choosing me! And thank you for trusting us.

Michelle Leonard: I’m excited to read the Juvenile/Elementary Non-fiction short list entries this year. My favorite books have engaging voice and inspire readers to either try or learn something new. Anything related to science, math, technology, or interesting/obscure events, places, or people appeals to me! Check out this list of suggested titles by Jennifer Wharton or Alyson Beecher.

Katharine Manning: I’m thrilled to serve as a second-round reader for Poetry, which includes novels in verse. I love word play, rhyme, and silliness, as well as heart-wrenching, literary, and evocative. Send it all! If you’re looking for inspiration in nominating, see here and here. Learn from my mistakes: The publication date of the paperback may not be the book’s actual publication date. Look for the hardcover edition. I can’t wait to read all those beautiful words!

Who can nominate books?


Cybils books are nominated by the public. Then a group of panelists reads and nominates books for the final round. The nomination window for the public closes on October 15th. Authors, publishers, and publicists have a separate window for nominations from October 16th-25th. You can nominate one book in each category. We know how hard it is to pick one book!

When are the awards announced?

On January 1st, the short list is made public. On February 14th, the winners are announced.

How do I nominate books?

It’s easy to nominate but first you must understand what type of books fit in each category. For descriptions of each category go here. Again, you can only pick ONE BOOK for each category. To be eligible, a book must be published in the U.S. or Canada between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016. Also, you can only nominate books that have not already been nominated. If your favorite book has already been chosen, you’ll get the opportunity to try another book. More info on the rules is here.

Once you have your list of dream reads ready, head on over to the Cybils nomination page to enter your picks. If you’re not ready to share your favorites yet but are curious to see what has already been nominated, just click on the categories above.

Click HERE to Nominate Your Favorite Books!

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to nominate your favorite books by the October 15th deadline!

Also, we’d love for you to share this post in your social media hangouts to spread the word. If you do, we’ll award 10 more points to your favorite Hogwart’s house!

Happy nominating!