Welcome to the first installment of a three-part series of posts we're calling The Inside Scoop. Aren't you curious what the category organizers thought about this year's crop of Cybils nominees? I know I am, so I asked them to provide a quick blurb about the process so far: their impressions of the group of nominated titles, anything that stood out about the process of narrowing down the finalists, or whatever they wanted to share with readers of the Cybils blog--without, of course, giving any hints about the final judging. So here you go: a sneak peek into Poetry, Middle Grade Fiction, and MG/YA Non-Fiction.
Kelly Fineman, Poetry: The first-round panel had their work cut out for them this year, with the largest number of poetry nominations to date (36). After much serious deliberation, the panel selected a shortlist of five titles. This year's list marks the first time that two anthologies have made the final round of determinations. The finalists include a two-time CYBILS award winner along with first-time nominees, and the nominating panel couldn't be more excited with its final selections. The judges are in the process of getting their hands on the nominated titles so they can read and discuss them all - and they have their work cut out for them!
Kerry Millar, Middle Grade Fiction: How do you take about 100ish books - books about cowboys and ballerinas and genius children and lost children and nerds and activists and film buffs and sleuths and best friends and enemies and so much more - and find in there only seven finalist titles? Let's say it takes serious dedication, a lot of hours of page-turning and note-making, and quite a few friendly debates on the part of the first round Cybils panelists to reach this point. Titles that might have seemed like shoo-ins don't always earn one of the coveted spots. That's because the Cybils are about recognizing fine - and fun - pieces of children's literature as well as keeping an eye out for those books that many, many more readers need to discover and start loving. Who will triumph? Superhero or Shepherd? Changemakers or courageous outsiders? Or maybe two ordinary adventurers? There's some more reading to do before you'll find out the answer on February 14th.
Susan Thomsen, MG/YA Non-Fiction: The Cybils' middle-grade/YA category for nonfiction continues to be the category to watch. 2009 was a very good year for nonfiction. (Just look at the picture book nonfiction list, too!) As the category organizer, I did not vote but watched the proceedings from afar. I fully expected National Book Award winner Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice to be on the final list of five (and it was), but the surprise to me was I Can't Keep My Own Secrets, a book of six-word memoirs by teens. Both books face some very tough competition from Written in Bone, Marching for Freedom, and The Frog Scientist. The winners are all of us readers, young and old. Let's hope that 2010 continues to offer such nonfiction richness.