My “Hope It’s Nominated for Cybils” List – YA & MG Edition

I’m still floored I got picked as a Cybils 2019 panelist. To get a t-shirt or not to get a t-shirt? Or do I deserve a t-shirt and a tote bag?

In the spirit of “I plan to be too busy to sleep between now and the end of the year”, here’s the quick and dirty on what I’m hoping to see get nominated and why:

Standard disclaimers

This post contains affiliate links; I got many of these review copies through Kid Lit Exchange; The below is my opinion and not a guarantee of anything Cybils-related.


  • TO HAITI, LOVE ALAINE (Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite) – American-born Haitian nerdy rich girl Alaine gets sent to Haiti for a character-building work-study after An Incident at school. Conspiracy theories, vodou (maybe?), romance, self-discovery ensue. Strong theme of privilege-washing in history; subplot of Alaine coming to grips with her mom’s early-onset Alzheimer’s. Bonus: Involved Black dad has been spotted in kidlit; he’s Alaine’s primary caretaker due to her mom’s workaholism.
  • WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH (Elizabeth Acevedo) – Told over the senior year of teen mom and aspiring chef Emoni Santiago, this is a sweet coming-of-age story from an a character archetype rarely seen in YA. I got mine in a Marginsbox, which is everything you didn’t know you were missing in a YA book subscription box.


  • SHARE YOUR SMILE (Raina Telgemeier) – This is ON WRITING. For graphic novels. Told in the voice of your peppy-but-not-in-an-annoying-way older sibling who believes in YOU. Full review linked here; a must-have for any aspiring graphic novelist. (Got my review copy through KLE). 


  • REVENGE OF THE ENGINERDS (Jarrett Lerner) – Ken and his nerdy preteen friends the Enginerds are trying to track down their runaway robot with his nuclear butt, but distracted by a GIRL whose crazy conspiracy theories about aliens… just might be true. Kids will internalize all the lessons about personal responsibility and loyalty due to busting a gut laughing about food fights and farting. I recommend you read ENGINERDS first, and follow Lerner for his unparalleled #kidsneedbooks efforts. 
  • JADA SLY, ARTIST AND SPY (Sherri Winston)  – A brainier Fancy Nancy meets a kinder Harriet the Spy in a hilarious book about an aspiring artist determined to uncover the truth about her mom’s death. Set in Manhattan, the story is laced with Easter eggs about the Harlem Renaissance, among other little-discussed aspects of US Black history.  Winston has a long track record as an award-winning author; do not miss her author/illustrator debut. 
  • SEASON OF STYX MALONE (Kekla Magoon) – Adventure-seeking Caleb and his older brother Bobby Gene, both preteens, bite off more than they can chew when they befriend resourceful and well-meaning but troubled sixteen-year-old foster child Styx Malone. Woven in with just-believable-enough boy adventures, Magoon gets in a couple poignant but age-appropriate truths about how our society needs to do better by our kids. POC (Black) main character, with a Black helicopter dad. (Not a rare species IRL, and I love when kidlit reflects that).
  • IN YOUR SHOES (Donna Gephart) – Anxious Miles and newly motherless new girl (Amy) strike up a friendship when Miles’ bowling shoe hits Amy in the head. Gephart does it again with a strong boy-girl friendship, emerging as a less-angsty Paul Zindel for the new millennium. 


  • THE OWLS HAVE COME TO TAKE US AWAY (Ronald L Smith) – Simon is not sure what he saw on his family’s camping trip, and his parents aren’t sure if he’s crazy or just enlightened. Spoiler alert: I filed this one under Speculative fiction… Multi-racial main character, Smith’s legendary spooky plot twists, and strong boy narrator. 
  • Honorable Mention: THE TRUTH ABOUT MARTIANS (Melissa D Savage) – This was published like 2 weeks before the deadline for last year’s Cybils, and I didn’t read it till November. It’s 1947 in Roswell, NM, and Mylo is still reeling from the death of his older brother and looking to protect his BFF Dibs from his alcoholic loser dad. Centered around real historical events (the crash and cover up), urban legends and sci-fi meet sibling grief, protecting Mylo’s BFF form an alcoholic loser dad, and a new friend from Jupiter’s moons. As a bereaved sibling, this is the window and mirror I would have loved as a child.

Tune in tomorrow for my favorites in graphic novels and early chapter books!

Honestly, I’m holding off on making my nominations to the very end of the window so I don’t duplicate anyone’s efforts. You’re not me though!

You can nominate only one book in each category… unless someone else has nominated it already.

Get your lists together – Cybils 2019 nominations open tomorrow October 1!

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