Although I'm very fond of the books on the middle grade fantasy/science fiction shortlist for the Cybils, there were (as is always the case) books that I myself loved that didn't (sniff) make it. Here are four that would have made my own personal best list of the (Oct-Oct) year.
The Ring of Solomon, by Jonathan Stroud. I am a huge fan of the demon Baritmaeus, and loved this book to pieces. From my review:
"Oh my gosh I enjoyed this one so very much. Not, so much, the first hundred or so pages, which were mostly Bartimaeus annoying various beings and getting into trouble, because I found Bartimaeus is hard to like when he is just one demon among many. But once Bartimaeus and Asmira get together, the sparks begin to fly! With her to provide a foil for him, Bartimaeus pushes the boundaries of standard cold-hearted demon-ness, and Stroud does a beautifully teasingly tantalizing and oh so engrossing job of making Bartimaeus sympathetic (while still demonic). And he was just the companion Asmira needed to push her out of her box of blind duty and into independent thinking. From kick-ass knife thrower without much personality, she progresses to strong young woman one can really root for."
Season of Secrets, by Sally Nicholls, which tells of a grieving girl who finds herself caught up in the age old magical violence of the changing seasons of the year. Here's what I said about this one: "I think that this is one for those readers who would, if they had to pick either Character or Plot to be marooned with on a desert island, would go with Character.
That would be me, and I thought it was a lovely book. The writing, the characters, and mix of fantasy and reality, and the mix of sadness and hope make this one of my favorites of 2011."
The Ogre of Oglefort, by Eva Ibottson. This book, her last, is my favorite of all Ibottson's books. It all hangs together just ever so delightfully, and is basically the perfect, lightly-diverting younger middle grade fantasy for me in particular. Here's my review, where I explain this in more detail.
And finally, I'd like to give a nod to Mistress of the Storm, by M.L. Welsh. This one was on my anxious list of books that hadn't yet been nominated, along with Season of Secrets; I went with Season, and was very sad that this one didn't find a champion. From my review: "There's a lovely, old-fashioned feel to this book. It's set neither firmly in the past, or in the present--there's no technology, but Verity "feels" like a modern child. The setting has a lovely solidness to it--it's a slightly not quite real place, but real in the story sense, and many of the characters are likewise reminiscent of people one might have met in other stories long ago--in an evocative, rather than an imitative, way (if that makes sense?). Verity is a classic example of the bookish outsider making good, and as such many of us will empathize with her, and cheer her on."