I was a panelist for middle grade sci fi/fantasy, and helped come up with this shortlist:
A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, by Patrick Ness
Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu
Dragon Castle, by Joseph Bruchac
Icefall, by Matthew J. Kirby
The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, by Carmen Agra Deedy
The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty
Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George
and the winner (with blurb lifted from the Cybils website) is:
The Cheshire Cheese Cat slipped into our hearts like Skilley the alley cat sneaks into Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Much more than just a cute, talking animal fantasy (though it is that too), this book has a depth of theme and character and a richness of language that blew us away. Both animals and humans ring true to life and the unique alliance that develops between Skilley and Pip, an uncommonly well-educated mouse, matures and ripens like a tasty piece of cheese. The illustrations scattered through the text are warmly humorous and add dimension to the characters. Charles Dickens has an important supporting role and there are abundant literary allusions and though these may be lost on some younger readers, we believe they will remember and enjoy them again in later life. We feel that The Cheshire Cheese Cat has oodles of kid appeal and that readers will be as charmed as we were by this sweet and funny tale of an unlikely friendship overcoming the odds.
The winner in YA sci fi/fantasy (also lifted from the Cybils website) is
Blood Red Road is one of those books that can be infinitely compared to other stories -- one panelist wrote that it “read like the Harlequin Romance version of Mad Max” -- while still having its own unique voice and style. We’re not sure where an Australian writer living in England learned an Ozark accent. Although we sometimes struggled with it, we admired the way the innovative use of language allows the reader to get into the head of the prickly but ultimately sympathetic protagonist.
Saba’s beloved twin brother Lugh has been kidnapped, and Saba knows it’s up to her to rescue him. This is no easy task in their post-apocalyptic world, where food is scarce and those who can’t fight are easy pickings. Luckily, Saba’s a survivor, and she finds some allies in her quest: a handsome man named Jack, a group of fierce warrior women, and even her own little sister Emmi.
Saba is a wonderfully dynamic character, growing from a sometimes cruel girl with a single-minded purpose into a more mature young woman sensitive to the feelings of those close to her, particularly Emmi. The violent wasteland Saba inhabits is well-drawn and terrifying in the best way. The romance can feel cheesy, but it’s interwoven in a way that doesn’t overpower the story. While the plot is sometimes predictable, we loved that this book takes risks, doesn't talk down to its audience, and takes us on a familiar journey in a style that we don't often see. The combination of voice, character, and fast-paced action make this an appealing book that will keep readers turning the pages.
The full list of winners can be found here; I was very pleased to see Zita the Space Girl winning in middle grade graphic novels!