Category Archives: thought pieces

The Cybils Shortlist


Cybils-Logo-2014-Rnd2The Cybils are now into the second round of judging, which is where I swing into action! Along with four other judges, I will be evaluating seven titles in the Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction category. Here are our finalists, of which, you’ll note, I’ve only blogged about Boys of Blur:

Greenglass House by Kate Milford

The Swallow by Charis Cotter

Jupiter Pirates: Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry

Nuts to You by Lynne Rae Perkins

Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

The Castle Behind Thorns by Merrie Haskell

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into reading and discussing these books with my fellows, but can’t blog about any of them until our decision is announced on February 14th.

So, to keep you entertained while that’s going on, I’ll post some older reviews and maybe slip in a few new ones if I have time.


My Favorite Books of the Year


NightGardenerWith all the publications putting out their best lists, and with the Newbery and Printz awards just around the corner, I thought I’d put together my top reads for 2014 too. A few years back, I had something of an epiphany, when I realized that my favorite books were never going to win the Newbery because I evaluate books on different criteria to the judges – sure, I like good writing, but what really works for me (and many kids) is the voice and the plot of a book. And I think this explains why I find so many Newbery winners to be such snoozers – because kid appeal just isn’t a consideration. Unlike the Cybils – where we look at books for both good writing and kid appeal!

Anyway, of the 77 books that I’ve read this year, here are the nine that I gave 5 stars to:

Middle grade

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud


Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (I read this before I started blogging, so no review I’m afraid)

What I notice is that these are all, bar one, speculative fiction. It’s not that I don’t read other genres, it just seems to me to be the one that speaks to me more.

Happy Reading in 2015!

Auditing my reading


wndbI was at KidLitCon last weekend, which was on the theme of ‘Blogging Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit: What’s Next?’ Kelly Jensen, of Stacked and Book Riot, threw down the challenge to us all, to audit what we read and assess how diversely we are reading. I decided to have a look, with a sneaky feeling that the answer would be: not very. And, indeed it was.

It’s not a particularly scientific audit – I just went back through Goodreads for 2014 and tried to remember if a book had a main or support (but important, not just in the background) character that was ethnically or culturally diverse, in any way mentally or physically challenged or GLBQT.  I realized that somehow I didn’t have any shelves that would highlight ethnic and cultural diversity – fixed that straight away. Because I’m a bit lazy, I did not check the diversity of authors as that involved me looking stuff up.

Of the 51 kid or YA books I’ve read so far this year, as far as I could remember there have been a total of 12 with diverse main characters (mostly ethnically or culturally diverse) and 16 with diverse support characters (pretty evenly spread across my three categories – well done, the gay best friend!).

So not as bad as I thought, but I definitely could do better; so I’m planning to actively look out for books with diverse characters in the future. (And also try and read a bit more – 51 was a lot lower than I thought!)