I woke up this morning all kinds of excited because I knew the Cybils shortlist announcements would be live by the time I peeled my eyelids open here on the West Coast, and I’ve been bursting at the seams to share our YA Fiction finalists with you. These books, THESE BOOKS, you guys. So incredibly good. I am thrilled with our list, which we curated via exhaustive and exhausting reading and spirited debate these past two months. Here it is: CYBILs 2014 Finalists: Young Adult Fiction.
Now the funny part: I’d been squeeing about this list on Twitter for a good ten minutes before I settled down to check out the other categories. Imagine my surprise when I got to the Early Reader shortlist and saw Inch and Roly there!
2014 Finalists: Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books | Cybils Awards.
I’m beyond thrilled that Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare is an Easy Reader finalist. I mean, lookit that list! Mo Willems is there!* Among other fabulous folks. I’m so happy. Knowing the challenge of being on the other side of the list—the difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions you make as a Round 1 panelist, whittling hundreds of nominees down into a tiny number of finalists—I’m deeply honored and immensely excited. A hearty congratulations to all the finalists, all around! And thanks to all the panelists who poured weeks of labor into the curation process.
*At this time I would like to issue a formal apology to the post-NYE exhausted teens I may have awakened with my shrieking. Ahem.
The Easy Reader finalists:
Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton
Clara and Clem Under the Sea by Ethan Long
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway
The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley Reader by Jennifer Morris
Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley 🙂
My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems
Book descriptions here.
The YA Fiction finalists:
Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Book descriptions here.
To explore the shortlists in other categories, click here. You’ll probably want your library tab open before you begin. 😉
I’ve just realized Inch and Roly #2 is available for pre-order at Amazon. It pubs on January 1st! I’m so in love with Ag Jatkowska’s wonderful art for this series. These books are very close to my heart, since they were inspired by Rilla’s deep and enduring affection for roly polies.
Spotlight on Inch and Roly at the Simon & Schuster Ready-to-Read site.
Inch and Roly Make a Wish
I have a question which you may have written about somewhere… but anyway, I have a just-turning-3 boy. We’ve enjoyed a lot of the picture books you’ve recommended, but I think he may be getting ready for some longer books. I’m curious what chapter books have gotten your kids interested at early ages? Not to replace beautiful picture books of course! Just in addition. I’m thinking to try Winnie the Pooh… other ideas?
I guess I have two questions, because another thing I’ve wondered about is early readers. I think my son would love Frog and Toad, and Elephant and Piggie–but should I save those for when he can actually start to read them himself? Have you ever struggled with this?
These are great questions. I’ll start with the second batch first: nope, I’ve never saved beginning readers for actually-beginning-to-read children because—well, at first it was probably because I couldn’t wait to share those stories, but also it’s because beginning readers make such wonderful read-alouds for toddlers. It’s funny, though, now that you’ve made me consider the question, Harmony: I don’t think I’ve ever seen much discussion on this topic. But here’s what I think—wait, to get there, first I have to back up to picture books.
Picture books are written to be read by an adult to a child. The vocabulary is often quite sophisticated—think of Beatrix Potter: “Jemima Puddle-duck became quite desperate. She determined to make a nest right away from the farm.” Many contemporary picture books are tending toward simple, spare text (many of them quite wonderfully, like I Want My Hat Back or the charming Me Hungry); but in my mind the form is dominated by longish stories with rich vocabulary.
(To run off on a tangent: I’ve known parents who steered their children away from picture books once the kids learned to read, or hit first grade. Too young, not challenging enough, etc. Au contraire, I say! Picture book text is often MUCH more challenging for an emergent reader than the Early Reader books, about which more in a second. Besides, no one, not anyone, is ever too old for a good picture book. I mean it. All the Places to Love or I Remember Papa can be every bit as moving and cathartic a read for an adult as Persuasion. The Quiltmaker’s Gift is better therapy than Pinterest. I get the same uplifted, happy rush from Mordant’s Wish as I do from About a Boy.)
I’ve had toddlers who liked to cuddle up and listen to long picture books (especially Jane, who spent nearly a year of her toddlerhood in a hospital bed—sitting and listening was one of a very limited range of options, in her case) and toddlers for whom the concept of sitting in one place for a 32-page stretch was a notion for another universe. (Hello, darling Bean.) 😉 For those children especially, but really for all my two- and three-year-olds, I drew (draw, since Huck is this age exactly) heavily on treasured Early Reader favorites like Little Bear, Frog and Toad, The Best Nest, Newt, Biscuit, Mouse Soup, Owl at Home—oh, anything by Arnold Lobel really. And yes, yes, yes, absolutely Elephant and Piggy. We’ve had stretches these past few years where I bet I read five or six Elephant and Piggy books a day—five or six times each! Both Wonderboy and Rilla made giant leaps toward reading thanks to Mo Willems and his animal antics.
I also had the fun of trying out both my Inch and Roly series and Fox and Crow Are Not Friends on my ready-made test audience here at home. I read my littles the manuscripts straight off the computer. It’s always helpful to read your work aloud, but when you’re writing an early reader or picture book, it’s imperative: if I’m going to inflict a book upon a parent who may, if I’m lucky, be called upon to read the book over and over and over, I’ve got to do my best to make sure that isn’t a torturous experience. And not just that. Reading a manuscript aloud always alerts you to clunky bits that need more polish. And children, even (especially?) your own children, will inform you with unabashed clarity where you’ve lost their attention. My early reader manuscripts are much tighter after a round or two (or ten) of read-alouds to Huck and Rilla. When they start asking for ‘that story’ again—‘you know, Mommy, that book on your computer’—then I know I’m on the right track.
Anyway, to return to the question:
By all means, add Early Readers to the toddler’s read-aloud shelf.
As for the first question, about longer-form read-alouds for three-year-olds, we usually do Pooh around age four (though Rilla didn’t cotton to it at that age; nor did Wonderboy), and we nearly always read the My Father’s Dragon series as our first novels. I have a list of other good read-alouds for four-year-olds here. I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to Jane at age four, and Rose’s obsession at that age (and long afterward) was anything to do with Greek myths, but Rilla (at age six) still MUCH prefers picture books and Early Readers over anything that looks like a novel. She eyed Brambly Hedge with suspicion at first, because of its size (we have the large Treasury edition that includes all the books), but its profusion of pictures won her over. She also loved The Cottage by Bantry Bay and The Family Under the Bridge. But now it’s back to ‘Too long, not enough pictures, I only like picture books.’ Which is fine with me. Our picture-book collection occupies a formidable amount of square footage in this little house; it’s got to earn its keep. 🙂
Besides the list of short novels and story collections I linked to above, let me throw in a vote for Thornton Burgess’s various animal stories (available in inexpensive Dover editions). Also the Family Treasury of Little Golden Books: obviously, those are picture books, not novels, but the older Golden Books tend to be quite text-rich. Any good collection of folk or fairy tales is an excellent choice for three- and four-year-olds (though don’t be surprised if most fairy tales turn out to be too long for a three-year-old to hear in one sitting; that goes for any longer-form prose story, really). Just So Stories—delicious—already on my other list, I think.
As I list all these suggestions, I’m aware that Huck (who will be four in January) is not ready for many of them. Too much text for his busy, bouncy body. I could woo him with Just So Stories, I think (note to self: give it a try) and the Little Golden Books, but he wandered off quickly when I was reading a Burgess story to Rilla the other day. What he wants, over and over and over and whyyyy did we succumb to the request?, is a Thomas the Tank Engine 8×8 we picked up after my booksigning last week. I am Beezus, he is Ramona, and this book is our Scoopy.
(I guarantee you no one involved in the publication of this Thomas book read it out loud even once, much less six times a day, every day for a week. I’m just saying.)
Speaking of picture books and early readers! (And every other kind of children’s book.) There’s still a week left to nominate your favorite books of the past year for the CYBILs Awards. Book apps, too! That’s the committee I’m serving on this year. I’d love to hear what your 2012 picks are.
Oh, and it’s Monday, which means a new Thicklebit.
Today is a big day for me: pub day for two new books. That doesn’t happen often—books launching on the same date, and it’s been a whirlwind for me this month with Fox and Crow Are Not Friends launching a couple of weeks ago. Usually things are more spread out, but one book got moved up, and one got moved back, and boom! Three, three, three books in one month. I’m a bit dizzy.
And you’ll have to bear with me, because instead of doing my authorly duty to share links and talk up one book, I must do it for three. They’re all my babies. They’re heading out into the great world and I feel much the same as I did in June when I put my seventeen-year-old on a plane to spend the summer at an internship in Austin. I suppose the difference is that one never says about one’s book, “Oh, they just grow up so fast!” Takes a looooong time to raise these story-children.
Especially The Prairie Thief.
This novel, very dear to my heart, started taking shape in my head years ago, when I had an idea about a girl whose mother—it was going to be her mother at the time—being accused of theft, and it was up to the girl to clear her mother’s name, with the help of a magical creature. By the end of the very first sentence, it turned out the accused was her father instead.
“The Smirches took Louisa in when her Pa went to jail, but they weren’t happy about it.”
In the space of that one swift sentence, the whole story shifted. I knew, then, that it was going to take place on my beloved prairie landscape, in a time period that has always captivated me. My working title for the story was Not the Whole Truth, both because of a major plot point and because it hints at the tall-tale quality of the story. It’s set in a fictionalized version of a real historical time and place, but it isn’t straight-up historical fiction; it’s more akin to a folk or fairy tale. Well, if you’ve read my Martha and Charlotte books, you know how much I love spinning a fairy tale.
The main character is a girl, and the cover shows girls, so I’ve been asked whether it will appeal to boy readers as well. My answer: I certainly hope so! There are some very important male characters (including a couple of rowdy young boys), and adventure and bugs and wolves. If your boys read it, let me know what they think. Your girls, too, for that matter!
It’s a Junior Library Guild selection, the Bravewriter Arrow selection for October, and it got a nice review at Kirkus. If you’d like to hear me gabbing out it with the wonderful hosts of the Authors Are Rockstars podcast, it’s the first thing they asked me about. The novel features really quite breathtaking illustrations by the amazing Erwin Madrid (I mean, that cover, could you die?) and I am incredibly excited to see it in print. I hope you’ll enjoy it.
And now for Inch and Roly.
Inch and Roly Make a Wish is the first book in my early reader series about an inchworm, a roly poly, and their buggy friends. It’s a Level 1 Ready-to-Read, which means it’s aimed at the very beginningest of readers. (Whereas Fox and Crow Are Not Friends is a Step Into Reading Level 3.)
If Huck is any indication, Inch and Roly works as a read-aloud for younger children as well. 😉
The illustrations are by another fabulously talented artist: Ag Jatkowska. I swooned every time a new sketch came to my screen.
Here’s my author letter to readers at the Ready-to-Read home page.
A sequel, Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place, will be published in January, 2013.
Here’s a roundup of recent reviews and interviews.
So that’s the scoop on the new books! Got any questions for me?
I just got the green light to share the cover of my second Inch and Roly book: Inch and Roly and the Very Small Hiding Place.
I’m so in love with it. Ag Jatkowska, my illustrator, is a marvel. I am so fortunate to get to work with such talented artists!
This will be my second book about Inch and Roly, an inchworm and roly poly who have adventures with their other bug friends. The first one, Inch and Roly Make a Wish, will come out in late August. These books are part of Simon & Schuster’s Ready-to-Read series for beginning readers—one of my favorite age groups to write for. I’m pretty excited about these.
As I’ve mentioned, I have three new books coming out this August. Whee!
Middle-grade novel. Margaret K. McElderry Books. Art by Erwin Madrid. He has posted the full wraparound cover on his blog. Gorgeous, isn’t it? What he does with light just blows me away.
A Step into Reading Level 3. Random House. Illustrations by Sebastien Braun. I am crazy about his depiction of my characters—so much humor and personality in their expressions and body language.
A Simon Spotlight Ready-to-Read Level 1. Simon & Schuster. Illustrations by Ag Jatkowska. When Rilla, who had been hearing my Inch and Roly stories for months, saw Ag’s cover sketch she squealed. “Mommy! They’re DORABLE.” 🙂
Yes, we are a little bit excited. 🙂