Cybils, Stand-outs, and My Reading Year

2012 was an exciting reading year for me.

It started off in January when I got to attend the Invitational William Morris Seminar in Dallas at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.

At the seminar, we learned from experienced members of ALSC’s book evaluation committees. They trained us how to look at books from an award committee’s perspective.

Of course, that experience made me want nothing more than to be part of a book evaluation committee. In March, I decided to join Capitol Choices, a DC-area group of children’s book lovers who choose a hundred outstanding children’s books each year. They meet monthly, and I learned so much from being part of this group — and was made aware of so many outstanding books published this year.

But the culmination of all this was getting to be on the Cybils Panel for Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy. I can’t begin to express how much I enjoyed this. Yes, it did take all my free time for the past three months. Yes, it was worth it. And today all the shortlists are announced!

Our list was hammered out with a whole lot of give and take. This is not the list I would have chosen on my own, but I think that makes it all the stronger, and gives it more broad appeal.

Glancing at the other shortlists, the thing that tickled me most was that the Easy Readers panel chose both Penny and Her Song and Penny and Her Doll. Yes!

And I encourage librarians and parents to use the Cybils shortlists as lists. In our panel, we strove for a certain amount of variety. In the first place, many different types of books are represented. But then each list gives you a nice variety of the best books published last year in that particular category. And the winners? Those will be announced on Valentine’s Day.

But what list would I have chosen myself? I’m glad you asked!

Because on January 1st, I also announce my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs!

You’ll see there’s a lot of overlap between the Cybils shortlist and my own Children’s Fiction: Science Fiction and Fantasy list and also my Teen Fiction list. (Titles that appeal to tweens are hard to place. If they have teen protagonists, I tend to put them in Teen Fiction, but some of those were placed in our Middle Grade group.) Of course this should come as no surprise.

But my Sonderbooks Stand-outs are carefully chosen with no criteria at all. I don’t consider literary merit or artistic value or child appeal. I simply remember back over the year and tell about which ones brought me the most enjoyment. These are my favorites, the books I loved most out of all the books I read this year. All this practice on award committees was fun, but I do find it refreshing to list the books I enjoyed without having to defend my choices. I loved these, okay?

My son asked what my very favorite book of the year was, and I have to go with Code Name Verity, my Teen Fiction #1 book.

You may think these are an awful lot of stand-outs. To put it in perspective, let me give you my stats for the year, as far as I was able to count them. These are the books I read in 2012:

Adult Fiction: 19 (A lot less this year, since I was reading so many new children’s and teen books)
Teen Fiction: 38
Children’s Fiction: 78 (Yes, this was all about the Cybils. Capitol Choices, too, though.)
Adult Nonfiction: 48
Children’s Nonfiction: 37
Picture Books: 45 (At least that’s the number I thought worth noting.)
Rereads (All genres): 15

Grand Total: 280 books. Not bad….

And my plans for next year? Last year, I presented my crazy elaborate reading plans, and then joining Capitol Choices rather threw them off. But I am not daunted! I love the system I worked out, which keeps me reading a variety of books. Here is my slightly modified plan for 2013:

First, I will alternate between books for Capitol Choices and other books.

When I’m reading the non-Capitol Choices book, I’ll go through these six types of books in order:
1. Reread a book
2. A book I own
3. A new library book
4. An award winner (like something from a Cybils shortlist)
5. A prepublication Advance Reader Copy
6. An older library book

Mind you, this doesn’t count nonfiction or picture books.

Of course, if I get on a Cybils committee again, I’ll just read Cybils books from October through December. (Whee!)

What can I say? I’m a list-maker and I love organizing my reading this way. I’ve already finished my first book in 2013, a Capitol Choices nominee, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, by Katherine Marsh, and next I plan to reread The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson, in order to get ready to read the sequel…. Onward!

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