I am a self-admitted awards junkie. I love reading a book with a shiny sticker on the front - Caldecott, Printz, Newbery, National Book Award, Morris Award, I love them all. Do not even ask me about my spreadsheet of award winners/nominees/honors that I check off as I read them. It's too embarrassing.
But my favorite award doesn't hand out stickers. You may not be familiar with the Cybils awards; they haven't been around since 1938 like the Caldecott (or even longer for the Newbery). They began in 2006, as a set of awards given out by book bloggers for juvenile and young adult books. Anyone (and I mean ANYONE) can nominate a book in any of the nine categories. Then a group of first round panelists for each category read all the nominees and come up with a list of seven finalists. A second group of judges then chooses a winner from those finalists. The finalist lists and the winners tend to be terrific, terrific books.
The point of the Cybils is to select books that have "high literary merit" AND "kid-appeal." I love them for this. You may notice, if you ever look closely at the criteria for the ALA awards like the Caldecott and Newbery, that "kid-appeal" appears nowhere within them. And sometimes the winning books are staggeringly unappealing to most children. I have a lot of personal librarian angst about this topic; for every Tuesday by David Wiesner (a book I have yet to see a child not fall upon eagerly), there are a dozen . . . well, lets not name names here. We'll just all agree that there are plenty of Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz books that most kids would be pretty skeptical of.
It's been really fun to watch these awards gain momentum. When we went to DC for the National Book Festival, Shannon Hale's bio mentioned that her books had been Cybil winners. Didn't THAT just warm my heart?
This year, I'm a judge on the non-fiction picture book category. Between now and the middle of February, our group will pick a winner from the seven finalists that the first round judges selected. I've been collecting the titles from the library and they all look terrific (you can see them all here: Non-Fiction Picture Book Finalists).
I am so excited to be part of the process this year - I can't wait to see what the winners end up being. And then, when the judging is all over, I'll add another tab to my Nerd Spectacular Spreadsheet.