This is my first time judging the Cybils Picture Book and Board Book First Round Long List, but my fourth time as a judge in the Graphic Novel and Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book categories. If you don’t know about the Cybils, it’s a children’s and young adult book award by book bloggers.
The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal.
I’m one of seven judges for First Round Picture Book and Board Books. Each book was nominated by the general public. The way it works is that you can only nominate ONE book per category. If the book has already been nominated, you can’t nominate it again although you can nominate a different book.
My fellow panelists are:
Sandy Brehl, Unpacking the Power of Picture Books
Kristi Call, Reading for Research
Deb Nance, Readerbuzz
Dawn, 5 Minutes for Books
Ami Jones, A Mom’s Spare Time
Our task is to read 308 picture book and board books by the end of December and come up with a Short List for the Round 2 judges. The short list is limited to 7 board books and 7 picture books. Given the quality of the books this year, this is not an easy task!
The Second Round judges will determine the winners, which I believe is a single book in each category. This makes the Cybils harder to win than the Caldecott!
We have started by reserving books at a mad rate. My library system has a limit of 50 holds at any given time so I’ve been making daily and twice-daily trips to the library. I’m happy to say that I reserved every book on the list available through my library system and am just waiting for the stragglers to arrive.
There are still about 50 books not in my library system. Some of the other judges have even more books than that. These books are being mailed to us by the publishers.
My system to judge is to keep a spreadsheet with a rating of 1-100. I write a brief summary of my thoughts on that spreadsheet for reference. Honestly, I am not just judging the words and pictures. Sometimes I hate the font. The layout of the book will sometimes be an issue for me if it’s too busy or too boring. I do judge a book by the cover. If I’ve read a picture book during the past year, I will still reserve and re-read it for this competition.
What am I looking for? I like a book that can be re-read over and over again and still be entertaining. I want the book to leave an impression long after I’ve read it. I don’t have to remember the story per se. If the book leaves me with an emotional feeling, it ranks higher for me.
I like books where I learn something as an adult reader or am greatly entertained. I’m looking for a succinct story; very long picture books with chapters have an additional barrier to impress me. I’m looking for freshness too, both in illustration and story. Books with themes that have been done over and over again have a higher bar. Books that got a lot of buzz on social media will pique my interest. Generally, I find that the buzz signals a quality book.
We will have a virtual discussion to determine our short list. Honestly, finding a time when everyone is available is probably the most challenging part of judging. I am finding dozens of books on the long list that I have selected for my short list. This is a category with an abundance of riches. It’s going to be hard to whittle down the short list!
Stay tuned for the list to come out on the Cybils website. I hope you enjoy these books as much as I have!