Once the excitement of summer reading is over, it's Cybils season! If you have been living in a hole without internet, you may not be familiar with Cybils. It's the eleventh year of the Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers' Award and it's awesome.
There are a lot of children's book awards out there. They recognize literary quality, contribution to the genre and canon, and much more. Cybils is different. It's the only award that recognizes both child appeal and literary quality and the process is very transparent. You, the public, nominate books. Parents, teachers, librarians, and authors with public review platforms (aka bloggers) choose the best. Along the way, we review, discuss, and promote children's literature.
How can you get involved? At the least, you can nominate! Nominations will open October 1. However, if you'd like to dip your toes into the water of judging, now is the time to apply to be a judge! You can see the call for judges here. How to decide what category to apply in? As a general rule of thumb:
- The most time-intensive categories are those with high numbers of nominations, first-round panelists. You'll be reading and discussing a LOT of books. Middle Grade Fiction, Speculative Fiction Elementary/Middle Grade, Speculative Fiction YA, and YA Fiction tend to have the highest number of nominations.
- Categories for younger genres and more specific fields tend to have fewer nominations, but can require different approaches; fact-checking for nonfiction, early literacy for easy readers, discussing both art and text for graphic novels, etc. Nonfiction Juvenile/Elementary, Poetry, Nonfiction Middle Grade/YA, Graphic Novels and Easy Readers/Early Chapters. It helps to know about the genre and audience for these categories but they also tend to have 100 or fewer nominations.
- Finally, there are a couple categories that defy categorization - Picture Books has a ton of nominations and you'd think you could zip through them, but no! We are an award with professionalism! Think of all the careful consideration of art, text, and audience! And we have a new category this year, Audio Books, which will be a whole new experience - looking at performance and production in addition to narrative.
If you don't have the time to read through a ton of books, second-round judge may be for you. These people take our finalists, announced at the end of the year, and choose the best of the best. There's less reading - but more intensive discussion.
Finally, I suggest you consider my category - Elementary and Juvenile Nonfiction. We will be creating a finalist list for both age groups this year (great news for judges who suffered torments trying to compare apples and oranges, i.e. picture books and middle grade nonfiction last year). Nonfiction is on the rise with a ton of amazing books coming out, an emphasis on nonfiction in schools and libraries, and recognition that nonfiction is an amazing reading experience that goes beyond just learning facts. Join me in my quest for world domination through nonfiction...er, ahem, I mean, it's really awesome to discuss nonfiction with a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and perspectives. I guarantee you (and the children you teach, parent, or write for) will be all the better for the experience.