01 January 2010

The Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Short List

Mermaid Queen: The Spectacular True Story Of Annette Kellerman, Who Swam Her Way To Fame, Fortune & Swimsuit History!
by Shana Corey
Nominated by: Kelly Fineman

Annette Kellerman is a woman who made many waves in her life. The story encompasses her early physical disability, her swimming accomplishments, her introduction of the woman’s swimming suit to the public, and her ability to travel through Europe doing water ballet. Annette Kellerman was a strong and determined woman, which makes her a fascinating study for Corey. This book is delightful also thanks to the illustrator who has created such fun colors on each page. In addition, Fotheringham cleverly includes a wave design somewhere on every page throughout the book, tying in the idea that Annette Kellerman did indeed "make waves" throughout her life. The Author’s Note included at the back of the book is a plus; it gives a far more detailed accounting of Annette Kellerman’s life and accomplishments.

The Day-Glo Brothers
by Chris Barton
Nominated by: Cynthia Leitich Smith

This fascinating book tells the story of Bob and Joe Switzer and their invention of the first fluorescent colors. The brothers each had different skills and passions but together they created colors that made a huge impact on the world. The illustrations in this book, which use the colors created by the Switzer brothers, add to the captivating feel of the book. Barton and Persiani have brought an important story to the world of children’s literature.

Life-Size Zoo: From Tiny Rodents to Gigantic Elephants, An Actual Size Animal Encyclopedia
Created by Teruyuki Komiya with photographs by Toyofumi Fukuda
Seven Footer Press
Nominated by: Anastasia Suen

There are those who claim that bigger is better. If that’s so, then we can stop here: Life-Size Zoo is definitely bigger. Life-Size Zoo is so big that the tiptop will always peek out of your backpack.

But bigger isn’t the only thing Life-Size Zoo has going for it. A table of contents that any teacher would die to teach with in her classroom and that any kid would happily, almost unknowingly, utilize, a table of contents shaped like a zoo map, no less (and oh-so-clever). An information sheet about the animals on the front end papers. Brilliant photographs of zoo animals, amazing close-ups. Lists of details to look for on the photographs. Fun fold-out pages. Oodles and oodles of cool facts about the animals.

And what great choices of animals: a panda, zebra, tiger (those scary teeth), gorilla, rhino (with a horn made of hair?), anteater (what a nose!), koala (much smaller than I would have expected). And more. Much, much more. Kids line up to check out this book. And they don’t just check it out. You can see them everywhere, reading it with their friends. Life-Size Zoo is bigger, yes, and better, too.

14 Cows for America
by Carmen Agra Deedy
Nominated by: Natasha Maw

14 Cows for America is the story of Masai warrior Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah. An exchange student in New York City, Naiyomah witnessed the tragedy of 9/11 and returned home to Kenya to share his grief with his family and tribe. In the Masai tradition, the greatest gift a man can give is a cow. To help comfort the people of America as we dealt with the destruction, Naiyomah asked the tribal elders to bless his cow to be given to America, as a symbolic gesture of his compassion. Thirteen 13 others did the same. A gentle tale that shows the events of September 11 had world impact. This simple yet moving story is beautifully illustrated with scenes from Africa. The colorful artwork captures the splendor of the continent and the beauty of its people.

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
by Brian Floca

"Reading MOONSHOT: THE FLIGHT OF APOLLO 11 gave me the feeling I was back up in space," said Michael Collins, the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 11. This new non-fiction picture book invites young readers to accompany astronauts Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong as they "lock their heads into large, round helmets, squeeze into the Columbia's sideways seats, and blast off into the summer sky." The experience begins with extensive diagrams of the stages of the Apollo 11’s journey on the front end pages and finishes with extensive author’s notes on the back cover. The information is scientific, specific, and technical, yet it reads like poetry. Listen, for example to Floca’s description of the Saturn rocket:

a monster of a machine
it stands thirty stories
it weights six million pounds
a tower full of fuel and fire
Floca’s watercolor illustrations beautifully contrast of light and dark, movement and perspective. A terrific addition to any space collection.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin
Nominated by: Sarah Neal

This book begins with the astounding fact that more humans have walked on the moon than been to the deepest spots of the ocean. Writer and illustrator Steve Jenkins leads the reader from the familiar territory of the waters’ surface, down 35,838 feet (almost seven miles!) to the deepest spot in the sea, where humans have visited a mere one time in their total existence. As readers pass from zone to zone, they meet an astounding variety of life forms, from jellies to rays to shrimp to whales; to creatures who glow in the dark, have fearsome teeth, or look more like plants than fish, as they adapt to life in the increasingly alien depths of the sea.

Jenkins’ texture-rich collage is as dynamic and compelling as ever, bringing the creatures to startling life with realism that defies the one-dimensional limitations of the printed page. The overwhelming impression that there is so much we don’t know about the sea further increases the appeal of a book that is not just informative but captivating.

Faith (Global Fund for Children Books)
by Maya Ajmera, Magde Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon for the Global Fund for Children
Nominated by: shelf-employed

"In our world, there are many faiths," sums up the context of Faith by the Global Fund for Children. A stunning photo-essay book, it depicts the elements of faith: prayer, meditation, sacred places, sacred books, singing and the observance of religious holidays. The simplicity of the text serves as a springboard for discussion. The rich tapestry of close-up photos, mainly of children engaged in specific religious rituals is the strength of this book.

The book is well-organized. There is an appendix with additional notes for further study, a map locating where the different faiths can be found, and a glossary. Faith helps readers to see the rich diversity throughout the globe and to understand we are more alike than different.

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