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Monday Reading: Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees – A select few that got away

It’s Monday, What are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts (and brainchild of Sheila at BookJourney). Two of our blogging friends, Linda from Teacher Dance and Tara from A Teaching Life have inspired us to join this vibrant meme.

Last Week’s Review and Miscellany Posts

Before anything else, do allow me to invite you all again to the Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge which we are hosting again this year. Do join us and sign up if you are looking for exciting reading challenges with monthly book prizes. Click on the titles below to be taken to our blog posts.




Jake and Lily


Photo Journal/ A-Z Photo Challenge – D is for Dance

Book Hunting Expedition (37): Love to Old Cybils Fiction Picture Book Finalists and Winners – and a Few Bargain Books too!

Our current bimonthly theme in GatheringBooks is Crazy about Cybils where we give love to all the books that have been shortlisted and have won awards in the Cybils since 2006. I have a spread of picture book nominees here – the ones that got away and did not make it to the final cut. I’d like to give them some more love before I channel all of my energies into reading the shortlisted ones.


Ballywhinney GirlIMG_4926

Story By: Eve Bunting
Illustrated By: Emily Arnold McCully
Publisher: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012. Book borrowed from the library. Book photos taken by me.

The first Eve Bunting and Emily Arnold McCully collaboration that I know of and am deeply familiar with is The Banshee. When I saw this in the Cybils list of nominees, I knew I had to borrow it from our libraries.

The setting for this beautiful picture book is in Ballywhinney Ireland where young Maeve and her grandfather accidentally (or serendipitously) found a young girl’s remains in the bog. The team of archaeologists who came to dig up the bones noted that the body must have been there for the past thousand years. The idea alone is mind-boggling for golden-haired Maeve whose stunned sensibilities were perfectly captured in Bunting’s text and McCully’s living and breathing colors.

I gasped.
A girl!
A girl like me, a thousand years ago
dead and dropped into this quiet place.
Who was she?
What had happened?
My heart was beating awful fast.
I wished I knew.


I like how the taboo concept of death is seen from the eyes of a child, without it being romanticized or trivialized. It is portrayed with sensitivity and in a matter-of-fact way that provides a breathing space for a life story, a beautiful narrative to gradually emerge and materialize from out of the bog – through ‘ghost-light steps’ and ‘blue lupin and wild roses’ from a life that is long gone. Teachers would also most likely enjoy the Author’s afterword which provides a detailed explanation of what a bog is and the mummified bodies that have been found in these places through the years.

Z is for Moose (That’s Me!) IMG_4921

Story ByKelly Bingham
Pictures ByPaul O. Zelinsky
Publisher: Greenwillow Books, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2012.
Book borrowed from the public library.

Now this is one of the most inventively-funny, ticklishly-humorous alphabet tales I’ve read for quite awhile now. And I am constantly on the lookout for ingeniously-crafted alphabet books that go beyond A is for Apple – which by the way is what is found in the first page of Z is for Moose. But don’t be fooled, dear friends, this is hardly your run-of-the-mill kind of story – in fact it’s a book that stomps and screams and literally flies off the page.

Zebra is intent on making an ABC book where everyone is expected to be on their best behavior and show up on time in their proper pages. With his whistle and clipboard on hand, Zebra is orchestrating the whole book-thing to absolute perfection, with impeccable timing. He didn’t count on Moose being such a drama queen and getting ahead of himself though, showing up on the pages unannounced “D is for Moose” as the duck is summarily kicked off the stage.


This is a classic example of a very skillful interweaving of text and image – where the imagery serves to provide a different narrative altogether that runs parallel to the exasperated words of Zebra and the deceptively-simple-ABC text. Kids would laugh uproariously at the antics of Moose and the riotous manner in which he makes his presence keenly-felt in oh-so-dramatic ways in practically all of the pages, to Zebra’s consternation.


When Zebra announced that M is for… Mouse“I’m sorry. We decided to go with the mouse this time” – things get really and I mean, TRULY crazy. I love how this book is able to capture that spirit of fun and just going all-out-insane with the pages (that I’m sure kids will be able to resonate with). It speaks of unbridled excitement, zany-theatrical moments and how the power of friendship trumps everything else.


Story By: Ari Berk
Illustrations by: Loren Long
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
Borrowed from the Public Library. Book photos taken by me.

If I were arm-wrestled to choose a favorite among these three titles, and it is extremely difficult for me to choose one since all these books are simply gorgeous, but if you truly absolutely insist and my life depended on it, I would choose Nightsong.

I have a weakness for pages that are all in black – the fact that it has shades of gray in it made me love the book all the more, if that is even possible. Essentially, Nightsong is a celebration of a mother’s love and faith towards her young one, Chiro, also known as Little Wing who must learn to fly out into the world and fend for himself, despite his quiet fears and tentative whispers:

“But the night is dark, Momma… darker than the moth’s dark eyes… darker even than the water before dawn,” the little bat exclaimed, twitching his ears this way and that.


It is one of those picture books that is meant to be read aloud, its lyrical text begging to be rolled off one’s tongue in dramatic pauses here and there. As Chiro told his mother how his eyesight fails him, his mother responded that he should make use of his good sense:

His mother folded him in her wings and whispered into his waiting ears, “Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you. Sing, and the world will answer. That is how you’ll see.”

Now isn’t that absolutely perfect? These words are like an amulet, a dream catcher, a veritable charm that Chiro held on to as he flies out into the night sky, as his mother lets him go, freeing him to fly into the universe and find his song. I was captivated as I traveled with Chiro in that darkness, as he chants “through the woods, past pines, over maples, and away.” The reader sends beams of courage out to Chiro when he feels uncertain, seems to fall and gets lost, and finally as he discovers courage he does not even know he has and stretches his wings farther… and a little bit more as very slowly, “the familiar fell away from him.”


I have fallen deeply in love with this book and young Chiro’s wide-eyed courage as he trusts his ‘good sense’ and sings to the night sky.

Currently Reading…


I am about to finish these two books finally. Dandelion Wine is beautiful and lyrical and as enchanting as only Bradbury can make it. Rumo is also a tale of courage and silver threads and finding the hero in each one of us.

How about you, dear friends, what have you been reading this week?


Z is for Moose, Ballywhinney Girl, Nightsong

A-Z Book Challenge Update: 13 of 26 (Z, B, N, R, J, A, H, W, X, V, I, L, T)


15-17 of 150

Myra is a Teacher Educator and a registered clinical psychologist based in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. Prior to moving to the Middle East, she lived for eleven years in Singapore serving as a teacher educator. She has edited five books on rediscovering children’s literature in Asia (with a focus on the Philippines, Malaysia, India, China, Japan) as part of the proceedings for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content where she served as the Chair of the Programme Committee for the Asian Children’s Writers and Illustrators Conference from 2011 until 2019. While she is an academic by day, she is a closet poet and a book hunter at heart. When she is not reading or writing about books or planning her next reads, she is hoping desperately to smash that shuttlecock to smithereens because Badminton Is Life (still looking for badminton courts here at UAE - suggestions are most welcome).

9 comments on “Monday Reading: Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees – A select few that got away

  1. I rang in the new year with This is Not My Hat. Red sings from the Treetops is also lovely. Happy reading.

    I finished four books last week. Please come see what they were.


  2. What a lovely selection of books! The covers and illustrations are beautiful! Have a great week!
    Happy Reading,
    Rebecca @ The Key to the Gate


  3. Great selections. Some of these were my favorite books from last year, especially Z is for Moose and Ballywhinny Girl.


  4. Lovely selection as per usual, Myra. The Bunting/McCully book looks so inviting – that is a great author/illustrator team!


  5. Wow! Great titles!! My class leapt out of their seats today when This is Not My Hat won the Caldecott. I need to find Z is for Moose.


  6. Love the Ballywhiney Girl-found it at my library a long while ago. Eve Bunting can be counted on for a good story. I want to find Nightsong; it does sound & look gorgeous, Myra. And, so glad you love Dandelion Wine-a favorite of mine that I’ve used in book groups with my students-just so delicious & nostalgic & magical.


  7. My class also adored Nightsong. So pleased to see you mention the book Banshee. I adored that book. Now want to read this other title by Bunting/McCully Love the lyrical language and gorgeous illustrations! Thanks for this!


  8. Nightsong definitely has extraordinarily cute illustrations! Have you read “A is for Musk Ox”? For some reason, I like to read alphabet books and am always surprised by how much more they’ve become over the years.


  9. Pingback: [Saturday Reads] Six Overlooked Fiction Picturebooks by Author-Illustrators (..or Could Have Received More Love) in 2015 (Part One of Two) | Gathering Books

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