Sullivan, Sarah. All That's Missing.
October 8th 2013
by Candlewick Press
Nominated for the Cybils by the Publisher.
Arlo's parents were killed in a car accident when he was very young, so he has always lived with his grandfather, Poppo. Lately, though Poppo has been very forgetful, wandering around town and not quite knowing who Arlo is. When Poppo has a stroke while foraging in the dumpster of a local store, he ends up in the hospital, and Arlo ends up in foster care. Arlo runs away from the shelter and decides to take a bus trip to Edgewater to find his grandmother, even though she and Poppo did not get along and he hasn't seen her in years. A stroke of luck leads Arlo to her, and after some tense calls to children's services, Arlo stays with her, settling in uneasily while waiting for word on Poppo. He makes friends with Maygood, the daughter of one of his father's friends, and tries to figure out what his place will be. His grandmother is trying to sell the large family house, and the man trying to buy it seems less than honest.
Strengths: Arlo and Poppo have a great relationship, and I liked how Arlo was able to develop one with his estranged grandmother as well. The community is Southern but not overly quirky, and it was nice to see how everyone supported Arlo.
Weaknesses: There was an art related mystery that came a bit too late in the book for me; it felt tacked on. Too bad, because it could have been interesting if it had been developed earlier.
Lamb, Jody. Easter Ann Peters' Operation Cool
November 6th 2012, Scribe Publishing Company
Nominated for the Cybils by Sarah P.
Easter is starting seventh grade, and she's bound and determined to make this a better year. She has done her research and has her plan-- a notebook where she has figured out how she can rise in popularity and make everyone like her. Or, well, be not quite as geeky. This is important, because things are tough at home. Her dad is a factory supervisor who works long hours, and her mother is a former singer who is currently depressed and drinking fairly heavily. Easter is used to cleaning up after her mother, making excuses for her, and taking care of herself and her cat, Yoplait. One of Easter's points is that she needs a best friend, and when Wreni moves to town and takes Easter's side over that of the annoying Horse Girl, Easter thinks she has it made. She even has a boy that is interested in her, but it's hard to keep up with things at school when they are falling apart so badly at home.
Strengths: Easter was a sympathetic character, and her attempts to get her own life together were realistic. There is also a lot of good information about dealing with a parent who drinks.
Weaknesses: Easter uses a lot of odd interjections like "Cartwheeling hamsters!" that are grating and don't sound authentic.
Goebel, Jenny. Grave Images.
October 29th 2013
by Scholastic Press
Bernie's family runs a monument company, and her father is struggling to keep up with the workload after the death of his father. Bernie's mother is struggling just to get out of bed, and often doesn't, although we don't find out for quite some time why she is so depressed. Bernie's friend, Michael, is a bit quirky and doesn't mind hanging out with her, so when she decides that the new engraver her father has hired, Abbot Stein, is super creepy, she enlists Michael's help in finding out more about him. Mr. Stein's carvings are beautifully realistic, but very creepy, and when he seems to have them completed even before the subjects of them have passed away, Bernie becomes alarmed and tries to investigate the mystery of the man and his creepy carving tools that were hardened in fire with human bones. Can Bernie figure this out before more people in her town die, and can she help her mother as well?
Strengths: Good creepy cover, and the premise of the evil tools is a good one. Stein is described in elaborate creepy detail, and the investigation makes sense.
Weaknesses: The balance of family problems and creepy mystery is off. There is much too much time given to Bernie's mother's grief. It's hinted at, but not really explained until very far in the book, and overshadows the rest of the plot. Readers who want creepy stories aren't usually as interested in books about family dynamics.