14 February 2011

The Cybils winners have arrived!

It's Valentine's Day--also known as Cybils announcement day. Months of hard work by an army of dedicated committee members has resulted in a list of high quality, highly entertaining books for children and young adult readers in an array of genres. Run, don't walk, to the Cybils site to check out the list of winners for 2010.

But before you go! As a member of the Nonfiction Picture Book Panel, Round 2  I had great pleasure in selecting this year's winning title. And so, without further ado, I present The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley, with illustrations by Edwin Fotheringham.

This is a biography about Mark Twain which isn't so much about Twain himself but about one of his biographers. Of her own volition, and initially in secret, Twain's thirteen year old daughter, Susy, started to write a biography of her famous father, a man she described as "an extraordinarily fine-looking man. All of his features are perfect, except that he hasn't extraordinary teeth." When Twain realized that he was the subject of such an intimate portrait, he was touched and gratified and flattered. He valued his daughter's perspective while he was amused by her "frequently desperate" spelling. By writing about Susy writing about Twain, Kerley paints a portrait of artists at work--one under the glare of celebrity and one in obscurity. It is a portrait of a relationship, despite the focus on an individual. The book cleverly includes excerpts from Susy's biography as attachments which can be read within the narrative of the book or enjoyed separately on a second perusal.

Note should also be made of Fotheringham's illustrations, which are bold and playful and completely without gravitas, not unlike Twain himself at times. Susy and her father are often presented in counter-point to each other as the biographer surveys her subject before subjecting him to her pen.

The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) tops a list of over 100 nominations which were put forward at the beginning of the Cybils process way back in October. This book distinguished itself in terms of literary quality, brilliant illustrations, and immense child appeal. Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2010 Cybils Awards.


Anonymous said...

Great review!! Thanks for being on the committee.

Kara Schaff Dean said...

It was my pleasure :)

Barbara Kerley said...

Hi Kara --

Thank you so much. I can't tell you how excited I am :)

Kara Schaff Dean said...

Congratulations,Barbara, and thank YOU for writing such a great book!

Roberta said...

What a wonderful review. It was so nice to work with you as a judge. The panel when by all too quickly this year.

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