This year I’m a Round 2 judge for the Cybils. The last two years, I’ve served on Round I, which meant furious fast-paced reading from October through mid-December. I actually loved it, as daunting a process as it is, but circumstances in my life this fall did not allow me to even contemplate that level of commitment. But as I saw the list coming in, I felt a little twitchy and jealous. I wasn’t maxing out my library requests and checking to see when the books would be available for pick up, or getting books dumped on my doorstep by the pounds, and I sort of missed it.
So I took matters into my own hands and read some of the nominees that I had been wanting to read anyway or that caught my eye afresh on the list of nominees. Ungifted by Gordon Korman was a Cybils nominee that I knew I wanted to read. Can you resist that cute cover?
Donovan Curtis is an average kid at his middle school. The only thing he excels in is pranks. A visit to the principal’s office after one has an unintended disastrous consequence, results in a mix-up. His name is submitted to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. He knows that he doesn’t belong at a gifted school, but he also knows that it’s a good way to avoid the principal so that he won’t actually figure out that Donovan was the one who pulled the prank.
When he gets there, he quickly finds that he’s out of his league academically, but he is surprised to find out that he enjoys the challenge and actually excels in robotics, thanks to years of practice with a gaming joystick. The gifted kids aren’t quite sure what to make of this good-natured guy with average brains, but he grows on them, and when his incorrect placement is discovered, and they try to transfer him back to his regular school, they come together in hopes they can help him stay.
This book was funny and warm, two of my favorite qualities. Donovan isn’t a bad troublemaker, but more of the “wrong place/wrong time” sort. The nerds definitely fit that stereotype, but they are also human and endearing as well. My 3rd grader Kyle also gave this one his stamp of approval.
It’s Cybils season! Though I enjoyed Ungifted a lot, I was pretty sure it wouldn’t advance to the finals, and I was correct. Check out the books that DID make it to the middle grade fiction finals. After serving in round 1 and round 2 in a couple categories, I’ve come to appreciate these lists of finalists. In my opinion, they are all winners. I know the hard work it takes to narrow them down and the titles that are beloved by some which get left off.