I know the Cybils winners were announced almost 3 months ago, but I wanted to make sure to finally post my thoughts on the Short Chapter Book Finalists. This was a tough category for the judges, but I enjoyed the chance to check out some books my boys shy away from.
Ivy + Bean Make the Rules is the 9th adventure for best friends Ivy and Bean. When Ivy’s older sister attends day camp for older girls, Ivy claims she doesn’t want to go anyway, and decides to make up her own camp. She recruits Bean to help her and they set up in the nearby park, also home to soccer camp, puppet camp and the Girl Power camp. The fun activities they invent, based on the Girl Power’s activities, attract kids from the other camps and soon they’re the most popular camp in the park.
I’ve never read any of the Ivy and Bean books before, since my boys shy away from anything that features girls. And admittedly, the Girl Power camp would not appeal to them, but the feeling of being left out because they’re too young for something is universal, and the activities Ivy and Bean come up with are fun for everyone. I also liked how this book encourages free, unstructured play, something most kids can use more of.
In Marty McGuire Digs Worms!, Marty’s third grade class has been challenged to come up with a project that will help save the Earth, eligible to win a prize. Marty’s grandma helps her install a worm farm in the cafeteria, but the students’ enthusiasm to feed the worms is more than the worms, or Marty, can handle. I really enjoyed Marty, and elementary kids will relate to the desire to fit in with their classmates while keeping their own identity.
On the easier side of the Short Chapter Books, more appropriate for the reader who’s new to chapter books, is Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover. Rabbit has a list of activities he plans for the friends, but Robot has his own ideas of fun. Kids will love the sight gags and the way the friends work out their differences. It’s also fun to have Rabbit be the one who insists on sticking to his list, but Robot is more of a free spirit.
In the final book, Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot, Violet and her siblings accompany their mother to the market each Sunday morning, each of them looking to make some money. Violet covets a blue bird figure and just needs to come up with a way to earn the money to buy it. After a few projects gone wrong she finally comes up with the perfect idea.
This is a quieter book, and the issue of her parents’ divorce adds a layer of sadness to the story that children of divorce may be able to identify with. There’s a twist at the end involving the bird that was not handled how I expected, but Violet’s creativity and desire are definitely to be admired.
These books span the range of Short Chapter Books, and all are recommended for kids who are new to the genre or ready for something a little longer.