Thursday, February 15, 2018

Cybils Poetry Award 2017!

Poetry Award selected by Joy Acey, Linda Baie, Kate Hillyer, Heidi Mordhorst & Buffy Silverman

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups
by Chris Harris, illustrated by Lane Smith
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

No one is immune to stress in this era of political rancor and natural disaster, including kids. Luckily, a stress-busting antidote is served up in the impeccably rhymed I’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, written by Chris Harris and illustrated by Lane Smith. Hilarious, sweet, and thought-provoking, this collection bowled the judges over with its bouncing rhythms, dazzling word play, and rank foolishness. (And the judges weren’t the only ones–review copies kept disappearing into the bedrooms and backpacks of nearby middle-graders.)

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming is a literary tour de force that consistently delights. It’s A. A. Milne crossed with Shel Silverstein, seasoned with a dash of Oscar Wilde and a hint of Ellen Degeneres. It reads like a giant inside joke–a joke that anyone with a funny bone and a few minutes to read can get inside. (Except for 11 ½- year-olds. They have to come back when they are 12. Just read the jacket flap.)

There are stunning visual quips like "The Duel," where the letters b and d face off (it doesn’t go well, resulting in p and q). There’s an ongoing feud between Harris and Smith, as seen in "I Don’t Like My Illustrator" and its lovely accompanying portrait of the author. It has groan-worthy puns, ("The Old Woman Who Lived in Achoo") and plenty of the absurd ("Just Because I’m a Turkey Sandwich and Some Chips Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Have Feelings Too, You Know!") Masterfully sprinkled throughout the silly, naughty, and nonsensical are poignant moments like "I’m Shy on the Outside:"

I’m the life of the party here under my skin.
So keep knocking—
Someday I might let you in.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming will make poetry lovers of young and old, from any background and experience, even the poetry skeptics–it’s just subversive enough that kids will be passing it around the playground like contraband candy. Best of all, it will make them laugh. Giggle. Chortle. Guffaw. And couldn’t we all use a little more of that these days?

For anyone who's interested in how this decision-making works: there's a nominations period, after which Round 1 readers (typically people with more flexible schedules than I have!) read all the nominated books and come up with a shortlist of approximately 7 finalists.  Then, between Jan. 1 and Feb.14, announcement day, Round 2 readers read those finalist titles, critique, discuss, rant, pronounce, waffle, rank, persuade, and finally agree which book earns the award.

The Cybils Awards Mission is very helpful in this selection process:
The Cybils Awards aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussels sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.

The round-up today is hosted by Jone at Check It Out, and thanks to Jone also for her work behind the scenes rounding up the Judging Panel of mostly Poetry Friday regulars who helped to choose this book.  And now, SO much goodness in one double-page spread....Check it out!


  1. That looks like such fun! Much needed...

  2. Yummy AND nutritious! You guys made a great selection -- this book is a delight. Creative and tender and fun! Thank you for sharing. xo

  3. I finally broke down and bought it yesterday, spoke with the children's bookseller at my local indie. She loved it, says was selling steadily. Thanks for the words of celebration!

  4. This is such a fun book! I got a copy at NCTE after seeing Chris Harris in a session. The poems are brilliant and full of fun word play. I have a former student named Tobie, so I had to copy and send the poem about the Island full of Tobies to him through his sister. Students just keep turning the pages.

  5. I was surprised how much I loved this book! I want to read it cover to cover to my students!

  6. Thank you for the delightful review! This book has me hooked with the cover and title. The rest of it is bound to be even better. I can't wait to read it!

  7. Your description of the book being a cross between Shel Silverstein and A. A. Milne with Oscar Wilde thrown in (three favorites of mine) sounds intriguing, thanks for this fantastic review!

  8. It's such a good choice for these times. I was proud to oversee the committee.

  9. We need humor in this world. Looks like a great book, even if the artist was lazy. ;-)


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