Tag Archive for the Cybils

“Home Sweet Horror” Wins 2013 Cybil Award in Early Chapter Books Category

Okay, you might be asking: “What’s a Cybil Award?”

The Cybils are awarded by bloggers for the year’s best children’s and young adult titles. The Cybils have been in existence since, oddly enough, the year 1843. No, wait. Check that: Since 2006. According to the website, their primary purpose is to:

“Reward the children’s and young adult authors (and illustrators, let’s not forget them) whose books combine the highest literary merit and ‘kid appeal.’ What’s that mean? If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussel sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.”

I did not expect to win this award, in part because I did not even realize that my book, the first in a series of “Scary Tales,” had been among the finalists. In truth, “winning” anything like this is always dubious. But it is an honor to be listed among other finalists, to be part of that conversation of some of the better books of that year. I’m quite sure that my book is no better than the others listed in this category. So here they are, readers take note:

Dragonbreath #9: The Case of the Toxic Mutants, by Ursula Vernon

Kelsey Green, Reading Queen, by Claudia Mills

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, by Hilary McKay

The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems, by Lauren Myracle

Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat, by Anna Branford

Home Sweet Horror (Scary Tales #1), by James Preller

The Cybils website described my book this way:

Liam Finn and his sister just moved into the old Cropsey house. Their father has transplanted his family from Hopeville to Upstate New York. Liam and Kelley are both opposed to the move, but since the death of their mother eighteen months earlier, the family is struggling to survive. Upon moving into the house, Liam begins to hear strange noises and even receives a threatening message in a mirror.  When Kelley’s friend, Mitali, comes for a visit and summons “Bloody Mary”, the tale quickly escalates to a spine-tingling conclusion.

Preller takes an urban myth and creates an enjoyable tale of horror that will appeal to the lower grade students. Bruno’s illustrations insert an appropriate amount of creepiness that adds to the ambiance of the tale. Younger readers will appreciate this scary tale without the graphic and gory details of older horror reads. This little page turner could become a campfire classic!

My thanks have already gone out to the judges, panelists, bloggers, volunteers, and organizers for this nice honor. I’m grateful and, yes, I especially like that “kid appeal” is seen in a positive light.

In addition, any positive acclaim for this series grows out of the fact that it has been well-published by my friends at Feiwel & Friends, particularly Liz Szabla and Jean Feiwel.  The illustrations by Iacopo Bruno are amazing.

And last, a special thank you to Jennifer Wharton, whoever you are!, for nominating my book. My appreciation. Jennifer, if somehow you find this, can I send you a signed copy by way of thanks? You can write to me with your address at Jamespreller@aol.com.

That’s right, AOL, because an elephant’s loyal one-hundred percent.

There are three other titles (so far) in the Scary Tales Series:


Around the Web: Bystander, The Kidlitosphere, and a Grand Conversation

I confess: I sometimes have misgivings about the kidlitosphere. At times it feels like just another clique, and one dominated by women. I recognize that one woman’s ceiling is another woman’s floor; a “clique” could easily be described as a “community” — a source of strength and positivity.

There’s nothing wrong with women, of course. It’s just that I’m a guy. I have a male point of view. For example, the writers I most love tend to be men. Actually, that’s not true: They are men. I’m just like that second grade boy who won’t pick up a Junie B. Jones book (I know, I have two sons, and I’ve tried to press those books in their hands). If it seems like girl stuff, I’m not all that interested. Or at least, there are hurdles, dispositions, to overcome. Sorry. I have a gender bias. That’s not news, right?

The nature of this clique, or community, has always been at the center of the children’s book world, back from my earliest days as a junior copywriter at Scholastic in the late 80’s. Women, women everywhere. They were the editors, the librarians, the teachers, the reviewers —  and now, the bloggers.

Just to make myself crazy, I did a quick look at the 101 names listed as judges of the Cybils. By my estimation, which involved a little guesswork, 86 of them are women. That’s a lot, right? I’m not complaining, exactly, and I certainly don’t blame anybody.  If more men were around, then . . . more men would be around. It’s our fault: guys need to step up or shut up, I suppose.

I don’t know if I have a thesis point. I’m mostly just typing out loud. Other than to say that as a man in a woman-dominated kidlitosphere, I feel like an outsider. And I wonder if there might be some connection to boys and reading. If they feel as disconnected as I sometimes do.

Yet through this blog I’ve made some meaningful connections. A few friendships here and there. Last year I was invited to Dublin, Ohio, by Bill and Karen from Literate Lives. I still go back to their blog from time to time, because they inspire me with their enthusiasm, their dedication, their sense of purpose. Clicking on today, I saw that Bystander was the recent topic of discussion on a Tuesday night, as part of Bill’s annual “Grand Discussion” series. Check it out, here.

Bill even sent me this photo:

I was supposed to be a part of it, through an iChat link-up. But I couldn’t figure out the technology in time, to my great disappointment. If there was a lake next to my computer, you would have heard a groan of frustration followed by a splash. It’s one more hurdle I’m going to have to figure out, because it seems like a great way to connect with readers.

Thank you, Bill, for the friendship and the support.


In other news, Musings of a Book Addict recently reviewed Bystander and had some nice things to say. But that’s assumed, isn’t it? I mean, if she didn’t have nice things to say, I wouldn’t link to it. I’m superficial that way.

For the full review, click here. For those short on time, here’s the money quote:

I see the problem of bullying in my school everyday. Sometimes it takes the form of a kid saying something mean to another. Sometimes it is a child saying something nasty about the other kid’s parents. All of it is a form of bullying. However, most kids don’t realize that just standing around saying nothing, doing nothing, when they witness bullying is just as bad. This was an awesome book and one I look forward to placing on my shelves at school.