2014 Cybils Reading Challenge

One of my favorite things about New Year's Day is the announcement of the Cybils shortlists. In the past, after being on a first round panel in the fall, I've set myself a Cybils Reading Challenge of one new-to-me book in each of the other categories before the winners are announced on February 14. It hasn't caught on anywhere else, though, and this year I am abandoning it in favor of reading all of the shortlisted books in one category (my favorite): Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction.

I definitely missed being on the first round panel (I had other book award commitments and couldn't apply), but I like the list this year's panelists came up with--especially Jinx by Sage Blackwood (HarperCollins, 2013), which exemplifies the qualities of literary merit and kid appeal that the Cybils recognize. I read Jinx early last year (maybe even late the year before), so I might reread it now and then treat myself to the sequel, Jinx's Magic (Katherine Tegen Books, 2014), which comes out on Tuesday.

Anyone else want to try this year's version of the Cybils Reading Challenge? Here's the complete Elementary and Middle Grade Speculative Fiction shortlist:

Where would you start?

The Mystery of Fairy Oak

I am so curious about Fairy Oak. Why haven't the Fairy Oak books--a trilogy, followed by a series of four mysteries, by Italian author Elisabetta Gnone--made it to the United States? They seem to have been widely available in Italian and Spanish (not to mention Basque, Catalan, and Galician--Fairy Oak must be very popular in Spain) since the first book, Il Segretto delle Gemelle, was published in 2005. There's even an English translation (The Twins' Secret) by Alastair McEwen, but it's nearly impossible to find. I know, because I've been looking for it since I saw the Fairy Oak books at the airport in Rome two years ago.

Fortunately, I've been able to find out more about Fairy Oak via the Italian site and, in English, the Fairyoakpedia. The trilogy is the story of twin sisters Vanilla and Lavender Periwinkle, who turn out to be Witches of Light and Dark respectively, and together with their magical friends (I love all the character descriptions) must save Fairy Oak from its old enemy, the Terrible 21st. The world of Fairy Oak might be more interesting than the war, actually: it looks like something Studio Ghibli might have made, only frillier (actually, Gnone worked for Disney). Maybe I will have to locate an Italian edition after all, though that won't help my American nine-year-old. Who would probably love it.