Unleashing Readers and Kid Lit Frenzy 2014 Mock Sibert Award Picks


Mock Sibert Button

Over the past two years, Alyson has hosted, and Kellee has participated in, a book challenge pushing ourselves to read more nonfiction picture books. This year, after reading many of the best nonfiction picture books published in 2013, we decided that it would be fun to do a Mock Sibert Award post together.

The Sibert Award is given annually to the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year. Although the Sibert Award is not just for picture books, we are going to focus on the nonfiction picture books we feel would be honored or win this year. To be honored/win the Sibert Award, the book must include these important elements and qualities:

Excellent, engaging, and distinctive use of language.
Excellent, engaging, and distinctive visual presentation.
Appropriate organization and documentation.
Clear, accurate, and stimulating presentation of facts, concepts, and ideas.
Appropriate style of presentation for subject and for intended audience.
Supportive features (index, table of contents, maps, timelines, etc).
Respectful and of interest to children.

After reviewing the qualities and elements needed to win the Sibert Award, I chose the following six titles from 2013 that I hope will win or be honored on January 27th. Check out Kid Lit Frenzy, as well, to see what Alyson chose as her picks.

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We would also love your input!
Which of our ten titles do you think will win the Sibert?
Check out the results to find out what book you thought should win.

All of my choices are respectful and of interest to children, have clear and accurate presentation of facts and ideas, and use excellent, engaging, and distinctive language; however, they are all distinct in their own way.

I am sucker for this biographical picture book for two reasons: 1) I had not known about the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 before and I love learning about new historical moments. I know that it interested me (as I know it would for kids), because after I read the additional information about the garment industry I was on the internet searching for more information. 2) Clara is such a great example of girl power! AND she is a historical figure that shows girls (and boys) that girls can stand up for themselves when they are not being treated well (in real life). I love that she overcame so much to not only stand up for her rights, but also to get an education and take care of her family. What an amazing person to learn about.

When it comes to the Sibert Award, Brave Girl not only is written beautifully and engages the reader through text and illustrations, it also documents Clara’s life in a unique way that makes it different than other narrative biographies.

dust bowl

Ever since I read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, I’ve loved learning about this scary time in American history (also, the danger hasn’t ceased just because it happens less often). This book does a beautiful job of taking this time in history and laying it out for the reader so that it is very easy to understand. It includes background about the geographical area, information about the Depression, and then takes you through the Dust Bowl all the way to modern days. So interesting!

Graphic novels have not been honored before from the Sibert committee, but I feel this one stands out. It is so well done! It engages readers about an important time in American history by including narratives, information, and supportive features (maps, timelines).


I love how the author so cleverly combined Erdos’s story and mathematics without ever overloading the story with numbers. This book is so much fun (and the colorful illustrations add even more playfulness to it) yet teaches so much within its story.  What impresses me the most is just how much the book makes you think about math, want to learn more math, and want to play with numbers. Even in book form, Erdos is making math understandable.

The author’s distinctive use of language by using math throughout really makes it stand above and beyond other nonfiction books from 2013.

on a beam

I love how this book focuses on how Albert’s creativity is one of the keys to what made him the amazing scientist that he is. Also, as a teacher of struggling and gifted students, I love the focus on how he didn’t do well in school. It shows how just because a student is different or a disturbance or thinks differently doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent. The book definitely promotes wonderings, thinking, and imagination!  I also loved learning about the fun side of Einstein and how he likes to not wear socks, he liked to eat ice cream cones, and overall he just did what he want to have time to think. Finally, the Author’s Note puts all of Einstein’s theories together so that the reader also gets this information.

I think this one is especially respectful and of interest to children who read it and will make them more interested in Einstein.


World War II is the most infamous war and it is taught to all students at some point in their career. They learn about Pearl Harbor and the Atomic Bomb and the Holocause and Hitler, but way too often what happened here in the US is not discussed. All of the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the US (62% were US citizens) were interned because our fear overwhelmed us so much that it was the only solution that seemed plausible. I felt that the fear that was felt after the Pearl Harbor bombings is very similar to what was felt 12 years ago today. Barbed Wire Baseball does discuss the internment camps, but I think that the theme of this book is not about the camps but about how a love of something can turn a poor situation into something else if you are determined. The story is just one part of the book. What moves it to a higher level is the author and illustrator. Marissa Moss has someone captured the tone of the story. It begins with hopefulness then to hopelessness and finally back to joyousness. Her ability to manipulate the tone throughout makes the story touch the reader even more.

Yuko Shimizu’s illustrations are done with a Japenese calligraphy brush and ink adding to the connection the reader will feel with the story. His visual presentation is distinctive and engaging. Just beautiful.


I learned so much reading this book. My friend Amanda actually read it first and kept yelling out the facts because they are just so interesting; obviously students would find them interesting as well. On top of it just being interesting, this book is a little book of gold! It is a perfect combination of reading, math, and science! Also, the illustrations are just so well done! Throughout the book, scientific facts about animals are shared with the reader (all with numbers) and then in the end of the book Lola Schaefer also shares with the reader even more information about the animals, how to find an average, and other math facts.  And not once does the book even feel a bit boring.

Lifetime is informational nonfiction completely while the other books are narratives (or include narrative elements). However, it is still has distinctive, excellent language and the illustrations add an amazing extra element to the text.

Now which of mine, or Alyson’s, books do you think should win or be honored by the Sibert committee? Check out the results to find out which book was chosen as our Mock Sibert Winner.


15 thoughts on “Unleashing Readers and Kid Lit Frenzy 2014 Mock Sibert Award Picks”

  1. One book that I hope is in the mix is THE ANIMAL BOOK by Steve Jenkins. Not only was the text interesting and organized well, but his illustrations are always so incredibly stunning.

  2. I know almost all the books, but would vote for Lifetime, thought it was not only amazing, but the connection to math facts made it interesting in a different way than the narrative approach. I looked at this book more than once, savoring the art! Thanks for doing, Kellee and Alyson! I also loved Frog Song by Brenda Guiberson.

    • Linda, that is exactly why I put Lifetime on my list. It is such a strong reading/science/math title. I hope the text is strong enough for the Sibert. I, too, liked Frog Song, but I have Frog issues so I think it creeped me out a bit, too 🙂

  3. You had some of my SERIOUS favorites on here! I’m pulling for Brave Girl – because I want this to become better known. Have you read Uprising by Haddix? It was a FABULOUS historical fiction book about the time period.

  4. Since I am partial to cats, I will say, “The Cats ofTanglewood Forest.” I saw it on Amazon and it looks like it would be an amazing book!
    Rafflecopter: Carolsue

  5. I am sharing Lifetime with my class one page at a time and it is such a great experience when we go through all the math shared in the back of the book. I loved reading On a Beam of Light but I think my vote is definite – The Boy who Loved Math is an incredible title. It transformed my students’ thinking and passion about math. The illustrations are so rich and I love how the math is woven throughout the book. We have talked about this book daily since finishing it.

    • All 3 of the books you mentioned are such strong contenders, but The Boy Who Loved Math may have the best writing which would push it high on my list as well. Love hearing how it affected you and your students–heart warming!
      I love the idea of showing Lifetime one page at a time!


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