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Saturday, February 14, 2009

And the winner is: WING!

It is worth noting that those of us on the 2009 Cybils fiction picture book committee had our work cut out for us. The finalists included several stand-outs. We even discussed choosing “Honor” books – that’s how much we appreciated the books on our short list.

The book that we ultimately chose, though, was in a class by itself. Bob Graham’s HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN WING is accurately described by its publisher, Candlewick, as a “spare urban fable.” However, this deceptively simple book achieves so much more than telling the story of a boy who notices a wounded bird. By alternating single and double-page spreads with clusters of small panels, Graham creates almost a film strip of time passing. This technique lends both intimacy and urgency to the boy and his family’s seemingly (but hopefully not!) ill-fated mission. The text is commendably lean, supporting the book’s strong visual narrative. Graham’s signature style of almost cartoony watercolor-and-ink illustration is surprisingly well-suited for a tale that might otherwise have felt overly heavy and dark. We also admired WING for being a picture book set in a modern city, and for being an accessible story that offers connections for picture book readers of all ages. For all of these reasons, WING distinguishes itself as the rare picture book that speaks quietly, yet has volumes to say about courage, kindness, and hope.

Most importantly, we selected HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN WING because it was the book with “something extra” – the book that truly took our breath away. It is the kind of book you want to share with a child, tell all your friends about, and blog about… which, after all, is what the Cybils are all about.

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