2015 CMBAs: The Wyzbery

Wow. What a week. We’ve seen four classroom awards, four genre/form awards, updates from ALA Midwinter, a giant snow storm that has a name (because 10 inches of snow just isn’t¬†enough to warrant notice if it’s not also named after a beloved Peanuts character). We have one more award to announce, and it’s the big one: the Wyzbery.

The Wyzbery is what my students call the award for the best book published in the previous year. For the genre and class awards, we talk a lot about criteria. For the Wyzbery, it is up to each student. They know what they like, and they are to use their own instincts to discuss and vote for what they believe to be the best book published in the previous year. It’s a pretty fun time ūüôā

The Wyzbery is the longest-running award my students have named. When I began awards in 2012, we awarded just the one award, being the Wyzbery. Veronica Roth won for her 2011 release Divergent.

In 2013, many more awards were given out, but once again the Wyzbery was among them. That year, Jon Klassen won for the 2013 Caldecott Medalist book This Is Not My Hat (and I’m not saying, but I’m just saying: we determined and announced our winner first).

This year, we have looked at many books published in 2014. 40 books were nominated for one of the 8 awards we’ve already given out. 9 of those were also nominated as the best book of the year, and each book received at least 3% of the vote.

Two books, though, rose to the top, receiving over half the votes between the two of them. This was also one of the closest votes, as it was not determined until the last couple votes were counted. There was quite a bit of intense debate and tense moments, as everyone had their favorites for this one.

So let’s get to the announcement. I mean, there are football games and commercials to watch and such.

The Wyzbery Honor Book for 2015 is:

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by e. lockhart!

As mentioned in the realistic fiction post, this book not only grabs attention when people talk about it, but lives up to the hype. It will continue to be passed from hand-to-hand as the year goes on, no doubt. Congratulations to e. lockhart on this honor!

And now, the moment we’ve been building to all week.

The announcement.

Of the biggest award of the year.

Not the Printz.

Not the Caldecott.

Not the Newbery.

But one day before all that: the 2015 Wyzbery.

This year’s winner, beloved by all my students, is:

Please, Mr. Panda

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony!

This marks the 6th win for Mr. Antony in this year’s Cardinal Mooney Book Awards, making it the most decorated book by any group of my students. They love the heck out of this book, to the point where they have been asking other teachers to read it to them. They just can’t get enough. I am pleased to award this year’s Wyzbery to this book they love so much. Congratulations to Steve Antony!

Both authors: we will keep your awards for safe keeping in our classroom. You may pick them up at any time.

Thank you, everyone involved,¬†for your wonderful books. We know how much work goes in to each and every book published. It’s the work of an author. And then his or her early readers. And then agents. And then editors. And then the cycle repeats who knows how many times. Eventually, some of these books become published. And through the work of publishers, bookstores, friends, relatives, and people throwing books around on street corners (can you imagine how great that would be?), we find them into our hands. And we read them and are transformed. I wish we could award them all, but of course that would be to award none of them. But thank you to each and every person involved in making these wonderful books: those we awarded, and those we did not. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Click here to return to the 2015 Cardinal Mooney Book Awards main page.


2015 CMBAs: The Picture Book Award

Can you believe it? We have reached the fourth and final genre award for this year’s Cardinal Mooney Book Awards. The last time the awards were given out, we only had three genres or forms we awarded, and that was once again the plan for the 2015 awards. But after discussion and voting, my students’ votes led to a tie among their final two genre/form choices. So instead of having a run-off, we decided: hey! Why not both? So we ended up with the four genre/form categories.

Now, picture books are something my high schoolers love. I think a bit of the love is because they’re reading picture books in a college prep high school. But I think most of the love is from the joy they get from the books. It’s like watching cartoons as an adult. You know they’re made for younger children, but somehow, you get more out of them as an adult. I mean, just look at Shrek. So my students greatly enjoy their picture books, as we use them to target specific literary devices, or just to read and enjoy.

Seven picture books were nominated for this award, and we have two honor books to go with our winner.

The first honor book:

The Book with No Pictures

The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak!

This one, of course, we had to discuss and figure out if it really counts as a “picture” book if it has no pictures. We decided yes. This book has also been read by our geometry teacher, at the request of my students. They just love it.

Our second honor book:

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen!

This one led to quite the discussion, as we compared the first page to the last. And how can a dog, who never speaks, be that sarcastic? It’s practically a mentor text on how to use your eyes to convey meaning. And it just wouldn’t be my classroom awards without something from Jon Klassen.

And our 2015 Cardinal Mooney Picture Book Award winner:

Please, Mr. Panda

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony!

After it did so well in the classroom awards, is anyone surprised? Steve Antony and his panda continue to sweep up at the CMBAs!

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the Wyzbery announcement!

Click here to return to the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards main page.

2015 CMBAs: The Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Award

Hello! I know this one is late, but it comes to you LIVE from ALA Midwinter in Chicago, where the Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday morning. So, will you forgive the tardiness? You won’t? Well, whatever. You’re here, so I guess there’s some kindness in your heart.

This post is to announce the honorees and winner of the Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic Award. My students discussed having this as a strictly dystopian award, but after some discussion, it was a near-unanimous decision to include post-apocalyptic with this group as well. Many students rejoiced at this, because they had some post-apocalyptic books from 2014 they really wanted to honor.

We’ll begin with the four [FOUR!] honor books:

Last Stand

Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse by William H. Weber

This book was talked about non-stop by one of my freshman in particular. He was thrilled to see his classmates agree with him and give this book an honor nod.

Second up:

The Rule of Three

The Rule of Three by Eric Walters!

I was fortunate to receive an ARC of the sequel to this book at NCTE in November. That caused the popularity of this title to rocket up amongst my students.


The Hunted

The Hunted by Charlie Higson!

This one was a surprise nominee, as we hadn’t discussed it in class. After it was nominated and talked about, though, it quickly moved up on my students’ TBR lists. This is the 6th in a series, so they’ll be reading it for a while.

The final honor book:


Four by Veronica Roth!

Because we know this is just Veronica Roth’s world and we’re all living in it.

And finally, the award winner for dystopian/post-apocalyptic:

The One

The One by Kiera Cass!

The finale to The Selection series, this one passed from hand-to-hand throughout the year.

Congratulations to all the authors! Your awards will be kept safe in our classroom, and you can pick them up at any time.

Click here to return to the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards main page.

CMBAs: The Fantasy Award

Hey hey! Welcome back to the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards. It’s day five, which means it’s time for the Fantasy Award.

Fantasy has many components. It can take place in the Misty Mountains¬†of Middle-Earth, or it can be in London, England. It can involve magic and rules of being that are complex and unknown to this world; or it could be our world, but with talking animals. The language spoken could be Hyrulian, Elvish, or English. There’s so much to fantasy, that it’s hard to narrow it down to just one award.

And yet, that is just what we must do.

My students love as many different fantasy books as there are types of fantasy books. They nominated 7 different fantasy books all together, at least narrowing down the pool a bit. Three books made it through the gauntlet of voting, giving us two very worthy honor books, and one overall winner.

The first honor book:

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater!

The third book in the acclaimed Raven Cycle Quartet has been held in high esteem by all who have read it.

The second honor book:

The Young Elites

The Young Elites by Marie Lu!

The Seventh Hour Honor book returns for another well-deserved honor in this year’s CMBAs.

And now, the reason you’re all here tonight: the winner of the Cardinal Mooney Fantasy Award:

Please, Mr. Panda

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony!

When I saw how my students had voted, I asked them to defend their choice for this book as fantasy. We’ve talked a lot this year about genre and form, and how they are different things. So graphic novels can be dystopian, or memoir, or fantasy. And picture books work the same way. But were we really going to give this book the fantasy prize? Well, they made their case, and made it well. Among my favorite: “When’s the last time you saw a talking animal in the real world, Mr. Wyzlic?”

Touché, kids.

Congratulations to all the authors! I will hold your awards in our classroom, and you can pick them up at any time.

Click here to return to the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards home page.

CMBAs: The Realistic Fiction Award

Welcome to day 4 of the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards. We’ve looked at what each of my classes has awarded by themselves. Now, we start to look at what all my students have decided to award and honor as a collective student body. Tonight, we look at and honor the wonderful realistic fiction books that were published in 2014.

This is the wheelhouse for many of my students, as this is, for many of them, the genre that has helped them fall in love with reading all over again. So when we talk about the best of 2014, there’s no doubt that they know what they’re talking about.

2014 saw a lot of great realistic fiction books published, as the young adult publishers begin to swing away from dystopian and towards a more realistic feel. One thing that has made a considerable upswing in this resurgence of realistic fiction is a little thing called magical realism. I explain this to my students as “realistic fiction with just a touch of magic.” A completely normal town that is exactly as it would be in the real world. . .except our narrator’s fish is actually the reincarnation of her grandmother. A society framed almost entirely on the current United States. . .except when people sneeze, their souls actually do escape. Some of these are a little more realistic fiction, and some are a little more fantasy.

Many of my students have gravitated towards magical realism, as it gives them just the right amount of escapism. As we look at realistic fiction tonight, you’ll notice¬†a little bit of magical realism among the titles. They have just that right level of head in the clouds, feet on the ground philosophy that my students love.

So let’s begin, shall we?

We have three books that are marked as Realistic Fiction Honor books. These have received quite the buzz in my classroom, and have been known to re-awaken some of my dormant readers. Great titles, all of them.

The first honor book:

Glory O' Brien

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King!

It’s just hard to resist a good story about a girl who drinks the mummified remains of a bat and starts to see visions of the future.

Next up:

I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson!

There’s a good reason that everyone is talking about this book in late January.

Our third and final Honor Book:

The Summer of Letting Go

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner!

We are reading¬†The Pull of Gravity, also by Gae Polisner, as a class read-aloud. Many of my students love it. Even so, they agree that¬†The Summer of Letting Go is 20 times better. It’s¬†just. That. Good.

With those as our honor books, what could we possibly be saving as our award winner? It’d be tough to find a book better than those three. Yet there is a book that my students believe stands out even among this talented crowd.

The winner of the 2015 Cardinal Mooney Book Award for Realistic Fiction:

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by e. lockhart!

I like to put student quotes in these posts if I can. Let me give a quote from nearly all of my students, immediately after I tell them what this book is about:


And it lives up to that response.

Congratulations to all of the authors and their books! Thank you all for writing such amazing books! We are eternally grateful. Your awards will be kept for safe keeping in our classroom, and you are welcome to pick them up at any time.

Return to the 2015 Cardinal Mooney Book Awards home page.

CMBAs: Seventh Hour Award

Hello again!

We’ve seen the books my first hour students awarded. We’ve seen the book my second and fourth hour students awarded. Today, we have really the first normal-style post, in that my seventh hour has a honor book as well as an award-winner.

The seventh hour is quite a fun bunch. It’s another freshman class. It’s the end of the day, and they’re ready for an enjoyable English class. They like to read, and they like to talk about their reading. When it came time to vote, they discussed and debated for over 20 minutes. Considering I gave them only 5, I think you could safely say that they were making good claims one way or another.

And so, given the lively discussion, I’m not surprised that this is the first group to have a “runner-up” so to speak, and an award winner.

That said, being honored by this group is a pretty big deal. They have been voracious readers, and come from a variety of different viewpoints. Some students love to read realistic fiction, especially romance. Some love action-packed fantasy. Some love books that speak out against the evils of the world, but in subtle ways. Others prefer nonfiction tomes about the 19th century. So when they come together in defense of some books, you know that they’re going to be good choices.

First, the honor book:

The Young Elites

The Young Elites by Marie Lu!

My students in many of my classes have been passing this one back and forth between them. I don’t think it was on my shelves for more than 5 minutes at any given moment first semester. I am not at all surprised to see this honored by my seventh hour students.

So what could my students have been debating about for 20 minutes? What could have bested such a powerful fantasy novel from one of their favorite authors?

Please, Mr. Panda

Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony!

Once again, my high schoolers have shown that picture books are for them just as much as they are for any other age! According to one of my seventh hour students, “Please Mr. Panda is the funniest book of 2014.”

I don’t know what more needs to be said.

Congratulations to Marie Lu and Steve Antony!

Go back to the 2014 Cardinal Mooney Book Awards Main Page.

2015 CMBAs: The First Hour Award

I am ready to get the CMBAs off to a roaring start tonight. 2014 brought us an astounding amount of great books, and we only get to award a few. It’s like choosing the best blizzard flavor at DQ. They’re all good. How do we pick just one?


My first hour class is 10 wonderful freshmen. They are all over the map as readers, loving picture books, graphic novels, fantasy, realistic fiction, mystery. . .just about everything. They nominated 4 books for their class award, and when they voted among these 4, a curious thing happened.

2 books received 40% of the vote. A tie.

So we discussed. And we made pleas. And we talked about the finer points of each book. And we voted again.

One book received more votes.

. . .and so did the other.

Each received 50% of the vote. A tie.

So we discussed. And we decided that instead of going through this again, let’s just acknowledge what we all know: these are great books, and we should award both. So. For the first time in the history of these awards, we have a dual winner.

Without further ado, let me reveal to you the TWO winners of the Freshman First Hour Award:

El Deafo                       Tea with Grandpa

El Deafo by Cece Bell                     and                    Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg

El Deafo¬†is a book that brought one of my students and her mom to tears, as the student’s mom lost her hearing in one ear when she was growing up. Hearing my student tell me of how she finally understood what her mom went through is not something I can even remember without getting misty-eyed.

Tea with Grandpa¬†is a book one of my students has often talked about. When he first mentioned it, he couldn’t give away the ending, but just left us with, “it has a great life lesson.” I think we’ll hear more from him in book talks as the year goes on.

Neither Ms. Bell nor Mr. Saltzberg could be with us tonight. They are both welcome to stop by at any time to pick up their award! Congratulations!

Go back to the 2014 CMBAs Main Page.

Cardinal Mooney Book Awards

Hello! Welcome! Hi! We’re glad to have you here, where the next week will be dedicated to announcing the Cardinal Mooney Book Awards (formerly the St. Francis Middle School Book Awards, aka The Frannies). Many* have said this is “the best awards week all year,” and it’d be tough to disagree.

The awards have previously been given out in 2012 and 2013, awarding books published in 2011 and 2012, respectively. All categories, criteria, nominees, honorees, and winners are chosen by the students and by the students alone. Each student has read at least 4 books published in 2014, and many have read more, so these voters know what they’re talking about. I am honored to be announcing the awards, but please, do not confuse my support for the awards with them being mine. I am proud of my students and the choices they have made, but they deserve all the accolades for having chosen them. They have selected some good books this year, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Except I will wait. Because DRAMA.

The awards will be announced each day from now until next week Sunday. This year, however, we have 9 categories. And 8 days. So on one of the magical days of this week, you will get two — THAT’S RIGHT, TWO! — awards announced. But you won’t know which day. So. Pay attention. PAY. ATTENTION.

The awards (will become active links upon posting):
First Hour Award (Freshmen)
Second Hour Award (Sophomores)
Fourth Hour Award (Freshmen)
Seventh Hour Award (Freshmen)
Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic Award
Realistic Fiction Award
Fantasy Award
Picture Book Award (these kids love their picture books!)
The Wyzbery (Best Book of the Year)
ALA Book and Media Awards**

The first awards will be announced tonight at 7 PM EST. Then, every day at 7 PM, more will be announced. You won’t want to miss these. There are a lot of good books to award!

We’ll see you tonight ūüôā

EDITED TO ADD: Here is a list of all the award winners («ā denotes ALA Youth Media Award honoree/award winner)

First Hour (co-winners):
El Deafo by Cece Bell¬†«ā
Tea with Grandpa by Barney Saltzberg

Second Hour
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Fourth Hour
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Seventh Hour
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Realistic Fiction
Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future¬†by A.S. King
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson¬†«ā
The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner
We Were Liars by e. lockhart

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Last Stand: Surviving America’s Collapse by William H. Weber
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters
The Hunted by Charlie Higson
Four by Veronica Roth
The One by Kiera Cass

Picture Book
The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen¬†«ā
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

Wyzbery Award
We Were Liars by e. lockhart
Please, Mr. Panda by Steve Antony

*By many, I mean my wife, whom I just asked to repeat the words “the best awards week all year”
**While I encourage any and all associated with the ALA, I’m pretty sure the ALA wants nothing to do with the CMBAs

2013 Awards Recap

Over the past week, we have rolled out the 2013 Frannies winners, culminating with last night’s Wyzbery announcement, and rolling into today’s ALA Youth Media Awards. A recap of it all is below (all award links go to their reveal post, and all book links go to Goodreads).

7A Class Book Award 
Honor: Burning Blue by Paul Griffin and Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Award: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

7B Class Book Award
Honor:¬†The Fault in Our Stars¬†by John Green*,¬†Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, and¬†Lincoln’s Last Days¬†by Bill O’Reilly
Award: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

8A Class Book Award
Honor: TeenBoat! by Dave Roman and John Green
Award: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen**

8B Class Book Award
Honor: Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally
Award: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green*

Realistic Fiction Award
Honor: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green*
Award: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Fantasy Award
Honor: Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick
Award: The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Dystopian Award
Honor: Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
Award: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Wyzbery Award
Honor: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green* and Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Award: This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen**

ALA Youth Media Awards
Click the link for the official ALA press release. I don’t want to steal their thunder by announcing their awards. Except for the two notes below, because WE TOTALLY PICKED THOSE BOOKS, TOO!

*Also won the Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production
**Also won the Randolph Caldecott Medal for Most Distinguished American Picture Book for Children

2013 Frannies: The Wyzbery Award

Well, my friends, we have made it to the last announcement of the 2013 Frannies. We have seen different groups of students award different books with their homeroom book awards. We have seen three different genre awards given out, highlighting what was the best in each given category. All in all, we have awarded and honored 12 different books in the past 7 days. And we still have our biggest award to give.

[Brian’s note: this post is a bit longer than most, but every word, image, and video (did I say video?), is worth it. So be sure to push through. Wyzlic out.]

For the Wyzbery, all books were considered. The students nominated titles of books from all different genres and types. Picture books, graphic novels, chapter books, YA novels, adult novels. Realistic fiction, fantasy, humor, science fiction, dystopian, mystery, non-fiction, biography. There were books nominated for each of these descriptors. 21 books in total received multiple nominations and made it to the final ballot. And then it was time to vote.

When it came time to vote, the students were instructed to select the one book they believed was the best book published in 2012. Not most popular. Not favorite. But also not most distinguished nor most excellent, nor most well-written. Best. Here are the results.

80 votes were cast for 20 different books (including one write-in because this student was adamant that her choice was the best book of 2012, even if nobody else agreed enough to put it on the ballot, bringing our total of nominated books up to 22). Five books received above the average of four votes. Of these, three books were heads above the others. These are the books that will receive Wyzbery Honors or the coveted Wyzbery Award.

Now, before the reveal, a bit of potential controversy. Because, come on, what’s an awards ceremony without some controversy, right? Of the 3 that will receive shiny stickers (maybe — we’re working on those back at headquarters), 2 of them were read aloud to all the students. So I wonder how much influence my choices had on their voting. I am gladdened, though, that there is one book that made it through despite not being pushed by me, but rather, by the students. One of our top five is even a book that I do not keep in our classroom library.

So despite my potential influence as the lead learner and lead book pusher in the room, it is clear to me that the students can also follow their own conscience with their book choices. They are passing books they love to each other, and they are finding and sharing similar tastes with each other. The students are becoming book pushers as well, and in some classes in particular, they have eclipsed my influence. They may see that as some sort of subverting the system. I see it as victory.

Anyway, on to the awards. As mentioned, there are two books that will be receiving Wyzbery Honor Status:

Wonder                            TFiOS

Wonder by R.J. Palacio                             and             The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

These are two of my favorite books of 2012, and I feel somewhat validated that my students think they are among the best. I chose¬†Wonder as our first read-aloud this year, and I wasn’t sure what the reaction would be. There are some students who flat-out do not like the book (and are very vocal about this). There are some students who beg me to read longer every day. But overall, I wasn’t sure what the temperature of the water was. Well, they like it. Enough to honor it, which I am grateful for.

The Fault in Our Stars was a book I was excited for the day it came out (actually, for months before it came out). And when it finally arrived at my doorstep, I couldn’t contain myself. This book has come with a word of caution to my students and to their parents (teaching at a Catholic school, there are some mature scenes in the book that are actually so well done that the students might misinterpret them, or be confused by the message they are giving, and I need to be cautious of that). However, that has not stopped my students from picking it up and falling in love, as I did. I’m glad they saw fit to honor this book as well.

But ultimately, there is another book that was considered an even better book by more students. That book is our 2013 Wyzbery Award Winner.

And it is. . .

With no further ado. . .

(okay, a little further ado). . .

[this is kind of fun]. . .

You guys are still here, right?

Is anybody reading these, or just scrolling down?

You should probably read them.

Maybe I’m hiding an easter egg-style surprise in them.

Or maybe not.

If you passed all this up, you will never know.

But you also won’t know you’ll never know.


This Is Not My HatThis Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen!

Klassen’s sequel (of sorts) to the 2012 Geisel Honor Book¬†I Want My Hat Back was an instant favorite among my students. When it won the 8A Class Book Award, I started to worry a little. Could a picture book possibly win the Wyzbery? Then I realized: what do I have to worry about? Yes, a picture book could win — ANY book could win. That was the whole point. And, lo and behold, a picture book did win. Congratulations, Mr. Klassen. The students love your clever use of pictures to add a layer to the story.¬†This Is Not My Hat is a mentor text in how pictures and words combine to tell the story, as opposed to one merely aiding the other.

Interesting note: this book may have been based on a true story (though the book came out before the story happened). See the tale:

What will happen to me? Will Mr. Sharp ever get his hat back? Read I Want My Hat Back and stay tuned to see!

Go back to the 2013 Frannies Main Page.
See the 7A Class Book Award.
See the 7B Class Book Award.
See the 8A Class Book Award.
See the 8B Class Book Award.
See the Realistic Fiction Award.
See the Fantasy Award.
See the Dystopian Award.