The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling

Cover image for The Canyon’s Edge

The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling (9780316494694)

This novel in verse tells a harrowing survival story. After losing her mother in a random shooting at her birthday celebration, Nora has been through lots of therapy trying to just survive the loss. Her father has cocooned them both, keeping Nora from returning to school and remaining isolated from everyone. For her birthday a year after the shooting, he takes Nora to a slot canyon in the Arizona desert. The two rappel down into the canyon together, remembering the many times they made similar journeys with her mother. But once again their lives are shattered by the unexpected as a flash flood rips through the canyon, separating Nora from her father and all of her supplies. Her father is washed away with the flood after shoving Nora high enough up the canyon wall to not be swept away. Now Nora must face her doubts and mental demons while also surviving sunburn, starvation, scorpions and dehydration as she searches for her father.

Bowling’s set up for the story alone would make a great tale, a girl surviving the loss of her mother in a shooting incident. Bowling though takes that first tragedy and builds on it, creating a new dangerous challenge for Nora to survive. The way that she uses what Nora learned in therapy, what Nora’s doubts are and her growing resilience is tremendous. She never becomes didactic, instead allowing Nora to steadily grow stronger mentally and know that she is capable of so much. Along the way, she also admits to herself how she has pushed her best friend away too.

The writing here is stellar, the pacing exactly right. Bowling will shock readers as she moves from the quiet of the canyon to the power of the flood. Then they are thrown directly into a survival story, one where Nora is not spared from a variety of injuries even as her mind and resilience grow. There is so much determination and grit in her, so much strength!

Verse novel meets survival story in this book that will carry you away. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

2020 Cybils Finalists – YA Categories

Here are the final lists of finalists (get it?) for the 2020 Cybils Awards. The lists below are focused on books for high school and teens: YA Graphic Novels, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Speculative Fiction, and High School Nonfiction. Look for the winners of all of the categories on February 14th.


Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Dancing at the Pity Party by Tyler Feder

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

Flamer by Mike Curato

Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Gurihiru

That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy

You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sanchez, illustrated by Julie Maroh


Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Even If We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson


Burn by Patrick Ness

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold (I nominated this one!)

Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland


All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess and Laura L. Sullivan

Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights by Karen Blumenthal

The Radium Girls Young Reader’s Edition: The Scary But True Story of the Poison That Made People Glow in the Dark by Kate Moore

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Throw Like a Girl, Cheer Like a Boy: The Evolution of Gender, Identity and Race in Sports by Robyn Ryle

Walk Toward the Rising Sun: From Child Soldier to Ambassador of Peace by Ger Duany and Garen Thomas

News to Wake Your Brain Cells – January 8

Happy new year! Here is some library and book news to welcome a new and hopefully better year for us all:


2021 Titles by/for/about Latinx – Latinxs in Kid Lit

Dr. Seuss’ net worth in 2020 is actually shocking – Showbiz CheatSheet

How author Jacqueline Woodson gets it done – The Cut

How children’s books grapple with the Native American experience – NPR

I Spy Louise Fitzhugh: a conversation with Leslie Brody – Los Angeles Review of Books

Michael Morpurgo denies ‘censoring’ Merchant of Venice in children’s book – The Guardian

Struggling to discuss tough topics with a kid? Here are books that might help – NPR


REALM Test Results – American Libraries

Social equity policy at San Diego Library boosting branches in low-income neighborhoods – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Toronto library staff are calling more than 20,000 seniors for a quick check-in chat during the pandemic – Toronto Star


5 books to help young people understand racism – The Conversation

2021 debut MG & YA authors – Crazyquiltedi

Co-authors of “Tiny Pretty Things” discuss the Netflix adaptation and what’s next – BuzzFeed

Get cozy with these winter 2021 YA books for your TBR – Book Riot

Q & A with Angie Thomas – Publishers Weekly

These 33 YA books of 2021 are worth saving your gift cards for – Epic Reads

2020 Cybils Finalists – Middle Grade Categories

The Cybils are the long-running Bloggers’ Literary Awards given to books for children and teens. I’ll be breaking the finalists into three groupings based on reader age. Here are the finalists in the categories that focus on middle grade books: Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction, Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels, Middle-Grade Fiction and Middle-Grade Nonfiction.


Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe

In the Red by Christopher Swiedler

Mulan: Before the Sword by Grace Lin

Rival Magic by Deva Fagan

Thirteens by Kate Alice Marshall

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat


Black Heroes of the Wild West by James Otis Smith

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song

Go with the Flow by Karen Schneemann and Lily Williams

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed


Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

The Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte


All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Thai Boys’ Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

How We Got to the Moon: The People, Technology, and Daring Feats of Science Behind Humanity’s Greatest Adventure by John Rocco

Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena Newman and Nathaniel Newman, illustrated by Neil Swaab

Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species by Ana Pego and Isabel Minhós Martins, illustrated by Bernado P. Carvalho 

STEM in the Final Four by Meg Marquardt

This Is Your Brain on Stereotypes: How Science Is Tackling Unconscious Bias by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, illustrated by Drew Shannon

The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson (Editor), Cheryl Willis Hudson (Editor)

UK Costa Book Award Winners

The Costa Book Awards are given in the UK in five categories with an overall winner picked later in January. One of the categories is focused on children’s books. Here is the winner as well as the other finalists:


Voyage of the Sparrowhawk

Voyage of the Sparrowhawk by Natasha Farrant


The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff (released in April 2021 in U.S.)

The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates by Jenny Pearson

Wranglestone (Wranglestone, #1)

Wranglestone by Darren Charlton

2020 Cybils Finalists – Preschool & Elementary Categories

The Cybils are the long-running Bloggers’ Literary Awards given to books for children and teens. I’ll be breaking the finalists into three groupings based on reader age. This first one is for the youngest readers and includes the finalists for Fiction Picture Books, Easy Readers and Early Chapter Books, and Elementary Nonfiction:


The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Brianne Farley

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith

In a Jar by Deborah Marcero 

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee, illustrated by Pascal Campion

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade


The Best Seat in First Grade by Katharine Kenah, illustrated by Abby Carter

Cat Has a Plan by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Fred Blunt

King & Kayla and the Case of the Unhappy Neighbor by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

See the Cat: Three Stories about a Dog by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Nina Mata (I nominated this one!)

What about Worms!? by Ryan T. Higgins

Yasmin the Gardener by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Hatem Aly


Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee, illustrated by Dung Ho

Monster and Boy by Hannah Barnaby, illustrated by Anoosha Syed

Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren Castillo

Sofia Valdez and the Vanishing Vote by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem: Tales from Deckawoo Drive by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen


Dinosaur Lady: The Daring Discoveries of Mary Anning, the First Paleontologist by Linda Skeers, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns 

The Fighting Infantryman by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The Next President: The Unexpected Beginnings and Unwritten Future of America’s Presidents by Kate Messner and Adam Rex

No Voice Too Small: Fourteen Young Americans Making History by Lindsay H. Metcalf (Editor), Keila V. Dawson (Editor), Jeanette Bradley (Editor/Illustrator)

The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Duane Smith

Winged Wonders: Solving the Monarch Migration Mystery by Meeg Pincus, illustrated by Yas Imamura

10 Top YA Books Coming in January

Here are 10 YA titles released in January that have received starred reviews!

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala

A Complicated Love Story Set in Space by Shaun David Hutchinson

Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Girl on the Line by Faith Gardner

Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo

The Life I’m In by Sharon G. Flake

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris

16 New Children’s Books Coming in January

Here are 16 new children’s books arriving this month that have received starred reviews!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

The Ambassador of Nowhere, Texas by Kimberly Willis Holt

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen

Hard-Boiled Bugs for Breakfast and Other Tasty Poems by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Ruth Chan

The In-Between by Rebecca K.S. Ansari

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance Cover

Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued by Peter Sis

Race to the Bottom of the Earth: Surviving Antarctica by Rebecca E.F. Barone

Root Magic by Eden Royce

The Sea in Winter by Christine Day

Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles

The World Between Blinks by Amie Kaufman and Ryan Graudin

Unplugged by Gordon Korman

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt

Cover image for Just Like That

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (9780544084773)

In the summer of 1968, Meryl Lee’s best friend died. Her parents decided to give her a fresh start at St. Elene’s Preparatory Academy for girls, a boarding school in Maine. Meryl Lee doesn’t fit in with the wealthy girls around her, finding all of the rules and expectations stifling. Meanwhile, Matt Coffin is also on the Maine coast, except he is living in a decrepit shanty trying to survive. He is on the run from a criminal gang whose leader murdered his best friend. Matt works on the fishing boats, earning just enough to feed himself and heat his small shanty. After Matt is attacked and nearly killed, the headmistress of St. Elene’s takes him in. They start to form a family along with one of the fishermen who takes Matt out on the water. Meryl Lee is also finding that she can make friends in different ways, though the blank of grief is often waiting to overtake her. Soon the two will meet, discover one another and find that they are drawn together in grief and hope.

Every new book by Schmidt is a delight. This one is a heart stealer of a book where readers will adore both Meryl Lee and Matt as well as the adults who care for them both. As Meryl learns again and again, friendship starts in a variety of different ways, as long as you are open to it. Readers will leave this book more open to discovering amazing people in their lives who were there all along.

The historical setting works particularly well to keep Matt able to stay hidden as long as he does. It also plays a role in events at St. Elene’s with staff getting into trouble for publicly expressing their political beliefs and the Vietnam War taking the brother of one of the girls who works at the school. Schmidt explores grief with a deep empathy and kindness but also with a cracking sense of humor at times.

Deeply sad, often lonely but also full of hope and friendship. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Clarion Books.