Friday, November 30, 2018

Sibert Smackdown 2018/2019

The Sibert Smackdown is an activity intended to build enthusiasm for the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal, which is given each year as part of the American Library Association’s annual Youth Media Awards. It focuses on picture books because they are more manageable to read in a school setting.

Here’s how it works.

Students in grades 3-8 read the nonfiction picture books on your class’s Mock Sibert list. You can use the list I’ve compiled below or you can create your own list. My list includes titles that have strong kid appeal, will promote good discussions, and can be used as mentor texts in writing workshop. They reinforce the research techniques and craft moves included in most State ELA standards.  
Adventures to School: Real-Life Journeys of Students from Around the World by Miranda and Baptiste Paul, illustrated by Isabel Muñoz

All that Trash: The Story of the 1987 Garbage Barge and Our Problem with Stuff by Meghan McCarthy


Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Katherine Roy

Stretch to the Sun: From a Tiny Sprout to the Tallest Tree on Earth by Carrie Pearson, illustrated by Susan Swan

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

Will some of these books be named on Monday, January 28, 2019, when the Sibert Medal committee announces its winner and honor titles at the ALA Youth Media Awards ceremony? Who knows, but I do have a pretty good track record.

You may also want to consider titles on the Mock Sibert list created by Alyson Beecher or the narrative and expository Mock Orbis Pictus lists created by Michele Knott.  Anderson’s Bookshop has also created a Mock Sibert list that includes picture books as well as middle grade titles.

After reading your Mock Sibert titles, students choose their two favorites and use this worksheet, which you can download from my website, to evaluate and compare the books before they vote. The worksheet features a kid-friendly version of the criteria used by the real Sibert committee.

I also suggest using the guidelines developed by former Sibert judge Melody Allen. They are available here, here, and here.

I’d also recommend reading this post, which describes how some educators have modified or enhanced the Sibert Smackdown! in the past. It’s so important to create learning experiences that are perfect for your particular students.

I’d love to hear how your students are progressing, and so would other participating teachers and librarians. Please use the Twitter hashtag #SibertSmackdown to share what you are doing.

Happy Reading!


  1. So many awesome books here. Haven't we come a long way, Nonfiction?

  2. Thanks for this post. I am so excited to see which book my students pick!

  3. But where's the bigger, more complex nonfiction -- stuff for middle grade that's not a picture book? Have we forgotten older n/f? I realize picture books are quicker to read, but Sibert is through 8th grade. Boots On The Ground?

    1. That's a good question. The Sibert Smackdown is a specific activity that I'm continually refining based on feedback from participating schools. I originally focused on grades 3-5, but middle schools expressed interest, so this year I'm including them.

      While each teacher/librarian/school is welcome to create their own list (and the Anderson's list includes many MG titles they can choose from), they repeatedly tell me that that it takes too much time to analyze MG nonfiction in this way. A few have included MG graphic nonfiction titles on their lists.

      When I develop activities, I try to meet students where they are. My hope is that as we see more and more nonfiction children's literature integrated into content area curriculum in middle school and high school, it may be possible to do the Sibert Smackdowm with a mix of picture books and long-form titles, but we just aren't there yet.