The Bulletin of

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of the Center for Children's Books

Blue Ribbons are chosen annually by the Bulletin staff and represent what we believe to be the best of the previous year's literature for youth. See the Blue Ribbon Archive for other lists from 1990 through the present. Please feel free to copy, download, or link to these lists. We ask only that you cite the source.

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2012 Blue Ribbons

blue 12 cover

Unusually, this year’s picture books have a very exclusive top echelon (in which animals are especially well represented). Nonfiction, on the other hand, has a fuller list than in some previous years, and it’s one that’s particularly strong on curricular must-haves for history at various levels. Fiction, however, is again notable for variety, with realism, fantasy, history, and visual narrative all present and accounted for. Overall, it’s a rewarding assortment, sure to please diverse tastes. 

Deborah Stevenson, Editor


Cashore, Kristin. Bitterblue. Dial, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (May)       

Framing her interrogations of strength, love, and storytelling within a young queen’s coming-of-age story, Cashore manages to create a tale that transcends the fantasy genre with its emotional and philosophical weight.

Dicamillo, Kate. Bink and Gollie: Two for One; written by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illus. by Tony Fucile. Candlewick, 2012. Gr. 2-4 (July)  

The endearing partnership of polar-opposite friends Bink and Gollie is the highlight of this delightful convergence of picture books, graphic novels, and early readers.

Green, John. The Fault in Our Stars. Dutton, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (May)

With their razor-sharp wits but failing, fragile bodies, exquisitely characterized Hazel and Augustus embark together on a journey both dashingly intellectual and thoroughly romantic after meeting in a teen cancer support group.

Handler, Daniel. Why We Broke Up; illus. by Maira Kalman. Little, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (June)

Supported by full-color illustrations and conversational prose, this fervent reflection on the dissolution of young love between artsy Min and basketball star Ed gets high school heartbreak just right.

McKissack, Patricia. Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love. Chronicle, 2012. Gr. 5-9 (April)     

Based on the autobiography of the Wild West hero Deadwood Dick, this brilliantly illustrated graphic novel is marked by graceful narration and startling, vibrant action scenes.

Milford, Kate. The Broken Lands. Clarion, 2012. Gr. 6-9 (October)

New York City itself becomes a character in this captivating steampunk tale that features streetwise Sam and his immigrant pal Jin as they try to battle for the city’s soul in the late nineteenth century.

Pearsall , Shelley. Jump into the Sky. Knopf, 2012. Gr. 5-9 (October)

Fans of Christopher Paul Curtis will find humor and insight in this tale of thirteen-year-old Levi and his father, a member of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion, a colored division of the military in World War II.

Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Lamb, 2012. Gr. 5-7 (September)

Original plot pieces and a cast of undeniably charming characters come together  in this wholly satisfying tale of secrets, friendship, and underdogs.

Stiefvater, Maggie. The Raven Boys. Scholastic, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (September)

Amid a suspenseful hunt for ley  lines and a long dead Welsh king, a compelling human drama featuring psychic Blue and a group of wealthy boys from a nearby elite school plays out to make a thoughtful, genre-busting fantasy.

Volponi, Paul. The Final Four. Viking, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (March)

A rousing March Madness matchup between swaggering, star-powered Michigan State and underdog Troy University offers edge-of-your-seat sports suspense and a mindful examination of four dynamic characters in the hands of college athletics.

Wein, Elizabeth. Code Name Verity. Hyperion, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (June)

Wein masterfully delivers methodical, plot twist-driven suspense and sweeping wartime inquiry of hatred and heroes as captured British spy Verity and pilot best friend Maddie give harrowing accounts of survival.

Willems, Mo. Listen To My Trumpet; written and illus. by Mo Willems. Hyperion, 2012. Gr. K-1 (April)

The punchline of this latest installment of Willem’s dynamic duo will elicit both giggles and “awwws” from young readers as they relate to Piggy’s attempts to master the trumpet and be a good friend.

Bingham, Kelly. Z Is for Moose; illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky. Greenwillow, 2012. 3-7 yrs (April)

In this cleverly silly staging of an alphabetical pageant, an endearingly goofy moose disrupts the order in a book that works both as funny alphabet book and comic story.

Buckley, Michael. Kel Gilligan’s Daredevil Stunt Show; illus. by Dan Santat. Abrams, 2012. 3-7 yrs (October)

Gasp at the feats of helmeted superhero Kel Gilligan, a kid who amazes
his parents by performing deeds such as getting dressed and using the
Potty of Doom in this gleefully over-the-top picture book.

Bunting, Eve. Ballywhinney Girl; illus. by Emily Arnold McCully. Clarion, 2012. 5-8 yrs (May)

After a young Irish girl finds the remains of an Iron Age girl preserved
in the peat bog, she follows the scientists’ explanation of the body and
thinks about the girl who died long ago; McCully’s delicate, luminous
watercolors add character to this tender and unusual story.

Carnesi, Monica. Little Dog Lost; written and illus. by Monica Carnesi. Penguin, 2012.  3-7 yrs (February) 

Simple, immediate text paired with pale, chilly illustrations tell the
riveting true story of poor Dog, who was caught on an ice floe in a
river that’s heading out to sea, and the humans who saved him.

Fogliano, Julie. And Then It’s Spring; illus. by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook, 2012. 4-6 yrs (March)

Spare, gentle prose describes the achingly gradual progress of spring in partnership with tender, fetchingly detailed illustrations that follow the gardening efforts of a determined young boy and the collection of critters that follows him.

Gibbs, Edward. Little Bee; written and illus. by Edward Gibbs. LB Kids/Little, 2012. 2-4 yrs (July)

Vivid saturated colors and high-action line distinguishes the illustrations in this lively rhyming board book, where a little bee is only the first in a sequence of several critters fleeing from a pursuing animal.

Klassen, Jon. This Is Not My Hat; written and illus. by Jon Klassen. Candlewick, 2012. 5-8 yrs (November)

Crisp graphics reminiscent of Leo Lionni and a sardonic sense of humor
combine in this picture book about a itty-bitty fish who stole a hat
from a big fish and got away with it—or so he thinks.

Sauer, Tammi. Me Want Pet!; illus. by Bob Shea. Simon, 2012. 4-8 yrs (April)

Plenty of youngsters will relate to Cave Boy’s desire for a pet (though a few may balk at the thought of caring for a saber-toothed tiger) in this chuckle-worthy tale that features Bob Shea’s saturated, thickly outlined illustrations.



Chin, Jason. Island: A Story of the Galápagos; written and illus. by Jason Chin. Roaring Brooks, 2012. Gr. 2-5 (November)

Gorgeous watercolor illustrations are composed in full-page spreads and helpful thumbnail panels to guide young readers through the scientific study of an ecosystem and evolution.

Hoberman, Mary Ann. Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart: illus. by Michael Emberly. Tingly/Little Books, 2012. Gr. 2-5 (June)

Noted versifier Hoberman gathers over 120 poems here along with guidance and tips for committing the poems to memory, making this a true treat for bards in the making.

Hoose, Phillip. Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (September)

This high-interest nonfiction book provides an intimate look at the seldom-seen experiences of endangered red knot birds by following the migration of a single bird named B95 from Tierra del Fuego, Argentina to the Canadian Arctic and back again.

Jurmain, Suzanne Tripp. Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the True Story of an American Feud; illus. by Larry Day. Dutton, 2011. Gr. 3-5 (January)

Jurmain uses the on-again, off-again friendship between two very different men as an entry point to explore the hard work of nation building; Day’s watercolor illustrations make this a lesson in both history and humor.

Kalman, Maira. Looking At Lincoln; written and illus. by Maira Kalman. Penguin, 2012. 5-8 yrs (January)

A bright palette combines with singularly focused spreads to convey both a sense of whimsy and solemnity in this kid-friendly look at the life of the sixteenth president.

Kops, Deborah. The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919. Charlesbridge, 2012. Gr. 4-7 (March)

The tale of this sticky disaster initially sounds like a joke but Kops’ accessible and gripping account of the flood of molasses that swept through northern Boston makes it clear that the tragedy that took 21 lives is no laughing matter.

Osborne, Barrett Linda. Miles To Go For Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in The Jim Crow Years; illus. with photographs. Abrams, 2012. Gr. 5-8 (March)

Focusing on the rarely discussed period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Era, this middle grade offering on race relations in the U.S. boasts meticulous organization and compelling photographs.

Rappaport, Doreen. Beyond Courage:  The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust; illus. with photographs. Candlewick, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (November)

Organized in chronological order, these twenty-one stories of Jewish resistance attempts against the atrocities of the Nazi regime are supplemented with photographs, maps, and a timeline.

Rumford, James. From the Good Mountain; written and illus. by James Rumford. Roaring Brook, 2012. Gr. 3-5 (October)

Framing a history lesson within a series of riddles, Rumford offers and uniquely engaging look at the inventor of the printing press.

Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon; illus. with photographs. Roaring Brook, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (October)

This fascinating true-life spy tale is edge-of-your-seat material and both history buffs and YAs looking for a good thriller will find much to be captivated by here.

Vernick, Audrey. Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team; illus. by Steven Salerno. Clarion, 2012. 5-9 yrs (June)

The Little Golden Book-style illustrations joyfully evoke the golden age of baseball in this delightful true story of the Acerra all-brother baseball team.


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