2012 Blue Ribbons

2012 Blue Ribbons

Unusually, this year 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.


Cashore, Kristin. Bitterblue. Dial, 2012. Gr. 9-12 (May)
Framing her interrogations of strength, love, and morality 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; by Kate DiCamillo and Allison 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 book, graphic novel, and early reader.

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 that’s both intellectual and 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 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 legendary African-American division of the military in World War II.

Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Lamb, 2012. Gr. 5-7 (September)
Original plot elements 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)
Against a suspenseful hunt for ley lines and for a long-ago Welsh prince, 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 relate harrowing accounts of survival in World War II.

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 Willems’ 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 child 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, 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 maybe not the 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 Brook, 2012. Gr. 2-5 (November)
Gorgeous watercolor illustrations composed in full-page spreads and helpful thumbnail panels join with thoughtful text 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. Megan Tingly 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, 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 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 twenty-one lives is no laughing matter.

Osborne, Barrett Linda. Miles to Go For Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years. Abrams, 2012. Gr. 5-8 (March)
Focusing on the rarely discussed period between Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Era, this overview of racial oppression and the fight against it in the U.S. boasts meticulous organization ,compelling photographs, and the message that the fight extended beyond the famous.

Rappaport, Doreen. Beyond Courage: The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust. Candlewick, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (November)
Organized in chronological order, these twenty-one stories of Jewish resistance against the atrocities of the Nazi regime are supplemented with photographs, maps, and a timeline and effectively shatter the myth of Jewish passivity.

Rumford, James. From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World; written and illus. by James Rumford. Roaring Brook, 2012. Gr. 3-5 (October)
Presenting a history lesson in a series of riddles, Rumford offers a 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. Roaring Brook, 2012. Gr. 7-12 (October)
This fascinating true-life spy tale is edge-of-your-seat material, and history buffs, science fans, and YAs looking for a good thriller will all 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.