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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2011 Blue Ribbons

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Like last year, we had a strong showing for younger children’s books this year, rather than the YA-dominant lists we’ve often encountered of yore, so we’re happy that readers will find much to delight them even before middle school. In excellent news for the just-post-toddler crowd, the picture book list is also rich for the young end of their audience.  Our fiction list is an intriguing mix, with history, fantasy, and realism all represented, each in several very different ways (albeit with an oddly generous helping of the death-related).  The nonfiction category has a certain old-school flair, breathing new life into iterations of actual classics and classic topics for results that will immeasurably enhance several curricular units as well as bring joy to recreational readers.  We were particularly inclined to assent this year, but we may yet want to make some final pleadings, so any dissents by our reviewers will as usual be available for viewing at our website,

Deborah Stevenson, Editor

Atinuke. The No. 1 Car Spotter; illus. by Warwick Johnson Cadwell. Kane Miller Books, 2011. Gr. 2-4 (November)
Automotive hijinks and boyish mischief are spotlighted in this effervescent chapter book that centers on life in a small African village and its “No. 1 car spotter,” Oluwalase Babatunde Benson.
Blundell, Judy. Strings Attached. Scholastic, 2011. Gr. 8-12 (March)
Kit and Billy are seemingly a happy young couple in 1950s New York, but little does Billy know that his mobster father has set Kit up with all she has in this noir tale.
Brosgol, Vera. Anya’s Ghost; written and illus. by Vera Brosgol. First Second/Roaring Brook, 2011. Gr. 8-10 (June)
A juicy mystery, a bit of horror, a compelling cast, and a deceptive ghost make this graphic novel a strong and appealing standout.
Cockrell, Amanda. What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay. Flux, 2011. Gr. 7-10 (September)
A miraculous apparition, a family split, and a troubling relationship bring fifteen-year-old Angie to a spiritual crisis in this provocative and hopeful read.
Couloumbis, Audrey. Lexie; illus. by Julia Denos. Random House, 2011. Gr. 3-6 (June)
In this invitingly accessible exploration of family frailties and strengths, ten-year-old Lexie is stunned and disappointed to find that her special vacation by the sea with her father will be shared with his new girlfriend and her two sons.
Kraus, Daniel. Rotters. Delacorte, 2011. Gr. 9-12 (May)
You don’t need zombies or vampires for a good scare as proven by this wonderfully creepy and downright gruesome tale of grave-robbing and family loyalty that makes the perfect thriller for the thinking teen.
Meehl, Brian. You Don’t Know about Me. Delacorte, 2011. Gr. 7-10 (June)
In this stylish contemporary road story inspired by Huckleberry Finn, Billy Albright finds himself on a cross-country treasure hunt for his inheritance from his father, guided by a man who forces Billy to examine his own prejudices.
Ostlere, Cathy. Karma. Razorbill, 2011. Gr. 8-12 (March)
This lush novel in free verse recounts the story of Maya, a fifteen-year-old Canadian girl who journeys with her father in 1984 to her parents’ native India, finds herself caught up in the turmoil following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and then begins to find herself and real love.
Taylor, Laini. Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Little, 2011. Gr. 9-12 (September)
A human raised by human-animal hybrids known as chimaera, Karou finds herself caught in an ancient war between chimaera and seraphim when she’s attacked by a seraph—to whom she then discovers a powerful attraction.
Ursu, Anne. Breadcrumbs; illus. by Erin McGuire. Walden Pond/HarperCollins, 2011. Gr. 4-7 (October)
A wintry fairy-tale forest provides the backdrop to this poignant tale of a young girl negotiating her way, both literally and metaphorically, from the magical world of childhood to the confusing place of adolescence.
Vernick, Audrey.  Water Balloon. Clarion, 2011. Gr. 5-8 (October)
The painful transitions that often come along with adolescence are portrayed here with startling clarity and tender humor as thirteen-year-old Marley must come to terms with her parents separation and her disintegrating relationships with her best friends.
Violi, Jen. Putting Makeup on Dead People. Hyperion, 2011. Gr. 8-12 (July/August)
There are a lot of satiric and fantastical literary looks at death, but Violi’s story of Donna Parisi, who after her father’s death decides that her career goal is to become a mortician, is a serious, wise, and poignant exploration of the meaning of life and death.

Crum, Shutta. Mine!; illus. by Patrice Barton. Knopf, 2011. 2-4 yrs (July/August)
In this adorable nearly wordless book, a toddler’s attempt to claim all the toys turns into a rousing game-playing session with a baby and a playful puppy.
Daly, Cathleen. Prudence Wants a Pet; illus. by Stephen Michael King. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2011. $16.99 6-9 yrs (September)
There’s poker-face humor galore in this tale of plucky Prudence, who tries out creative alternatives such as a Branch (named Branch) when her paraents forbid her a pet.
Deacon, Alexis. A Place to Call Home; illus. by Viviane Schwarz. Candlewick, 2011.  Gr. 2-4 (July/August)
In this hilarious picture-book adventure, a litter of feral hamster brothers outgrow their cozy den in an abandoned junkyard couch and make their way out into the wide world—eventually.
Durand, Hallie. Mitchell’s License; illus. by Tony Fucile. Candlewick, 2011. 3-6 yrs (May)
Lively art partners this inventive story of Mitchell, whose bedtime ritual involves driving his father, complete with Dad’s obliging automative noises and responses to steering, to bed.
Henkes, Kevin. Little White Rabbit; written and illus. by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow Books, 2011. 2-5 yrs (February)
A bevy of vibrant spring pastels and a reassuring conclusion will have make-believers of all sorts appreciating this fanciful tale of a young bunny’s dreamy ruminations.
McKissack, Patricia. Never Forgotten; illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. Scwartz & Wade, 2011. Gr. 5-9 (November)
In this mythically flavored sequence of narrative free-verse poems, an eighteenth-century West African blacksmith uses the natural elements to uncover the fate of his son who was captured and sold into slavery.
Moore, Inga. A House in the Woods; written and illus. by Inga Moore. Candlewick, 2011. 5-7 yrs (December)
An industrious team of hard-hatted beavers is called in to save the day when Moose and Bear accidentally destroy the homes of their beloved friends, the two Little Pigs in this cozy, autumnal-hued critter tale.
Murray, Alison. Apple Pie ABC; written and illus. by Alison Murray. Disney Hyperion, 2011. 3-7 yrs (June)
This cleverly terse, alphabetically organized story follows the tale of a girl who bakes an apple pie and the dog that desperately wants to eat it. 
Ray, Mary Lyn. Stars; illus. by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane/Simon, 2011. 4-7 yrs (November)
Sky watchers and stargazers will find plenty of celestial wonder in this evocative ode to the night sky featuring a small multicultural group of children and the many types of stars in their lives.
Runton, Andy Owly & Wormy, Friends All Aflutter!; written and illus. by Andy Runton. Atheneum, 2011. 4-7 yrs (March)
Runton’s rotund cartoon owl has been charming young comics readers for nearly a decade in his black-and-white wordless graphic-novel iteration, and now he debuts in full color in this inviting picture book.
Savage, Stephen Where’s Walrus?; written and illus. by Stephen Savage. Scholastic, 2011.  3-6 yrs (February)
This hilarious wordless picture book follows the attempts of an adventurous walrus to blend with various groups of people after he slips out of the zoo for a lark.
George, Kristine O’Connell Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems; illus. by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion, 2011. $16.99 Gr. 2-4 (January)
Being an older sister isn’t always easy, as narrator Jessica describes in this sequence of thirty-four perceptive free-verse poems tracing her relationship with pesky little sister, Emma.
Hinds, Gareth, ad. The Odyssey; ad. and illus. by Gareth Hinds. Candlewick, 2010. Gr. 9-12 (January)
It may be a hair-raising adventure tale that’s lasted well over two millennia, but the classic epic gains freshness in this moody and gory graphic-novel interpretation.
McClafferty, Carla Killough The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon. Carolrhoda, 2011. Gr. 5-9 (June)
McClafferty explores science, art, and history as she follows the fascinating project that used historical portraits, sculpture, and information to create life-sized models of George Washington at three different ages.
Phelan, Matt. Around the World: Three Remarkable Journeys; written and illus. by Matt Phelan. Candlewick, 2011. Gr. 5-9 (October)
Phelan’s simple but visually dynamic art make this graphic novel recounting the epic journeys of three intrepid souls at the end of the nineteenth century a trip worth taking.
Ross, Stewart Into the Unknown:  How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air; illus. by Stephen Biesty. Candlewick, 2011. Gr. 4-8 (May)
What looks like a gimmicky collection of glitzy foldouts is actually a tidily focused, intriguingly illustrated account of fourteen landmark explorations.
Rubin, Susan. Goldman Music Was IT: Young Leonard Bernstein; illus. with photographs. Charlesbridge, 2011. Gr. 5-9 (April)
The early life of a musical great is chronicled in this engagingly accessible read that offers a treasure trove of back matter, including meticulous source notes, musical scores, a discography, and biographical portraits of  Bernstein’s mentors.
Thomson, Ruth Terezín: Voices from the Holocaust. Candlewick, 2011. Gr. 5-8 (February)
Thomson tells the story of the Terezín concentration camp almost entirely in the voices of those who lived there, grounding it in solid research and presenting it in an accessible magazine-style layout.
Turnbull, Ann, ad. Greek Myths; illus. by Sarah Young. Candlewick, 2010. Gr. 5-10 (March)
This compilation of sixteen Greek myths offers vibrant tellings, thoughtful organization, and regal artwork to bring classics to a new generation.

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