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.
2002 Blue Ribbons
Ah, the Blue
Ribbons process: always familiar, yet always filled with surprises.
This year's proceedings can probably best be summed up in one word:
diversity. Not just in the books, though there's a fair amount there as
well, but in the opinions. Through a combination of finesse and
argument, we've boiled down those diverse opinions to this list of
books; they've withstood the rigors of the process and still retained
enough magic, humor, general excellence, or all of the above to remind
us hard-bitten souls of the power of this literature. We hope you and
your patrons find these powerful, too.
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
(Other books we enjoyed and remain unreconciled to the exclusion
thereof are discussed at the Blue Ribbon dissents here.
- Ahlberg, Allan. A Bit More Bert; illus. by Raymond
Briggs. Farrar. 2-4 yrs (November)
Ahlberg's child-man Bert returns, including the audience in more of his
cozy home life and slightly surreal adventures.
- Deacon, Alexis. Slow Loris; written and illus. by
Alexis Deacon. Kane/Miller. 4-7 yrs (May)
Slow Loris is indeed a slow loris during the day, but he has a secret
and adventurous night life.
- Kalman, Maira. Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John
Harvey; written and illus. by Maira Kalman. Putnam. 5-8 yrs
One of the few effective picture books to treat the September 11
tragedy, this lively yet touching book tells the factual story of a
retired fireboat returned to service.
- Karas, G. Brian. Atlantic; written and illus. by G.
Brian Karas. Putnam. 6-9 yrs (April)
Karas' oversized oceanic illustrations lend watery depth to this
evocative introduction to the Atlantic Ocean.
- Lindgren, Barbro. Benny and the Binky; tr. by
Elisabeth Kallick Dyssegaard; illus. by Olof Landström. Farrar.
4-7 yrs (May)
Small piglet Benny is tired and jealous of his new baby brother and he
covets the infant's pacifier, so one day he grabs the binky and takes
off for a satisfying ramble.
- McMullan, Kate. I Stink!; illus. by Jim McMullan.
Cotler/HarperCollins. 3-7 yrs (June)
A garbage truck fragrantly describes the raw, rubbish-crunching details
of its early-morning duties; illustrations pack the protagonist with
personality as well as refuse.
- Paye, Won-Ldy, ad. Head, Body, Legs: A Story from Liberia;
by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert; illus. by Julie Paschkis.
Holt. 4-8 yrs (May)
Various body parts meet up and decide to form the union we now know as
the human body; the jocular writing style and illustrations featuring
expressive part-of-body language add to the humor of this lighthearted
- Raschka, Chris. John Coltrane's Giant Steps; written
and illus. by Chris Raschka. Jackson/Atheneum. 6-10 yrs (September)
Synesthesia comes to picture books as Raschka turns Coltrane's music
into visual display.
- Vyner, Tim. World Team; written and illus. by Tim
Vyner. Roaring Brook. 5-8 yrs (May)
Vyner's pithy text and color-splashed watercolors explore a passion
common to youngsters on six continents: soccer.
- Anderson, M. T. Feed. Candlewick. Gr. 7-12 (November)
In this darkly funny futuristic satire, most people get their
information, education, and conversation from a computer feed in their
brains--but what happens when something goes wrong?
- Bang-Campbell, Monika. Little Rat Sets Sail; illus. by
Molly Bang. Harcourt. Gr. 2-3 (May)
Little Rat is a landlubber at heart, but her summer of sailing lessons
isn't quite the torture she'd feared in this spirited easy reader.
- Cohn, Rachel. Gingerbread. Simon. Gr. 9-12 (April)
Sixteen-year-old Cyd Charisse, a "recovering hellion," makes new
discoveries about herself and her family on an unprecedented visit to
her birth father in this quirky and authentic YA novel.
- Couloumbis, Audrey. Say Yes. Putnam. Gr. 5-8
When Casey's stepmother, her only caretaker, disappears, the
twelve-year-old girl struggles to keep her abandonment secret and her
- Gaiman, Neil. Coraline; illus. by Dave McKean.
HarperCollins. Gr. 4-7 (November)
The well-known graphic novelist turns to straight text in this spooky
thriller about young Coraline, who discovers in her new house a door to
a frightening parallel world.
- Gantos, Jack. What Would Joey Do? Farrar. Gr. 5-7
Gantos' obstreperous, funny, and sympathetic Joey returns here having
largely mastered his ADHD, but he's still faced with his real obstacle:
his dysfunctional family.
- Koertge, Ron. Stoner and Spaz. Candlewick. Gr. 9-12
Stuck with a mild case of cerebral palsy and the concerted attentions
of his overprotective grandmother, Ben is surprised to find liberation
in his friendship with the rebellious Colleen.
- McKay, Hilary. Saffy's Angel. McElderry. Gr. 5-8 (May)
Troubled by her adopted status in her madcap family, Saffron determines
to connect with her late grandfather by tracking down his bequest to
her, a stone angel.
- Meyer, L. A. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of Curious
Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy. Harcourt. Gr. 7-10
When a desperate young eighteenth-century orphan passes for male and
joins the Royal Navy, the result is high adventure, drama, and even
- Mills, Claudia. 7 x 9 = Trouble!; illus. by G. Brian
Karas. Farrar. Gr. 2-4 (April)
Third-grader Wilson Williams vs. the times tables, odds against Wilson.
Mills makes this classic grade-school dilemma into a sympathetic and
- Myers, Walter Dean. Patrol: An American Soldier in Vietnam;
by Ann Grifalconi. HarperCollins. Gr. 3-8 (May)
Tense and intimate free verse counterpointed by lush collage art
follows a young soldier through Vietnam.
- Watts, Julia. Finding H. F. Alyson, 2001. Gr. 7-12
After years of struggling with being the only gay kids in their rural
Kentucky town, Heavenly Faith--H.F.--and her friend Bo get a new view
on the world during their road trip to visit H.F.'s estranged mother.
- Wells, Rosemary. Timothy's Tales from Hilltop School;
written and illus. by Rosemary Wells. Viking. 5-8 yrs (October)
Wells' inimitable style in both art and text makes this story of
everyday life in the primary grades a comic and touching gem.
- Burg, Brad. Outside the Lines: Poetry at Play; illus.
by Rebecca Gibbon. Putnam. Gr. 2-5 (April)
Clever text, imaginative visuals, and creative layout combine to make a
sparkling and playful collection of poetry in action on the page.
- Fleischman, John. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story
about Brain Science. Houghton. Gr. 4-9 (May)
Fleischman never loses sight of the person at the heart of the science
and scientific history in this account of nineteenth-century railroader
Phineas Gage, who became a scientific wonder by surviving having a
three-foot iron rod blasted through his head.
- Gantos, Jack. Hole in My Life. Farrar. Gr. 9 up (May)
The noted author turns to bracingly honest autobiography, describing
his eighteen months in prison, which solidified his desire to become a
writer, for ferrying drugs.
- Greenberg, Jan. Action Jackson; written by Jan
Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illus. by Robert Andrew Parker. Roaring
Brook. Gr. 3-6 (November)
This ever-reliable pairing teams up with fluid watercolorist Parker for
a focused and accessible introduction to the painting of Jackson
- Harris, Robie H. Hello Benny!: What It's Like to Be a Baby;
by Michael Emberley. McElderry. 4-7 yrs (November)
Audience-friendly developmental information will give former babies new
understanding about that demanding state.
- Jacobsen, Ruth. Rescued Images; written and illus. by
Ruth Jacobsen. Mikaya, 2001. Gr. 6 up (February)
Jacobsen's dramatic mixed-media collages give this Holocaust memoir
- Kerley, Barbara. A Cool Drink of Water. National
Geographic. 4-10 yrs (September)
This handsome photoessay explores the many way people around the world
obtain this fundamental element, demonstrating how this precious
element is variously treasured or taken for granted.
- Old, Wendie. To Fly: The Story of the Wright Brothers;
illus. by Robert Andrew Parker. Clarion. Gr. 3-5 (November)
This concise yet insightful overview of the Wright brothers'
development of their famous flying machine is further enhanced by the
breezy elegance of Parker's watercolors.
- Partridge, Elizabeth. This Land Was Made for You and Me:
The Life & Songs of Woody Guthrie. Viking. Gr. 7 up
This thorough and honest biography of the legendary folk troubadour
gains energy from original research and a multitude of period
- Philbrick, Nathaniel. Revenge of the Whale: The True Story
of the Whaleship Essex. Putnam. Gr. 8-12 (November)
This juvenile version of Philbrick's adult work loses no tension or
excitement in its factual chronicle of the terrible disaster of the
nineteenth-century whaling ship, the Essex.
- Walker, Sally M. Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the
Coelacanth; illus. by Laura Westlund and with photographs.
Carolrhoda. Gr. 4-9 (April)
Walker turns modern science's rediscovery of the coelacanth into an
absorbing (and lavishly illustrated) true-life story of politics,
rivalries, and technological advances as well as marine biology.
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