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.
2008 Blue Ribbons
good news this year: we had an extremely strong
group of fiction semifinalists, making the selection of the final list
agonizing indeed. The bad news: it’s probably the
oldest-aimed fiction list, overall, that we’ve ever put on Blue
Ribbons. Has the increasing attention to YA fiction in
prestigious circles tipped the writing balance? We don’t know,
but we’re glad that there’s plenty of magnificent nonfiction and
picture books to fill the gap.
Deborah Stevenson, Editor
- Anderson, M. T. The
Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to
the Nation: Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves.
Slave Octavian, now escaped from his Boston owners, decides that
joining the British army to fight against the revolting colonies is his
only route to freedom, but soon he discovers that the Britons’ promises
are as flimsy as those of his former masters.
- Benway, Robin. Audrey,
Wait! Razorbill. Gr. 9-12 (April)
When Audrey dumps her boyfriend, he turns their breakup into a hit
song, making Audrey into a pop-culture phenomenon and her life into a
roller-coaster ride in this witty and knowing comedy.
- Bunce, Elizabeth C. A
Curse Dark as Gold. Levine/Scholastic. Gr. 7-10
This ingenious novel takes the tale of “Rumpelstiltskin” for its
inspiration, focusing on a young eighteenth-century Englishwoman who’s
attempting to keep the family woollen mill afloat and who finds
assistance from a mysterious visitor.
- de la Peña, Matt.
Mexican WhiteBoy. Delacorte. Gr. 7-10 (October)
Shy Danny Lopez struggles to connect with his Latino father’s family
despite his Anglo upbringing, and it looks like his prodigious baseball
skills may be the key.
- Fletcher, Christine. Ten
Cents a Dance. Bloomsbury. Gr. 9-12 (May)
Ruby Jacinski is perfectly resigned to leave school and become the
breadwinner for her widowed mother, but the 1940s economy and social
structure doesn’t leave her many options, so she finds herself working
as a taxi dancer, renting dances to customers at a dance hall, trying
to dance on the right side of that narrow line between respectable
hostessing and the after-hours scamming and prostitution.
- Harris, Joanne.
Runemarks. Knopf. Gr. 7-10 (March)
Fourteen and shunned by her village because of her magical ability,
Maddy finds her life irrevocably changing when she’s sent on a quest to
find a powerful object that will help tip the balance in the brewing
battle between good and evil in this dramatic and compelling fantasy.
- Lanagan, Margo. Tender
Morsels. Knopf. Gr. 10 up (November)
This carefully crafted fantasy follows Liga, a village girl who leaves
behind her abusive life with her father for a magically enabled
existence in a utopia where she safely raises her two girls, only to
find that the real world holds a place for her after all.
- Les Becquets, Diane.
Season of Ice. Bloomsbury. Gr. 8-12 (February)
Seventeen-year-old Genesis, a tough, self-reliant resident of northern
Maine, needs all her strength when her father disappears from his boat
just before the lake ices over, leaving her to face the winter torn
between accepting his almost certain death and believing that he’s
survived but abandoned his family in this emotional and atmospheric
- Monninger, Joseph. Hippie
Chick. Front Street. Gr. 9-12 (October)
In a survival story that focuses more in internal realization than
Robinsonian ingenuity, fifteen-year-old Lolly, thrown off her capsized
boat in the Florida Keys, finds support for her survival from a trio of
- Pratchett, Terry.
Nation. HarperCollins. Gr. 7-10 (November)
When a tidal wave devastates Mau’s island just as he comes into his
manhood, he must negotiate a partnership with a stranded and
strong-minded English girl, lead and heal a new society of rag-tag
survivors, and question the implication of this event for the island’s
- Scott, Elizabeth. Living
Dead Girl. Simon Pulse. Gr. 9-12 (September)
This harrowing, lacerating novel defies myths about victimhood as it
follows fifteen-year-old Alice, who for five years has been the captive
of her abductor and rapist, and who is now presented with a possible
escape if she finds her own replacement.
- Sturm, James. Satchel
Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow; illus. by Rich
Tommaso. Center for Cartoon Studies/Jump at the Sun/Hyperion,
Gr. 6-10 (March)
This graphic novel, narrated by a fictional has-been black ball player,
tells of the great Satchel Paige and his significance to his
downtrodden fans in compelling text and spare, sinewy artwork.
- Bishop, Nic. Nic Bishop
Frogs; written and illus. with photographs by Nic Bishop.
Scholastic. Gr. 2-5 (March)
Accessible, direct text and riveting (ribbeting?)
photography combine to make this a stellar introduction to some
- Davies, Nicola. What’s
Eating You?: Parasites—The Inside Story; illus. by Neal
Layton. Candlewick, 2007. Gr. 3-5 (January)
Browsers and young scientists alike will be fascinated (and
enjoyably grossed out) by this irreverent and informative guide by
biologist Davies to all the microscopic creatures that live on and
- Franco, Betsy, ed. Falling
Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers. Candlewick. Gr. 9
This varied collection of deftly crafted poems isn’t just
impressive because of the authors’ ages, it’s just plain impressive.
- Hopkinson, Deborah. Abe
Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His
Forgotten Frontier Friend); illus. by John Hendrix. Schwartz
& Wade. 7-10 yrs (October)
This self-aware account of a childhood incident in Lincoln’s
life slyly examines the way history is made and recounted even as it
tells a roaring good story.
- Miller, Heather Lynn. This
Is Your Life Cycle; illus. by Michael Chesworth. Clarion.
Gr. 3-6 (September)
Dahlia the Dragonfly is the guest on the titular insect
television show, with host Bob Beetle covering the details of her
hatching and growth, in this comic natural history that begs for
- Moffett, Mark W. Face to
Face with Frogs; written and illus. with photographs by Mark W.
Moffett. National Geographic. Gr. 3-5 (March)
Amphibian aficionados will rejoice at National Geographic
contributor Moffett’s photo-rich, personally chatty yet informative
account of froggy lives.
- Nelson, Kadir. We Are the
Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball; written and illus. by
Kadir Nelson. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion. Gr. 4-8
Dramatic portraiture and compelling narration makes this
faux-memoir into a gripping history.
- Nichols, Travis. Punk Rock
Etiquette: The Ultimate How-to Guide for DIY, Punk, Indie, and
Underground Bands; written and illus. by Travis Nichols. Flash
Point/Roaring Brook. Gr. 7-12 (October)
This offbeat, humorous nonfiction how-to, decked with lively
line drawings, gives wise and genuinely helpful advice on rock
necessities ranging from types of bandmates to survival on road
trips to making and marketing merchandise.
- Rappaport, Doreen. Abe’s
Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln; illus. by Kadir
Nelson. Hyperion. 6-9 yrs (October)
Able storytelling, clever selection of Lincoln’s own words,
and portraiture that ranges from monumental to intimate provide a
dramatic introduction to our sixteenth president.
- Ahlberg, Allan. The
Pencil; illus. by Bruce Ingman. Candlewick. 4-7 yrs
It all starts with a pencil in this droll literary creation
story, wherein a pencil, aided by a paintbrush (named Kitty), drafts
the various human, animal, and other elements of a world only to find
that the eraser he’s drawn endangers his creations.
- Amato, Mary. The Chicken
of the Family; illus. by Delphine Durand. Putnam. 6-9
Teased by her older sisters that she is actually a chicken,
young Henrietta resists at first but then turns the tables on her sibs
by not only accepting but championing in the idea; lively, goofily
appealing art adds further entertainment to the funny story.
- Becker, Bonny. A Visitor
for Bear; illus. by Kady McDonald Denton. Candlewick. 4-7
Bear doesn’t allow visitors, so he’s indignant—in humorously
grandiose language—when a little mouse repeatedly infiltrates the
bruin’s cozy home.
- Crow, Kristyn. Cool Daddy
Rat; illus. by Mike Lester. Putnam. 5-8 yrs (April)
Crow’s text swings with scat-along possibilities (“Cool
Daddy Rat/ shooby dooby doo dat/ grabbed his hat in his rat flat/ zowie
zowie zoo zat”) in this lively tale of little son Ace, who stows away
to join his cool Daddy Rat from gig to gig one night.
- Frazee, Marla. A Couple of
Boys Have the Best Week Ever; written and illus. by Marla Frazee.
Harcourt. 6-9 yrs (March)
Frazee captures the joys of a summer vacation with a friend,
with the best times turning up where you find them rather than where
they’re planned, in this picture-book account of two obstreperous boys’
week at Nature Camp.
- Grey, Mini. Traction Man
Meets Turbodog; written and illus. by Mini Grey. Knopf. Gr.
Animated action figure Traction Man returns here in a
thrilling, hilarious, and oddly poignant quest to save his sidekick
Scrubbing Brush from the garbage.
- Hills, Tad. What’s Up,
Duck? A Book of Opposites; written and illus. by Tad Hills.
Schwartz & Wade. 2-3 yrs (April)
Hills’ Duck and Goose, with two birdie friends in brief
hop-on roles, offer nine terse but grandly effective studies in
contrast for this board-book concept treatment.
- Horácek, Petr. Choo
Choo; written and illus. by Petr Horácek. Candlewick, 2008
1-3 yrs (July/August)
Get out of town literarily with this sturdy board book,
punctuated with classic train noises, about an old-fashioned steam
engine’s trip across the countryside and through a dark tunnel to get
to the destination beach.
- Monroe, Chris. Monkey with
a Tool Belt; written and illus. by Chris Monroe.
Carolrhoda. Gr. 2-4 (June)
A tool-using handymonkey named Chico Bon Bon finds his
skills advantageous when he’s captured by a nefarious organ grinder in
this quirky and absurd outing.
- Ray, Mary Lyn. Christmas
Farm; illus. by Barry Root. Harcourt. 5-8 yrs (December)
In a book that combines math problem, ecological
exploration, and charming holiday story, Wilma and her young neighbor,
Parker, plant, tend, and finally sell a multitude of Christmas tree
- Schwarz, Viviane. There
Are Cats in this Book; written and illus. by Viviane Schwarz.
Candlewick. 3-6 yrs (December)
Young viewers become part of the story by responding to the
text’s request and lifting flaps to progress the action in this gentle
and light-hearted account of a cat trio’s domestic adventures.
- Shea, Bob. Dinosaur vs.
Bedtime; written and illus. by Bob Shea. Hyperion. 2-4
Nothing can stop this fierce little dinosaur, who emerges
victorious against foes such as a bowl of spaghetti, a couple of
talking grownups, or toothbrush and toothpaste, but is he a match for
bedtime? Vigorous visuals and lively repeated phrases make this a
roaring good time.
[Back to the Bulletin
Homepage] [Back to the Blue Ribbon
This page was last updated on January 1, 2009.