The Center for Children's Books


Graduate School of Library and Information Science
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Best Books of 2003

A list of "Best Books" is sure to be subjective, sure to be incomplete, and sure to be misunderstood. A few ground rules: these are not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing books of the year, nor are they necessarily the books that win awards and medals. The books on this list are the useful but not flashy books; the storytime books, the homework books, the "oh I know just how I'm going to use that book" sort of books. To make this list a title has to be practical, useful, and give the best-bang-for-their-buck.

As of September 2004, no further "Best Books" lists will be created. Instead, check out the Bulletin Blue Ribbons and Rs and Stars (R and R*) for a fairly complete list of the books worth buying for any given year.


Ackerman, Diane. Animal Sense. Knopf, 2003. (Gr. 6-9)

Ada, Alma Flor, comp. ¡Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes. HarperCollins, 2003. 2-5 yrs

Agard, John, comp. Under the Moon & over the Sea: A Collection of Caribbean Poems. Candlewick, 2003. (Gr. 6-12)

Appelt, Kathi. Bubba and Beau Go Night-Night. Harcourt, 2003. (4-7 yrs)

Brinson, Cynthia L. Seeing Sugar. Viking, 2003. (Gr. 3-5)

Burgess, Melvin. The Ghost Behind the Wall. Holt, 2003. (Gr. 4-7)

Butler, Dori Hillestad. Trading Places with Tank Talbott. Whitman, 2003. (Gr. 3-6)

Capuzzo, Michael. Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916. Crown, 2003. (Gr. 6-10)

Christelow, Eileen. Vote! Clarion, 2003. 6-9 yrs

Collins, Mary. Airborne: A Photography of Wilbur and Orville Wright. National Geographic, 2003. (Gr. 5-8)

Collicott, Sharleen. Toestomper and the Bad Butterflies. Houghton, 2003. (5-8 yrs)

Cooper, Helen. Sandmare. Farrar, 2003. (Gr. 2-4)

Corey, Shana. Players in Pigtails. Scholastic, 2003. (6-9 yrs)

Coy, John. Two Old Potatoes and Me. Knopf, 2003. (5-8 yrs)

Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Worm. Cotler/HarperCollins, 2003. (Gr. 2-4)

Cuetara, Mittie. Baby Business. Dutton, 2003. (3-6 yrs)

Damm, Antje. Ask Me. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2003. (4-8 yrs)

Dankoo, Dan. Sidekicks. Little, 2003. (Gr. 4-8)

DiTerlizzi, Tony. The Field Guide. Simon, 2003. (Gr. 3-5)

Downs, Mike. The Noisy Airplane Ride. Tricycle, 2003. (6-9 yrs)

Elya, Susan Middleton. Oh No, Gotta Go! Putnam, 2003. (4-6 yrs)

Farish, Terry. The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup. Candlewick, 2003. (5-8 yrs)

Flake, Sharon, G. Begging for Change. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2003. (Gr. 7-10)

Fleming, Denise. Buster. Holt, 2003 (5-8 yrs)

Fox, Frank G. Jean Laffite and the Big Ol' Whale. Farrar, 2003. (5-9 yrs)

Fowles, Shelly. The Bachelor and the Bean. Farrar, 2003. (6-10 yrs)

Frazee, Maria. Roller Coaster. Harcourt, 2003. (4-7 yrs)

Freedman, Russell. In Defense of Liberty: The Story of America's Bill of Rights. Holiday House, 2003. (Gr. 6-10)

Friedman, Debra. Picture This: Fun Photography and Crafts. Kids Can, 2003. (Gr. 3-8)

Gaiman, Neil. The Wolves in the Walls. HarperCollins, 2003. Gr. 3-5

Gay, Marie-Louise. Good Night, Sam. Groundwood/Douglas&McIntyre,2003. 3-5 yrs.

Gliori, Debi. Flora's Surprise! Orchard, 2003. 4-7 yrs.

Greenfield, Eloise. How They Got Over: African Americans and the Call of the Sea. Amistad/HarperCollins, 2003. Gr. 4-6.

Goble, Paul. Mystic Horse. HarperCollins, 2003. Gr. 3-5.

Going, K.L. Fat Kid Rules the World. Putnam, 2003. Gr. 9-12.

Goodhart, Pippa. Pudgy: A Puppy to Love. Chicken House/Scholastic 3-5 yrs.

Greenberg, Jan. Runaway Girl: The Artist Louise Bourgeois. Abrams, 2003. Gr. 7-12.

Hansen, Joyce. Freedom Roads: Searching for the Underground Railroad. Cricket/Marcato, 2003. Gr. 5-10.

Harris, Robbie H. I Am NOT Going to School Today. McElderry, 2003. 4-8 yrs.

Hautman, Pete. Sweetblood. Simon, 2003. Gr. 7-10.

Hearne, Betsy. The Canine Connection: Stories About Dogs. McElderry, 2003.

hooks, bell. Homemade Love. Jump at the Sun/Hyperion, 2003. 3-6 yrs.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings. Schwartz/Atheneum, 2003. 5-8 yrs.

Hurd, Thatcher. Moo Cow Kaboom! HarperCollins, 2003. 4-6 yrs.

James, Simon. Little One Step. Candlewick, 2003. 2-5 yrs.

Jenkins, Steve. What Do You Do with a Tail Like This? Houghton, 2003. 5-8 yrs.

Johnston, Tony. Go Track a Yak! Simon, 2003 5-8 yrs.

Jones, Ursula. The Witch's Children. Holt, 2003 5-8 yrs

Koja, Kathe. Buddha Boy. Foster/Farrar, 2003. Gr. 6-10.

Kraft, Erik P. Lenny and Mel's Summer Vacation. Simon, 2003. Gr. 2-5.

Krull, Kathleen. The Night the Martians Landed: Just the Facts (Plus the Rumors) about Invaders from Mars. Harper, 2003. (Gr. 4-7)

Koertge, Ron. Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. Candlewick, 2003. Gr. 6-9.

Lasky, Kathryn. Lucille Camps In. Knopf, 2003. 3-6 yrs.

Lee, Ho Baek. While We Were Out. Kane/Miller, 2003. 3-6 yrs.

Leuck, Laura. One Witch. Walker, 2003. 4-6 yrs.

MacPhail, Catherine. Dark Waters. Bloomsbury, 2003. Gr. 5-9.

Maloney, Peter. Bronto Eats Meat. Dial, 2003. 4-6 yrs.

Martin, Jaqueline Briggs. The Water Gift and the Pig of the Pig. Houghton, 2003 6-9 yrs.

McKissack, Patricia C. Tippy Lemmey. Aladdin, 2003. Gr. 2-4.

Micucci, Charles. The Life and Times of the Ant. Houghton,2003 Gr.2-5

Montes, Marisa. Get Ready for Gabi!: A Crazy Mixed-Up Spanglish Day. Scholastic, 2003. Gr. 2-4.

Munsch, Robert. Zoom! Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2003. 6-9 yrs.

Murphy, Jim. An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic for 1793. Clarion, 2003. Gr. 5-10.

Murphy, Mary. I Kissed the Baby! Candlewick, 2003. 1-3 yrs.

Murray, Martine. The Slightly True Story of Cedar B. Hartley (Who Planned to Live an
Unusual Life).
Levine/Scholastic, 2003. (Gr. 4-7)

Myers, Walter Dean. Blues Journey. Holiday House, 2003. (Gr. 3-7)

Pattison, Darcy. The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman. Harcourt, 2003. (5-9 yrs)

Paye, Won-Ldy, ad. Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile. Holt, 2003. 5-8 yrs.

Pinkwater, Daniel. The Picture of Morty & Ray. HarperCollins, 2003. 7-10 yrs.

Potter, Ellen. Olivia Kidney. Philomel, 2003. Gr. 5-7.

Pratchett, Terry. The Wee Free Men. HarperCollins, 2003. Gr. 6-10.

Preston, Diana. Remember the Lusitania. Walker, 2003. Gr. 5-8.

Priestley, Chris. Death and the Arrow. Knopf, 2003. Gr. 5-8

Provensen, Alice. A Day in the Life of Murphy. Simon, 2003. 4-6 yrs.

Ruby, Laura. Lily's Ghost. HarperCollins,2003 Gr. 5-8

Rylant, Cynthia. God Went to Beauty School. HarperTempest, 2003. Gr. 7-12.

San Souci, Robert D. Dare to be Scared: Thirteen Stories to Thrill and Chill. Cricket, Gr. 4-8

Sayre, April Pulley. One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book. Candlewick, 2003. 3-6 yrs.

Schertle, Alice. The Skeleton in the Closet. HarperCollins,2003 4-6 yrs

Schotter, Roni. Captain Bob Takes Flight. Schwartz/Atheneum, 2003. 3-6 yrs.

Schwarz, Renee. Funky Junk: Cool Stuff to Make with Hardware. Kids Can, 2003. Gr. 3-8

Simmons, Michael. Pool Boy. Porter/Roaring Brook, 2003. Gr. 7-12.

Singer, Marilyn. Fireflies at Midnight. Atheneum, 2003 6-9 yrs

Spinelli, Eileen. Moe McTooth: An Alley Cat's Tale. Clarion, 2003. 5-8 yrs.

Swinburne, Stephen R. The Woods Scientist. Houghton, 2003. Gr. 4-8.

Talbert, Marc. Holding the Reins: A Ride through Cowgirl Life. HarperCollins, 2003. Gr. 4-7.

Timberlake, Amy. The Dirty Cowboy. Farrar, 2003.Gr. 3-5

Venables, Stephen. To the Top: The Story of Everest. Candlewick, 2003. Gr. 6-12.

Vrombaut, An. Clarabella's Teeth. Clarion, 2003. 2-5 yrs.

Waite, Judy. Shopaholic. Atheneum, 2003. Gr. 6-9.

Wheeler, Lisa. One Dark Night. Harcourt, 2003. 3-5 yrs.

Winters, Kay. Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books. Simon, 2003 Gr.2-4

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. Putnam, 2003. Gr. 4-8.

Zusak, Markus. Getting the Girl. Levine/Scholastic, 2003. Gr. 7-12

Top