2012 Finalists: Graphic Novels

Elementary/Middle Grade

Many middle-grade readers will be familiar with the basics of the biography of Helen Keller and her visually impaired teacher, Annie Sullivan, but Joseph Lambert’s graphic novel expands the story far beyond the facts. Anne’s story is told in flashbacks and excerpts from her journal, while in black-and-white panels, readers experience a world without sight or sound and discover with Helen the meaning of language. Annie’s obstinacy and Helen’s curiosity, presented in fast-paced 16-panel pages, will inspire a whole new generation of readers to see and hear things more richly.

— Maggi Idzikowski, Mama Librarian

Giants Beware!

by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
First Second Books

Nominated by: Charlotte

Claudette wants to be a warrior like her father was, before a dragon ate his legs and arm, so she sets out to slay the local giant with the help of her best friend and little brother. Their fathers each set out to protect the children, although they just might have the skills to protect themselves. Rafael Rosado’s bright, kinetic art is the perfect match for the action and humor of Giants Beware! Fans of fantasy and adventure will both flock to this tale of friends, family, and the ultimate unimportance of fame.

— Allie Jones, In Bed with Books

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

by Luke Pearson
Nobrow Press

Nominated by: Jennifer

Hilda and her mother live in a cabin high in the mountains away from the hustle and bustle, but all that’s about to change. Hilda and her mother are being evicted by the prime minister of a community of invisible people. Her only hope is to find a long-missing giant, thus giving Hilda a healthy perspective on what living with her and her mother must be like for the elves. Pearson’s magical illustrations bring to mind Hayao Miyazaki’s films and the Lilliputians of Gulliver’s Travels. The mixture is fresh and engaging.

— Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

Na Liu recounts eight stories from her childhood in communist China shortly after the death of Mao Zedong. Her memoir is a funny, sad and magical exploration of Chinese history, mythology and culture. Liu’s words pair perfectly with her husband Andrés Vera Martínez’s art to fully evoke the time and place. The context might be unfamiliar to readers, but the emotions of a child dealing with change are very easy to relate to.

— Allie Jones, In Bed with Books

Nathan Hale, both the graphic novelist and the Revolutionary war hero, return in this funny, informative, and explosive story of the Civil War ironclads. Meet Gideon Welles, in charge of the (nonexistent) Union Navy; John Ericsson, with a temper as explosive as the ironclads he invented; and William Cushing, Naval hero and all-around completely insane, you-have-to-read-it-to-believe-it guy. Of course, the fact-checking babies are on the job, making sure no historical tidbit goes unchecked. Hale packs history, imagination and plenty of crazy stories into this small volume, drawn in gray and blue hues. Historical figures appear as animals, ships turn into monsters, and readers will finish the story and find themselves amused, delighted, and knowing a lot more than they ever expected about Civil War history.

— Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library

Young Adult

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White

by Lila Quintero Weaver
University Alabama Press

Nominated by: kelstarly

This memoir of race relations during the Jim Crow era really wowed the panel. The black-and-white photography angle cleverly captures a world which could only see itself in relation to those two extremes. Lila Quintero Weaver’s unique perspective as a person of color herself—but one who passed unnoticed in an American South unfamiliar with Argentine labels of race—ultimately pushes the reader to look more closely at these labels, even as the story leads us to look more closely at the multicolored individuals on both sides of the Civil Rights movement.

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books


by Raina Telgemeier

Nominated by: Danielle Smith

Backstage, onstage and offstage, drama abounds as Callie and her friends prepare for a production of Moon Over Mississippi while they navigate the perilous waters of Middle School. Can the production survive against cast infighting and lagging ticket sales? Will the complex love quadrangles work out? And most importantly, will the pyrotechnics sizzle or set the stage on fire? Get a front row seat to Drama by Raina Telgemeier, a most excellent story about love, friendship and finding a place to belong.

— Debra Touchette, Guys Lit Wire, (Library Lass) Adventures in Reading

Friends with Boys

by Faith Erin Hicks
First Second Books

Nominated by: Adam Shaffer (@MrShafferTMCE)

Maggie has always been friends with boys—as long as the boys you’re talking about are her three older brothers. But that was before her mom up and left the family with no explanation. No more homeschooling–now she’s facing the challenge of making new friends at a public school while she’s haunted by glowing memories of her former life, questions about her mother’s disappearance … and by an actual 17th century ghost who’s been hanging around since she was about 6. The ghost seems to want to tell her something—but it never quite does—and Maggie learns that she can be happy even if she doesn’t have all the answers. Family dynamics and coming-of-age issues are gracefully combined in a story with clear, clean artwork throughout.

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books


by Ryan Inzana
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

Nominated by: DLacks

“Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out,” is the advice offered by Ichiro’s favorite T-shirt, given to him by his racist American grandfather. Soldiering has always been central to his life, though his memory of his soldier father, killed during the Iraq war, is dim. He has little knowledge of his Japanese heritage, or even the context for the saying on his shirt, until his mother decides to move home to Japan from NYC. Ichiro is horrified to learn from his Japanese grandfather about Hiroshima and the Rape of Nanking; his favorite shirt forever loses its appeal. Our panelists loved the richly interwoven ideas about race and heritage in Ichiro, especially the way it incorporates Shinto mythology when Ichiro accidentally catches a Tanuki in his grandfather’s persimmon tree. He must work with Hachiman, the god of war, to escape from the underground worlds of Ama and Yomi, who have been sworn enemies ever since the Bridge of Heaven was broken (war is not just a problem for humans, it seems). Ultimately, Ichiro comes to terms both with his dual heritage, and the horrors of war throughout human history and imagination; or as Grandfather Sato tells him, “Heaven and hell are in the hearts of all men.”

— Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books


by Boaz Yakin
First Second Books

Nominated by: Jackie Parker

This is the story of Eucles, once a slave in ancient Athens, set free to become the fastest messenger of the king. Surrounded by enemies, suffering from the whims of a cruel king, he nevertheless survives to become a pivotal figure in the battle against the Persian forces. This retelling of the legend of the original marathon runner is, as might be expected from ancient Greek history and mythology, imbued with themes of honor, freedom, struggle and courage. The art is vigorous and raw, using heavy crosshatching to express the emotion and desperation of Eucles and the soldiers and the violence of war. Fans of classic myths and legends will thrill to the tragedy and triumph of Eucles’ story.

— Jennifer Wharton, Jean Little Library, Flying off my bookshelf