In Real Life

by Cory Doctorow

First Second Books

Nominated by: Lwad

In Real Life is the story of a gamer girl who discovers there are two sides to every story. Her team of other girl gamers seek out and kill any farming characters from the game Coarsegold, which is illegal gaining of items and selling them for real money in real life. When Anda befriends one of the farmers, she realizes that there is more to the story and the idea of right and wrong become less black and white and more gray. Not only does this graphic novel bring forth social justice issues, but takes a deeper look into embracing your own identity and fighting for what you feel is right.

Kristin Harvey, The Book Monsters

Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

by Joel Christian Gill and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Fulcrum Press

Nominated by: Nicola Mansfield

Strange Fruit is, as the title suggests, a collection of stories, mostly biographical, about unique tales of African-American history. These are not the stories you learned about in school! Fascinating history told in an entertaining voice and decorated with lush illustrations, Strange Fruit brings little known but significant Black history to light.

Nicola Mansfield, It’s All Comic To Me

The Harlem Hellfighters

by Max Brooks, illustrated by Canaan White

Broadway Books

Nominated by: Jennifer Schultz

Harlem Hellfighters is a fictional account of the 369th infantry regiment’s deployment to France in World War I. They were the first African-American / African-Puerto Rican regiment formed to serve with the American forces. Brooks and White show the brutality of war and the added dangers of widespread racism. Though they were the first to go overseas, they weren’t provided adequate supplies or weaponry. They weren’t allowed into the town where they trained and if they did go, they were attacked. Harlem Hellfighters is a brutally honest introduction to World War I, racism, and the human toll of war.

Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

The Shadow Hero

by Gene Luen Yang

First Second Books

Nominated by: Compass Book Ratings

Hankโ€™s adventures start on the day his mother is saved by a superhero while getting tangled up with the escape of a fleeing bank robber. From that moment on, she is obsessed with Hank becoming a superhero of his own. Unfortunately, her efforts have mixed results, and the idea eventually falls by the wayside. When tragedy rears its head after Hankโ€™s father has a run-in with the Chinatown mob, Hank is determined to seek revenge however possible. Thus, the Green Turtle is born. A wonderful story in its own right, The Shadow Hero is also a what-may-have-been origin story for the Golden Age of Comics superhero Green Turtle. With solid characters and wonderfully paired artwork, Shadow Hero is a celebration of Americaโ€™s first Asian-American superhero.

Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade

Through the Woods

by Emily Carroll

Margaret K. McElderry

Nominated by: Robin

ย Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods is no ordinary retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Each of the short tales in this volume riff on the story — here a wolf, there a trip home, always a girl in peril — and provide emotionally charged and terrifying conclusions. Artwork is beautifully rendered and keeps the main characters and locations within the reader’s frame even when the story follows its own lead, and reminds us that we may travel through the woods as many times as we like, but the wolf only needs to catch us once.

Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful

by Shane Koyczan

Annick Press

Nominated by: T.S. Davis

To This Day, Shane Koyczan’s poem about bullying and the bullied, is a moving account of all the ways bullying can affect people every day. When you add illustrations, you have a one-two punch to the gut that drives home the message that bullying is never “just words” I approached this graphic novel with a rather large dose of cynicism (another book that is designed to play on our most maudlin feelings) and finished the book unexpectedly moved to tears. With spare words and text, Koyczan conveys exactly how cruel words make us all feel and also how we are not alone and that we can survive.

Emma Weiler, No Flying. No Tights